Efrén Ocampo, President and Executive Director of Grupo Neolpharma, spoke with Mexico Health Review on the company’s R&D efforts in nanotechnology and biotechnology and the role they play in the company’s long-term strategy.
Q: What is Grupo Neolpharma and CINVESTAV’s prize for innovation in bio-nanotechnology?
A: Biotechnology and nanotechnology are two lines in which we are interested in stimulating research. The prize was linked to pharmacology but it is now more open as it has enabled the creation of new materials. The invitation to participate is open to all the institutions and professionals working in those disciplines and the prize is MX$300,000 (US$16,666). Half of the award is to reward the researcher and the other half is to fund the continuity of the winning project. The purpose of the prize is to create new talent, provide exposure and increase the diffusion of these kinds of scientific proposals. We are approaching 2016’s winning researcher to ask for his help capsulating some drugs we want to deliver to the limbic part of the brain. He could provide us with a smaller mechanism that would let us break through this barrier. By allying with CONACYT and using its methods of diffusion, if something could be useful for other laboratories they can come to an agreement with the council. This also enables us to approach others directly. It is much more concrete and there are fewer risks when approaching someone.
Q: What new heights would nanotechnology enable the pharmaceutical industry to reach?
A: Nanotechnology is a technique that can be used to produce medicine. If a medicine that causes unwanted side-effects is made using nanotechnology, those effects can be reduced instead of damaging the stomach or liver. Therefore, it is most useful for eliminating the side-effects of already approved medicines, such as in oncology. Basically, nano-capsules can reach cells and they enable the use of smaller doses. Our innovation in this area is focused on oncology and diabetes.
Q: What solutions is the group providing to the Mexican health industry?
A: We must first develop medicines and provide it to the greatest number of patients possible. In our case, this implies a national cost, which determines the price. We have done this with our product Transkrip, the patented version of which costs six times more. Our body is constantly defending itself against attacks and when certain cells get infected, they no longer work as well. Transkrip activates our cells to better absorb the medicine and in some cases it also reactivates the immune system. TransKrip is a drug based in epigenetic therapy that increases the progress-free period of patients with advanced cervical cancer. Currently it is used for cutaneous lymphoma of T-cells and myelodysplastic syndromes. We are completing a project on the application of this technology for lymphoma in D cells. In some cases it has 100 percent efficacy and there is a fast therapeutic benefit.
Q: Where is most of your R&D being carried out?
A: I am looking to mix research by stages, to do some in Mexico and some in the US. There is an innovation and development research center called Cediprof in Puerto Rico, a site that allows some of our research to be conducted in an FDA environment. This is a strategy we want to extend to other Mexican companies that are working on innovative projects, so they can develop the early research phases in Mexico and then conclude their research in Puerto Rico without a major investment. This will create fiscal benefits and empower research.
Q: How is the group’s growth oriented?
A: By 2020 we want to reach 100 percent growth in comparison to where we are now. We have already achieved a respectable size in Mexico and other strategic foreign markets so we are confident we will be able to meet this new expectation. Toward the achievement of this goal we have increased our presence in the oncology and metabolic areas with our biosimilar offer. In the future we want to grow in therapeutic areas and begin producing patented and high-efficiency treatments, while increasing our sales force.