Reliance Shrinks The Mukesh Ambani group has severely curtailed its earlier plan for an integrated pharmaceutical company, Reliance Pharmaceuticals.

The plan was announced a year earlier, and the new company floated, but the group’s flagship company, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), is now grappling with other priorities sliding oil prices, shrinking refining margins and a battle with the Anil Ambani group over supply of gas.

The plan was to build an integrated pharma company in two to three years, on the lines of the large domestic majors such as Ranbaxy’s or Dr Reddy’s Laboratories. Instead, the plan has been modified to being a start-up bulk drug manufacturing company that will launch six bulk drugs or active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) by next year.

“We have put on hold our plan for large-scale formulation development and will re-organise the project to start with about 10 bulk drugs. We will go forward slowly, by consolidating our entry into bulk drugs,” K V Subramaniam, president of Reliance Life Sciences (RLSL), told Business Standard.

Privately-held RLSL is an umbrella company — Reliance Pharma is its subsidiary that co-ordinates the healthcare businesses of the group. Seven years old, it is into biotech drug research, stem cell therapies, biodiesel production, cord blood banking and clinical research.

Reliance Life Sciences has also suspended its plan to invest Rs 1,000 crore in a special economic zone at Jamnagar in Gujarat for setting up world-class multiple drug manufacturing facilities. Instead, it has started a pilot facility to make pharmaceutical bulk drugs at its Navi Mumbai headquarters.

Subramaniam said Reliance Pharmaceuticals would focus on high-value bulk drugs, mainly in the field of cancer, peptides, steroids and hormones. Six products in oncology and steroids are likely to be ready for commercialisation by next year.

Earlier, the plan was to have Reliance Pharma launch numerous formulations and APIs in various global markets in two-three years to take on seasoned Indian generic drug-makers such as Ranbaxy, Dr Reddy's Lab and Sun Pharma, as well as overseas players such as Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals.