What are the benefits? Petrovic is emphatic. The project "means jobs for new scientists and it means help for universities;
in short, it means development of local capabilities. Who knows, 10 or 20 years from now, Viriom could become a big regional
or even global player. Not all countries are interested in developing research capabilities; Russia, on the other hand, historically
has a rich scientific pedigree. We believe in Russian science, and want to contribute to returning Russian scientific prowess
back to levels comparable to the US, Europe, and Japan."
Serdix, production site of "Servier" in Russia
Viriom is a company of the ChemRar Innovation Center, which is in the business of creating innovative spinoffs, and in the
habit of collaborating with Big Pharma. ChemRar recently received a collaborative nod from Johnson & Johnson (JnJ) and its
biopharmaceuticals division Janssen. Janssen Russia's managing director Naira Adamian reiterates Petrovic's sentiments regarding
Russia's scientific capacity: "Russia is very strong in fundamental science, and strong in developing chemical and biological
compounds at their initial stages."
"However," Adamian continues, "Moving forward in the development process, there is an unmet need in this market to commercialize
research into marketable products." In Russia, there has long been a commercialization gap: after the fall of the USSR, academia
and industry developed on divergent orbits, with precious little interaction between idea-men and financiers. Of course, the
great '90s brain drain was particularly injurious as well.
JnJ Russia's managing director Arman Voskertchyan believes that Russia "must develop routes and infrastructure to commercialize
ideas. This is one area where companies can really help." Indeed, JnJ, together with Janssen and ChemRar, as well as Russia's
'Silicon Valley'—the newly built Skolkovo Innovation Center—are considering a number of possibilities, along the lines of
Western collaborative models. Among them, Janssen's Adamian mentions seed-fund creation for innovative startups, early-stage
asset exchange, and, certainly, competency transfer. Just as Russian industry needs GMP standards for finished forms to be
export-ready, it needs GLP standards further upstream in the development stage. Adamian resolutely comments, "If this country
is to export medicines, then from the very beginning of development—and this is something we stressed during our negotiations—we
need to set up capabilities that exceed current Russian standards, and meet FDA and EMA requirements."
Janssen's director believes that Russia needs to begin to appreciate the value of palatable innovative products—legally, politically,
and culturally. Perhaps as the domestic industry begins to itself innovate in earnest, this will come. "Innovation is vital.
The pharmaceutical industry is highly knowledge-intensive and innovative by nature. We do more than stamp tablets and sell
them in pharmacies," Adamian exclaims.
Her colleague Voskertchyan adds, "Our position is to find out what competencies Russia has that can enable its incorporation
into the value creation chain." For Voskertchyan, who oversees a diverse enterprise that prominently includes medical devices,
this manner of incorporation is substantively important. Of the significance of localization, he says the following: "I am
speaking of localization beyond a manufacturing standpoint. I believe that, if we want to be successful, we need to localize.
We need to localize our competencies and try to become a player across each segment of the market. The logistics of developing
this kind of capability is a question each company should think about. Each company should figure out how to become a local