The final phase of the corporate acceleration program that has been co-run by Skolkovo Foundation and international biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is now complete

The representatives of six corporate winners speak about their developments. Natalia Polushkina, Vice President of Skolkovo Foundation, Executive Director of the Biomed Cluster, noted that "this year the competition winners are not represented by traditional startups developing medicines but rather projects related to the development of innovative medical devices, digital solutions for healthcare and tests." "It proves that the competencies of the cluster and the interests of our strategic partner are rather extensive to help companies take their business to the next level," N. Polushkina noted.

N. Polushkina (second left), I. Panarina (right), and the winners of AstraZeneca – Skolkovo Startup Challenge 2019. Photo courtesy:

This years marks the second anniversary of the accelerator, 2019 has witnessed a record high number of applications for participation (170). 21 teams were shortlisted for the semifinal, of which the jury selected six winners in three categories in September. In April 2020, they will be offered the opportunity to participate in the International Future Healthcare Forum organized by AstraZeneca. It will be held in Switzerland.

The category of Developments in the Treatment and Diagnosis of Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Metabolic, and Renal Diseases was won by Yury Tarasov (worn artificial kidney) and Semyon Pokatsky (rapid tests for the diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries). The category of Developments in the Treatment and Diagnosis of Oncological Diseases was co-won by Andrei Boldyrev (the next generation integrated solution for the visualization of tumor cells and tissues, FLOREL) and Alexei Kashintsev (development of a method for the early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and the determination of a personalized therapeutic approach). The co-winners of the Medical Digital Solutions / Digital Medicine category are Andrei Myaskov (electronic stethoscope and Laeneco app for lung sound check) and Alexei Fomin (Botkin.AI project, cloud platform for the analysis of medical images using AI technologies).

Last autumn, the accelerator finalists were offered educational sessions conducted by mentors from AstraZeneca, custom support from a project manager of Skolkovo Foundation, and business trainings facilitated by coaches from Swiss accelerator Smile specializing in biotechnology developments. Nail Yedikhanov, CEO of FLOREL, told, "The acceleration program was very useful for our cancer diagnosis project. Mentors from Smile incubator are not ivory-towered theorists but rather experienced professionals who were raising considerable venture funding for biotechnology startups and took companies to IPO. The advice given by Smile mentors has considerably affected our market entry strategy and our product positioning as compared with our competitors."

Irina Panarina, the CEO of AstraZeneca Russia and Eurasia, noted that the Russian science offers enormous potential to create an effective and advanced healthcare system. "More than 170 applications for the competition with ideas concerning the therapy of socially significant diseases and digital medicine prove this. We're working together with Skolkovo Foundation to support Russian innovations through the development of international cooperation with the R&D business units of AstraZeneca and international scientific centers, such as Cambridge Network (UK) and I-Сampus (China)."

Skolkovo Foundation and AstraZeneca are strategic partners in R&D and educational activities in Russia as a part of iDREAM academic platform. The platform aims to develop local R&D competencies in order to create innovative solutions which improve the lives of millions of patients in line with the strategy of AstraZeneca's International Markets Region. For the two years of their existence, the joint competitions of Skolkovo Foundation and AstraZeneca have attracted 300+ participants. In the past two years, the international acceleration has been undertaken by as many as 10 teams.

The importance of international cooperation was also highlighted by Pekka Viljakainen, Advisor to Skolkovo Foundation's BoD Chairman, in his speech. He is certain that a combination of robust scientific base and a correct understanding of market requests is the key to a startup's success. "It's important to participate in the international accelerators. Even a brilliant team whose project is targeted towards one country is of no interest to the investor," Mr Viljakainen said. "What matters is mentoring, never miss a chance to leverage this educational opportunity. My experience tells me the startups that are in search of nothing but money and reject mentorship services are very much mistaken."

5 years ago, Sanna Marin participated in one of his mentorship programs, Pekka Viljakainen said. She is now 34 years and is Finland's youngest ever prime minister.