“Public perception about clinical trials has witnessed a drastic change”

This edition of Chat with BioVoice features Ajay Tandon, Managing Director, Veeda Clinical Research Limited

Biovoice News Ajay Tandon MD Veeda
Ajay Tandon has been associated with Veeda for over two years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering (electrical) from the University of Delhi and a post graduate diploma in management from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. He has experience in investment advisory and previously has been associated with CX Advisors LLP, Citi Bank, India and TRG Advisors India Private Limited.
Veeda Clinical Research Limited offers a diverse and comprehensive portfolio of clinical research services. The company has state-of-the-art clinical research facilities, resources and scientific expertise for investigator led and commercially sponsored large scale multifunctional clinical trials.
In an exclusive interview, Ajay Tandon, Managing Director, Veeda Clinical Research Limited shared his views on a host of issues including the India’s clinical research industry, his company’s current operations and outlook.

BV LogoWhat are the key milestones achieved by Veeda Clinical Research in the last few years?
Veeda offers a comprehensive portfolio of clinical, preclinical and bio-analytical services to support innovator, biosimilar and generic drug development programs of our global clientele including pharma, biopharma, agrochemicals, industrial chemicals, herbal, nutraceuticals, and medical devices.
A few of the milestones achieved by the company are establishment of Ingenuity Biosciences Private Limited, a 50:50 joint venture collaboration with Canada-based Somru BioScience Inc., to enhance its capabilities in biosimilars. Veeda also added pre-clinical research services to the portfolio by acquiring Bangalore-based CRO, Bioneeds India. We also successfully commissioned a fully equipped 18-bedded clinic for conduct of phase 1 clinical studies at Ahmedabad,. It focuses on conduct of studies which include first-in-human single ascending dose studies and multiple ascending dose studies, proof of concept, drug-drug interaction, and much more.
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Currently how many clinical trial sites does the company have across India? Key clients and focus areas?
Veeda partners with major hospitals and investigators across India to conduct clinical trials in several therapeutic areas, including oncology, psychiatry, ophthalmology and dermatology. For healthy volunteer studies, Veeda has facilities across Ahmedabad and Mehsana where it conducts clinical, bioanalytical and screening operations.
Since the company’s inception in 2004, Veeda Clinical Research Limited has enabled high impact and translational research by supporting and facilitating drug discovery programs of world’s leading pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical MNCs.
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What role did Veeda play in successful Covid-19 vaccine development during the pandemic? Any experiences that you would like to share?
There has been a rising demand for drugs, vaccines, medical devices and test kits for COVID-19 infection and its complications, which created a huge demand for CRO services amidst pandemic situations. Global and Indian CROs have now been working on trials wherein drugs, vaccines and medical devices are being tested in COVID-19 patients. The pandemic has significantly fast tracked the regulatory approval timelines paving way for a higher growth of the CRO industry.
CROs are now positioning themselves as end-to-end solution providers making their services more cost effective, time saving and offering services across the value chain. Thus, participants are resorting to M&A activities to gain access to specific service portfolios, such as preclinical development and bio-analytical testing.
Veeda Clinical Research completed the Phase 1 bridging study and is currently conducting the Phase II/III double-blinded placebo-controlled study for a novel fusion protein-based vaccine, developed by one of our US-based clients, which has demonstrated very encouraging results. Besides this, Veeda successfully completed a Phase II study for a phytochemical product for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID with beneficial effect on long COVID symptoms.

“We see significant growth for preclinical and clinical research services in India over the medium to long term”

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How has the acquisition of pre-clinical CRO, Bioneeds helped Veeda to expand its business capabilities & revenue generation?
With acquisition of Bioneeds, we have gained comprehensive pre-clinical research capabilities, across two facilities in Bangalore to support preclinical drug development solutions. With Bioneeds, we are now able to offer a wide range of pre-clinical services complimented by our early phase clinical services to innovator pharmaceutical companies in order to provide them with comprehensive drug development support.
Our capabilities are distinct with multiple adjacencies and we see significant synergies across our clients and geographical markets to cross leverage our capabilities and offer customized integrated research solutions for our clients. We are working towards further aligning our capabilities, systems, processes and people to realize the full potential of our combination.
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Please tell us more about Ingenuity, your joint venture with Somru Bioscience, Canada and how it is adding value within the biopharma space?
Ingenuity Biosciences expands its capabilities in biosimilars and offers complete bioassay services and kits for biosimilars development, based on technology transferred from or co-developed with Somru. Collectively across Ingenuity, Somru and Bioneeds, we now offer end-to-end modular technical services, encompassing both pre-clinical and clinical development of biosimilars addressing global regulatory requirements.
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What is your take on the clinical trial regulations in India?
Over the years, India has established itself as one of the leading pharmaceutical hubs and a preferred destinations for outsourcing research, leveraging our strong industry ecosystem that includes scientifically skilled human resources, global quality infrastructure and compliances, and cost competitiveness. Within clinical research, India is a leading service provider supporting the global generic industry but we currently lag in global clinical trials for new and novel drug products.
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Will the fast-track approvals for clinical trials and shortening of regulatory timelines for Covid vaccine development lead to any definitive changes?
Progressive regulatory changes streamlining the approval process and oversight for studies has benefitted the CRO market. In March 2019, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India released the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules, 2019, which provided clear guidelines for the application and approval for clinical trials besides strengthening the ethical oversight and the responsibilities and obligations of the sponsors. It thereby provided a predictable, transparent and effective regulatory framework for clinical trials in India. These have supported the increase in clinical trials in India since then. There is further scope for developing the clinical research ecosystem, including regulatory pathways, to support more global clinical trials in India.

“Veeda successfully completed a Phase II study for a phytochemical product for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19″

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Why is the public perception about clinical trials in India mostly negative? How can stakeholders create awareness on its role in drug discovery?
The public perception about clinical trials in India has witnessed a drastic change. With the emergence of high quality CROs that operate in compliance with global safety, ethical and regulatory norms, the industry has significantly matured and the public perception thereof has definitely changed over the last several years. The stronger regulatory oversight on the industry and active industry forums are bringing together diverse stakeholders to enhance the operating ecosystem. It is also reflecting in the increasing volunteer participation in clinical research.
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How are the CSR initiatives of the company making a difference to the society?
Veeda is born out of a noble mission of preserving and safeguarding the quality of human life. We fulfil our mission of corporate social responsibility by collaborating with NGOs, voluntary organizations, institutions and working towards the upliftment of the under-privileged and promoting healthcare.
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Your outlook for the clinical research market in India and Veeda respectively in FY 2022-23?
We see significant growth for preclinical and clinical research services in India over the medium to long term. With our comprehensive portfolio of drug development services, we are well positioned to be preferred partners for innovative pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical clients globally for their critical drug development programs. We will continue to invest in infrastructure, people and processes to build new capabilities relevant to our clients.