Switzerland Business Report 2017

IBSA sharpens strategic focus to capture health care growth in Asia

IBSA is concentrating on growing as a niche-oriented pharmaceuticals company with an eye on China and the rest of Asia

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 12:34pm

Country Business Reports interviews and articles by Discovery Reports

Multinational pharmaceutical group IBSA Institut Biochimique is making inroads in bolstering its core pharmaceutical business more than a year after finding a strong Asian partner for its diagnostics unit. In December 2015, Shanghai Kehua Bio-Engineering (KHB), a Shenzhen Stock Exchange-listed maker of in-vitro diagnostic (IVD) products, acquired Italian immunodiagnostics company Technogenetics from IBSA and subsequently formed a joint venture with Altergon Italia covering the latter’s IVD assets.

“The Sino-Italian partnership shores up further development of Technogenetics and Altergon while providing KHB a platform to expand internationally,” says Salvatore Cincotti, IBSA’s strategic adviser in the Far East and CEO of Technogenetics and Altergon. The deal also allows IBSA to concentrate on growing as a niche-oriented pharmaceutical company with an eye on China and the rest of Asia.

Founded at the end of the second world war, IBSA has become renowned for its innovative pharmaceutical forms and qualitative upgrades to existing therapeutic solutions as it fulfils clinical needs overlooked by drug majors. Using proprietary technologies, IBSA optimises active ingredients and delivery systems to increase medication efficacy, safety and tolerability. This is in step with its mandate to enhance patient compliance and therapeutic outcome.

“The only way to sustain growth is to be close to our target market,” Cincotti says. “That’s why it is critical that we strengthen our presence in Asia, particularly in China.”

Seeing infertility as a rising health concern in China and other developing economies, IBSA seeks to bring to market its complete line of fertility drugs following the successful launching of Fostimon. Containing the natural sex hormone urofollitropin, Fostimon stimulates follicular development in women, or sperm formation and maturation in men. IBSA is working on the regulatory approval of two other human-derived conception treatments: Merional-Meriofert human menopausal gonadotrophin and Choriomon human chorionic gonadotrophin.

The only way to sustain growth is to be close to our target market ... That’s why it is critical that we strengthen our presence in Asia, particularly in China
Salvatore Cincotti

IBSA also plans to commercialise Prolutex, its breakthrough aqueous solution of progesterone that prepares the uterine lining for embryo implantation. Available as a self-administered subcutaneous injection, Prolutex is a welcome alternative to painful intramuscular injections or vaginal progesterone gels that women dislike for cultural or personal reasons.

“We’re one of the four biggest global companies in fertility therapeutics,” Cincotti says. “But unlike most of our competitors offering synthetic products, we only use human-derived hormones. We’ve devoted decades of research and development to deliver the highest level of purity to ensure safety and efficacy while still providing a cost-effective option. These treatments are available in most countries worldwide; we now hope to develop the Asian markets the same way we did in the rest of the world.”

Another strong Asian focus for IBSA is endocrinology, with its Tirosint softgel capsules providing an improved and safer means of delivering hormones to patients with thyroid disease. The mounting demand for Tirosint in recent years has brought IBSA to further develop this field. IBSA received approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration for a new liquid formulation and way of delivery of T4 through an innovative “monodose” patent system.

IBSA wishes to capitalise on these successes and is ready to invest in a new manufacturing site in China to help address the increasing incidence of thyroid disease. The hope is that local authorities would grant a fast-track plan, as in other markets, to reach regulatory approval for market entry of these important innovations.

“After 20 years of operations in China – mainly producing active pharmaceutical ingredients, we want to bring our presence to a higher quality level,” Cincotti says. “We want to initiate and finish production there.”

IBSA is also interested in establishing commercial joint ventures in Asia to expand its areas of influence. The Swiss group welcomes quality-minded distribution partners with a long-term view. “We would rely on their regulatory expertise to hasten product commercialisation as well as on their solid connections with local health care providers,” Cincotti says.

IBSA Institut Biochimique