26 March 2013

Biotechnology opens up wide opportunities for business

Companies for growth

Tatiana Bateneva, Rossiyskaya GazetaThe VII International Congress "Biotechnology: state and prospects of development" was held in Moscow.

For four days, scientists, production workers, and entrepreneurs discussed what prospects this area of knowledge opens up for humanity. And they are, in fact, limitless.

– Biotechnology provides answers to all the main challenges of the 21st century, – Konstantin Scriabin, Director of the Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences "Bioengineering", Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences and RAS, said in his report. – This is a change in the paradigm of modern medicine from the treatment of diseases to the preservation of health, ensuring longevity, the creation of fundamentally new medicines. This is the creation of new food and new agriculture. This is a search for other sources of energy. Finally, it is a solution to the problems of drinking water shortage and climate change.

Especially high hopes are associated with the use of biotechnological techniques in medicine. The decoding of the human genome and the improvement of the process itself already today make it possible to identify a person's predisposition to various diseases, at the earliest stages, actually before birth. And tomorrow, when this procedure becomes very cheap and routine, information about the genome of each person can be stored in his cell phone, as well as many diagnostic applications. New technologies for the production of vaccines, enzymes, hormones, diagnostics, cell lines and other biological products will make treatment for many diseases accessible to everyone.

Realizing these prospects, the government has adopted a comprehensive program "BIO-2020", the total funding of which will amount to about 1.2 trillion rubles from the federal budget and extra-budgetary funds. The strategic goal of the program is to create a globally competitive, developed biotechnology sector, which, along with the nanoindustry and information technology industry, should become the basis for building a post-industrial economy in our country.

Together with scientific institutions and state-owned enterprises, private companies, primarily innovative ones, should play an important role in the implementation of the program. However, it is not easy for them to get involved in solving such ambitious tasks without substantial support. At least, at the exhibition "World of Biotechnology-2013", which accompanied the congress, many more foreign firms and domestic companies-dealers of imported equipment, equipment for biotechnological production, reagents and other consumables were represented than the actual Russian manufacturers of innovative products.

Great hopes are associated with the use of biotechnological techniques in medicine. Decoding of the human genome already today makes it possible to identify predisposition to various diseases

Those innovators who have received the support of large domestic businesses are in the best position. Thus, the scientific biotechnological center "Generium" with the support of the company "Pharmstandard" has developed and introduced into production a highly sensitive test for tuberculosis, blood clotting factors 7 and 8 for patients with hemophilia, continues to work on biologics for the treatment of cancer, stroke, etc.

– Our products replace imported ones, they are purchased by the state, which allowed us to reduce the cost of expensive medicines by 30-40%, – Sergey Deiko, head of the analytical department of the company, told RBG. – We recently received a grant from Skolkovo, and in general, various grants cover about 50% of research costs. Excellent conditions for creativity have been created for scientists, comfortable housing has been built.

Vladisart company from Vladimir produces filters for blood transfusion stations, which allow the production of albumin and immunoglobulins – vital drugs for many diseases. It has to compete with well-known foreign manufacturers, but this can hardly be called competition on equal terms. A small company is not able to compete with a large manufacturer either in terms of scale of activity or resources. Perhaps, she, like many others, will be helped by new restrictions on the participation in public procurement of suppliers of imported medical products offered by the Ministry of Industry and Trade: if there are two or more domestic manufacturers of any products, their foreign competitors will not be able to participate in the auction. These measures are able to support Russian companies that have been producing well-known products for a long time, but they are unlikely to help those who offer a completely innovative product. Apparently, they need other forms of support.

The company "Center of Vortex Technologies" from the science city "Koltsovo" (Novosibirsk region) produces bioreactors that have no analogues in the world. They were awarded the medal of the 2012 Innovation Exhibition in Geneva. In these bioreactors, liquid media are mixed not by an ordinary mechanical "stirrer", but by an air vortex similar to a tornado. The vortex flow is effective even in viscous media, saves energy, reduces the load on the environment.

– Our reactors can be useful for building stem cell cultures, which are the future of medicine, – explained the director of the company Yuri Ramazanov to RBG. – After all, these cells are especially sensitive to any influences – mechanical, thermal, and even to the impacts of air bubbles that occur during normal mixing. We have already established small–scale production for research laboratories, and with the money we have earned, we have released several larger plants for the production of starch and feed sugars. But in order to create reactors for large-scale production, a completely different financing is needed, and investors are not in a hurry to invest in Russian developments yet.

Many promising teams that offer something fundamentally new find themselves in a similar situation. They need support from development institutions and the state no less, and perhaps even more, than those that have already managed to win their niche in the market.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru26.03.2013

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