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An invitation to innovate

Company hires professionals from various fields who present research projects

Daniel BuenoThe search for qualified professionals to do in-house research led Prati Donaduzzi, a large Brazilian pharmaceutical company based in Toledo, Paraná State, to put out a call for applicants in December 2013, in an effort to hire researchers with training in pharmaceuticals, administration, biology, chemistry, biomedicine, computer science, as well as computer, materials, chemical or production engineering. There was one condition: each candidate had to present a project in the fields of medicine, technology or pharmaceutical processes. Known as Inovaprati, the call for projects had received 150 entries by March for research positions, from PhDs to junior staff, with salaries ranging from R$6,000 to R$12,000 per month. Up to 20 researchers will be hired. “We received 150 projects, but half were ruled out because they had no connection to and did not align with the company’s objectives; now we are in the process of analyzing the other 75,” says Luiz Donaduzzi, a pharmacist and partner of the company that currently produces generic drugs.

Among the projects he has read and analyzed, he is most interested in  nanotechnology. “There are five very good projects in this area. We will choose at least one because we want to master this technology, which can be useful, for example, to improve drug absorption.” Donaduzzi’s initial idea is to add value to existing drugs or even reduce the cost of production. Regarding the possibility of financing or incorporating the projects, he says that will depend on whether or not the proposal is financially and technically viable. Inovaprati was conceived by Donaduzzi and a group of 10 people from various parts of the company, known as the Creative Group, which is responsible for creating and gathering new ideas for the industry. “If the results of this first venture are positive, we will continue to put out new calls for projects in the future,” he says. “We are focused on innovation, and in 2013 we invested R$25 million in research and development, about 4% of our sales of R$619 million.” With 4,200 employees, Prati is a pharmaceutical company that is on the rise—growing at a rate of 25% per year.

Biotechnology is another line in which the company is making advances. “We will invest from R$2 million to R$4 million just to build laboratories to do basic research. The cost is very high, but perhaps in the future we will have a product that we can manufacture here with a low investment,” he says. The company also seeks new technology and the development of new products through partnerships with the so-called Centers for Technological Innovation (NITs), made up primarily of universities and research institutes. “We are interested in university projects that can be transformed into technologies useful to the pharmaceutical area,” says Donaduzzi. “We have a group of NITs to do that, also made up of employees, which increases our contacts with academia and research institutes, not just in Paraná but throughout Brazil, in addition to having projects with FINEP (Brazilian Innovation Agency) and BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank).”

Donaduzzi founded the company in 1990 with his wife Carmen Prati, after returning from France, where they received ​​master’s and doctoral degrees in biotechnology. Celso Prati, his brother-in-law and Arno Donaduzzi, his brother, joined the couple. “We began in 1994 by making simple products, such as dipyrone and hydrogen peroxide. Then in 1999, we turned to generics and now we would like to focus on incremental innovations and products with higher added value.” And the first step was to recruit talent in academia that could bring new knowledge to the company’s production line.