Cambridge salutes Mumbai boy

Jul 19, 2011, 08:08 IST | Amit Roy

Cipla pharmaceuticals chairman immortalised at England's University Town

Cipla pharmaceuticals chairman immortalised at England's University Town

Cipla chairman, Dr Yusuf Hamied, self-confessed, 'Bombay Boy' has had the exceptional honour of having a bust unveiled in his honour at Christ's, his old College in Cambridge, England. The bust was unveiled on Saturday, July 9.


Yusuf Hamied with friends

It is not often that a bust is unveiled at Cambridge University or anywhere else in the UK for that matter for a living person.

Incidentally, Cipla is one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in India.

Hamied is being recognised for his work in continuing to supply relatively cheap anti-HIV/AIDS and anti-malaria drugs to Africa and other poor parts of the world in defiance of the wishes of Western companies.

"Our drugs are much, much cheaper," said Hamied. "What we sell today for 100 US dollars (approximately Rs 4,457) you will pay 4,000 US dollars (approximately Rs 178,335.16) in the USA."

Africa
"Of course, it helps the Africans," Hamied emphasised.  "When Cipla started this campaign in 2001 for AIDS in Africa, at that time there were only 2,000 Africans who could afford treatment.

Today, by the grace of God,
Indian companies Cipla is not the only one are supplying medicines for AIDS to nearly seven million patients in Africa."

Hamied pointed out that, "A majority, actually, 90 per cent of all the AIDS drugs produced in the world come from India. Now that is a hell of an achievement. My market share? Today, my drugs are treating about one and a half million in Africa so may be 20 per cent are being treated on Cipla's drugs which is not bad."

Western drug companies have often accused Hamied and other Indian companies of manufacturing "counterfeit drugs" but he has hit back and said the former are battling hard to maintain their profit "monopoly" through the use of "counterfeit patents".

War
Hamied has recognised his debt to Christ's and been a generous benefactor to his old College where he has funded the building of a Yusuf Hamied Centre with a lecture theatre, meeting and function rooms and other facilities.

Hamied's battle with the Western drug companies has turned into a war against India, which is accused of breaching patents, while the Indians say the former have no regard for the poor and sick in Africa and elsewhere and are merely fighting to preserve their huge profits and their monopoly.

There is also the growing worry that patients suffering from HIV and AIDS in America and in Europe will soon start demanding medicines at the much cheaper prices offered by Cipla and other Indian companies in Africa.

Hamied has recalled he was given admission to Christ's even though on paper he did not have the equivalent of A levels but the young boy had impressed a Scottish chemist by the name of Alexander Todd who was travelling in India.
 
Todd, elected a Fellow of Christ's in 1944, won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1957 and was given a peerage in 1962. He was Master of the College from 1963-78.

Inexpensive
Hamied's bust was unveiled last weekend in the centre named after him by the present Master of Christ's, Professor Frank Kelly, a mathematician who has undertaken a lecture tour of India and been impressed by the quality of Indian students.
 
"We are really, really delighted to be able to unveil a bust to Yusuf," said Kelly, at a ceremony where Hamied and his wife, Farida were present. "It is for several reasons but there are two that I should particularly mention."
 
He said, "This is in the Yusuf Hamied Centre, the centre we are in, the theatre being the main part of it but also there are function rooms and other rooms here and Yusuf was the person who made this wonderful facility possible. That is one reason."

"But the second reason is Yusuf is an honorary Fellow of the College and that is not to do with his philanthropy towards the College that has to do with his impact on the world in what Yusuf has done in making inexpensive drugs generic drugs available in developing parts of the world," Kelly added.



Paying tribute to Hamied, Kelly said, "He has made more impact (than most people) on human happiness and individuals there could be few people in Cambridge's history who have had had such an impact and we are proud in College that Yusuf is one of our honorary Fellows."

Memories
Christ's has another bust of an Indian  who arrived at the College in 1882 Jagadish Chandra Bose, who is  credited with discovering the use of radio waves ahead of Marconi. The bust, made by Biman Das of Kolkata, was unveiled in 2008.
 
The sculptor, Anthony Smith, responsible for making a statue of Charles Darwin, who had also been at Christ's, has made Hamied's bust, too. An emotional Hamied responded, "I have my friends from 1954 round me which is extremely nice.

Old friends bring back many memories . Every time I walk in I feel 18 again. I remember Lord Todd and (Lucan) Pratt (former senior and admissions tutor, and Sir John H Plumb (historian and former Master) so hopefully this centre will remain for many years to come and I will be part of Christ's forever." 

Hamied continued, "In passing three days ago I was with the Master and the Master said that Christ's College has to raise Pound50m for various developments within the College.

And I asked him, 'Tell me, Master, this Pound 50 million that you want to raise, it is within what span of time?' He said, 'Pound 50 million we need within 10 years.' I have promised the Master here, that from my side and Farida's side we have a foundation, we will donate over 10 years, Pound 2 million to the College."

About Cambridge
The City of Cambridge is a University town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about 50 miles (80 km) north-by-east of London. Cambridge is well known as the home of the University of Cambridge.
 
The University includes the renowned Cavendish Laboratory, King's College Chapel, and the Cambridge University Library. The Cambridge skyline is dominated by the last two buildings, along with the chimney of Addenbrooke's Hospital in the far south of the city and St John's College Chapel tower in the north. 

Hamied roars in war with the West on drugs monopoly
India will continue to supply HIV and AIDS sufferers in Africa relatively cheap medicines despite attempts by Western drug companies to curb their sale by declaring them to be "counterfeits".

This pledge has been made by Yusuf Hamied, chairman of Cipla, one of India's biggest drug companies, who has been involved in a long running battle with his western rivals. Hamied says that Indian companies are driven by humanitarian concerns.


A statue of a young Charles Darwin when he was a
student at Christ's College, Cambridge. Later he wrote
the Origin of Species (basically man descended from monkeys)


"We don't make any money on this. Please believe me. In fact, every year we run at a loss. People don't pay our bills, delay paying, there is no money. It is not the bottom line, this is a matter of principle as a humanitarian gesture."

"The Dollar 100m that I export to Africa, if I sold the same volume in America I would earn Dollar 4bn," he reckoned. "So a company like Cipla is doing more humanitarian work than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett put together indirectly.
 
It gives me tremendous satisfaction with what we are doing." Western companies argue that since they have spent vast sums on research and on developing the drugs, they should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of success indefinitely.
 
They accuse Indian companies of breaching their copyright. But Hamied has hit back at Western companies by pointing out while he and others in India are quite willing to pay royalty on new patents, they will not tolerate underhand tricks employed to maintain patents on drugs in perpetuity.

Just before a patent is due to expire, a drug company will make a minor modification and extend the life of a patent by many years, alleges Hamied.

"They call our drugs, 'counterfeit'," said an angry Hamied. "I also coined a phrase, 'counterfeit patenting'."
He declared, "You Charlies, your frivolous patenting, needless patenting, patenting with no novelty, you call them patenting. I call them 'counterfeit patents' so that you can maintain your monopoly on a particular drug."
 
As India and the European Union (EU) try to finalise a free trade agreement that has taken many years to put together, Western drug companies are urging the Indian government to scrap 'Section 3D' of India's Patents Act which Manmohan Singh has so far refused to do.

"Section 3D stops frivolous patenting, it stops patents which have no novelty, it stops patents on incremental innovation," explained Hamied. "It is a very, very important point." He said, "In Europe this kind of patenting is allowed. In America it is allowed.

In India, it's NOT allowed." He continued, "This is what Europe wants India to change which is impossible. India cannot change or should not change Section 3D. I can't see this happening - in India there would be an out and out revolution if this is changed.
 
(There would be) uproar, uproar. And they are calling drugs that do not conform to European patents, 'counterfeit'." Hamied gave an example of the anti-AIDS drug, AZT, which had a patent, which ran out in 2005.
 
"What they did just before 2005, they announced that AZT by itself is no good. It should be given with another drug. So they put two drugs together and that patent expires in 2017.

So indirectly or what, AZT would be under monopoly from 1963 to 2017 - 54 years of monopoly! Now that is not the total intention of patenting. The effect of that is that none of us can market the product."

Hamied reveals his recent run in with the Dutch. "One of the things that arose recently was when we supplied goods which were legal in India, legal in Peru and when KLM took the goods to Amsterdam, Amsterdam airport confiscated the goods, saying they were counterfeit, because those goods did not confirm to Dutch laws. But the goods were not meant for Holland."

"I am willing to give a royalty as long as there is no monopoly," said Hamied. "India, a country of 1.2bn, cannot afford monopoly in health care. We are willing to give a royalty to the originator but there can be no monopoly."

DISCLAIMER: mid-day and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.

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