A 5-Weeks Course on Pharma Sector – Week 1

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Pharma Sector – Week 1

This is the opening article of the 5 article series on Pharma sector analysis by Sadhan. During this 5-weeks course series, we target to capture the following stages:

5-weeks course on Pharma Sector


Also, watch the 6-jargons being demystified by Amitabh in this short video. It’s worth 10-minutes of your time.

Moving on, let us start with the topic of this article which is about the structure of this industry.

Pharma sector is driven by processes and 2 key processes which we should know are:

  1. Drug Approval Process
  2. Drug Manufacturing Process

Drug Approval Process in the Pharma Sector

Drug Approval Process in Pharma Sector

The granular sub-stages under Drug Approval Process are below:

Drug Approval Process


Drug Discovery

Drug Discovery Process

During the discovery phase, Target i.e. Disease is identified then a superset of possible compounds to treat the disease is selected (~500 compounds).

Then after long laboratory research, 1 leading compound is selected by the Pharma sector company.


Drug Development

Pre Clinical Trial

Pre Clinical Trial During Drug Development

Clinical Trial

It is a 4-phase process as detailed below:

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Clinical Trial During Drug Development

All 4 phases have been captured in the table below which also includes the phase-wise success rates of a lead compound achieving success after each trial.

This indicates that drug discovery is highly probabilistic and the overall success ratio is less than 5 %.

Phase wise Drug Trials


Role of CRO (Contract Research Organisation)

Clinical Monitoring is a tedious process with a lot of work hours required to monitor the development so most often it is outsourced to low-cost alternatives namely Contract Research Organization i.e. CRO.

Business Model of CRO in Pharma Sector
How does CRO make money?


Drug Commercialisation

The commercialization stage consists of drug production and marketing. In this stage, the pharma sector company must find commercial methods of producing a product and take an appropriate strategy for entering the market.

The commercialization stage usually starts at the end of clinical tests.

Role of CDMO (Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization)

A contract manufacturing organization (CMO), sometimes called contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), is a company that serves other companies in the pharma industry on a contract basis to provide comprehensive services from drug development through drug manufacturing.

Services offered by CDMOs include, but are not limited to Formulation Development, Stability Studies, Method Development, Pre-clinical and Clinical Trials Materials, Scale-up, Registration Batches, and Commercial Production.

CMOs are contract manufacturers, but they can also be more than that because of the development aspect.

Business Model of CDMO in Pharma Sector

Nowadays 50 to 60% of the small molecule manufacturing is outsourced to CDMO players Small Pharma/biotech they largely depend on CDMO for manufacturing (2017:80% of newly approved drugs)

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Big Pharma companies generally outsource small molecules as the process is validated and low surprises expected while being outsourced (2017: 20% of newly approved drugs).

Big Pharma keeps dual sources for API so for large drugs they make API in-house and keep the second source as CDMO.

Pharma Outsourcing


What is CRAMS?

CRAMS (Contract Research & Manufacturing Service) is defined as the process of outsourcing research services/ product manufacturing activities to organizations that can provide the service at a low cost.

CRAMS basically consists of the following two activities: contract research and contract manufacturing

What is CRAMS?

Drug Manufacturing Process

Drug manufacturing is a multi-stage process as detailed below:

Different Stages of Pharma Manufacturing

When Key Starting Materials (KSM) which are basically Chemicals & Chemical Intermediates are mixed inside a solvent and an Active Pharmaceuticals Ingredients (API) is formed.

API is the Active part of the drug which holds the key.

When API is mixed with some inert materials (known as excipients) then Finished Dosage Product (FDF) is formed and this process is called Formulation. Further, these drugs go for packaging.

There is one often used term called DMF used in the context of API. Let us understand.


What is DMF?

While not required by law, a Drug Master File (DMF) is submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide detailed information about facilities, processes, and materials used in the manufacturing, processing, and packaging of human drugs.

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It’s a prerequisite to securing approval and commercialization and ensures the confidentiality of proprietary information related to the API

Completing a DMF submission generally takes several months to develop, involving thousands of pages of documentation

Since DMF filing is tedious and voluntary still CDMOs are putting huge efforts as shown by the data for global and Indian API manufacturers below:

Drug Master File Filings
Indian CDMO/API Players DMF
Divi’s 51
Neuland Labs 66
Solara Active 84
Indian CDMOs are leading in DMF filing.

In Week-2, we will simplify the market dynamics of the Pharma sector and we will also discuss the prevalent regulatory environment today, which shall shape our investment decision in this sector. So stay tuned.


Bonus Watch

To consolidate your understanding of the sector I recommend you to watch these videos (Setting industry knowledge in motion) :


Solara Active Pharma – A Dependable Stock in Your Portfolio?


Advanced Enzymes – The Biotech Player


Syngene International – A CRAMS Player in Indian Pharma Sector


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Amitabh Vatsya

Amitabh Vatsya

Amitabh Vatsya is an active Investment Vlogger (http://youtube.com/c/Sadhansimplified) | Loves to share his ideas at http://wealthsutra.wordpress.com | Follow him @amitabhvatsya
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