Mumbai-based Cipla will build a biosimilar manufacturing plant in South Africa for SAR1.3 billion ($89 million)--marking the first such type of a biotech unit outside India for the firm, and in a country where it has extensive operations and goodwill.
The plant will make biosimilars at lower costs for South Africa, where Cipla Medpro is the country's third-largest pharmaceutical manufacturer and also owns Cipla BioTec aimed at biopharmaceuticals.
The plans fit in with wider Cipla efforts, including details discussed at the start of the year in which Cipla said it had 200 drugs in various stages of development, including in therapeutic areas such as respiratory, oncology, antiretrovirals.
The new facility will be located in the coastal city of Durban, home to a major Indian diaspora, and start construction in 2017 with the aim of reaching full operations by the third quarter of 2018. Cipla already runs a distribution center in Cape Town and has an existing manufacturing site in Durban.
Specific details on the plant were not immediately available, but cancer therapies are one of the areas of focus, Cipla said.
However, biosimilars remain too expensive for broad use outside of major Western markets. Cipla BioTec said it aspires to "transform the biosimilars market worldwide" by significantly increasing access with its strategy of one global product standard at affordable prices.
The company enjoys government support in South Africa. The former head of Cipla, Yusuf Hamied, was instrumental in stemming an HIV/AIDS public health crisis in South Africa by manufacturing low-cost antiretrovirals that were previously out of reach for most patients in the country.