Russia takes stake in unusual British drug company

Mon Sep 12, 2011 3:51am EDT

* Anglo-Russian drug firm Pro Bono Bio launched

* Collaboration between Celtic Pharma and RusNano

* New group eyes eventual listings in London, Moscow

LONDON, Sept 12 (Reuters) - The Russian government has become the leading shareholder in a new Anglo-Russian drug company with an unusual mission to develop nanotechnology, help the world's poor -- and list in London and Moscow within a few years.

Pro Bono Bio is formed from the assets of Celtic Pharma, a private equity group based in London that specialises in life sciences, and RusNano, a Russian state corporation formed to champion nanotechnology.

A company spokesman said on Monday that RusNano had already invested around 300 million pounds ($477 million) in Celtic's funds and would have a stake of more than 40 percent in Pro Bono Bio.

Pro Bono Bio has a commitment to price its products in different countries based on their ability to pay and it will provide free drug donations to Africa based on sales of products at normal prices in Western Europe.

The company's first product is being launched in Britain this week. Flexiseq is a prescription cream for the treatment of pain in osteoarthritis, which contains nano-scale particles.

The launch of the new company coincides with a visit to Russia by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who described the venture as "a great example of UK-Russia collaboration at the cutting edge of R&D".

Two further products will be launched in the coming months for inflammatory skin disorders, including psoriasis and eczema. Initially, these products will be supplied by European and Russian manufacturers, but in the mid-term Pro Bono Bio said it planned to build its own pharmaceutical plant close to Moscow and a sister plant in Britain.

Pro Bono Bio is being led by John Mayo, the founder of Celtic Pharma. ($1 = 0.629 British Pounds) (Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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