How to Tap Russia for Biomedical Breakthroughs: Lessons from Boston BioCom

10/15/09

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Valenta, a drug-maker based in Moscow. Boston BioCom has formed a wholly owned subsidiary, called Bacteriocin Therapeutics, which is operated by BioCom executives and funded by the parent firm. Jantibody Therapeutics was formed under the same organizational framework to commercialize Gelfand’s engineered antibodies. In the future, Boston BioCom may spin off its subsidiaries, which would raise their own money from outside investors.

It’s no accident that the crew at Boston BioCom is collaborating with Russian scientists. Before the company was formed, the US State Department awarded a grant to MGH to assist with its BioIndustry Initiative, a program to transition former Soviet biological weapons scientists to biomedical research jobs. Gelfand, working with the MGH-affiliated Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology, led the group that helped the department implement the program. Other members of that MGH team included Frank Dinucci, a veteran financial executive who now serves as president and CEO of Boston BioCom, and Tim Brauns, who is now vice president of strategy for the firm. Partners HealthCare System, of which MGH is a member, founded Boston BioCom in 2007.

Given their experience with the State Department program, the firm’s team has built a large network of connections with scientists and life sciences companies in Russia. The firm has established close ties with Maxwell Biotech, a Russian venture capital fund, as well as research institutions such as Moscow State University and the Institute of Cytology in St. Petersburg. The company also employs Americans who were born in Russia or other former Soviet states.

Boston BioCom is now raising $25 million in capital to advance its research programs and commercialization efforts, company executives say.

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