The first building of the Moscow International Medical Cluster (MMMK), a planned state-of-the-art medical facility being built at the Skolkovo innovation centre, is growing visibly on a daily basis. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin visited the site, where construction work is in full swing, to lay the cornerstone and bury a time capsule for future generations last week, and the project’s supervisory council is already in talks with foreign clinics that it expects to open facilities at the cluster, says Kirill Kaem, a member of the MMMK supervisory council and head of the Skolkovo Foundation’s biomed cluster.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin heading a meeting of the medical cluster's supervisory council. Photo: Moscow Mayor's Office.

The medical cluster is planned as an international centre developed in cooperation with the leading medical facilities of countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international organisation headquartered in Paris and founded to boost international trade and economic progress. One of the cluster’s key tasks, according to Kaem, is to train Russian doctors to work to international standards.

As well as clinics equipped with cutting-edge technology where both foreign and Russian doctors will work, the cluster is due to host research companies working on the development and production of drugs and equipment.

The first foreign medical facility seeking to launch operations at the MMMK is currently being assessed by the expert council, after which it has to be approved by the supervisory council, and the cluster hopes to be able to announce the partnership and identify the facility in about a month, said Kaem, adding that it is a “famous and internationally respected university clinic.”

To be eligible to work within the cluster, companies must have been practising medicine for several years in one or more of the 35 member states of the OECD – of which Russia is not a member – and must be approved by the supervisory council, which consists of both Russian and foreign specialists.

“A longlist has been drawn up of clinics we are already in talks with, and which we would like to see working here,” said Kaem.

Kirill Kaem, a vice president of the Skolkovo Foundation and head of its biomedicine cluster. Photo:

The MMMK is currently preparing for a roadshow during which its representatives will meet with those of clinics on the longlist to tell them more about the opportunities on offer, he said.

Those opportunities include a significant discount on renting land on the site for the construction of medical facilities – a condition ordered by Mayor Sobyanin – as well as a federal law that exempts foreign clinics working in the MMMK from having to have their staff and methods certified under Russian law, which would normally be a requirement for working in Russia.

“Under Federal Law 160, they [foreign medical facilities] can bring in equipment and medicine that are not even registered in Russia. They can provide the most advanced medical care without needing to have registered that form of care or treatment method with the Health Ministry,” says Kaem.

“The state has made it possible to provide medical care without undergoing complicated – quite sensible, but complicated – bureaucratic procedures, so long as that procedure of getting permission has been completed in one of the OECD countries,” he said.

Additional incentives are the chance to make use of the Skolkovo Foundation’s activities, such as its R&D and clinical research facilities, and to collaborate with the foundation’s resident startups, especially those involved in clinical research or making medical devices, said Kaem.

“Probably the most interesting area of cooperation will be in bioinformatics, where cooperation is needed between researchers and doctors on a daily basis. Generally these startups work in very serious fields of medicine such as oncology,” he said, adding that bioinformatics represents “the most sensible approach in medicine: rather than trying to cure the illness, they aim to predict and prevent it.”

"The only sector of our economy that hasn't been reformed is healthcare. We're still living by post-Soviet rules ... but it will be modernized gradually, and it's an area that is no less attractive to investors than telecoms: after all, we all use health services to some extent."

Kaem is confident that the combination of these factors will entice leading international medical specialists to the cluster, as well as investors. The first building already under construction, which will house a diagnostics centre, is being built at the expense of City Hall “to start the ignition,” but up to 14 more clinics are expected to be built by private investors.

One private investor, whom Kaem describes asa major Russian developer,” is already involved in the project, and the MKKK’s council expects more to follow.

“The only sector of our economy that hasn’t been reformed is healthcare. We’re still living by post-Soviet rules, and it’s a socially sensitive area that changes slowly, but it will be modernized gradually,” says Kaem. “And this area is no less attractive to investors than telecoms, for example: after all, we all use health services to some extent.”

At least some of the medical cluster’s services will be private, says Kaem, and if the clinics want to work with the Federal Statutory Health Insurance Fund (FOMS) that refunds state clinics for medical services provided to Russians, they will have to obtain certification from the Health Ministry after all.

“I think in some areas of healthcare, this [private funding] will become the basic model,” says Kaem.

“In all probability, the clinics will work with FOMS, but here the clinic-operators will find themselves with a choice, as FOMS cannot yet pay out according to their standards,” he said.

“FOMS works in accordance with Russian legislation, and not in accordance with Federal Law 160 that stipulates exceptions to the law on the territory [of Skolkovo],” he explained.

The 15 clinics planned to occupy the 57-hectare site will specialise in areas including cancer, cardiology, orthopedics, trauma care and neurology.

“In seven to 10 years, a really good medical hub will appear here, hopefully one of the biggest in Eastern Europe,” says Kaem.