An article published last week on FierceBiotech described Russia's current biotech focus and the opportunities this may hold for U.S. companies. Over the past year or so, Russia has been increasingly focused on biotechnology companies as a way to diversify its $1.9 trillion economy. In particular, Russia's OAO Rusnano (formerly the state-owned Russion Corporation of Nanotechnologies, which was transitioned into Rusnano in President Vladimir Putin's second term) has purchased stakes in R&D companies from Europe, Israel, and the U.S. Such investments often require the transfer of technologies to Russia or are accompanied by the establishment of Russian-based laboratories, scientists, and patent rights, as noted in an article from BloombergBusinessweek.
A number of companies have either taken advantage of Rusnano's funding or are otherwise capitalizing on Russia's emerging biotech framework. This list includes BIND Biosciences Inc. and Selecta Biosciences, two U.S. biotech companies that opened laboratories near Moscow in fall 2012; Colorado-based BiOptix Diagnostics, which received $4.5 million from Rusnano in March 2011 for a 29.7% stake in the company; and U.S.-started Cleveland BioLabs, which received funding from Rusnano and has now opened two Russian subsidiaries and is conducting research trials there. Part of Cleveland BioLabs' President Michael Fonstein's rationale for clinical development in Russia as opposed to the U.S. were Russia's more flexible regulations (Source: Forbes).
“The process would still take three or four years but it’s not ten or fifteen.”
The need to reduce research-related costs and speed up development has motivated many biotech companies to transfer their research and clinical trials outside of the U.S., a trend Russia is capitalizing upon. Major firms that have recently conducted studies in Russia include Amgen, Inc., Sanofi SA, Janssen Pharma (a Johnson and Johnson company), AstraZeneca plc, GlaxoSmithKline plc, and Pfizer Inc. Even smaller firms are targeting this market, like AtheroNova Inc. (AHRO-OTC), which just last month initiated a Phase I trial of its lead anti-atherosclerotic plaque compound AHRO-001 in Russia in conjuction with OOO CardioNova, a subsidiary of the Maxwell Biotech Group. Maxwell is a development partner and financial resource for biotechnology companies that has committed to funding Phase I and Phase II human clinical studies of AHRO-001 in Russia in return for up to $4.1 million in Common Stock and an exclusive license to develop and commercialize the compound in select territories within Russia and the former Soviet Republic. The Maxwell Biotech Venture Fund is believed to be the first venture fund in Russia fully focused on life sciences investments.
For more information about AtheroNova and the progress of their product development, feel free to download a copy of our latest Quarterly Update on the company here.