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      Japanese drug firm Eisai sets up Indian operations


      Eisai Co. Ltd., Japan's fourth-largest drug maker, announced the start of operations of its Indian subsidiary on Monday to tap the country's growing drug market and explore its scientific talent.

      "We think India is a marketing and sales opportunity, but (also) something more," Soichi Matsuno, managing director of Eisai's global pharmaceuticals business, told a news conference.

      "We are very much interested in the area of production, efficiency and also cost-management because India is a world famous generic player, so (there is) something bigger that we have to learn," he said.

      "We are told by U.S. and Europe researchers how terrific Indian researchers are. We want to learn more about the scientific area."

      Eisai, which gets half its revenue from outside Japan, already sells some products in India through partners.

      It has a 4-year old alliance with Wockhardt Ltd. which manufactures and sells Eisai's nerve disorder drug Methycobal. Last May it entered into a promotion deal with GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd. under which the Indian unit of GlaxoSmithKline Plc. has started marketing Eisai's anti-ulcer drug Pariet.

      On Monday, Eisai Pharmaceuticals India Private Ltd.'s managing director Deepak Naik said Eisai had expanded its deal with Wockhardt for manufacture and distribution of Eisai's blockbuster Aricept drug used to treat Alzheimer's disease.

      Eisai also plans to use India as a location to conduct clinical trials and has already started some activity, Naik said.

      Matsuno said Eisai was keen on finding in-licensing opportunities from other drug makers globally to boost its pipeline as U.S. patents on Aricept and Pariet, called Aciphex in the United States, expire between 2010 and 2013.

      "We want to continue our own research in pipelines, but at the same time it does not come constant (or) always on schedule," he said, adding the firm was constantly looking for in-licensing opportunities.

      But he said Eisai was not keen on participating in the wave of mergers in the Japanese drug market.

      "We are totally uninterested in those kind of consolidation among Japanese companies," he said on the sidelines of the conference. "Living alone is also difficult, but getting together and merging together is another pain."

      September 12, 2005


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