India's Emcure to manufacture Roche's Herceptin, MabThera

Roche ($RHHBY) is turning to an Indian pharmaceutical contract manufacturer, Emcure Pharmaceuticals, to produce its biologic drugs Herceptin and MabThera for India and other developing markets.

It is believed to be the first time the Swiss company, which has been known to defend its patents vigorously against Indian generic drugmakers, has struck a deal with an Indian manufacturer for the cancer treatments. 

"This deal will equip Emcure to manufacture products which are sophisticated monoclonal antibodies," The Economic Times quotes Mukund Ranade, the director of Emcure Pharmaceuticals, as saying. "We look at this project as Emcure's first project with Roche. Depending on the success of the same, we hope cooperation would become broad based."

Roche spokeswoman Claudia Schmitt in an email confirmed that Roche is partnering "with Emcure in India for manufacturing Herceptin and MabThera for the local market. We may expand this arrangement for other Roche products in the future."

Roche fought a very public battle with Cipla ($CPLA.NS) over the Indian manufacturer's production of a generic version of Roche's cancer drug Tarceva. In 2010, Cipla invested $65 million for substantial stakes in two Asian biotech companies with plans to develop a range of discounted biosimilars, including Roche's Avastin, Enbrel, and, you guessed it, Herceptin. 

"Avastin, Enbrel, Herceptin--these are all being marketed today, but the prices are very high," Cipla Chairman Yusuf Hamied, told Bloomberg at the time. "We will have biosimilars for them."

Roche has been under pressure to provide a less expensive version of Herceptin, which is the only drug of its kind for treating certain manifestations of breast cancer. "This deal with Emcure is a smart move by Roche," Anjan Sen, director of life sciences and healthcare for Deloitte India, said to The Economic Times. "With this it can deter the entry of other generic companies, and also offer affordable drugs for a country like India."

- here's The Economic Times story