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For the first time, the spotlight shines on Russia's potential in biotechnology and pharma products
The pursuit of excellence in biopharmaceutical innovation in Russia has never had a sponsor—until now. Prix Galien International, a global network of Nobel laureates in medicines, established its 18th country beachhead in Moscow last year, culminating in a historic first: an October 24 awards dinner to recognize the best in new drug research as well as innovation in biotechnology and pharmaceutical products. The competition for the three awards, the logistics of which were organized with Moscow-based publisher of Focus Reports, featured nearly 40 candidates submitted by a mix of major Russian research institutions, local Russian drug companies and big Pharma multinationals with an active presence in the country.
In another first, the event was held under the patronage of the Russian Federation's Ministry of Health. The winners were selected by an independent committee of local clinicians and scientists, most with membership links to the Russian Academy of Sciences, the equivalent to the US National Institutes of Health—as well as research expertise in key therapeutic areas like pulmonology, gastroenterology, obstetrics and endocrinology. No inducements were made and the Committee works on the basis of strict conflict of interest guidelines—a practice unusual for Russia. The Health Ministry also has representation within the group.
The October 24 dinner attracted nearly 200 guests, and was webcast live through the Russian Internet Society for Internists, an educational and training network for primary care physicians in Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe. An estimated 8,000 members of the network dialed in. "This proved to be a novel and very useful application of social media channels, which in many ways represents the future of health communication in a country as large and demographically diverse as Russia," said Frederic Boucheseiche, General Secretary of Prix Galien Russia and the first Russian member of Pharm Exec's Editorial Advisory Board.
Eight candidates vied for the designation as Best Research in Russia, which was won by a team of three researchers led by Professor Alexander Sobolev of the Institute of Gene Biology at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Their work focused on applying the molecular principles of nanotechnology to create a novel drug delivery application known as Modular Nanotransporters [MNT]. These are tiny particles that facilitate the rapid penetration of the cell wall to deliver a drug to its therapeutic target with enhanced safety, solubility and potency, while avoiding side effects. MNTs are especially applicable in treating cancerous tumors, a leading cause of premature death in Russia.
Nanotechnology in general is a key linchpin of Russia's efforts to build a global presence in new drug delivery platforms that can help realize the promise of personalized medicine.
The two awards for biotech and pharmaceutical products went to Novartis Russia for its drug Lucentis, a monoclonal antibody to block blood vessel growth in cancerous tumors, and to Eli Lilly for Alimta, a chemotherapy treatment with a unique mode of action that targets the toughest cancer cells deep inside a tumor. The country managers for both companies noted that cross-national partnerships between researchers, companies, and clinicians and patients help give these treatments global scale and reach.
The second Prix Galien awards ceremony will be held in the autumn of 2014. "Recognition has to be institutionalized and sustainable if medicines innovation is to take root in the domestic Russian context," Boucheseiche told Pharm Exec.
William Looney is Editor-in-Chief of Pharmaceutical Executive. He can be reached at email@example.com