Interview

Boosting the Immune System Need of the Hour

Prashant Nagre

Prashant Nagre, CEO, Fermenta Biotech Ltd spoke to Prathiba Raju, Elets News Network on how pharmaceuticals and biotechnology industry in India should strengthen capabilities and capacities to ensure self-reliance through collaborative efforts.

Q How do you see the pharmaceutical/ biotech industry as evolved during the pandemic and expected changes post pandemic?

The pandemic has dramatically changed both the supply and demand side of the industry. Even as companies grappled with shortages of raw materials and logistical delays, the increasing importance of investments to ensure greater control over supply chains became evident. At a time when its dependency on imports for key starting materials has been exposed, the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology industry in India has a major task ahead of itself in terms of strengthening its capabilities and capacities to ensure self-reliance through collaborative efforts. The post-pandemic value chain is expected to be more agile and capable of evolving with demand fluctuations. On the other hand, an intensified focus on both acute drugs such as antibiotics as well as chronic therapies for comorbidities is combined with an increased consumer emphasis on ingredients for immune support that is here to stay in the new normal. This long-term shift towards preventative health will lead to ‘nutraceuticalization’ of the industry. While developed markets have already reported increased interest and consumption of dietary supplements, to replicate the same in developing countries such as India, public-private partnerships are necessary to facilitate affordable nutrition.

Q What are your primary products of the company and the key focus areas?

Our flagship product, Vitamin D3, remains at the core of the company’s current businesses, with its applications in both human nutrition (pharmaceuticals, dietary and nutritional supplements, food and beverages) as well as animal nutrition (feed and veterinary).

Apart from Vitamin D3, Fermenta’s integrated biotechnology the business consists of enzyme platforms for antibiotic synthesis, along with green synthesis applications in other industries such as fine chemicals, biodiesel, food ingredients and fragrances.

Also read: Neem bolsters your immune system; know other health benefits

Our environmental solutions division offers waste-water management and treatment through engineering services towards sewage and effluent treatment plants along with biotechnology-based products.

Recently, Fermenta has launched new offerings including fish-oil derived cholesterol for aquaculture.

Q What is the impact of this pandemic on patients with different types of immunodeficiency? How will supplementation of micronutrients help to reduce the risk and severity of infections by enhancing immune function?

An important factor that drives the spread of the pandemic is the waning of immunity, underlining the fact that our last line of defence is our immune system. Even while nutrition plays a key role in the maintenance of immunity, micronutrient deficiency, or hidden hunger plagues an estimated two billion people across the world, making them more susceptible to infections. In light of this, immune nutritional interventions through supplementation and fortification is the way ahead for strengthening the health of individuals and populations.

Immunity, infection, and micronutrient status have a bidirectional relationship with each other, with micronutrients such as Vitamin D, Zinc, and Vitamin C playing an essential part in immune support. For instance, Vitamin D is known to modulate adaptive immunity leading to anti-inflammatory effects. Its benefits are also linked to innate immunity by enhancing the antimicrobial properties of immune cells. Deficiency of Vitamin D is therefore associated with higher risk and severity of infections including respiratory illnesses, as well as autoimmune disorders.

Q A recent study shows that more than 70 percent of our population is deficient in Vitamin D. Fermenta Biotech Limited is a pioneer in Vitamin D3 production what kind of awareness and products are supplied in this space?

Fermenta is one of the largest manufacturers of Vitamin D3 in India and a leading player globally. Moreover, we have recently backward integrated our value chain to enter a niche category of sustainable and self-reliant Vitamin D suppliers. Fermenta’s Vitamin D variants are manufactured in our internationally accredited facilities in Dahej, Gujarat and Kullu, Himachal Pradesh and supplied to more than 300 customers worldwide, and we are proud of the role we play in contributing to the health of communities across the globe.

With more than one billion people worldwide suffering from low Vitamin D levels, this widespread deficiency can be attributed to the changing lifestyle patterns along with poor dietary habits. Fermenta continues its outreach programs to engage end consumers through its public awareness initiative, Vitamin D Guru, for creating a dialogue on the health benefits of Vitamin D.

Q How FBL is is looking to building its portfolio with vitamins and minerals. What are the innovations we can expect in this space?

Fermenta aspires to be a one-stop source of nutritional ingredients and has taken steps to add new ingredients to its basket of offerings, such as natural astaxanthin manufactured by our partners in Chile. Further, Fermenta would also be adding on more products in the times to come, such as other ingredients in the VMS segment, through a combination of strategic alliances and organic measures.

Moving ahead, this segment is expected to be bolstered by technologies that develop value added formats with improved bio availability and stability. These innovative ingredients and delivery formats will revolutionize the field, by enabling individuals to receive sustained benefits of the micronutrients that they consume.

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