Siam Bioscience (SBS), a company affiliated with the Crown Property Bureau, yesterday signed two groundbreaking agreements with a Cuban pharmaceutical agency to produce and distribute biopharmaceutical drugs to domestic and international markets.
The first agreement involves a contract to manufacture red- and white-blood-cell boosting agents (erythropoietin or EPO and filgrastim or G-CSF) in pre-filled syringes for distribution to customers worldwide of the Havana-based Centre of Molecular Immunology (CMI).
The other covers research and development, and complete manufacturing technology transfer, for monoclonal antibodies for treatment of lymphoma, breast cancer, and auto-immune diseases.
SBS is Thailand’s first manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals, which are medicines produced by advanced biotechnological processes, while other drugs currently produced in the country are only chemical-based and not as effective, said managing director Dr Songpon Deechongkit.
He said the monoclonal agreement, which took two years to negotiate with CMI and another two years to obtain approval from the Cuban government, could potentially lower by 30-40 per cent the prices of similar medicines currently sold in Thailand by international drug firms.
SBS chairman Dr Sanoh Unakul said the company had been formed as a social enterprise with an objective to provide Thai citizens with access to high-quality biopharmaceuticals at affordable prices and enabling Thailand to become self-sufficient in R&D, manufacturing, and commercialisation of biopharmaceuticals. The company is also meant to help reduce state spending on medicines and to stimulate more R&D in the local healthcare industry.
Songpon said SBS had already spent Bt1.2 billion to build a factory in Nonthaburi and for technology investment, and was expected to spend an additional Bt800 million to complete its current projects.
He said SBS had already imported EPO and G-CSF drugs from Cuba for sale in the domestic market but sales remained small, since these drugs have not yet been included in the state’s medicine list under the national healthcare system.
SBS is waiting for approval to start local manufacturing of EPO and G-CSF shortly. Songpon said the local prices of EPO went down immediately after the firm finished construction of its factory in 2012.
“Regarding export volume, we can’t yet give an answer to that. However, the market’s size should be similar to Cuba’s. Cuba currently exports 40 million doses of EPO annually, mostly to government markets,” he said.
Songpon said additional production volumes from Thailand would help Cuba, which already exports its drugs to 30 countries, to boost its competitiveness in international markets. The drugs will be exported to Cuba for redistribution to markets worldwide.
SBS has been licensed to cover mainly the Asean and Australasia markets, said SBS chairman of executive board Apiporn Pasawat.
For monoclonal antibodies, the firm plans to start undertaking a clinical study in animals soon, to be followed by clinical study in humans, and is expected to start production in 2018.