What to do?
Contributing to public health goals is one approach, as Novartis has done in importing to Russia a hypertension management
and control program originally developed for Canada in cooperation with two professional medical groups. Launched in the Yaroslavl
region in 2011 in the form of an MOU with the regional ministry of health, this program of active patient education in blood
pressure control, coupled with guidelines-based clinician monitoring, has enrolled some 40 per cent of the adult population.
It posted a 7 per cent improvement in blood pressure control rates during its first year, significantly reducing reliance
on costly acute care services in the region. "Our approach focused not on what drugs to use, but the results in terms of new
cardiovascular interventions prevented," said Vadim Vlasov, Country President for the Novartis Group.
Over the long-term, many local observers contacted by Pharm Exec stressed the importance of one activity that can raise the positive profile of drug makers in Russia: education. "The greatest
advantage of foreign drug makers is their global presence and reach. Good will comes from seeding best practices," says Anton
Artyomov. Adds Irina Tyrnova, Director of Business Development for ChemRar, "government and other local stakeholders pay attention
when a big Pharma company opens a lab at a Russian university. This is the kind of activity that actually builds reputation."
The big picture
Ultimately, however, good work must begin at home. Despite the many obstacles, more Russians today are seeking that spark
of invention first, in their own country. An example is Quantum Pharmaceuticals, a Moscow-based start-up launched ten years
ago dedicated to finding new drug applications from a novel computational molecular modeling platform that reduces the time
in obtaining research results. The platform has enabled Quantum to begin testing two compounds: a promising anti-cancer agent
that works to inhibit the role of glycolysis in the proliferation of tumor cells; and a possible next generation therapy to
limit viral replication in AIDS. Quantum has attracted several foreign academic partners in this work and one of Russia's
largest domestic drug-makers, Valenta, purchased a stake in the company.
But Quantum's biggest bet is on the elusive race to develop a treatment for that all-time universal condition: aging. Quantum
CEO Peter Fedichev has made this stream of research a personal quest, and the company is readying a paper for peer review
that outlines a new approach to investigating aging as a therapeutic destination in itself, where the company's unique scientific
insights can be used to develop novel therapies to slow or suppress it first in model organisms and then, hopefully, in humans.
"We see aging as the next big thing in pharmaceuticals. More precise target identification through biomarkers is the necessary
first step, and our computational platform gives us an interesting and potential lead up," said Maxim Kholin, Quantum's co-founder
and Business Development Director.
Yes, Russia is a big country. And its scientists still like to think big too.
William Looney is Pharm Exec's Editor-in-Chief. He can be reached at email@example.com