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Padma Bhushan For CEO Of Shantha Biotechnics

Ranjani Saigal

K. Varaprasad Reddy, CEO of Shantha Biotechnics, was awarded the coveted Padma Bhushan award on January 26, 2005  as the nation celebrated the 55th Republic day.   Reddy co-founded Shantha Biotechnics Private Limited with Boston Group Chairman and CEO Mr. Subu Kota in 1992 with an objective of developing recombinant based therapeutic proteins for human health care. The mission is to produce most cost effective drugs to reach the common man at an affordable price keeping International quality standards.

Reddy was delighted to receive the recognition. “This award is not meant for me personally but for Shantha,  for its contribution in biotechnology and its societal impact by way of creating a biotechnology wave in the country, and also making life saving drugs at affordable cost without compromising on quality”, said Reddy.

Shanta Biotechnics is the brain child of Mr. Subu Kota, Chairman and  CEO of the Boston Group. Shantha was something Kota created in response to a personal tragedy, when he lost his brother to Hepatitis-B. “I knew nothing about this disease, but his death drove me to find out more about its prevalence,” recalls Kota. His research showed that this disease was very prevalent.  While vaccines were available to prevent this disease, the cost was prohibitive and hence not available to a wide-section of population. “I started Shanta Biotechnics with a simple vision – to produce the vaccine at $1 a shot and we were able to accomplish this goal” says Kota.

Shanta Biotechnics has achieved pioneer status in developing and commercializing a recombinant DNA-based human healthcare product - the Hepatitis-B vaccine - in India.   Today, Shantha is a leading supplier to many of the larger drug firms in the U.S. Shanta also helps in the phase trials of drugs for U.S. Pharma firms, as an established contract research organization (CRO).Kota emphasizes that while Shanta is a very successful business, the company places a great emphasis on giving back to community. “At Shanta Biotechnics we do not stop with just manufacturing the vaccine. We are also very actively engaged in creating awareness programs to educate people about the disease. We also donate 10% of our products” says Kota.

What does the award mean to Kota? “I am very gratified to get a validation for our concept. We have proved that we can bring new technologies to India to solve the problem of affordability of drugs. We implemented the concept despite lot of hurdles and with very little money. I think it proves that if we have the belief we can accomplish good things”

While the award ceremony was a proud moment for Shanta, it was an equally proud moment for the biotech and life sciences industry as a whole. The Indian government has thrust the biotechnology sector to the forefront by bestowing eight of the top honors to members of this industry. The other awardees from this sector are, Bhai Mohan Singh (Padma Vibhushan-founder of Ranbaxy), Dr Martanda Varma Sankaran Valiathan (Padma Vibhushan- Chitra tilting disc valve developer), Y K Hamied (Pamda Bhushan- founder, CIPLA), Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw (Padma Bhushan-Biocon), Prof V S Ramamurthy, Secretary, Dept of S&T (Padma Bhushan), Azim Premji of Wipro (Padma Bhushan), Cyrus S Poonawalla (Padma Shri- Serum Institute). Never in the history of these coveted awards has a small section of the industry grabbed the entire limelight. Indications are that this Rs 3,200 crore industry is set to break the $1 billion mark this year.

Reddy was delighted to see the attention given to this sector.  "I am overjoyed to know that among the awardees, eight are from the biotechnology sector. This proves that the government has given emphasis to science and technology while announcing the Padma Awards this time. The government has realized the importance of entrepreneurship as well as proactive and friendly bureaucracy (award to Prof. VS Ramamurthy). The latest trend in selecting the awardees shows that our country is not only rich in fine arts but also in science and technology oriented disciplines. Looks as if the days of 'Nehruvian scientific temperament' are back” says Reddy.

Kota feels that the after signing the WTO agreement the future for the Biotech industry is very bright both in India and for its partners around the world. He feels it will bring more jobs to India and will significantly improve the economy. “I think we are in the early stages of the game. With the great talent in India we can make the cost of drug discovery more affordable. India is poised to be a global partner for all Pharma industries around the world” says Kota. "For U.S. companies, acquisition of Indian companies and collaborative agreements with Indian companies will significantly impact the bottom line”

Lokvani congratulates Reddy, Kota and the Shantha team and wishes them the very best of luck as they move towards a bright future.





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Reddy and Kota With President Abdul Kalam

Reddy Receives Padma Bhushan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh With Reddy and Kota At Celebration Dinner

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