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      Indian pharma firm makes history with Ontario office

      Posted AtBusiness Edge.ca

      India's largest pharmaceutical company is expanding into Canada and mulling investments in Ontario's biotechnology sector, moves that the province hopes will attract more money and jobs to a key growth market.

      Ranbaxy Pharmaceuticals Inc., which had $1 billion US in global sales last year, is establishing its first Canadian sales office in Mississauga. It's the first time a pharmaceutical company from India has set up shop on Canadian soil.

      Ranbaxy officials have also confirmed they're considering becoming a tenant inside MaRS Centre, a $350-million downtown Toronto complex that will officially open this fall.

      MaRS, which stands for Medical and Related Sciences, will house researchers, investors, high-tech firms and even patent lawyers who can network to develop new technology more quickly. In theory, a pharmaceutical firm could partner with researchers at the centre to help fund the development of a medical discovery.

      Bill Abboud, general manager for Ranbaxy Laboratories Canada, said his company is at a "very preliminary stage'' in looking at MaRS, but added "there is interest in doing something. In what form, that will come after we review the situation with our colleagues in India and the United States.'' One month ago, Merck Frosst Canada, subsidiary of global drug giant Merck & Co. Inc., disclosed plans to establish an office at MaRS, a non-profit corporation built through private- and public-sector money, including $20 million each from Ottawa and the province.

      The interest in MaRS by two global pharma giants is welcome news to the Ontario government, which is making biotech growth an economic priority.

      "This area is exploding in terms of its potential,'' Economic Development and Trade Minister Joe Cordiano said of the biotech sector.

      Biotechnology involves the use of living organisms to develop medicine, food and even industrial products. Using genetic engineering and other advanced technologies, biotechnology is being used to develop diagnostic products to help doctors identify disease, enhance growth of crops and livestock, break down pollutants and help miners extract minerals.

      Cordiano said he will focus on seeking investments in biotech and other major industrial sectors - selling the province, essentially, in an effort similar to how he helped convince Toyota to build a second assembly plant in the province.

      "We'll attempt to sell Ontario to the rest of the world as an economy that is entirely focused on innovation and bringing about new economic opportunities,'' he said.

      July 21, 2005


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