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PORTUGAL PHARMA


sole producer of a substance called Captisol, which must be combined with Remdesivir for it to be effective. Last March, Hovione was asked to increase production, but there were no official predictions of the scale of the pandemic. “Based on an Imperial College report, we decided to expect one million patients a month,” says chief executive Guy Villax. “That was a massive challenge as it meant every month we had to produce as much as we normally produce each year.” Separately, the firmreceived a grant from the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation to develop an inhaled formulation for an antiviral to be used as Covid-19 therapy. The company has made its name


creating ingredients and products for other pharma companies, and is currently supporting the develop- ment of 120 compounds that its cli- ents have in clinical trials. Up to six of these could be approved in 2021. The US Food and Drug Administration generally approves 40 to 65 new drugs per year, and Hovione has supported the manufac- ture and development of three to four of themevery year since 2015. Of the four drugs developed in the past decade that cure Hepatitis C, three of themrequired technology that only Hovione offers. “It’s hugely satisfying to knowthat around three-quarters of the five million patients that have been cured for Hepatitis C used tablets made with product that came fromour plants,” says Mr Villax.


Supportingyoungandold As life expectancies extend, people’s central nervous systems are put under increasing pressure. It is this exact area where Bial, which is head- quartered just north of Porto, excels. One of its patented drugs, Opicapone, is a daily treatment that people with Parkinson’s disease can take in addition to Levodopa (the gold-standard medication for the dis- ease). “The feedback fromclinicians is that this is being useful to the management of Parkinson’s patients and that’s really remarkable—to imagine howour research is making a difference in patients’ life,” says chief executive António Portela, whose great grandfather founded the firm nearly a century ago. Another of its patents is foranepi-


lepsymedication eslicarbazepine ace- tate. “The drugwehave developedis simple to use for patientsandclini-


80


WEHAVE BEEN GRANTED PATENTSONNEW TECHNOLOGIES DEVELOPED IN-HOUSEANDTHEN LICENSEDTHOSE PRODUCTS


cians,” saysMr Portela. “This isimpor- tant because epilepsy patients nor- mally need to take a cocktail of drugs.” Bial has truly internationalised


over the past decade, selling itsmedi- cines in some 60 countries and investing more than 20%of revenues in R&D. One promising drug in phase 2 clinical trials aims to extend the short life expectancy of people suffering frompulmonary arterial hypertension by working alongside other drugs available in themarket today.


While Bial’s innovations support


ageing populations, Laboratórios Basi has had great success in chil- dren’s medicine. Basi’s over-the- counter products are available in 60 countries and while Africa remains its biggest market, Europe has been itsmajor source of growth in recent years. According to chief executive Joaquim Chaves, the key to Basi’s ini- tial success was its improvement of common products including paedi- atric medicines, such as cough and pain syrups.“We upgrade formula- tions according to scientific and technical progress to increase prod- uct quality and stability,” he says. “And to introduce new features like the removal of sugar, product-spe- cificmeasuring devices, child-proof caps and so on, creating a safer and easier to use product.” This power of reinvention is still


part of Basi’s strategy, but the firm is also focused on advancements shap- ing the future of pharma. In late 2019, it opened a newmanufactur- ing plant configured for Industry 4.0. One year later it spun-off a biop- harmaceuticals business called Basinnov. Indeed, Basi has the Portuguese talent for leveraging the best of the pastwhile still being firmly focused on the future.■


www.fDiIntelligence.com February/March 2021


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