Bheema Paraselli, president and CEO of Chemveda Life Sciences in San Diego, California, was among the 18 CXOs at the biotech round table March 23 with Telangana IT and industries minister KT Rama Rao, told indica in an exclusive interview that his company is expanding its presence in Hyderabad.
“We are investing $20 million and already have 450 employees in India and a research center in Hyderabad and manufacturing as well,” said Paraselli, who holds a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Hyderabad and has 22 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.
Chemveda Life Sciences is a mid-sized contract research organization that provides solutions to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and agro-chemical industries as well as academia in drug discovery. “The company is going to the next level,” said Paraselli. “They have to hire another 500 people in the next couple of years.”
In the past five years, Chemveda has established two R&D sites spread over 65,000 sq ft and a manufacturing facility over eight acres in Hyderabad. It has grown from 45 employees in 2017 to 450 now and sees a lot more opportunities to grow.
Chemveda’s state-of-the-art R&D center in Hyderabad has already received $12 million in funding and an additional $8 million has been committed. The company has announced that it will abide by Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure quality in ingredients, manufacturing and distribution.
“We are bringing in game-changing technology,” said Paraselli, who has as many as 75 patents and scientific publications to his name. “That is what we are evaluating about India, hands-on experience, and they are among the first people who have that kind of innovation enterprise.”
Lauding KT Rama Rao’s initiative, Paraselli said the minister is dynamic and down to earth and does what he promises, “so we respect him”.
Asked whether Chemveda is also seeking tax incentives, Paraselli said, “We want to see if there is an opportunity and whether the state is creating the infrastructure. Also, we look for an opportunity to tap into the talent pool they have.”
Paraselli said it was a misconception that labor is cheap in India. “We are building our company as one of the premium [employers] rather than cheap,” said the CEO who oversaw an oncology project at his previous company Syrrx/Takeda (2003-2010) which resulted in a clinical candidate.
Asked why he chose to invest in India, Paracelli said, “Because of the talent pool and home country and opportunity. We want to see the utilization of the right talent in Hyderabad without compromising on quality.”
About the challenges he has faced in Hyderabad, Paracelli, who began as a medicinal chemist at Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in Hyderabad back in 1995 and was actively involved in the discovery of novel small molecules for the treatment of metabolic disorders, co-inventing two clinical candidates, said, “A few, like infrastructure. We need facilities so that we can expand operations quickly.”
Because of the inadequacy of available infrastructure, he said, they sometimes have to carry out expansion plans in phases. On regulations, he said that as long as guidelines are being followed, he does not see any problem.
Chemveda is validating some of the game-changing scientific platforms and technologies developed at the Scripps Research Institute (ranked one of the top institutes in the world for innovation), which will allow pharma and biotech companies to make molecules much simpler and faster than by conventional methods. Paraselli himself had conducted post-doctoral research at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California after doing so as a Humboldt fellow at the University of Wurzburg in Germany.
In a press note, KT Rama Rao said, “Hyderabad has become the most sought-after destination for life sciences companies to establish their R&D centers and I am happy to see companies like Chemveda Life Sciences scale their footprint in Hyderabad. I am delighted to see the industry benefiting from the active research ecosystem, progressive government policies, and abundant talent pool in Hyderabad and we will continue to boost the R&D initiatives in the state.”
Before visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, KTR had a meeting with Paraselli and his team and their advisers, Prof Phil S Baran and Prof Jin-Quan Yu (professors of chemistry, Scripps Research Institute) in San Diego.