Serving the Underserved Space in Oncology

Serving the Underserved Space in Oncology

Sayre Therapeutics has a clear mandate – of identifying unique and rare R&D organisations working on underserved areas of oncology and related fields.

Shukrit Chimote, Founder & CEO, Sayre Therapeutics

Bangalore based Sayre Therapeutics, a super-specialty pharmaceutical company, brings niche oncological drugs and diagnostics from small and medium research and development companies across the globe to cater to niche requirements in India and neighbours Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. Interventional Oncology and Immunology drugs, drug delivery devices and next-generation diagnostics are the other areas of focus for the venture started in August 2014 by Shukrit Chimote, Chief Executive Officer, and Vandana Subramanian, Chief Business Officer.

“Cancer is a ‘hot’ field and lot of developments and advancements can be seen. The big pharmaceutical companies have a captive customer base in India,” points out Chimote. But niche R&D work is done by small and medium sized organisations which do not have the wherewithal to find newer and needy markets. The company identifies such organisations, explains as well as helps in regulatory processes that can facilitate the import of new drugs and diagnostic services to India.

Partner Identification

Sayre participates in an international event called Bio, which is like speed dating. Participants can identify potential business partners, seek prior meetings of half hour slots to make a quick introduction, to be subsequently followed up.

Apart from this, the company has consultants in the US who help identify potential business partners, provide them with market analysis to make them understand what the medical community feels about them and form long term, exclusive tie ups. “In fact, exclusivity is our USP,” Chimote adds.

The founders’ experience in the healthcare space has given them the confidence to understand how collaborations work and put it out in the markets across the globe in drug and devices space.

Team and Markets

Chimote, after a 12-year stint abroad for higher education and work, returned to India in 2008 and worked here till 2014. Co-founder Subramanian too has extensive experience in Indian and global markets. As a result, they understood the market as well as the processes locally and globally well. This has helped them in building a strong team of 40. The team’s average years of experience is 10-12, and age, unlike in startups, in 30s and 40s. “Our kind of business needs maturity and experience in the relevant field,” points out Chimote.

While normally finding investors can be a challenge, especially for such a niche player, but that too proved anticlimactic. In Aug 2014, the duo made a pitch to Mahendran Balachandran of Accel Partners and got an immediate node. Bootstrapping till Mar 2015, Sayre has raised $8MM across two rounds from Accel Partners and Aarin Capital; and raised $1MM USD in venture-debt from InnoVen Capital.


“We are consciously going after products that are not well known and have a very niche use, so our marketing is heavily supported by awareness building activities as well”: Chimote


With this, the company was able to expand to super specialised areas of immunology and interventional oncology. Soon, the company will also be initiating clinical trials.

“We are consciously going after products that are not well known and have a very niche use, so our marketing is heavily supported by awareness building activities as well,” he explains. The company is also ready to wait for the trickle effect, where initially there is resistance that slowly turns to acceptance. Today, the company’s clientele from 40 oncological practitioners two years ago has gone up to 160 and covers 60 per cent of corporate hospitals in India.

The company has also lined up products to be released soon that will improve cancer diagnostics and treatment outcomes.

Sayre has also reworked the pricing for the Indian and Asian markets. “For instance, what is available at $3500 in the US is available for $900 here. Though this is also expensive, we have succeeded in making our partners see the benefit of lowering the prices,” explains Chimote.

As for competition, he points out that cancer is such a complicated field with different molecules for different stages, there can be no apple to apple comparison. Having said that, what works for Sayre are innovation and uniqueness. For generic drugs, the company believes in practice building and advocacy.

The Benign Growth

Though there is a demand for Sayre to expand its presence to Southeast Asian markets, the company wants to build on its strength in the four countries it is present in initially – India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal. Apart from interventional oncology and immunology, urology is another field that it may want to focus on in the coming years.

But be it as it may, Sayre will remain a niche player, increasing its reach and effectiveness before it takes the next step of expanding its global reach.


Snapshot

Venture: Sayre Therapeutics

Founders: Shukrit Chimote, Vandana Subramanian

Found in: Aug 2014

Focus: Oncology drugs and diagnostics

Funded by: Accel, Aarin and Innoven

Social media: Sayre Therapeutics is building a stable of rare and unique drugs and diagnostics for oncology and related areas in India, and other Asian countries.


Concept in brief

While large pharmaceutical companies with generic drugs and diagnostics for oncology have a captive market, there are some emerging areas catered to be small and medium global companies that do not have the muscle to reach their products globally. It can make a difference to the treatment outcomes of the patient, but the pricing also can be steep and sourcing it, a challenge. To overcome this, Shukrit Chimote and Vandana Subramanian started Sayre Therapeutics in August 2014 after gaining experience in drugs and devices markets over a decade. The company signs up exclusive partnerships with such developers and reaches them to the Indian, Sri Lankan, Bangladesh and Nepal markets. The marketing efforts requires awareness building and educating the stakeholders, especially the practitioners and the hospitals, and Chimote is willing to take the slow but steady route. The company has raised funds from Accel, Aarin and Innoven, which has helped it expand its areas of focus to include interventional oncology and immunology. The company currently has 160 oncology practitioners and 60 per cent of the corporate hospitals as its customers and will work on expanding its base in the existing markets.

Meera Srikant has been working with publishers and publications since 1993, writing and editing articles, features and stories across topics. She also blogs and writes poems, novels and short stories during leisure. Writing for The Smart CEO since 2010, she is also a classical dancer.