We talked to Oleg Demin Jr, Head of Oncology and Immuno-Oncology at InSysBio, about the application of system-pharmacology modeling to different stages of drug research and development and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Oleg Demin Jr: Things are going well actually, thank you. My family and company feel fine as we minimized the threat due to our early switch to remote mode. We had started functioning remotely about a month earlier than Russia’s government announced a corresponding decree. All in all, everything goes smoothly, we still work from home.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined InSysBio.
Oleg Demin Jr: InSysBio was founded in 2004 in Russia. As for me, I graduated from Moscow State University, (the Faculty of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics) in 2010 and the defense of my Diploma thesis was within InSysBio as it covered Quantitative Systems Pharmacology (QSP) modeling, and was under the scientific leadership of InSysBio’s specialists. At that moment I had already realized the inspiration to become the company’s part. Actually, my career started from associate positions and was gradually advancing with the company to the Head of Oncology and Immuno-Oncology and the Co-founder of InSysBio.
At InSysBio our mission is to provide QSP modeling to world pharma to assist in efficient drug development thus bringing hope to patients. I’m inspired to be involved in the optimization and acceleration of drug provision to patients.
How does InSysBio innovate?
Oleg Demin Jr: Our innovative QSP modeling approach provides the opportunity to take a look where it is impossible via an experimental way and to avoid failures. Generally, QSP is a complicated sphere at the junction of math, biology, and medicine. It allows you to predict the optimal doses, target groups of patients, and substances’ effects on the human body. At this moment the technology is quite young and not widely spread but all top pharma has already adopted it and the trend will further develop in the future. Now we are mainly focused on services and software development in such therapeutic areas as oncology, immunology, neurodegenerative diseases, and some others. But still, any new circumstances provoke more innovative decisions and new directions of our activity. For instance, we managed to quickly allocate resources and start developing the Open Source QSP model of COVID-19 in June as the threat was pushing the pace.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business and how do you cope with it?
Oleg Demin Jr: I’ve already mentioned that our headquarters is located in Moscow, Russia while the majority of our customers are geographically far away. This feature made us accustomed to the remote mode of communication. Thus, it wasn’t a significant obstacle for InSysBio to switch to operating from home and not to feel global changes. Of course, we are deeply missing face-to-face communication with colleagues, conference participation, and partner meetings. Nothing can replace live interaction but still, this international remote mode made us closer to our market as all the players are in an equal position now.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Oleg Demin Jr: As for human resources, I should say that our people are our main source. InSysBio trains its teammates directly after or during University study due to the peculiarity of our approach. Indeed, we put the soul in our people during training. That’s why top management does its best not to lay off people in any difficult situation.
In fact, we continue creating new jobs in the scientific field and our team has even enlarged during this challenging time. We are very flexible concerning various operation modes, but still, it is harder to train our new teammates and students remotely.
Actually, the most difficult choice for us during this period was taking part in virtual conferences, however, we accepted the challenge. The lesson learned is the recognition that virtual conferences despite all their benefits will never replace the live format of communication with other participants that expands our professional network.
How do you project yourself and InSysBio in the future? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Oleg Demin Jr: Our scientific expertise and innovative approach have always been our key advantage. We are constantly enhancing our methods & tools to build models with a more mechanistic description of biology, and stronger predictive power as well as to make QSP modeling more accessible. We provide an individual approach towards customers’ needs and decrease the risks of their time and funds loss. It functions smoothly in a stable situation but it becomes even more demanded in a challenging period.
The market is growing as more and more customers are getting to know about QSP modeling which helps to optimize drug development. The number of competitors is also growing and it is another motivation to constantly move forward and enhance our approach.
Your final thoughts?
Oleg Demin Jr: The threatening time of COVID-19 has shown that innovation is extremely meaningful and vaccine production in such a short period has become possible only due to the existence of various innovative technologies including QSP modeling. It also confirms the fact that it is a proper direction for people as a whole and InSysBio in particular. Our slogan “Building models – Bringing hope” has become even more relevant.
I’m proud of our work since day-by-day we do our best to take steps in the globally diversified drug development process finally aimed at delivering medicines to patients. We perform our function to make the process faster to maximize patients’ life quality.