Petr Bely: our medicines must become more and more innovative
Promomed Group is one of the leaders of the Russian pharmaceutical industry. In the pandemic year 2020, Promomed Group was one of the first to market a drug for COVID-19 based on the favipiravir molecule. The company’s portfolio includes more than 250 medicines, 80% of which are vital. Petr Bely, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Promomed Group, told RIA Novosti correspondent Yulia Chicherina about the impact of sanctions on the pharmaceutical industry, answered the question on whether the coronavirus could be finally defeated, and shared information on biotechnologies and the personnel pool and the company's participation in SPIEF-2022.
— Petr Alexandrovich, we are meeting at SPIEF, what did Promomed Group come to the forum with, what agreements have you signed?
— First of all, I would like to emphasize that SPIEF is an important event for our country. Also, in today’s turbulent times, it is very important for us, as well as other large companies representing the pharmaceutical industry, to give a clear signal here at the forum that everything is going well with medicines in Russia. The company operates as usual, we synthesize substances, make a lot of medicines, 250 various products, of which about 80% are vital drugs. There are no interruptions in the supply of medicines. Everything is going well with medicines in our country.
The tasks that we are dealing with are very much in demand and they all lie in the field of innovation. At SPIEF, we signed an agreement with the Skolkovo Foundationon the development of an innovation cluster, since Skolkovohas a very strong affiliate division in Mordovia, where our large Biokhimik plant is located. Now we will cooperate in the development and implementation of innovative biotechnological pharmaceuticals. For the Republic of Mordovia and the Skolkovo Foundation, it is a breakthrough in acceleration of innovations. For us, this is a very urgent step in development, since Skolkovo is a universal accelerator of innovation with vast experience and expertise.
At the forum we also concluded strategic partnership agreements with four leading Russian universities – the Mendeleev Russian University of Chemical Technology, the Evdokimov Moscow State Medicine and Dentistry University, the Ogarev National Research Mordovian State University and the St. Petersburg Chemical and Pharmaceutical University.
All agreements are aimed at developing cooperation in the training of highly qualified personnel for the domestic pharmaceutical industry and are a necessary element of fruitful work for us.
— The Forum is also a platform for business interaction with government agencies. How important is the help from government for you? How does this help provided?
— The help from government is extremely important. The main thing here is to perceive it correctly. It is not a wizard who will arrive and start dispensing money from a helicopter. The government support is valuable in our qualified cooperation, in creating conditions and markets for the Russian pharmaceutical industry so that to stop exploiting the model of generics, which is typical for most developing countries of the world. It is very important to us that our medicines become more and more innovative.
The experience with COVID-19 have demonstrated that this is possible. During these times, a lot of innovative medicines emerged and have been patented in Russia. It is important to extend this experience to critically important areas of therapy: diseases of the cardiovascular system, cancer, neurological diseases, diabetes and, of course, infection control.
For example, one of the sessions at the forum was held to discus7s the issues of ensuring the conditions of patenting, which should comply with the best international practices. If we are talking about innovations, then they should be protected from the very beginning, from the first step, from the inception of an idea, and the protection must be provided in a way used by the best pharmaceutical companies around the world.
In this context it is worth mentioning our positive experience of interaction with government agencies. Today, the industry and the regulator listen and hear each other. Rospatent has created a special tool that allows Russian pharmaceutical companies to quickly check their ideas and innovations for patentability. Now it is not a strict body to which you submit something and wait for a verdict. Now it is a partner able to advise, direct the research efforts in the direction of maximum protection of the intellectual property of Russian developers.
— What is such protection for?
— Someone here at the forum correctly said that we need to create medicines to treat patients in Russia. I would make a significant amendment – we must create medicines to treat patients globally. New drugs are always a new approach to therapy, the ability to treat something for which treatment was not available before, or it was not quick enough or was is effective. Doctors and patients not only in Russia but everywhere in the world need it. That is why it is important for our industry that regulators, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Health, and Rospatent, hear and support us. Such cooperation is the way to ensure that our developments will transcend borders and become global asset. Not only Russian oil, gas, atom, software developers, but also the fruits of the work of the best scientists from all over the country, implemented in the form of patents and medicines, will become and are already becoming the golden property of Russia.
— Promomed Group has developed several innovative drugs against COVID-19 in a short time. Of course, this is a challenge of the time. But today, the media often talk about the monkey pox. Are you working in this area as well?
— The work is underway. The monkey pox is not yet a serious threat and does not tend to develop into some kind of a phase of epidemic or pandemic. So far, this is a limited number of cases in a limited number of countries. But we, as an industry, must always be ready for any challenges. Research is already underway, we are working with candidate molecules that may be effective for the treatment of those cases of monkey pox that occur in humans. Developments are initiated, and if this becomes a threat, we will be able to create a new drug in a short time.
— You touched upon the topic of biotechnology. What goals does the company set for itself in this area?
— Biotechnology is a favorite topic in our company. If we are talking about innovative chemical drugs, then the creation of a new class of molecule is a success. A stroke of luck! By contrast, biotechnology is a much more systematic and consistent science, I would say, «more attached» to a human. Here it is possible to predict with much greater probability which molecule will work, which pathological process we will stop. There is every chance to create medicines with much greater efficiency and safety. If we look at global trends, today an increasing proportion of diseases are treated with biotechnological drugs.
Today, our country makes chemical medicines «perfectly», we produce 90% of generics ourselves, we are making more substances and do it better. In 2-3 years, the production of most substances will be localized.
But biotechnological production is still at an earlier stage of development in Russia. A limited number of companies are engaged in this, and they are all present here at the forum. These are our heroes who, in fact, have created a new industry in the country. And the strength of the country should now manifest itself in the increasing of the number of such companies as much as possible. Each group would develops its own segment of biologics for the treatment of diseases of any complexity. From the rarest orphan pathologies, where there are few patients and it is difficult to do research, to the most common diseases, first of all, chronic ones. So that we can treat what was incurable before. To treat better, safer, with a higher probability of success. This is what biotech about. And this is the future of the country.
— Can we say that you are engaged in the future of the country?
— This is our dream. But we are trying and doing a lot to bring the future closer. Let me give one example: there is a lot of talk about RNA technologies now, especially since the time when mRNA vaccines appeared, which showed remarkable therapeutic results.
We have our own RNA technology, not to create a vaccine, but to treat diseases. We have recreated a whole therapeutic platform and on its basis we have already registered the first drug. This platform makes it possible to create the latest medicines for the treatment of a wide variety of diseases, from multiple sclerosis to cancer, for pre-exposure and post-exposure prevention of a wide range of infectious diseases.
This platform has been created. And, by the way, its development is being carried out by graduates of the Mordovia State University, with which we signed an agreement at SPIEF to expand cooperation in training of specialists. I would like to note that this wonderful team of talented young professionals, the oldest of whom is only 27 years old, is developing a unique technology for the country and the world, serving this entire platform, which gives a chance to cure those patients whom are considered incurable.
Cooperation with universities provides a wonderful cycle: we train specialists, specialists come to work at the plant, make innovations. These innovative drugs are used all over the country. And then there are new graduates, even more interesting ideas, even more drugs and innovations. It is very important that their work has a global future. And we will do everything possible to make the latest medicines, the results of the work of this wonderful team of young scientists, available all over the world.