What do pharmaceutical companies invest in today

May 17-18 XXIX Russian Pharmaceutical Forum named after N. A. Semashko took place in St. Petersburg in the hotel “Corinthia St. Petersburg”. This is the main annual event of the pharmaceutical industry, the place to discuss current issues related to legislation in the field of healthcare, the sustainability of the pharmaceutical market, marketing strategies in the promotion of drugs, providing the population with life-saving medicines. Forum speakers told to Tatyana Malysheva, a correspondent for Invest-Foresight, what is happening now in the pharma market and what companies are investing in.

Sergey Belov, Head of Marketing at Pharmstandard:

– In the past two years, digitalization in the pharma market, as everywhere, grew, as due to the pandemic other communication channels with target audiences were limited. We are developing our platform in digital format, providing an additional connection with the medical community. Using the platform, we can convey additional information to specialist, increasing the frequency of communications with him. For example, the doctor visited one of our events, there he heard something new, and then he received some additional message and then studied it in a calm atmosphere. That concerns organic coverage, even more people find useful information on the Internet. If we are talking about promotion tools, then for now there is no one absolutely effective here. I keep telling colleagues that the task is not to send one hundred percent of the addressees the same message, but to cover 100% of the target audiences through various channels. Therefore, here we are looking for a balance.

Irina Spichak, Executive Director of the Eurasian Academy of Good Practices, Doctor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Professor:

– As the only branch academy under the Ministry of Industry and trade of the Russian Federation, Eurasian Academy of Good Practices prepares specialists of pharmaceutical companies in accordance with modern needs of the industry. Now we especially need young employees, who have knowledge and practical skills of pharmaceutical production in GxP standards.

Today we face a competency gap between education and pharma. Training is realized not exactly, as we would like, because issues of higher education and training of future young personnel are mainly in the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Science, and specialists are being prepared to work, rather, in the retail pharmaceutical market. At the same time Minpromtorg (Ministry of Industry and Trade),  overseeing the pharmaceutical industry, is somewhat divorced from the educational issues, although in fact it must broadcast its needs for certain competencies for specialists of pharmaceutical enterprises.

In our opinion, there are not enough production disciplines in the curricula of specialized universities. One of our proposals is: to introduce elective courses or additional professional programs implemented in conjunction with pharmaceutical enterprises. At the same time, it is important for the industry itself to turn its face to universities and take an active part in educational process. It can be the organization of internships for teachers, assistance in creating simulation bases of high-tech pharmaceutical production at universities. Then students will master  the competencies needed by the industry in in the process of training. Global experience confirms that such targeted investments in education have a tangible effect.

The Eurasian Academy invests in educational innovation. For example, in training process it uses simulation pharmaceutical complex “Virtual plant,” where augmented VR technologies are used. Unique VR product allows you to work out auditing skills for pharmaceutical enterprises for compliance with the requirements of good practices.

Kira Zaslavskaya, New Products Director, Promomed companies group:

– We work with digital technology in R & D. Computer modeling methods are the most important tool for optimizing the development of new drugs. Application of artificial intelligence and QSAR modeling allow to predict the properties of a molecule when changing its chemical structure or select approximate structures with a given biological activity. Of course, the hypothesis must be  tested further in preclinical studies, but this approach simplifies greatly the process of screening for new molecules and combinations.

Our company has formed a strategy for the development of the drug portfolio. In its basis, there is the balance between the creation of both original and non-original drugs. Even if we are talking about a generic, our know how always aims to incorporate a new added benefit, such as higher safety due to modernization of technology. Modification of technology can provide improved tolerability or increase efficacy of already known drugs and combinations. However, true drug safety can only be guaranteed by domestic innovative medicines. Moreover, import substitution should be primarily about creating either new class medicines, or next in class products, that is, the same therapeutic group, but with improved properties. And we consider this approach a crucial part of our strategy.

Of course, new projects require new personnel. We are not only trying to improving the competencies of employees and attract the best specialists, but also cooperate with leading universities and train future specialists at their enterprise during practice.

Dmitry Zemskov, director of the Biochemist plant of the Promomed companies group:

– It is extremely important to increase domestic pharmaceutical production in the country. And first of all, this concerns the production of active pharmaceutical substances (any substance or mixture of substances, having a therapeutic effect).

Demand in pharmaceutical substances, and excipients,  is huge, so far in our country this direction has not developed actively. It was easier and more feasible economically to export all this, mainly from Southeast Asian countries and to a lesser extent from Europe. But now due to logistical problems with foreign supplies introduced by restrictions and currency volatility, it is more profitable to produce substances in Russia, and for this we need technologies, people, and production facilities.

On “Biochemistry” plant this year a new large workshop will be commissioned, which will make it possible to produce up to 150 types of substances, including oncology portfolio. We are actively working with our partners within the Russian Federation to create intermediates for the production of active pharmaceutical substances, we consider the production of components for  medicines (shells, dyes, etc.), we qualify and form new partnerships with businesses producing excipients, we help establish their production for pharmaceutical industry, and of proper quality.

Now the phrase “Personnel decides everything” is more relevant than ever. There are very few qualified employees of the profile we need in the market. In related industries the situation is similar, the deficit is observed everywhere. We understood at some point, that it is impossible to lure specialists endlessly, and they began themselves to engage in training.

Ratmir Dashkin, Director of the Mendeleev Engineering Center:

– Development of technologies for production of active pharmaceutical substances is one of the key areas of work for the Mendeleev Engineering Center. We look at the production of substances in terms of production chains, to choose, which substances should be produced taking into account production capacities and the raw material base that is already in the country, and which are not worth it, because it is technologically difficult or because raw materials will have to be bought abroad.

Now in the strategy of the Russian Federation, the issue of national security is on the first plan, and vital medicinal products should be manufactured on the territory of the country, regardless of the market situation. And this is intersectoral history, that is, the task of petrochemists, chemical manufacturers and manufacturers of substances. We work at all levels – with petrochemical enterprises, chemical, pharmaceutical ones – and we understand well how to solve the problem of production breakup.

Mendeleev Engineering Center cooperates with the Ministry of industry and Trade in the field of building and evaluating the market situation, coordination of production facilities on the territory of the Russian Federation to connect chains to each other. Now 95% of the revenue of our engineering center are private corporate orders. We do some work for them, related to R&D, technology development, scaling and transfer to production.

At the same time, we help companies take advantage of various measures of state support. There are support measures, for example, in the field of organization of production in Russia, when state compensation accounts for up to 70% of output costs of new products. Public investment is planned for 2023 specifically in production of raw materials for small medium-tonnage chemistry, in R&D development and everything else. This is about 2.5 billion rubles.

Additionally, there is support from the Industry Development Fund, which gives preferential loans for the creation of production base. And this is the next stage.

Andrey Burkov, Director of the Strategic Marketing Department, R-Pharm:

– As for digitalization, we try to be at the forefront here. We created a separate division in R-Pharm, which is engaged in the search of interesting solutions in the field of digitalization, artificial intelligence, machine learning. It is difficult to give specific examples now, since we just started working in this direction. Digital solutions are important for early diagnosis of cancer, assistance in X-ray tests, support of patients with multiple sclerosis and diabetes. Our main challenge today are the problems with supplies of consumables and accessories, so we are looking for new suppliers and new markets. And the second challenge is a high degree of economic and political uncertainty. Strategy and marketing is a kind of terra incognita, and you always have to work with a big number of variables, and now their number has grown significantly.

We keep production volume at the same level: we did not expand or reduce it in last period. In the industry as a whole, there is a trend of investment growth in Russian development and development of production facilities. We always developed actively the production of own substances and continue to work in these areas regularly : R-Pharm has its own plant for production of active ingredients in Rostov the Great.

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