13 November 2008

Biotechnology of the Moscow region

The annual traditional conference "Biotechnology – 2008" was held in Pushchino. Its topic was the introduction of scientific achievements in the field of biotechnology into the production practice of the Moscow region.

As you know, the Moscow region has one of the most powerful scientific and industrial potentials in Russia. Today, more than half of all science cities are located in the Moscow region, namely, nine out of fourteen. There are 190 large scientific organizations operating in the region, implementing more than eighty scientific and technical directions. And yet, biotechnology is often far from production.

Ten years ago, at the Pushchina conference on biotechnologies, there was practically nothing for a layman to do. The reports were mainly devoted to scientific research. But over time and in accordance with its requirements, the conference has changed its essence. Organized this year by the Ministry of Industry and Science of the Moscow Region and the International Center for Technological Cooperation "Biotechnology-2008" was entirely aimed at introducing scientific developments into production practice, much attention was paid to stands, promotional products and project presentations. The words "innovation", "business incubator" and "technopark" sounded more often than before "DNA" or "ribonucleic acid". Dmitry Gorbunov, General Director of the International Center for Technological Cooperation, called himself a moderator in a modern way and sometimes quite harshly demanded from the speakers not just a story, but a business proposal in the report. However, such a principled leader is quite understandable.

According to Sergey Feofanov, Deputy Director for Scientific and Technological Issues of the branch of the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry named after Academicians Shemyakin and Ovchinnikov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, where the conference was held:

- The main consumer of a scientific product is production. The state is an abstract thing, it cannot make orders to put developments on the shelves, a real customer is needed in the person of the manufacturer.

Recalling his work experience in Novosibirsk, he mentioned that in the eighties Soviet science had an "implementation belt". But he immediately admitted that he did not exist everywhere.

The young twenty–thousandth science city of Pushchino is just an example of a "clean" academic town, where there has never been such a belt. Nine institutes of the Academy of Sciences, which currently employ about two thousand researchers, have huge research, theoretical, technological potential, have highly qualified personnel, but they seem to be on the cloud, without reference to the actual industrial production of many developments of local scientists.

- And this is the tragedy of Pushchino, - Sergey Feofanov believes.

Perhaps that is why the construction of a plant for the production of genetically engineered medical products, which began recently on the outskirts of the city, was received by its residents with great enthusiasm. Even those who have nothing to do with biological or any other science spoke about the fact that the plant will give 500 jobs to the city, about the growth of the accompanying infrastructure to the new enterprise, three times larger.

A road was paved to the sixty hectares of land allocated for the industrial site, water, heat, energy and telecommunications were brought to the future plant. And suddenly, about a month ago, the city made a noise: "There will be no factory."

- The whole city is full of rumors, - Natalia Ushakova, First Deputy General Director of JSC Bioran, stated sadly.

This joint-stock company is building an "insulin" plant, as the Pushchin people call it in a simplified way. And will he ... Natalia Ushakova answered in a rather streamlined way: difficulties really arose.

- The plant will be when the issue of financing is resolved. We will definitely start building it, but the problem with the loan may delay its creation.

For reference: before the financial crisis, Vneshtorgbank was going to issue a loan to Bioran, but recently put forward a mandatory requirement – guarantees from the government of the Russian Federation. And now, despite the fact that the construction period of the enterprise is already quite long – 2009 - 2011, it can easily fall into the category of "long-term construction".

- Now we are trying to solve the financial issue in other ways. By the way, proposals have already appeared here at the conference," Natalia Ushakova said, hurrying to talk with a business angel who appeared on the horizon in a break between breakout sessions.

And while she was catching him by the light wings, it was found out that the price of the issue, for which not only 500 local residents waiting for work within their hometown, but also thousands of insulin-dependent people, is four billion rubles, which are required not immediately in one amount, but gradually.

And also that today three international companies control about 90% of all insulin in the world. And even if it were not for the crisis, attempts to stop the construction of the Russian plant of genetically engineered drugs by different economic methods would still be - this is the opinion of some participants of the conference.

However, we also managed to find out that during the "turmoil" in banks, BIORAN employees did not lower their hands, but managed to complete training according to the JMP certification standard, without wasting days and months of "downtime". By the way, the Pushchinsky Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry named after Academicians Shemyakin and Ovchinnikov of the Russian Academy of Sciences has also become a hostage to the difficult global financial situation. JSC "BIORAN" intends to produce substances and ready-made dosage forms of insulin and other genetically engineered drugs according to the technology and on the basis of developments of the IBH RAS.

Although, it is worth noting that despite the fact that a lot was said about the crisis at the conference, and the hall took a very active part in the discussions, not everyone is looking to the future with concern.

- Only one speaker said today – don't be afraid that a crisis is coming, but on the contrary – rejoice. And he is absolutely right," Sergei Feofanov said in a short interview with our newspaper. - When everything is fine, no one really needs science, and no one is looking for other ways to earn money, except to "pump oil", but the Japanese, who have nothing – no resources, have long understood that the only source of wealth is the people themselves, their heads, ideas and discipline.

It is difficult, of course, to believe immediately and unconditionally that the crisis, and it is still not the first one, will give a good start and take-off to domestic science. But scientists are happy to see even small steps towards consolidation.

- Even the fact that our conferences have become less scientific and more presentational is a sign of the natural process of formation. After all, it's terrible that every Kulibin and Lomonosov is making his way alone, that we are still discussing whether a business incubator and a technopark are needed, that we do not have a unified support system," Sergei Feofanov believes. – By the nature of my duties, among other things, I organize international activities, in particular, with Germany. And journalists often ask me a question – are you counting on German money? How can I count on German money when it is being earned here in Russia now? And Germany as well. And I really hope that this conference will become at least a platform for mutual understanding. It is very important for us, Russian representatives of science, business and government, to learn at least to hear each other now.

Government of the Moscow RegionPortal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru


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