By Eugene Gerden
January 16, 2013 | AstraZeneca is expanding its biotechnology operations in Russia, through the establishment of the country’s first biobank and a clinical research center in St. Petersburg.
The new biobank will be officially launched in the second half of 2013 and will be based at the V.A. Almazov Federal Center for Heart, Blood and Endocrinology, one of the leading Russian scientific medical institutions.
The biobank will focus on storing samples for use in biomedical research. The project also involves the establishment of a network of scientific laboratories and research organizations throughout Russia. AstraZeneca hopes the new biobank will create conditions for more active development of drugs for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases, rheumatology, and oncology diseases. In addition, it will speed to development of drugs against a number of genetic diseases.
According to Vitaly Prutsky, head of the Center for Bioinformatics and Predictive Medicine, AstraZeneca Russia, Russia’s leading medical research centers will be providing samples.
The project will initially be funded through venture capital funding of more than $6 million. Other details of the project are not disclosed.
Eugene Shlyakhto, professor and the director of the Almazov Center, commented:
“The list of potential customers of the new biobank will be very broad, and will include many Russian, as well as foreign pharmaceutical, diagnostic and biotechnology companies.”
Russian analysts believe that AstraZeneca’s new Russian project will be successful. Nikolai Nikitin, head of the Voronezh Children's Clinic, one of the leading Russian child health centers, says the demand for samples from the future biobank will be very high from domestic pharmaceutical companies as well as local clinics and hospitals. Nikitin says the project will help address the health care needs of the local population, which is experiencing a rise of chronic diseases and generally low overall health.
At the same time, analysts from the Research Centre of Medical Genetics (RCMG) of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Russia’s leading scientific center in the field of genetics, believe that implementation of the project may be significantly hindered by the Russian specifics, taking into account Russia’s traditional multinationality. With more than 180 different ethnic groups living in the country, heterogeneity of the future collection could present challenges. Similar projects have been successfully implemented in many European countries, particularly Nordic states, buth with ethnically uniform local populations.
AstraZeneca Russia’s bioinformatics efforts have been mostly concentrated on modeling and forecasting. The company’s R&D center activites range from target identification to modeling biological processes and dose response for early phase clinical research. AstraZeneca plans to continue its researches in the field of bioinformatics in Russia, the majority of which will continue to take place in St. Petersburg.