22nd Jan 2017. Since drug resistance is the main problem, four of these startups — Bugworks and Gangagen in Bengaluru, Vitas Pharma in Hyderabad and Vyome Biosciences in New Delhi — are specifically targeting drug-resistant bacteria.
Regulations may not be a serious barrier for Vyome Biosciences, although it is attacking a problem that is no less difficult in scientific terms. Set up in 2011 to develop fungus infections in the scalp, Vyome has now morphed into a company that is developing drugs for drug-resistant skin infections. It has raised $25 million so far. Its first product, for drug-resistant acne, is now in Phase I trials. “We are looking at designing molecules in such a way,” says CEO Venkateswarlu Nelabhotla, “that bacteria do not develop resistance."
In the near future, if these startups end up with a commercial molecule, they will face a challenge that has kept all big companies away from antibiotics. Antibiotics are priced relatively low. The products they develop are likely to be used as a last resort, which reduces their usage. Can the companies price the drugs high, tens of thousands of dollars per course? The price would be lower in India, but still high enough to be outside the reach of the majority. Pharma industry leaders think that high prices are justified, as the costs of prolonged hospitalisation are even higher. Will the Indian society and politicians accept such high prices?
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