“We wouldn’t have a problem with the relocation either before or after February 24”

Since 2015, M&S Decisions, resident of the Skolkovo Innovation Center, performs mathematical modeling for global and domestic pharmaceutical companies, and biotechnological startups. What are the prospects for this industry in the country today and why Is M&S Decisions still operating in Russia? Kirill Peskov, the CEO, tells.

In the context of the departure of Western companies from the Russian market, problems with import substitution of specialized software and others, do you have a thought of relocation?

– We would have no problems with the relocation both before and after February 24. In the world of pharmacometrics demand for competent people who know how to model well, exceeds the offer significantly. Therefore, for us this is a question exclusively about where you personally and your family feel more pleasant and comfortable to live. My own career has developed in such a way that after the end of the university, I worked exclusively with Western partners, at some moment even within global companies, continuing to be based here at Moscow. Perhaps my situation is unique, because I am not experimenter, I am theorist. I don’t need a state-of-the-art lab to do my science. A computer with specialized software is enough. And if we talk about our team, then out of twenty people only three decided to relocate.

Do they have the opportunity to continue working with you remotely?

– We tried to do this, but for everyone who relocated, the quality of work fell so low so that the collaboration just lost its meaning. Although, in my opinion, if people are interested in you, then you will find a way to continue your interaction across the border.

At the same time, it is clear that if we want to have a high-level expertize, then we should create conditions for researchers here so that they feel comfortable and able to realize their scientific potential. And their labor would be paid at the same level that they could obtain in other countries.

But to keep the company developing, especially in such an exotic area like yours, you need a professional connection with Western partners: exchange of experience, access to scientific publications, bases, etc. Is it preserved now, in the era of the “cancelling” of everything Russian, the possibility of such cooperation?

– I did not see any outright infringements when they just stop to cooperate with you. Software is a separate story: a decision is made to terminate its sales, and that’s it. But as far as real human relations  with colleagues in the West are concerned, I personally have no problems.

Scientific publications are now mostly in the public domain. In terms of their own publications – yes, I heard stories from colleagues that someone was “canceled,” did not get publication in scientific journals solely on the basis that he had Russian roots.

I have not come across this myself. But if this happens suddenly, I will just never again in my life collaborate with these magazines. If they allow themselves to violate openly the general basic principles, which means that you should not trust them when sharing your scientific results. However, most of magazines run normal politics. Anyway, during these six months I have not encountered any such example, though I filed about a dozen of articles for this period.

Your employees are young people 30-35 years old. The age when they want to see the world and show themselves. Let’s say an employee comes to you like this and says, “I am leaving, I want to work there.” What would you answer him?

– First of all, I will say: now everything in the world is changing very quickly, and if you are young, then it is better to suffer a year and see how the situation will develop, where, in fact, all this will come. Also, I hope the story with restricting the issuance of visas to Russians will end safely, and it will be possible to obtain visas and travel to scientific conferences. There is no “Iron Curtain.”

As for the key arguments not in favor of relocation, this is not quite material thing, but we have a unique culture and values ​ ​ in our team, which allow you to work at the intersection of science and business. Global pharmaceutical companies do not even have this. We try to position ourselves not as expensive scientific consultants, but namely as researchers. To focus on belonging to the academic institutions of the old formation, to show that we are representatives of a scientific school, and not just a group of talented individuals. This is our advantage, and many of my colleagues appreciate it.

The average age of our employees is just over thirty. For science, especially like ours, where the ability to analyze information, to collect everything together, is important, it is if not childhood age, then youthful one. But our guys have the main working tool – their head, and brains. Therefore, they analyze everything very carefully and, perhaps, also because of this, do not rush to accept hasty solutions. For example, leaving for mythical advantages, through job elsewhere.

Why mythical? Often a young man counts on quite specific preferences own laboratory, publications in scientific publications… What can you contrast with that?

– I can say that, in part, our guys’ prospects for publishing guys are so better than their peers’ in the West that it’s even incomparable. Imagine, in our country they manage in their thirties to publish already 15 articles! In the West, if you do this at best by forty, then you will be considered a top scientist.

But more importantly, publications are not even the main thing in our field. Main thing are project activities. We still work in the industry, this is not an academy. Here you need to prove constantly your importance in real projects. Honestly I admit that there are certain problems here, because our pharmaceutical companies are still far behind. And if we do not want our country to lose its pharma industry in the future, in principle, the state should stimulate the development of new original drugs, that is, the most knowledge-intensive part in pharma industry. In the meantime, we are mainly engaged in production of generics and biosimilars. Therefore, they do not come up with new drugs, but copy old ones.

What is more required of the state in this sense: to help or not interfere?

– To help. If you look at the progress of drug development, for example in America, then you will see that a lot has been done by state as regulator. I’m talking about the scientific contribution. In their Ministry of Health, special units were created – analogues of our subordinate institutions that are still “trendsetters.” These divisions are coming up with new drug development methodologies. They set the rules of the game, and this stimulates the pharma to give answers, to react. Only due to such a dialogue, symbiosis, breakthrough developments are possible in our, very difficult, area.

I can’t say that our Ministry of Health is doing something wrong: they do a lot of useful things. But it is in the scientific component where the state must take some steps to overcome, in fact, the abyss. Our current regulatory science in the field of decision making on the registration of medicines in terms of which scientific expertise is used in the Ministry of Health and its subordinate structures, is two to three decades obsolete, in my estimate. At the same time, we know: some things can be implemented quick enough and won’t require a huge investment. For example, applying mathematical modeling – it can be implemented very successfully accelerating the process of developing new drugs and bringing them to market.

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