25 September 2012

The most innovative cluster in St. Petersburg

Smart Cluster
The medical and pharmaceutical cluster of St. Petersburg is on the path of innovative development,
and not a simple contract production of medicinesAnna Vasilyeva, "Expert North-West" No. 38-2012

Of the ten St. Petersburg clusters, Life Science promises to be the most innovative, created this year by combining two clusters – medical and pharmaceutical and radiation technologies. The combined cluster was included not only in the list of 25 priority innovative territorial clusters of Russia, but also among the 15 that should receive co-financing from the federal budget for the coming years.

Assembly vs R&DThe pharmaceutical cluster, formed in 2010, began with competition for an investor with pharmaceutical clusters of the Kaluga and Yaroslavl regions, the Republic of Tatarstan.

The government of St. Petersburg has "reconfigured" legislative mechanisms to meet the needs of the new cluster: lowered the threshold for large investment projects from 3 billion to 800 million rubles, increased the period of use of tax benefits from three to five years. In addition, the city provides infrastructural preparation of promising territories for the creation of production facilities in the Pushkinskaya industrial zone and the special economic Zone (SEZ) at the Neudorf and Novo-Orlovskoye sites.

According to the set of conditions, St. Petersburg bypassed the competing regions. In particular, the multinational pharmaceutical group Novartis, which initially held negotiations with the Yaroslavl region, chose the St. Petersburg site. The Group is building a new production facility in the Novo-Orlovskoye SEZ branch (investment volume – 15.4 billion rubles). Vertex, Cytomed, ArSiAy Synthesis and Gem-Standard are also building their facilities here with a total investment of about 5 billion rubles. The construction of a plant of the pharmaceutical company "Biocad" (1.96 billion rubles) is underway in Neudorf. One of the participants of the pharmaceutical cluster, Polisan Company, opened the second stage of the enterprise on its site in June 2012.

"The regions that have decided to engage in the development of pharmaceutical clusters go about the same way. After a year or two, an understanding comes in which direction it is necessary to develop. You can bet on the development of industrial production, and in the simplest version – contract production or the production of infusion solutions. And you can strive to get into more profitable niches associated with research activities, conducting preclinical and clinical trials, creating new medicines, forming a good infrastructure for small and medium-sized scientific and technological companies," says Alexander Berezhnoy, head of the Department of Foreign Economic Activity and Development of Medical and Pharmaceutical Projects.

St. Petersburg chose the second way. The cluster participants are not limited to the placement of production facilities for the "assembly" of generic drugs, but focus on the development of the R&D component. Thus, according to the president of Novartis-Russia Vadim Vlasov, 350 out of 500 million dollars of investments in the St. Petersburg project will go to R&D. AstraZeneca became the first global pharmaceutical company to open its own R&D facilities in Russia. Her Center for Bioinformatics and Prognostic Medicine started working in St. Petersburg in March 2012, focusing on the development and implementation of computer predictive modeling methods at all stages of drug development, as well as on providing Russian pharmaceutical science with discoveries that contribute to improving the health and quality of life of patients.

In 2011, the R&D centers of the Russian companies "Biocad" and "Farm-Holding" ("daughter" of "Geropharma") were also opened. "The opening of the R&D Center in December last year was a kind of terra incognita for us. After four months of work, it became clear what was missing to ensure a full cycle of research. It was decided to expand the laboratory center and allocated another 300 million rubles," says Peter Rodionov, CEO of Geropharm. Polisan also announces its intention to build a new laboratory and research complex next to the plant in the next three to five years to expand R&D.

Nurture a geniusThe focus on R&D and high-tech production creates increased demands of cluster members for the quality of labor resources.

One of the key suppliers of personnel for the industry is the St. Petersburg State Chemical and Pharmaceutical Academy (SPHFA). The Academy is actively implementing training and advanced training programs developed with the participation of foreign experts, based on memoranda signed with Stada, Novartis and MSD companies, etc. An agreement has been reached to include the university in the Tempus program implemented by the European Union in Russia in the field of training specialists in GMP.

Manufacturers also take an active position in building a system of training qualified personnel. So, in March 2012, a joint educational program "Biocada", Pfizer and SPHFA was launched, aimed at educating a new generation of specialists in the pharmaceutical industry. The program "More than Education" provides for conducting trainings and professional development activities for students and specialists in laboratories and on production sites of companies. In the summer, more than 20 representatives of the Academy had practical training at the production sites and laboratories of Biocada and Pfizer in Ireland and Turkey. On the basis of the R&D Center of the Biocad company, the first department of recombinant protein technology in Russia has been opened, where SPHFA students are trained.

Cytomed also expressed its readiness to accept SPHFA students for short-term training programs, trainings or internships at its new production site in Finland, built in 2012 according to GMP standards. The memorandum of cooperation with the company "Cytomed" will allow SPHFA to obtain a European certified platform primarily for training specialists in the field of quality control of medicines. "All clusters were formed around universities. The most striking example is the Boston cluster around Harvard. University science is able to understand what, in fact, is needed for the industrial development of pharmaceuticals," Alexander Berezhnoy is sure.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru25.09.2012

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