Innobic collaborations drive life science solutions
Firm and partners making headway in the fields of medicine, pharma and future food
Buranin Rattanasombat sees a clear direction for business in the post-pandemic period.
The chairman of Innobic (Asia) Co and senior executive vice-president for innovation and new ventures at PTT said modern medicine, future food and businesses related to life science applications are expected to enjoy rapid growth as people are more concerned about healthy lifestyles.
Mr Buranin said one lesson people have learned from Covid-19 is the need to have effective prevention and fast diagnosis of the highly contagious virus in addition to timely treatment of the disease.
This can be well applied to other diseases, which will create new business opportunities in the medical industry, now getting support from the government under its plan to make Thailand a regional medical hub.
Innobic (Asia), established as the biotechnology arm of PTT Group, is determined to be among companies that grasp these opportunities as well as pursue fortune in the food industry.
The company expects its businesses will make significant progress next year, thanks to the right decision on business expansion.
Mr Buranin said PTT Group is synergising its energy and engineering know-how with the expertise of its business partners in the life sciences field.
Innobic (Asia) is also keen on developing Thailand’s first pharmaceutical factory to make cancer treatment drugs.
Innobic (Asia) teamed up with the Queen Sirikit Center for Breast Cancer in September to further develop modern treatments for patients.
The centre earlier announced it is the first in the world to successfully use immunotherapy to treat a breast cancer patient who is now in remission with minimal side effects.
A team of doctors, led by Kris Chatamra, gave the patient new hope, taking her back to a healthier life after the invasive breast cancer previously caused her to stop treatments.
“The centre had been preparing equipment as well as a medical team for a long time until it found a way to treat breast cancer with immunotherapy,” said Mr Buranin.
Immunotherapy works by enabling a patient’s immune system to fight cancer. The treatment stimulates T-cells, the most common and basic immune cells, to eradicate cancer cells that harm the body.
Successfully treating the first patient, the centre keeps on applying the immunotherapy to other breast cancer patients and aims to cut the cost of treatment by one third in order to make it less expensive than that of chemotherapy, said Mr Buranin.
“The only challenge for the doctors is whether the immunity to cancer will remain in the body forever and if there are new cancer cells, the immune system will put up a fight,” he said.
Innobic (Asia) is also interested in developing Thailand’s first pharmaceutical factory to make cancer treatment drugs at a cost of 2.5 billion baht under cooperation with the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO).
Construction of the factory, to be located in Rayong, is likely to begin in 2022, with the first lot of medicines expected in 2027.
The factory is designed to produce around 30 million pills a year.
Mr Buranin said the cooperation with the centre and the GPO is a stepping stone in helping Thailand come up with more medical research and develop a better public health system.
Mr Buranin says the company is intensifying efforts to make its first footprint in the medical equipment business.
Innobic (Asia) also teamed up with IRPC Plc, a petrochemical arm of national oil and gas conglomerate PTT Plc, in March this year to jointly set up Innopolymed Co to produce materials for making single-use medical face masks.
Materials made of non-woven fabric under the melt blown technique are often used in N95 facemasks, laboratory coats and air filter production.
“We are stepping up efforts in making our first footprint in the medical equipment business,” said Mr Buranin.
“One of our goals is to produce the materials which currently need to be imported.”
Innobic (Asia) acquired a 37% share in Lotus Pharmaceutical Co, a company listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange, to seek new business opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry.
Lotus is a generic medicine company with outstanding R&D facilities.
Partnering with Lotus is a long-term strategic plan as the company is involved in the whole process of making and selling medicines in Taiwan, South Korea and the US, said Mr Buranin.
For Lotus, it sees the potential for Innobic (Asia) to support its marketing in Asean.
VENTURING INTO FUTURE FOOD
In May, Innobic (Asia) joined hands with SET-listed NR Instant Produce, a producer of vegetarian and plant-based food, to set up Nutra Regenerative Protein Co under a 50:50 joint venture to develop and sell a full range of plant-based protein and functional foods.
Commercial production is scheduled for 2023, with production capacity of 3,000 tonnes a year.
Plant-based protein products are made from protein-rich plants like beans, mushrooms, seaweed, almonds and oats, with help from modern processing technology to develop flavours that can be made similar to those of meat products.
Mr Buranin said protein from plants can be developed into functional foods.
The company is designing a business model to run shops that sell meat made from plants, he said.