Israel, India team up to cure cancer

Indian generic drugmaker giant Sun Pharma to work with Technion to explore new ways to fight tumors

President Reuven Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, March 29, 2015 (photo credit: Courtesty Tomer Reichmann)
President Reuven Rivlin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, March 29, 2015 (photo credit: Courtesty Tomer Reichmann)

Days after the Technion announced that a team led by Nobel Prize laureate Professor Aaron Ciechanover had discovered how proteins could be used to suppress cancer and control tumor growth and development, the institute revealed that it had entered into an exclusive agreement with India’s Sun Pharmaceuticals — the world’s fifth-largest specialty generic pharmaceutical company and India’s top pharmaceutical company.

Under the agreement, researchers from the Technion and Sun will conduct studies on how high concentrations of two proteins can protect tissue from tumors. A study published in the medical journal Cell this week discussed how the proteins can suppress malignancies.

Along with Ciechanover, the research team included Dr. Gila Maor and Professor Ofer Binah. In a statement, Ciechanover said that the research held a great deal of promise of an effective drug for treating cancer, “although this is not a certainty, and the road to such a drug is long and far from simple.”

The deal with Sun is just one of several R&D ventures between Israel and India, on both the business and government levels. So far, the two countries have signed seven bilateral economic and R&D agreements, including one that fosters joint projects on space travel and satellite development.

Talks on a free-trade agreement between the two countries continue apace, and both sides, in interviews with The Times of Israel, say they are hopeful that the accord can be concluded in the coming months.

Among the deals being discussed is the India-Israel Initiative for Industrial R&D (i4RD), to support joint industrial R&D projects. Israeli companies that have taken advantage of the arrangement — which provides Israeli government and Indian government investment in projects located in India — are Check Point, Amdocs, Magic Software, Ness Technologies, and Comverse, which just this week announced a cooperation agreement with India’s Tech Mahindra.

In the past, Israelis have sensed a certain reluctance among Indians to embrace them, perhaps due to India’s strong economic ties to Arab countries, which, until not too long ago, enforced a boycott of Israel that forbade any of their trading partners from doing business with Israeli companies. The fact that India has a large, and sometimes restive, Muslim minority also tempered enthusiasm for developing relations with the Jewish state.

Those days are gone, though, and India, too, has begun to embrace Israel, and Israeli technology, in everything from agriculture to defense systems to IT to diamonds. Indian delegations are now prominent at almost every international technology show held in Israel.

In a recent interview with The Times of Israel, Indian ambassador to Israel Jaideep Sarkar praised the growing ties between the two countries. “We have many things you lack,” said Sarkar. “India has plenty of manpower, producing 500,000 scientists, engineers, and tech workers each year. We have a huge domestic market, with a very large young population that are hungry to get ahead and join the middle class. And India is a great gateway to southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and to many countries Israel does not have diplomatic or business relations with.”

Israel can do a lot for India as well, continued Sarkar. “The Israeli system is exceptional in that it brings together technology and entrepreneurship. You have a wonderful tech incubation system in your universities. Israeli innovation and technology can help solve many of our country’s problems. This is a business relationship that is win-win.”

That’s the feeling at the Technion and at Sun regarding their new deal. “The Technion is delighted to partner with Sun Pharma to advance this project through preclinical development process,” said Ciechanover and Binah. “This collaboration is an excellent example of interactions between academic discovery and pharmaceutical companies demonstrating the valuable contribution academic institutions can make in bringing new products to help patients worldwide. We sincerely believe this agreement represents the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the Technion and Sun Pharma.”

Kirti Ganorkar, the senior vice president of business development at  Sun Pharma, added his thoughts: “This collaboration is part of the various initiatives that Sun Pharma is taking to enhance its specialty pipeline. Mutually beneficial partnerships with independent research institutes, especially world-renowned institutes such as the Technion, is our preferred route to bring to the market innovative products for unmet medical needs.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed