The Skolkovo Foundation signed a landmark agreement with the global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on Tuesday on the setting up of a corporate accelerator programme for biomed startups working on treatments and diagnosis systems for cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, respiratory and metabolic illnesses, and autoimmune diseases.
The agreement was signed by Skolkovo's senior vice president for innovations Kirill Kaem and Irina Panarina, general manager of AstraZeneca in Russia and Eurasia. Photo: Sk.ru.
Six innovative biomed companies will be selected via a competition to take part in the six-month Startup Challenge 2018 accelerator programme at the Skolkovo innovation centre: three companies working on the development of drugs and medicines, and three working in the field of diagnosis tests, systems and devices.
“The companies chosen during the competition will get mentor support from experts at AstraZeneca, and can get access to the Sk BioLab: a fully equipped laboratory,” said Kirill Kaem, senior vice president for innovations of the Skolkovo Foundation, who signed the agreement on behalf of Skolkovo.
The competition to find startups was launched Tuesday, and is open to all biomed companies and projects across Russia, not only to resident companies of the Skolkovo Foundation. Thirty projects – 15 in each category – will be selected by a jury as finalists in July, before six projects are chosen from those finalists to take part in the accelerator and become Skolkovo residents. Early-stage startups will get a place in the Sk BioLab sponsored by AstraZeneca, while more developed companies will win a place on the 100 Days of Growth for Biomed Startups accelerator programme devoted to developing business skills that is accredited by the Skolkovo Foundation.
At the end of the Skolkovo-AstraZeneca accelerator programme in December, the companies will demonstrate their research results to venture investors and industrial partners at a demo day. All six participating companies will be eligible for mini-grants of 5 million rubles ($80,000) from the Skolkovo Foundation.
“This is an important milestone for the biomed cluster,” said Kamila Zarubina, acceleration director within the biomed cluster.
“We hope to find some interesting startups for AstraZeneca,” she said.
The two sides signed the agreement at a forum in central Moscow devoted to Russian healthcare. Photo: Sk.ru.
The world’s biomedical market – and, to a large extent, that in Russia – is dominated by several large international biopharmaceutical companies, said Kaem.
“One of these is AstraZeneca, which is without doubt a strong partner, a leading innovative company, which actively looks for promising developments around the world and supports projects with good potential, even early-stage projects. It’s great that Russia, which global pharma companies previously often tended to overlook, is becoming a place where those companies can find interesting projects,” he said.
“Acceleration in biomedicine is somewhat different to in IT, for example, so this kind of collaboration with AstraZeneca will enable companies taking part in the accelerator to access infrastructure both inside Skolkovo and outside of it,” added Kaem, who was previously head of Skolkovo’s biomed cluster.
“The value of this joint approach lies both in the synergy of skills in technology, investment, business and mentorship possessed by the developer companies, the Skolkovo Foundation and AstraZeneca, and in the selection of projects, assessment of their risks, and the assistance the winning projects will get,” he said.
AstraZeneca’s cooperation with Skolkovo began two years ago when the U.K.-headquartered company’s CEO visited Moscow and four Skolkovo startups presented their projects.
“When AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot visited Moscow, we demonstrated the discoveries of four Skolkovo residents to him: Gero, National Pharmaceutical Technologies, Real Target and TheraMAB,” said Zarubina. Since then, Skolkovo has organised demo days for the pharmaceutical giant, and Skolkovo also has a resident company, M&S Decisions, which provides exclusive mathematical modelling services for new drug development for AstraZeneca, she added.
In May 2017 Skolkovo and AstraZeneca signed a strategic partnership agreement to carry out joint research and educational work across Russia. AstraZeneca opened a $224 million drug manufacturing and packaging factory in Russia’s Kaluga region back in October 2015.
Four Skolkovo biomed startups recently won sponsored places in the Sk BioLab from the U.S. healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson.
Applications to take part in the accelerator should be submitted before June 18. The competition rules and more information about applying can be found here: http://sk.ru/foundation/events/april2018/astrazeneca/