PHARMA’S GOOD KARMA

Iran 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Hamid Reza Jamshidi, Managing Director of Barkat Pharmaceutical Group, on raising the company's market share and investment as well as creating a regional pharma hub.

 Dr. Hamid Reza Jamshidi
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Hamid Reza Jamshidi holds a PhD in pharmacology from Isfahan University with a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience from the University of Alberta, Canada. He served as Chancellor of the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. After spending many years at Isfahan University, he was appointed as Director of the National Health Sector Reform unit in the Ministry of Health and later became Vice Deputy for Health at the ministry. Currently, he is the CEO of Barkat Pharmaceutical Group. He is also a lecturer at the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, a member of the Health Policy Council, and a member of the National Pharmacopoeia Committee at the Ministry of Health.

Barkat Pharmaceutical Group is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Iran. What is your strategy in further growing the company?

Our main priority is to establish new companies based on PPPs. We implemented this strategy last year and so far it has led to the establishment of three companies. We also want to establish new joint ventures with foreign investors and foreign pharmaceutical companies. We have already established one with a Spanish company that manufactures fertility, menopausal disorder, and contraceptive products with a capacity of 20 million tablets annually. We are also engaged in talks with the top pharmaceutical companies in Europe. Hopefully we can start new projects based on partnerships with these companies. Another goal in further developing Barkat is to grow our sales market by increasing our exports. We have a large production capacity in Iran and have already established branches in Iraq and several CIS countries. Also, we aim to invest in small, knowledge-based companies that develop new molecules, which will be used to develop finished products. These companies are young, flexible, and high tech, and we want to support them by partnering with them. Our activities can be divided into three categories, namely chemicals, biotech, and advanced therapy. Our chemical division produces 450-500 items for the Iranian market. Biotech is a big focus for us, as the sector is growing rapidly throughout the world. We have invested more than USD100 million in biotech in the last 20 years. In our advanced therapy division, we work on replacing and regenerating cells and organ tissue. We have received the release permission from the Ministry of Health and hope to be able to start working with gene therapy soon. This gene therapy could be used in the treatment of non-solid cancers such as blood cancer.

What has been the impact of the lifting of sanctions on your operations?

The health sector was never subject to sanctions, but we still faced difficulties with financial transactions. Buying API or equipment would cost us more because we needed to buy from second or third parties. At times, we signed contracts that, in the end, could not be honored because of transaction issues. Now that sanctions have been lifted, the payment procedure will be easier. Before and during the sanctions, not many companies came to Iran to explore the market. This is different today. We have a partnership with top US and European companies regarding cancer therapy and related products. One of these companies also offered us a financial package that was not possible before the lifting of sanctions. It is important to implement international standards in Iran. When we want to export to new markets, we need to show the quality of our medicines. Under sanctions, we faced difficulties with this documentation process. We are working on the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guidelines and hope to receive the GMP certification for our manufacturing facilities soon.

How do you assess the attractiveness of the Iranian pharmaceutical industry for foreign investors?

Barkat Pharmaceutical Group is constructing a pharmaceutical industrial and scientific park that is a good base for investment in pharmaceutical manufacturing and related services. Already, 16 companies have bought property here, among them reputable companies such as Novo Nordisk from Denmark and Vitabiotics from the UK. With its manpower and high level of education, Iran has the relevant assets to develop into a knowledge-based economy. Pharmaceutical companies can contribute to such development. Iran has 80 million people and 110 pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. Our labor force and knowledge base make us the strongest in the Middle East. With the good cultural and political relationship with other countries in the region, such as Iraq, Syria, and some CIS countries, Iran can become a regional medicine hub.