May 26 through 28, The Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech) hosted Russia’s largest scientific symposium on the development of biomedicine in Russia and globally, titled Therapies of the Future.

Therapies of the Future is the first significant integration event organized by Skoltech in the field of biomedicine. It was held to mark the start of an active phase of development at two biomedical research centers of the university. Having brought prominent international scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, professors, startup founders and doctors in one place the forum identified the areas which today can generate maximum interest in fundamental and applied science.


Nobel Prize laureate Sinya Yamanaka 

Anniversary of Two Biomedical CREIs in Skoltech

Two Nobel Laureates Philipp Sharp and Sinya Yamanaka participated in the Therapies of the Future symposium that marked the first anniversary of Skoltech’s two biomedical centers for research, education and innovation (CREI): the Stem Cell Research Center and the Center for Biomedical Technologies and RNA Therapy. The first center is headed up by Anton Berns, senior head of research at the National Cancer Institute in the Netherlands, while the second center is led by Victor Kotelyansky, the head of the Center for RNA Therapy and Functional Genomics. The leaders of the Skolkovo biomedical research centers modeled a plenary session. These two research centers were the first CREIs set up at Skoltech, demonstrating the level of attention to this field at the university.

Ludmila Ogorodova, Deputy Minister for Education and Science of Russia and Vasily Belov, Senior Vice President for Innovations at the Skolkovo foundation talked to the audience of the symposium from the main stage of the Hypercube (on the first day of the conference the assembly hall at the Hypercube was packed). During the plenary session a talk was presented by Daniel Anderson, integrated cancer research professor with the chemical engineering department at the David Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research (MIT).

Another prominent presenter at the Therapies of the Future symposium was Raj Rajagopalan, the first Provost of Skoltech and Bruce Tidor, the faculty lead at the MIT-Skoltech program. 


Level of the Conference Signifies Recognition of Skoltech

Skoltech President Edward Crawley believes that the very fact that a biomedical forum of such caliber was held at such a young university, in terms of how long it has existed, is clear evidence of its recognition by the research community specializing in biomedical technologies.

‘The global research community operates in such a way, ‘ Edward Crawley said in an interview for, ‘ that before prominent scientists from around the world can get together and discuss a scientific problem they have got to recognize the research or education organization that’s inviting them. Thus the very fact that this conference was held is a very good signal for the startup community in Skolkovo because a strong biomedical community is a corner stone in the entire innovative ecosystem at Skolkovo,’ . ‘These kinds of events will help us create infrastructure to help our startups get the best contracts out there.’Skoltech President Edward Crawley

As was noted at the symposium, Russia, unfortunately, has been lagging behind the competition in the biomedical research market ever since around the 1970s. Alexander Tsapin, Director for Russia at the international biomedical company Sotio (cellular immunotherapy) believes that Russia needs to catch up with global biomedicine, ‘which is making progress by leaps and bounds.’
‘We’ve got very good fundamental and applied science, however, the scale of research in this field has historically been far more modest than what’s been going on in the countries that are leaders in biomedical research,’ Alexander Tsapin commented behind the scenes of the symposium. ‘For this reason, the sort of information we are getting here about the latest developments in both fundamental and applied biomedical research and its adoption by Russian researchers is extremely important,'Mr. Tsapin noted. ‘It’s a great beacon for us as well as an opportunity to better understand through communication with others where we need to be moving next, what’s already in the past and where we can carve out a niche for ourselves for now and where we should be working to build a foundation for the future,' the entrepreneur emphasized.


State Backs Biomedicine

Lyudmila Ogorodova, Deputy Minister for Education and Science, assured those present that the state is playing on the same team with the community of biomedical research innovators. ‘According to the foresight of our ministry, biomedicine is a strategic research platform that has great social significance because, in the long run, it’s got to do with the quality of life,’ she stressed. ‘Russia needs the right infrastructure and centers like Skolkovo to develop the practice of pre-clinical research, harmonized with international standards,’ Ogorodova went on to say.

Lyudmila Ogorodova is taking a word

Another important factor that was mentioned in practically every single presentation is that Russia has great potential in related fundamental sciences that opens up unique opportunities, so not everything is lost for Russia. Biomedicine makes use of the whole range of natural sciences from physics through chemistry to mathematics and other sciences. Both the Nobel Laureates and other presenters at the Therapies of the Future forum talked about this as well as about how fundamental science and its achievements in biomedicine are drastically changing the world and becoming part of the greater economy.

Philipp Sharp at Skolkovo

Major Biomedical Research Generates Promising Commercial Projects 

Kirill Kaem, Vice President and Executive Director of the Biomedical Cluster at the Skolkovo Foundation believes that Skoltech’s research program is tremendously important for the cluster. ‘Skoltech may generate some very good biomedical projects. The university has once again demonstrated that it views biomedicine as a top priority: of the six CREIs at Skoltech two work in biomedicine and that’s a pretty large proportion,' Kirill Kaem said.
‘Such a major symposium featuring such prominent participants probably only happens once in three years at the most and the fact that it’s been hosted by Skoltech only highlights the kind of priority treatment the university has been giving biomedicine,’ said the head of the Biomedical Cluster.
In the opinion of Kirill Kaem, it’s also important that the conference wasn’t too specialized but rather focused on infrastructure and systems issues because it is also very interesting both for key Skolkovo partners and for the startups. ‘A key goal of the conference was to identify major trends. It’s important that we should understand where science is moving and Skoltech clearly shows all the key areas biomedical researching is focusing on today, providing researchers and innovative companies that want to work in this field with clear directions for where they need to be,' Kirill Kaem, head of the Biomedical Cluster at Skolkovo stressed.