By Suman Saha
A new international clinical research institute will be set up in Bangladesh within a year, paving the way for further research in medical science and increased exports of pharmaceuticals.
Bangladesh Clinical Research Organisation (BCRG) will help develop innovative life-saving drugs and give globally-accepted certification to exportable medicines.
Bangladesh currently exports drugs after paying for expensive certification abroad.
The BCRG that will cost $50 million in four years promises to ensure the quality of generic health products manufactured locally.
GHE, an initiative of McGill University in Canada and Centennial Group International in the US, will be a major shareholder in the new organisation.
The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), an international health research institution located in Dhaka, will be a partner in the project.
“We want to set up the clinical research organisation (CRO) in Bangladesh as it has tremendous potential,” said Dr Moshe Szyf, a globally renowned scientist and a senior faculty member of McGill University.
Szyf spoke at a seminar on “bioequivalence studies in Bangladesh — opportunity for investment” co-organised by Canadian High Commission in Dhaka, Canada Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry and ICDDR,B at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel yesterday.
He said there are several elements for clinical research to flourish in the country. These include dense health care infrastructure, a cadre of trained health professionals, educated young people and a large population base.
The global market for clinical research was estimated at more than $20 billion in 2011 and will expand to more than $50 billion in 2020, Szyf said.
A CRO performs clinical research as a service for pharmaceuticals. These services involve clinical trials such as testing whether new drugs are efficacious and safe or generic drugs by examining whether they are equivalent to the “brand” name drugs.
The CROs also do early research on drug development as a service for the pharma industry including animal studies and laboratory experiments.
In the last decade there has been a rapid expansion in the CROs in Asia, particularly in China and India, but Bangladesh has not been present in this area, he said.
The country, however, has the potential to grab at least 5 percent of the total CRO market by 2020, said Szyf.
He said there has been a worldwide growth in the CRO industry as pharmaceutical companies outsource a great fraction of their research and development activities from the CROs.
Once the organisation is launched in Bangladesh, it will also help the country to enter more advanced countries with pharmaceutical products.
Though Bangladeshi companies have produced an impressive number of generic drugs, most are consumed domestically.
The overall export of generic drugs covers a miniscule fraction of the global generic drugs market and focuses mostly on deregulated or loosely regulated markets.
Bangladesh’s exports are stunted because of a lack of world-class CROs
and standards for generic drug bioequivalence in the country. The global market is huge and Bangladesh is well positioned to take a share of this market, said the professor of McGill University.
The world’s total generic drugs market is estimated at $170 billion in 2010 and it is projected at $246 billion in 2017, he said, citing a market research in 2011.
In 2011, about 39 Bangladeshi companies exported pharmaceutical products worth more than $50 million.
So there is a huge potential for Bangladesh to increase production and export of generic drugs for regulated markets, said the scientist.
The sites of clinical studies will include excellent hospitals across Bangladesh that will be critical public partners of this enterprise.
GHE will take advantage of its international network in academia and industry and will be responsible for global marketing and business development.
The organisation will be an independent public-private partnership with finance from local and foreign investors. It will be a world-class provider of clinical products and services to the rapidly expanding health, medicine and pharmaceutical markets, both domestic and global.
The annual market of pharma-ceuticals in Bangladesh is Tk 6,000 crore, and local companies hold 97 percent of the market share.
Health Minister AFM Ruhal Haque has lauded the initiative, saying the government will provide all-out support.
Heather Cruden, Canadian high commissioner to Bangladesh, and Masud Rahman, president of Canada Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also spoke.
Photo Credit: STAR