Biotech innovation stuck at the start
The star who didn't leaveGalina Kostina, Expert magazine.
Sergey Lukyanov, in difficult times, found a niche that allowed him to create research technologies in Russia that are in demand all over the world and use the proceeds for the development of fundamental science.
The names of Russian scientists Sergey Lukyanov and Mikhail Matts were mentioned
Lukyanov's colleagues say that he is one of the most cited Russian scientists in the world in his field. And they also call him the star who didn't leave. Many Russian biologists, who lost any opportunity to engage in expensive fundamental science during perestroika, were forced to move to more favorable places for this. Sergey Lukyanov stayed for several reasons. He was leaving for a while, but after three weeks he felt completely uncomfortable. It was clean, beautiful, rich, but I didn't like someone else's lifestyle and work, I didn't like talking in a foreign language all the time, I didn't like parting with family and friends for a long time. It seemed to him that he could
The unbearability of other people's schemesNow a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sergey Lukyanov clearly remembers that at the age of six he decided on a vocation.
He was fascinated by the magic of the living, which, from his point of view, did not correspond to the simplest physical laws in any way. The book will fall if it is swept off the table; the hand will move without any external influence on it. He used to crouch down to the anthills when his parents dragged him to the beach, and did not understand how you could lie on the sand for hours instead of watching the life of an entire state of living beings.
In the eighth grade, he moved to a school with a very strong biological class, which was led by Galina Anatolyevna Sokolova. As the winner of the Olympiads, he entered the Moscow State University at the biofac, where he specialized in embryology. Lukyanov dreamed of studying developmental biology.
After some time, academician Evgeny Sverdlov, the head of the laboratory where Sergey worked, allocated him a group, and later agreed to create a separate laboratory. It was not only a gesture of support for a budding scientist, although the academician always tried not to clamp down on the young, but also a necessity. Densely occupied positions of middle managers in the early nineties began to be vacated when biologists left the country in packs. There were a lot of vacancies. Looking at the rapid exodus of scientists, Lukyanov at first thought that this was a disaster, but, as it turned out, it was also a chance for the young: "In
Lukyanov believes that in In the nineties, he found a very correct solution: "If I studied the genetic abilities of a planarian worm to regenerate,
"As scientists, we knew what our colleagues around the world needed," says Lukyanov, "and began to offer them simple and convenient methods we developed for finding the right genes, analyzing and comparing them. Now these methods are already included in textbooks."
The first publications appeared, demand began to form. We thought about creating a company, but we didn't know how to do business, and when we began to explore the possibilities, we realized that they simply wouldn't be enough to overcome all the barriers. Therefore, Lukyanov and his colleagues gladly jumped at the opportunity to cooperate with the American company Clontech. She gave grants for technology, received rights, and was already engaged in the implementation of both technology licenses and products. American money allowed us to continue working. But that wasn't the only benefit. Our scientists became more and more famous, and during trips to American partners, they not only advised them, but also accumulated scientific information. From there, by the way, they took out the idea to work on multicolored fluorescent proteins: Clontech, and other groups, did not succeed with this.
And the E. coli shoneIt was a kind of scientific race, started by the discovery of a green fluorescent protein, which was first isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea Victoria by Osamu Shimomura.
Much later, Martin Chalfi showed that it was possible to make genetic constructs with the genes of this protein and, by introducing them, for example, into his beloved worm Caenorhabditis elegans, observe the glow. And Roger Qian significantly improved the quality of natural proteins and conducted a lot of experiments with them, showing the possibilities of their widest application. Luminous proteins were known before this green, but to generate the glow they needed other low-molecular substances with which they were combined. Accordingly, they were difficult to use as a tool for studying cells. The green squirrel was unique. It turned out that he did not need additional factors, only molecular oxygen. The green protein catalyzes itself, forming a chromophore molecule inside that can absorb light and fluoresce. Therefore, it was easy to use it in genetic constructs. Qian, who experimented for a long time with the replacement of amino acids in green protein, was able to obtain only varieties close to green – bluish, bluish, yellowish. But he could not get the red scale in any way. Red, on the other hand, was very important: it would become a wonderful tool for observation, since red light shines well through living tissue and allows you to observe cells in whole organisms without destroying them.
Lukyanov's laboratory was also interested in this problem: "An excellent scientist with an encyclopedic education, evolutionist Yuli Labas, gave us a hint. He advised looking for glowing proteins not in glowing organisms, where all other scientists were looking, but in brightly colored, for example, in corals." At first glance, this was a strange proposal: after all, until now everyone believed that pigments, and not fluorescent proteins, give color to corals. But Lukyanov himself was inclined to non-standard approaches. Why not check it out? On a tip from Labas, the scientists got acquainted with the famous Moscow aquarist Andrei Romanko. At first he supplied them with corals, then corals began to be bought in Moscow pet stores for 10-20 dollars apiece. By isolating matrix RNAs from coral proteins, Russian scientists tried to catch molecules similar
Russian scientists continued to work with the found proteins. They played with them like a Rubik's cube. By making point changes to the gene, they got a fluorescent
The first fluorescent proteins were also sold by Clontech. Along with the advantages of such cooperation, Russian scientists received other kinds of experience. They saw that too rapid modifications of technologies or proteins with new properties do not always please American partners. It was often unprofitable for them to make significant technological changes in production. In addition, it became a pity to give away the rights to their high-tech products. Once again, scientists thought about their own company.
Brains need toolsAbsolutely absurd organizational and financial problems in science also pushed for the creation of the company.
One of them was related to personnel. Since the strong outflow of scientists in the early nineties, vacancies have been filled. And in the heat of the beginning of the reform of science, the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2006 developed a new system of remuneration for researchers, according to which the reduction in the number of employees was to be 20% by 2010 in order to raise the salaries of the rest. It was assumed, apparently, that the institutions would "ask" pensioners and inefficient workers, but this did not happen. "As a result, we got into a completely idiotic situation," Sergey states. – Students study at universities, graduate students write their dissertations here, and then we tell them: I'm sorry, but we don't have any bids, we can't take you in any way, although we would like to. Where should young people who want to do science go? That's right, abroad. I think it's immoral both in relation to them and in relation to those who prepare them. Besides, it personally offends me to train high-class professionals for Western companies and universities." When Russian grants appeared, it became possible to accept temporary employees. But our grants, unlike, for example,
The creation of a company based on a laboratory could solve
So money began to flow from various sources – from sales, services for companies, grants. Now fairly even funding allows scientists to make technologies like candy. "They are exclusive," Lukyanov says. – Largely because no one in the West can afford to gather specialists of this class in one team. And we have excellent guys working here. By the way, many of them are graduates of the same 520th school that I myself graduated from. Not without pathos , I will note: it seems to me that such an opportunity to raise talented scientists from childhood is priceless. Here in Russia."
Although the technologies are exclusive, although they are sold all over the world, they do not bring millions of profits. The research market is quite narrow. There is enough money for inexpensive equipment, reagents,
"Fundamental science requires
Now the state allocates significant funds for science. With all the effort to do it effectively, it is not very successful yet. According to Lukyanov, it would be fair to send part of this money to innovative companies that, like Eurogen, combine applied and fundamental science and have achieved some success. Lukyanov is convinced that his company, armed with the modern expensive devices it needs, would have a real chance to make a revolution in biomedicine and take a leading position in the development of new approaches to the treatment of oncological and autoimmune diseases. He knows other quite successful companies that could "jerk" if not for financial constraints.
Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru13.04.2009