Straight from Russia

RussiaHappy New Year to everybody reading my first post on Trade Secrets! 2013 was a successful, rewarding and promising year for many of us in biotech. In particular, it was another year of a double-digit growth in Russia. Russia’s healthcare market is expected to reach US$100 billion in 2014 with over US$30 billion spent on pharmaceuticals. This is being driven by a growing economy, as well as both foreign and local private investments, and increasing support from the Russian government. Major Big Pharma players have realized the potential in Russia and collectively have recently announced their plans to invest over US$1 billion into manufacturing facilities (the group includes Novartis, AstraZeneca, Novo Nordisk, and Takeda) and to seek partnerships here.

Yet there is a problem: there are opportunities in Russia for the international VC community, for start-ups, for academics and for small and medium enterprises, but few know it. With this blog I plan to demystify and rationalize Russian’s success story, as well as compete with the usual Russian-related headlines concerning Putin’s ‘vigorous torso’, controversy around anti-gay propaganda, exclusive interviews with Pussy Riot and Mikhail Khodorkovsky, as well as the lack of snow in Olympic Sochi. It may be an overly ambitious goal, but I hope this blog will be timely and helpful for readers.

I am a strong believer in coupling the attractive, vast US biotech world and the sizeable smart money found in Russia. I am the Managing Partner at RMI Partners, a private VC firm overseeing the largest Central and Eastern European (CEE)-based global Life Sciences VC fund, valued at US$500 million, backed by the Russian State RUSNANO Corporation. Since being created in 2012, we’ve completed 9 VC investments in the US with our strategic partner, Domain Associates. We are also managing a major investment by RUSNANO and Domain Associates into NovaMedica.

I’d like to focus on the implications of Russia/CEE/BRIC developments toward the major markets of US and Europe, especially where I have a practical angle.

  • How to attract funding from Russia? This includes Russian Life Sciences VC firms investing globally, family offices open to biotech and Russian non-dilutive funding opportunities.
  • What’s happening across borders? How and what is being done between international partners, and who are best and most reliable partners? This will cover research collaborations, clinical trials, major licensings and IP transfers.
  • How and what products could be brought to Russia? What are the local gaps and unmet needs in the healthcare space?
  • The start-up environment in Russia. Who are the emerging leaders, what are the promising investment opportunities, where are the best talents and ideas, and what are the State initiatives?
  • What is Big Pharma doing? I’ll take a look at M&A and partnership activity in CEE/BRIC countries.

I welcome feedback and your competing idealistic visions and especially practical proposals! I’ll be blogging here and you can comment below, but I can also be reached via Twitter at @biotechDNA or on LinkedIn.

I’m guessing that next week would be busy for many of you. Me, too: I’ll be trying to survive the JP Morgan healthcare conference. But I’ll post again here soon with some observations (and facts).

Anton Gopka