Six companies driving Chennai’s biotech scene

Chennai biotechs

Just like Bangalore and Pune, the city of Chennai in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India, is a key hub for the biotech industry in the country. Chennai, which runs AstraZeneca’s IT operations in the country at the Global Technology Centre, is home to over 50 biotech companies. Much of their focus lies on biochemical manufacturing and production of assay tests. 

Earlier this year, the Tamil Nadu government participated in the Swiss Biotech Day conference held at Basel in Switzerland, which has a thriving biotech cluster, putting the city on the map for its progress in the industry, globally. Here is a list of six biotech companies based in Chennai that have made their mark in the industry.

Table of contents

    Acrannolife Genomics

    Founded in 2014, Acrannolife Genomics has developed the Trunome Liquid Biopsy, which is a non-invasive diagnostic measure that can detect chronic disorders through a blood test. 

    The test can monitor the health of organs that have been transplanted including the kidney, liver, heart, lungs, and pancreas, to ensure post-transplant recovery. This is done by analyzing the DNA from the blood obtained from the transplanted organ. 

    The Chennai-based biotech company also specializes in Covid 19 testing, for which it has created the COVIQWIK, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). COVIQWIK is based on RT-LAMP technology – a kind of assay that is used for viral RNA detection – which can provide results in an hour. Claimed to have 100% sensitivity and specificity, the test, unlike polymerase chain reaction tests, it does not require thermal cycles as it is performed at a specific, constant temperature. 

    In a non-equity assistance round, the company secured $181,000 in a financing round that took place in February, this year. The biotech has raised a total of $422,000 over 4 funding rounds.

    Eucare Pharmaceuticals

    Collagen plays a key role in wound and scar healing as it aids in stimulating tissue growth as well as in angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels – and promoting epithelialization, a process in which epithelial skin cells move upwards to encourage repair, in wound management. As part of its wound care programme, Eucare Pharmaceuticals has developed Kollagen, which is a bovine-based extracellular matrix native collagen membrane that acts as a skin substitute for the treatment of both superficial and deep burns on the skin.

    It has also created Kollagen-M, a porous collagen dressing for burns. This is a bovine collagen membrane which facilitates the healing mechanism of infected burns, and is sold along with a preserving medium. Moreover, its sterile collagen membrane NeuSkin – a freeze-dried formulation unlike  Kollagen-M – is also made up of bovine collagen. These products have all undergone gamma sterilization to prevent microbial infection and are available in different sizes. 

    Additionally, it also manufactures GelSpon, which are absorbable hemostatic gelatin sponges of bovine origin, for surgical procedures to maintain homeostasis, a temperature and fluid regulating process that tends to become unbalanced post-surgery. The company also focuses on scar and vitiligo treatments.

    Established in 1996, The Chennai-based biotech has collaborated with French company Laboratoires Urgo, whose proprietary jellified TLC healing matrix made up of hydrocolloid, fatty particles and polymers, aids in restorative care.

    GeneX India Bio Science

    Since it was founded in 2004, Genex India Bioscience has been a distributor of cell culture products. Over the years, it has expanded its focus in molecular biology as well.

    The company sells its quantitative polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) kits, restriction enzymes, assay kits, reagents and antibodies. As a service provider, GeneX India Bio Science aids in custom antibody development, gene and peptide synthesis. Its SiRNAs can be modified and scaled at various quantities. For peptide synthesis, for which the company has over 20 years of experience, it can develop highly modified peptides of large quantities. It also conducts epigenomic profiling which entails chromatin, RNA sequencing and DNA methylation analysis. The Chennai-based biotech company’s antibody development includes production of antibody fragments as part of a 28 day protocol.

    The company, which has received the Fastest Growing Indian Company Excellence Award, has partnered with biotechs across the globe – on various projects – like American analytical instruments supplier Thermo Scientific, French cell and gene therapy company Polyplus, German biotech PAN Biotech – known for Marrowpan, a media for culturing bone marrow cells – and U.S.-based MagBio Genomics, among many others. 

    GreenPod Labs

    Despite being the second largest grower of fruits and vegetables, around 40% of the harvested crops rot before reaching the market in India. As 224.3 million people in the country are undernourished, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 Report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, GreenPod Labs aims to tackle this crisis.

    Established in 2019 in Chennai, the biotech company has come up with a way to extend the shelf life of crops. The biotech has manufactured sachets that contain formulations of powdered bioactive ingredients that are designed to activate the defense systems of crops, thereby preventing spoilage. These include plant extracts like bars of trees, skins of vegetables and fruits, and leaves, which are encapsulated in polymers. 

    The company’s first product has been developed to protect ripe mangoes, which tend to soften during transportation. The bioactive deters the softening on the skin, to hinder microbial growth. 

    GreenPod Labs has raised a total of $651.5K over two funding rounds, with the latest round having taken place last year, which saw participation from angel investor group Indian Angel Network and Amsterdam-based early stage investor Rockstart. 

    Seagrass Technologies

    With applications that range from natural fertilizers to being used as bio-jet fuel, growing algae could help undo some of the damage done to the environment, as it can clean up carbon emissions. Indian company Seagrass Technologies uses a harvesting technology to grow marine microalgae from seawater.

    As algae captures carbon dioxide, the technology aims to improve sustainable living. The company’s SeaCarotene is made up of the red marine microalgae Dunaliella Salina, in powdered form. It contains the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is a red-orange pigment present in certain vegetables like carrots. SeaCarotene can be used in pigments, dyes, cosmetics, animal feeds and as dietary supplements. Incorporated in the diet, it can support natural detoxification, maintain immune health and protect against free radical damage. The company also manufactures SeaLipro, which is a powdered version of the green algae Chlorella salina, as well as SeaProtein, which contains blue-green Spirulina. As the name suggests, SeaProtein provides 55%-70% protein, as well as vitamins, minerals and amino acids, making it an ideal supplement. Along with the benefits of SeaCarotene, SeaProtein and SeaLipro can be used as superfood blends as well. 

    Set up in 2016 in Chennai, the biotech company obtained $80,000 in a pre-seed investment round that took place in 2019. The round saw financing from investors like Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Brinc.

    Solara Active Pharma Sciences 

    Founded in 2017, Solara Active Pharma Sciences is a biopharmaceutical manufacturing company that produces drugs ranging from immunosuppressants, anesthetics, antibiotics to glaucoma and diabetes treatments. This includes over 60 drugs like albendazole, ibuprofen and levetiracetam among others.

    The biotech company has six manufacturing sites across south India – with reactors of various sizes from 250 liters to 12,500 liters – and one research and development center set up in Chennai. The company’s kilo lab – a scale up lab – can produce quantities of 500 g to 10 kg of clinical grade material. For process engineering, it has a calorimetry device, a focused beam reflectance measurement (FBRM), which is a tool used to monitor and control crystal sizes, a Radleys Reactor that can mimic plant conditions as well as a rapid screening device (RSD). The company also offers synthetic and analytical development services to other companies.

    In a private equity round, Solara Active Pharma Sciences secured $30 million in 2019, which was funded by American private equity firm TPG Growth.

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