Back to the USSR: Quadruple bottom line? Stories of social impact on Containing Russia’s Nuclear Firebirds
The term, triple bottom line, refers to priority given not only to financial returns, but also environmental sustainability and social impact of ventures.
Such so called, ‘social enterprises,’ are converging with corporate social responsibility programs and open innovation initiatives of government, creating greater opportunities for public-private partnerships to address the grand challenges of sustainable and inclusive international development.
The lens I use to to look at my past nonproliferation work in the Firebirds context, is that ISTC contributed to a safer, more secure world. Security is an important public benefit; a fourth dimension, of a quadruple bottom line.
International Science & Technology Center (ISTC) and Firebirds
In my last post, I added some flesh to the bones of Glenn Schweitzer’s Containing Russia’s Nuclear Firebirds: Harmony and Change at the International Science and Technology Center. In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, ISTC was the flagship of a multilateral effort to redirect the expertise of un- and under-employed WMD researchers in those newly independent states.
I am writing this blog during my stay in Washington DC for the Global Solutions Summit (GSS). GSS advances the Little Rock Accord by devising methods of accelerating the deployment of technologies in the developing world. The Accord was signed in 2012. The event that prompted Glenn to publish this monograph was Russia’s notification of its withdrawal from the Center in 2011.
The common theme of Firebirds and GSS is building capacity in translating research into economic development outcomes, and accelerating scale-up to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. The burgeoning world population requires new solutions in food and water, energy and climate change, healthcare and education.
Leveraging Pubic-Private Partnerships in Biological Weapons Expertise Redirection
My work at ISTC and its continuation with the State Department’s BioIndustry Initiative (BII, which Glenn mentions on p. 145 of Firebirds) are probably some of my proudest accomplishments. Here’s one example.
Biocad Ltd. is a successful company that achieved what I argue is a ‘quadruple’ bottom line. On the nonproliferation side, Biocad acquired a major piece of a state research institution, that enabled it to develop R&D capacity. This was viable from a business perspective, partially because of BII’s funding of early product development efforts. Biocad’s acquisition created more than fifty high-tech jobs for former BW researchers which have persisted for around fifteen years.
The BII-Biocad co-funded development of Ronbetal(tm) resulted in the first biosimilar to Biogen Idec’s Avonex(tm) to have received regulatory approval. In terms of social impact, it increased the number of Multiple Sclerosis patients receiving treatment under domestic government healthcare by 4000 in year one due to enhanced affordability.
Ronbetal(tm) wasn’t a one-hit wonder for the Biocad-BII partnership. BII played a significant role building intellectual property capacity at Biocad through its collaboration on protecting and promoting Biocad’s first proprietary formulation, Genferon(tm). Subsequently, BII’s Loan Collateralization Program was leveraged to enable Biocad to develop production of a key active ingredient of Genferon(tm), increasing its profitability and lowering the price-points for the product.
At first, the Biocad had simply imported, re-branded, and re-packaged pharmaceuticals, not a high value-added activity. However, this strategy enabled the company to establish distribution networks. Soon thereafter, it went up the value chain to build regulatory approval capacity by importing active substances, reformulating drugs, and gaining regulatory approval for them. This enabled the company to then identify new market opportunities through its interactions with prescribing physicians.
It later extended its capabilities to take advantage of niche market needs and price differentials discovered via its distribution networks. In parallel, it slowly built up its internal R&D. The major success factor was a commitment to evolving toward an innovation-driven business model.
In transition economies and emerging markets, it is a well-known pathway for high-technology sector development to progress from import substitution (generics or biosimilars in the case of biologics), to innovative “next in class” drugs and products, to “first in class” pioneering products.
Eventually, the company became a well-established global biopharmaceutical firm serving major markets in Russia, Central Asia, China, India, and Latin America. Aside from the obvious benefit of value and job creation, Biocad provides for affordable healthcare treatment options in developing economies. Working with Biocad, ISTC and the BioIndustry Initiative was an impactful and fulfilling ‘quadruple bottom line’ endeavor.
Schweitzer, G. (2013). Containing Russia’s Nuclear Firebirds: Harmony and Change at the International Science and Technology Center. Studies in Security and International Affairs. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press.
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