Professor Girish Sahni delivers the Dr. Yellapragada Subba Row Memorial Lecture at UoH


Professor Girish Sahni, Director, Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh delivered the Dr. Yella Pragada Subba Row Memorial Lecture titled, Four Generations of Clot Busters: Evolution from Affordable Biogenerics to Innovative ‘Bioleaders’ on 10th March 2014 at the University of Hyderabad (UoH). The lecture has been organized by the School of Medical Sciences in the memory of Dr. Yellapragada Subba Row, often described as ‘Miracle Man of Miracle Drugs’. The lecture was chaired by Prof. E Haribabu, Pro Vice-Chancellor, UoH.


Dr. Subba Row worked as a Lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology at Madras Ayurvedic College from 1921-1923. He joined the Harvard School of Tropical Medicine in 1923, earned a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and then joined the Harvard Medical School for a Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1924. Soon, he published his classic paper on Phosphorous determination known as “Fiske-SubbaRow Method” in Journal of Biological Chemistry, which is still one of the highly cited articles in Biology. He made several discoveries, which included high energy compounds such as phosphocreatine and ATP, as well as antibiotics such as Gramicidin and Aureomycin. He also produced Folic Acid, Hetrazan and Aminopterin. Like many other great Scientists, he died very young, in sleep, in August 1948. The contributions of Dr. Yellapragada Subba Row are astonishing and gratifying to the whole world and to India.


 Prof. Girish Sahni in his lecture told that currently, protein-based therapeutics have been occupying an increasingly important position worldwide in medicine, and are expected to become the most important segment in the Pharma market in the future.  In India, the focus largely has been to develop biotechnologies almost exclusively focused on biogenerics (biosimilars) by evolving improved process knowhow and economies of scale. However, there is an opportunity to design newer, patentable biologics that can reposition the indian bio-pharma experience to one of strategic advantage through process improvement, on one hand, and innovation in molecular design/redesign, on the other, he added.


 In his talk, Prof. Sahni reflected on his experiences gained during nearly 15 years of applications-oriented work along with his colleagues at CSIR-IMTECH on the development of protein based drugs through studying their underlying mechanisms of action, especially in the area of Clot Dissolvers which are life-saving drugs with global health ramifications. He told that the efforts began with the need to develop thrombolytics’ production technology for the first time in the country in the mid-nineteen nineties by CSIR and DBT in a joint project. Till that time, all clot buster drugs were imported, and sold at comparatively high cost, varying between Rs 5000 for streptokinase, and nearly Rs 50000 for tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) for a single dose.


 The presentation  also chronicled the science of process development for producing  indigenous biogeneric thrombolytics (e.g. clot buster protein drugs, such as streptokinase) for the first time, leading to products that currently occupy a significant market segment of  a life-saver remedy  for cardiac diseases such as heart attacks. This began with the successful transfer of know-how for the first clot buster in India (Streptokinase), produced by an indian firm- M/s Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Ahmedabad. This product was launched in the year 2002, and is still selling well. The availability of a competitive, efficient process for streptokinase led to a strong product (“STPase”) that rapidly gave rise to lowering of the price of this life saver drug across the board, thus greatly helping the economically sensitive consumer. STPase was followed by the launch of recombinant streptokinase by Shasun drugs, Chennai in 2009 from technology out-licensed by CSIR-IMTECH with a highly efficient process that further lowered the prices to a mere few hundred rupees. Meanwhile, the fundamental scientific insights gleaned in the laboratory on the mechanism of action by streptokinase resulted in the understanding of a unique mechanism of action involving long-range enzyme-substrate interactions, and the role of Exosites during the interplay of streptokinase with human plasminogen.  These insights led to the design of novel clot busters with greatly advantageous properties and clinical potential, involving a slew of newer, improved versions with clot-specific and anti-thrombotic properties through innovative redesign and protein engineering.Prof. Sahni said that these innovations have helped the society in providing affordable treatment to the needy.


 Prof. Sahni later spoke about the avenues whereby the strength of industry and innovation potential of publicly supported R & D institutions can be harmonized to obtain synergies in the bio-pharmaceutical arena in particular, and translation-orient R & D, in general.

Prof. Geeta Vemuganti, Dean, School of Medical Sciences introduced the speaker to the audience that comprised of students, faculty and staff of the University.