Indian contract research organisation (CRO) GVK Biosciences Private Limited has received a significant boost to its expansion plans with a Rs 100 crores (€17.0 million; one crore = 10 million) investment from the Indian arm of global private equity player Sequoia Capital.

GVK BIO said it would use the funds to enhance its capacity in drug discovery services, build a state-of-the-art campus on a 25-acre site in Hyderabad, provide new service offerings in the preclinical and clinical trial segments, and pursue growth opportunities through mergers and acquisitions.

According to Sandeep Singhal, managing director of Sequoia Capital India and nominee to the GVK BIO board, the latter’s rapid growth in the last few years has made it a global leader in the CRO market. “With the strength of its management and leadership, we believe that the company is on its way to become a dominant force in the life science industry,” he added.

Starting off in Hyderabad in 2001, GVK BIO now claims to be the only Indian CRO offering an integrated platform ranging from informatics, medicinal chemistry and biology services to clinical research, data management, process research and custom synthesis. “This service breadth gives GVK BIO an edge, as clients look to grow their relationships with Indian CROs from a vendor-based relationship to strategic partnerships”.

GVK BIO has been active on this front, winning a five year contract with Wyeth in January 2006 – estimated to be worth around $8 -$10 million a year – to establish a medicinal chemistry site for the US manufacturer. The GVK BIO Wyeth Hyderabad Chemistry Center was inaugurated early last month. It will house a team of 200 synthetic chemists and scientists working on the synthesis of reference standards, building blocks, pharmaceutical intermediates, analogues, focused libraries and screening libraries.

INC joint venture
Earlier this year, GVK BIO formed a 50:50 joint venture – INC GVK BIO Private Limited – with US-based CRO INC Research. The joint venture will have the capability to run full-service Phase I-IV clinical trials in India for its pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients.

GVK BIO has also been looking further afield. Last year the company was reported to be weighing up the possibility of acquiring an overseas rival, probably in the US or Europe, to bring it closer to its customer base. The Times of India said GVK BIO was eyeing mid-sized CROs that would give it a platform for expansion into Western markets and consolidate its leading position in India.

The Sequoia Capital investment is evidence of increasing private equity interest in CROs operating in fast-evolving markets for clinical trials such as India. Late last month, global private investment firm TPG sank more than $30 million into ShangPharma Corporation, a leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology research and development outsourcing company based in Shanghai, China.