Nanotech Drug Firm Debuts | September 19, 2011 Issue - Vol. 89 Issue 38 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 38 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: September 19, 2011

Nanotech Drug Firm Debuts

Alliance: Charitable mission underlies U.K., Russian business
Department: Business
Keywords: pharmaceuticals, nanotechnology, Russia, venture capital
Credit: Rusnano
Rusnano CEO Anatoly Chubais
Credit: Rusnano

Celtic Pharma Holdings in the U.K. and the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (Rusnano) have launched a new company, Pro Bono Bio (PBB), to focus on nanotechnology-enabled therapeutics. The venture will pursue a tailored marketing strategy combined with philanthropy.

The Moscow- and London-based firm is the outgrowth of a three-year-long Anglo-Russian project. Rusnano will invest up to $300 million in PBB—among its biggest investments—and own less than 50%.

As part of its business plan, PBB will price products differently in various geographic regions, depending on patients’ abilities to pay. It may also donate drugs to Africa, contingent on its product sales in European markets.

Last week in the U.K., PBB launched its first product, Flexiseq. The osteoarthritis therapy uses Sequessomes, or nanoscale phospholipid vesicles, to sequester chemical agents involved in treating inflammation and pain. The gel will be sold in Russia in early 2012 at 50% of the Western European price. PBB plans to soon launch psoriasis and eczema products.

PBB initially will contract with Russian firms for manufacturing but intends eventually to build its own facility near Moscow with Rusnano’s help. A European marketing and distribution center, and additional production capacity, is planned in the U.K.

Through its capital arm, Rusnano is a “coinvestor in international nanotechnology projects with significant economic or social potential,” says Rusnano CEO Anatoly Chubais. It attracts resources from global institutional and strategic investors and also assists in tech transfer and acquiring international expertise to advance the projects in Russia. Rusnano has agreed to other matched investments in pharmaceutical projects with Celtic Pharma.

The U.K.-Russia matchup is not entirely surprising. As pointed out by the consulting firm Cientifica in a July nanotech report, the U.K. has the academic excellence but not the financial means to take advantage of emerging technologies. Meanwhile, Russia, with large amounts of available cash, ranks among the top countries able to exploit nanotechnology.

At a Sept. 12 event organized by Rusnano and U.K. Trade & Investment, British Prime Minister David Cameron called PBB’s launch “a great example of U.K.-Russia collaboration at the cutting edge of R&D. It demonstrates how British businesses can work together with their Russian counterparts to expand into new areas.”

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