Brian Collett examines the Sunday Times’ Rich List for this year’s pharma success stories.

Amixed bag is the impression conveyed by the wealthy of the pharmaceuticals industry appearing in this year’s Rich List, the annual Sunday Times catalogue of the moneyed in the UK.

A dominant trend, of small companies benefiting by researching and producing drugs for big corporations because they do the job economically, is still there.

For example, Navin and Varsha Engineer, Kenyan Asians who fled to Britain in the 1970s and now run the thriving Chemidex operation in Surrey, have hiked their fortune by £201m to £1.41bn in the past year and now occupy 96th place.

However, others in the middle of the list, though still prospering, show little change.

Biggest change

The biggest change in fortune is recorded for Swiss-based Ernesto and Kirsty Bertarelli, whose wealth came from the Geneva drugs company Serono, inherited and then sold to Merck. Their wealth fell partly because they were hit by the strong pound and partly because they have large holdings in both the UK allergy diagnosis and treatment company Stallergens Greer and Santhera Pharmaceuticals, the Swiss producer of medicines for rare diseases, both of whose stocks have dipped.

The Bertarellis are now ranked eleventh, with £9.659bn, down by £1.841bn. Meanwhile, the drugs industry has boosted the wealth of John Shaw and Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, who own the Bangalore-based pharmaceuticals company Biocon. First, the company was spun out of ICI. Then Shaw sold it in 1997 but later re-bought it. The couple now lie 75th in the Rich List with £1.756bn, up by £606m.

Mazumdar-Shaw has her own take on their huge fortune: “I am very pleased with the kind of value we have created, so even though I am on the Rich List, I really believe it is about value creation. It is not about what the connotation of rich is, but it’s more the value that gets created from knowledge of innovation, and that I am proud of.”

Billionaire status

Billionaire status is achieved for the first time by Dennis and Mireille Gillings, thanks to a merger of their Quintiles company with the US information group IMS Health. The enterprise has been renamed IQVIA. Gillings and his wife are placed 132nd, with £1.046bn, up £140m.

The industry has been equally good to Anwar and Yakub Patel, Kenyan Asian brothers who own the Cohens Chemist chain, and the pharmaceuticals wholesaler Prinwest. Their wealth is £168m, up £13m, and they are listed 704th.

Another good performer, Nik Kotecha, who owns the medicine and medical equipment company Morningside Pharmaceuticals, was picked by Theresa May as a pharma industry star. The Prime Minister took him and about 30 other chief executives on her trip to India last year.

Morningside exports to more than 80 countries. In 2016 its parent Remedi Medical posted £18.5m profits on £55.3m sales, figures that pushed the Kotecha family into 675th place, with £175m, up £23m.

A 2018 newcomer is Jo Bradwell, a retired Birmingham University professor, who built his wealth from The Binding Site, which developed a blood test used in treating bone marrow cancer.

Bradwell sold the company’s autoimmune arm for about £80m but continues research through Immunepeptide, a Birmingham- based biotechnology business. He is 942nd, valued at £120m.

The alternatives operators have had a good year. Kartar and Tej Lalvani, of Vitabiotics, lie at 346th with a fortune of £365m, up £75m. Robert and Patrick Wilson, of Nelsons, makers of Rescue Remedy and Bach Original Flower, are valued at £335m, up £20m, in 377th place.

Oliver Cookson’s present venture is Monocore, making the GoNutrition and Saints & Slimmers brands. He is worth £306m, up £100m, at 402nd position. Derek Coates, made rich by Healthspan, remains unchanged at £190m, in 630th place.

As always, 88-year-old Doreen Lofthouse, whose company makes Fisherman’s Friend, is there. She is 966th with an unchanged value of £117m.

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