India’s Ranbaxy Laboratories, very much known for its generics, is looking for partners to help finance its innovative R&D efforts and could even spin off its research activities into a separate company.

The Economic Times newspaper quotes an unnamed Ranbaxy official as saying that a number of new compounds are going to be entering Phase II and III trials soon so “we are looking at alliances and partners anticipating the heavy cost in the next few years”. The company’s New Drug Discovery Research unit is working on 8-10 programmes headed by the anti-malarial arterolane, which has just completed Phase II trials and could be launched by 2011, making it the first ever New Chemical Entity from India to be launched globally.

As well as arterolane, RBx 10558 for dyslipidemia is set to start Phase I trials in India and has already been out-licensed to US contract research organisation Pharmaceutical Product Development. Ranbaxy is also looking at oral dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors for type-2 diabetes and recently noted that its R&D pact with GlaxoSmithKline is bearing fruit; the firms have identified a promising compound that has the potential to treat respiratory inflammation.

The firm’s chief executive, Malvinder Singh, recently said that Ranbaxy is exploring opportunities, through different models and actively considering a series of structures to fund the investment needed for its pipeline and a final decision on the best way ahead is expected before the end of the year. The company may choose to follow the path chosen by rival Dr Reddy’s, which has transferred a part of its NCE pipeline to a joint venture, called Perlecan Pharma, set up with ICICI Bank and Citigroup.

Likewise it may set up a separate research unit, which fellow Indian firms Nicholas Piramal and Sun Pharma have just done. The latter’s R&D spin-off is called Sparc.