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Jonathan Hunt

07 March 2023

What role is Syngene fulfilling in the larger environment of the life science industry, and what are the specificities of being India headquartered?

We are an innovation-focused contract research organization (CRO) with the goal of becoming scientifically indistinguishable from the capabilities of our clients. The days when the relationship between big biopharma and CROs were of master and pupil have long gone and we now have an equal scientific seat at the table. We are able to offer a variety of services, including target validation and identification, drug discovery and development for both small and large molecules, and commercial product manufacturing. With the help of our 6,500 scientists, we act as an engine room of early stage discovery research, development, and manufacturing.


Even though we are an Indian headquartered company, 97% of our revenue comes from North America (which takes the biggest percentage), Canada, Europe, the UK, and Japan.


From an operational point of view, our labs and infrastructure are in India, but scientifically, we are close to our customers through local representation. This arrangement gives us various advantages linked to the costs of building infrastructure, acquiring land, and hiring skilled employees.


Today, India is the most populous nation on the planet, and there is an immense talent base here. 


To what extent do CRO services contribute to cost reduction in the biopharma industry, a necessity expressed by many?

The globalization of science drove the creation of innovative businesses, which is evident in countries like India. Since we have the same quality of scientific education, human capital, and technical equipment, we are able to create a lab infrastructure as sophisticated as those in Europe or the U.S., but at a lower price. The ability to operate at global quality standards using the latest technology is a prerequisite for businesses operating in a highly regulated sector such as healthcare. A proof point for this at Syngene is that our new biologics plant has been inspected three times in the last quarter by three demanding regulators: the FDA, EMA and MHRA, and they were impressed with our operating standards and the overall quality of our processes.

In which way has the appetite for innovation shifted in terms of small versus big companies? 

In the last twenty years, spend on innovation in big companies has reduced due to technological reasons and the emergence of outsourcing to CROs. Equally, with easier access to capital, we have seen the emergence of small and medium-sized biotech companies: for example, three people can lease an office space in Boston and create a biotech company because all the infrastructure they need is now at arm's length in companies like ours. Our 2 million square feet of wet labs is a great enabler of innovation in small companies since they do not have to put capital at risk to build a lab of their own. The proportion of startup biotech companies in our portfolio has grown steadily over the last decade, thus being the perfect mirror of startup culture and deployment of capital. 

How are you perceiving today's financial markets in terms of challenges but also emerging trends?

Counterintuitively, the challenges in the financial market represent an opportunity for us because when companies shift where they spend their capital, companies like Syngene can make that money go further for longer. In terms of trends, we are seeing a return to the core disease areas that existed in the pre-pandemic timeline. As a result, oncology, immunology, and cardiovascular diseases now benefit from the most attention. As cell and gene therapies are maturing, they are starting to take a place on the podium alongside small molecule chemistry, protein degradation and CAR-T programs. For a company like us, we can deliver scale on multiple platforms and the intention is to make sure we invest wherever we see sufficient demand for a particular technology. 

What particular milestones would you like to achieve in the near future at Syngene?

Given the fact that we managed to grow 23% in the last quarter, we would be pleased to normalize those growth rates into the year ahead. In order to achieve this milestone, we need to perform exceptionally well across the four areas of our business: Discovery, Development, Manufacturing Services and the dedicated centers, which we run for BMS, Amgen and Baxter.  We will continue to leverage the progress that we have made in being a scientific equal to our clients and a source of good ideas, innovation, and solutions to complex scientific problems. If we are successful, we will not only grow our business but also deliver value to our clients; and patients around the world will benefit from our work.

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