Science and innovation for human health: an interview with BIOCAD to celebrate the company's 20th anniversary
Biotechnology company BIOCAD (participant of the Made in Russia project)) is one of the leading manufacturers of pandemic vaccines covid-19which the world has been struggling with for nearly two years now. The company not only produces Sputnik, but is already planning clinical trials of its own vaccine against the coronavirus BCD-250.. Along with extensive work against covid-19, BIOCAD continues to produce drugs aimed at helping people with serious illnesses, including cancer.
This year. BIOCAD celebrates its 20th anniversary. During this time, a small family-owned pharmaceutical company has grown into a biotech giant. How the country's largest pharmaceutical company works, what innovations it uses and what transformation it is undergoing now - told the Made in Russia editorial board the Deputy Director General for Corporate Affairs and Communications BIOCAD Alexei Torgov.
- How was BIOCAD created? How difficult was it to launch a biotech company in Russia? Biotech company in Russia?
- In short, BIOCAD began with a desire to change the world and the Centre for Immunology in Lyubuchany (on the basis of a former research institute); it was there that our first laboratory was established in 2001. At that time there was no biotechnology industry in Russia, and the situation in the country was quite tense, but Dmitry Valentinovich (BIOCAD CEO) chose this risky path and made no mistake.
Initially it was planned to make a small family pharmaceutical company that would help people and at the same time provide some income and stability, but the first profit was obtained only after 6 years of hard and continuous work. After that, our company began to actively grow and develop in all senses: we moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg, opened large production facilities and began international expansion.
- How many drugs and for what purpose do you now have in your company's catalogue?
- BIOCAD produces drugs for the treatment of oncological, autoimmune, infectious and other socially significant diseases. Our product portfolio currently consists of 61 drugs, 22 of which are biologics. Now we are at the final stage of transformation - from a company that produces biosimilars and generics to a company that produces its own original drugs. This is not an easy task and a big challenge for all employees of the company, but the main part of this difficult path has already been passed.
Now we have 9 original drugs in our portfolio. As of 2019, three innovative BIOCAD originals based on monoclonal antibodies have entered the market. These are netakimab, registered for the indications of moderate to severe plaque psoriasis, active psoriatic arthritis and active ankylosing spondylitis. Also the first Russian original PD-1 inhibitor proglolimab for therapy of one of the most aggressive types of cancer - metastatic or inoperable melanoma. And levilimab, used for the therapy of rheumatoid arthritis and pathogenetic therapy of cytokine release syndrome in the severe course of a new coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
- What innovations do you apply in your work?
- Science and innovation is our main driving force. We try to incorporate the latest developments in all business processes, from state-of-the-art equipment in production to out-of-the-box approaches in development. For example, in 2019, we implemented Agile methodology in our R&D centers. Now it will take no more than 1.5 years to develop a single generic product (previously, up to 4 years). This allowed us to speed up the development of four protein projects, one low-molecular, and one genotherapeutic drug within a year.
- Do you cooperate with foreign partners in development and supply? How many countries import your products and which ones?
- BIOCAD is constantly negotiating with other countries about the supply of our products.
The number of contracts allows us to say that these negotiations are successful: our drugs are exported to 30 CIS and non-CIS countries. We also cooperate with foreign partners. For example, in 2019, we signed an agreement with the Chinese holding Shanghai Pharmaceuticals Holding (SPH) to establish a joint venture to research and market innovative drugs in China.
In addition, we are participating in the process of technological transfer of Sputnik V to far abroad.
- How has the pandemic affected your company?
- We were able to quickly adapt to the new realities and set up mass production of Sputnik V vaccine in the shortest possible time, having retooled several production complexes. At the same time, we retained our commitment to patients and medical institutions to provide the necessary volume of drugs for the treatment of oncological and autoimmune diseases, our core production areas.
At the same time, our original drug levilimab was included in the Russian Ministry of Health recommendations for treatment, diagnostics and prevention of coronavirus infection as the drug indicated for patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 as a proactive therapy.
In parallel, we have been developing our own vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 and received approval in July of this year to conduct Phase I and Phase II clinical trials. Our vaccine is based on an adeno-associated virus and no vaccine based on this technology is currently registered in the world.
- What motivates you to work in such a field, which is related to national security?
- All of our employees share a common mission - we want to improve and prolong people's lives. Our company can do it by providing efficient, safe and accessible complex solutions in the field of drug supply.
Made in Russia / Made in Russia
Author: Karina Kamalova