The five hottest private biotech companies in India

September 13, 2022 - 5 minutes
Image/Elena Resko

India is brimming with biotech companies and a young and skilled workforce. Here’s a quick glance at the private healthcare biotechs in India that captured investors’ imaginations in the last couple of years.

India has historically been known for its large IT, pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing sectors, but is also a force to be reckoned with in the global biotechnology market. The nation boasts around 5,000 biotech companies, with more than 4,000 being startups. This startup count is expected to reach 10,000 by 2024.

With a huge population of young and skilled workers, India has many ingredients for expanding the number of its biotech companies in the coming years. Add to this a large patient pool for lifestyle-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and there is a large potential for generating innovations in healthcare.

We’ve assembled a shortlist of the hottest private biotech companies in India by checking who’s raised impressive cash in the last few years. These companies are carrying out innovative healthcare research and are primarily based in Mumbai and Bengaluru.

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      Image/Elena Resko

      Bugworks Research India Pvt Ltd

      Founded: 2014

      Headquarters: Bengaluru, India and Saratoga, U.S.

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      Bugworks has multiple sites in the U.S. and Australia with a research and development base in India. The firm specializes in the development of antibiotics that could address the growing crisis of antimicrobial resistance

      Bugworks’ lead candidate antibiotic blocks the replication machinery in invading bacteria. In addition, the drug is designed to bypass normal resistance mechanisms in bacteria, which could make it harder for strains to become resistant to the treatment.

      The company is testing its antibiotic in phase 1 trials for the treatment of multi-drug resistant infections in collaboration with the nonprofit initiatives CARB-X and the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP). 

      Bugworks is financing its antibiotics research with a $18 million Series B1 round closed in February 2022. In addition, Bugworks will use the proceeds to fund the preclinical development of a dual-acting drug to treat cancer.

      Epigeneres Biotech Private Limited

      Founded: 2012

      Headquarters: Mumbai

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      Epigeneres Biotech hit the headlines in January 2022 with a $6 million Series B funding round. The Indian biotech company is using the cash to develop a wide range of different technologies in its arsenal, including cancer tests, nanotechnology-based medicines and nutraceuticals.

      Cancer detection is Epigeneres’ most recent pursuit. In 2021, the firm teamed up with the Singaporean company Tzar Labs to develop cancer diagnostics that screen for telltale RNA molecules from tumors at early stages of disease. Epigeneres is poised to launch a screening service in India based on the technology.

      Epigeneres also has nucleic acid drugs in development for the treatment of conditions ranging from infertility to renal failure to autoimmune diseases. The firm uses a form of nanotechnology to boost the delivery of the drugs to the target cells.

      In addition, Epigeneres is working on small molecule drugs that can increase the population of stem cells in the body in a regenerative medicine setting.

      Eyestem

      Founded: 2016

      Headquarters: Bengaluru

      In August 2022, Eyestem caught the eye of investors in a $6.4 million Series A round. The Indian biotech startup is working on cell therapies for eye disorders, with a flagship therapy in the pipeline for the treatment of dry age-related macular degeneration (dry AMD).

      There is currently no treatment for dry AMD. In patients with the condition, the eye accumulates cellular debris, which causes destructive inflammation in the retina. This leads to a loss of retinal pigment epithelium, the layer of cells that support the photosensitive cells we need to see. 

      Eyestem is developing an off-the-shelf stem cell therapy to replace lost retinal pigment epithelium. The biotech has earmarked money from its recent Series A round for preparing its cell therapy for early-stage clinical testing.

      Immuneel Therapeutics Private Limited

      Founded: 2019

      Headquarters: Bengaluru

      Immuneel Therapeutics is making waves in the field of autologous CAR-T cell therapy, where a patient’s immune T cells are removed, engineered in the lab to kill blood cancer cells, and reinfused into the patient. There are CAR-T therapies already available, but these complex, expensive therapies are currently limited to only the wealthiest countries.

      Immuneel’s mission is to develop CAR-T therapies that are accessible and affordable in India. To support this push, the company raised $15 million in June 2022 in a Series A round.

      The therapies in Immuneel’s pipeline are targeted to various types of blood cancer in children and adult patients. As the Indian biotech closed its Series A round, Immuneel kicked off a phase 2 trial of a CAR-T therapy in what it claims is the first industry-sponsored CAR-T trial in India.

      MedGenome

      Founded: 2013

      Headquarters: Bengaluru and Wilmington, U.S.

      MedGenome has sites around the globe, with a large part of its operations and genetic testing situated in, and targeted to, India.

      The company carries out genomics-focused research and diagnostics services for biopharma clients that can help in the development of drugs tackling cancer, diabetes, eye conditions and cardiovascular diseases. To provide a rich dataset, the company works with more than 500 hospitals in India.

      MedGenome raised one of the Asia-Pacific region’s biggest biotech investments in August 2022 — a $50 million round led by Novo Holdings. The funds will be used to increase access to genetic testing in emerging markets, which have lagged behind the wealthier parts of the world. 

      MedGenome also aims to collect genetic data from a wide range of populations in Asia, which could provide a treasure trove of clinical insights for genes related to disease. In keeping with this aim, the company is a founding member of the initiative GenomeAsia 100K, which will analyze the genomes of 100,000 people from a range of Asian populations to speed up the development of precision medicine in this part of the world.

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