Novartis has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of St Petersburg to construct a $5m manufacturing plant, a move intended to help the company secure a foothold in Russia’s growing health market.

The drug giant has identified Russia as an integral part of its strategy for growth, and has committed to help Russian government plans to strengthen the healthcare system through expanded research and development and public health alliances.

The St. Petersburg facility will, once completed and approved for commercial production, manufacture both high-quality branded generics as well as pharmaceuticals.

Construction is scheduled to start in 2011 and the plant is expected to produce approximately 1.5 billion units per year.

The scope of other government and academic collaborations may include licensing Novartis compounds to Russian companies, in-licensing, scouting for promising drug candidates from Russian scientists and universities, and modelling and simulation activities for clinical trials.