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Global Cancer Crusader

Cover Story Health and Wellness January 2018

Global Cancer Crusader

Biocon’s biosimilars are putting the company and the country on the world oncology map

Global Cancer Crusader 3

Company: Biocon

Founded: 1978

Founder: Kiran Mazumdar Shaw

Headquarters: Bangalore

Subsidiaries: 13

Awards & Recognitions

  • Bio-Pharma Excellence Award at Bangalore Technology Summit
  • Featured in ‘Asia IP Elite’ list for two consecutive years
  • Unnatha Suraksha Puraskara by National Safety Council, Karnataka Chapter
  • Golden Peacock Award in 2014 for CSR initiatives

For Biocon Chairman and MD Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, cancer is a bane to be fought against and defeated. What adds to her relentless drive to fight this scourge is the fact that she has fought the fight with the people closest to her. Her husband, John Shaw, and her best friend, Nilima Roshven, battled rare cancer called renal cell carcinoma in 2007. Though Shaw did beat the disease, Roshven succumbed to it. Seeing Roshven struggle, at times financially, with the disease is what prompted Mazumdar-Shaw to set up the Mazumdar-Shaw Cancer Center in Bengaluru, along with Dr. Devi Shetty of Narayana Hrudayalaya. The hospital, set up in 2007, has provided affordable cancer care to thousands, including Mazumdar-Shaw’s mother.

In India, cancer is the second largest cause of death. The Indian Council of Medical Research estimates 17.3 lakh new cases of cancer and 8.8 lakh cancer deaths by 2020. One of India’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Biocon is out to change this appalling statistic. The firm that began with producing enzymes from a garage in 1978 now owns 36 brands across diabetology, nephrology, oncology, and cardiology. Biocon, the first Indian company to export enzymes to USA and Europe, is the pioneer of the bio revolution in India. “We are committed to developing affordable biologics that can make cancer care more effective and more equitable around the world,” says Mazumdar-Shaw. Biocon developed India’s first antibody for head and neck cancer, BIOMAb-EGFR, in 2006. This is a cost-effective treatment for one of the most prevalent forms of cancer in India. In 2014, Biocon successfully developed the world’s first biosimilar, Trastuzumab, and introduced it as CANMAb in India.


Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (Chairman and MD)

At the time of its launch, CANMAb was the world’s most affordable Trastuzumab and helped more people access treatment for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer in India. This important life-saving drug has already made a significant difference in the lives of several thousand patients and helped expand access to relatively inexpensive cancer care. In another milestone moment, Biocon launched KRABEVA, a biosimilar of Bevacizumab, a pan-cancer drug. On December 1, 2017, Biocon and Mylan announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved their biosimilar Trastuzumab for the treatment of HER2-overexpressing breast cancer and metastatic stomach cancer. The FDA approval is significant and one of national pride as it is the first biosimilar from India to be approved in the US. Biocon has been addressing the problem of cancer in the country through its CSR interventions aimed at early detection of oral, breast and cervical cancers among marginalised communities and their management in secondary and tertiary stages. In its mission to increase awareness and early diagnosis of cancer, Biocon’s CSR arm, Biocon Foundation, implements various initiatives targeted at sensitizing its various stakeholders about this deadly disease.

Global Cancer Crusader 4

The Foundation is also implementing several technology-based interventions for early detection, prevention, and treatment of cancer, which are facilitating early detection at the doorstep. By empowering frontline health workers to conduct cancer screening in a low resource setting, Biocon Foundation has ensured that healthcare reaches remote pockets in a cost-effective manner. Through the activities of the Biocon Foundation and Biocon Academy, the company is playing a role in transforming the nation, village by village. The Biocon Academy, along with California’s Keck Graduate Institute, imparts advanced training to graduates looking to be employed in the biopharma sector. As the company progresses, one woman’s commitment to her dream is making India self-sufficient in biotechnology

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