Half of all Russian-origin innovative pharmaceuticals are developed by Skolkovo Foundation startups, Kirill Kaem, head of the organisation’s biomed cluster, told a meeting of the foundation’s council on Monday evening.

Of about 1,400 pharmaceuticals approved by Russia’s Health Ministry in 2014-2016, most (1,258) were generics and biosimilars. The others were original brand name imported pharmaceuticals (119) or original Russian pharmaceuticals (21). Of four original newly developed innovative Russian pharmaceuticals, two were developed by Skolkovo residents: the anti-viral drug Triazaverin and the hypoglycemic drug Satarex, Kaem told the council members, presenting a status report on the cluster’s work.

Kirill Kaem presented a progress report on the biomed cluster at a meeting of the Skolkovo Foundation council held at the innovation city's brand new Technopark building on Monday. Photo: Sk.ru.

Two innovative drugs may not sound like much to the general public, but there are only a few dozen innovative medicines being developed at any one time in the world, so Skolkovo’s input is a significant one, Kaem told the council in response to a question from another council member.

Eight more medical products developed by Skolkovo residents are expected to get approval from the Health Ministry this year, followed by seven in 2018 and eight in 2019, said Kaem.

The process of launching new medical drugs and devices is a lengthy one, as pre-clinical trials followed by three stages of clinical trials are required. Then an application to register the product must be submitted, and approval obtained by the Health Ministry before the product can be sold.

On Friday – World Tuberculosis Day – Skolkovo startup Infectex announced it had completed clinical trials in Russia of its new drug, SQ109, for treating multiple drug-resistant strains of the disease. The innovative drug is expected to be launched on the market in 2018.

Skolkovo’s biomed cluster is now home to 324 startups working in biomedicine, while another 69 belong to the cluster’s agrotech subdivision. Most of the startups – 81 percent – are early stage, meaning they have carried out scientific research and are now at the stage of clinical studies or prototyping, explained Kaem. Twelve percent are middle stage (meaning they have a working prototype), and 7 percent are late stage, meaning they are completing clinical studies.

One of the cluster’s agrotech startups, Artembryogen, is successfully working in partnership with the major Russian meat producer Cherkizovo Group, which believes the startup – which has developed a new technology that reduces the cost of producing valuable cattle embryos – is a potential unicorn.

The startups’ combined revenue and private investment exceeded an estimated 4.5 billion rubles ($79 million) in 2016, Kaem told the foundation council members present at the Skolkovo Technopark, who included Skolkovo Foundation president Victor Vekselberg and new member Dmitry Livanov, Russia’s former science and education minister. Taking part from abroad via video link were former Finnish prime minister Esko Aho and the retired CEO of Intel Corporation, Craig Barrett.