The Skolkovo Foundation has signed a cooperation agreement with Janssen, a Belgium-headquartered subdivision of U.S. pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, with the aim of boosting innovative pharmaceutical research, including through financial support.

Priority projects for the support programme will be those related to the diagnosis and treatment of what are known in Russia as “socially significant diseases:” illnesses whose incidence is related to social and economic factors, such as HIV, tuberculosis and drug addiction. Projects will be selected by both Skolkovo Foundation experts and external specialists via a competition.

Skolkovo's Kirill Kaem (front left) and Janssen's Luis Diaz-Rubio (front right) after the signing. Photo:

Competition winners will be able to use the Skolkovo innovation centre’s infrastructure at a discounted rate, and will be provided with the materials they need to carry out their research during the course of a year. Four research projects are expected to be provided with support during the programme’s first phase.

“We are delighted to cooperate with Janssen, an acclaimed world leader in the field of innovation in pharmaceuticals,” said Kirill Kaem, the Skolkovo Foundation’s senior vice president for innovations, noting that the foundation’s biomed cluster is already home to more than 430 projects. 

“By attracting a partner with such extensive experience, we are significantly increasing the chances of the future feasibility of Russian research projects, as well as getting a realistic assessment of demand for them,” said Kaem.

Kaem said that a list of criteria for selecting research projects would be produced soon, and an open competition for researchers and startups would follow.

“The winners of the competition can also obtain discounted access to the Sk BioLab, a specially equipped lab for early-stage projects – a sort of biomed hackspace,” added Kaem.

Luis Diaz-Rubio, Janssen’s managing director for emerging markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said he hoped that as a result of the cooperation with Skolkovo, Russian research projects would become better integrated into the international pharma industry.

“I also hope it will herald the arrival of discoveries that transform perceptions of diagnostics and treatment for several kinds of socially significant diseases,” he said.