Collaborate or die – strong statements for Nordic Biotech at Scandinavian Biotechnology 2005

Collaborate or die – strong statements for Nordic Biotech at Scandinavian Biotechnology 2005

The first day of Scandinavian Biotechnology (April 5th), organised by MedCoast and the Norwegian Embassy and being held in Copenhagen, Denmark, was dominated by strong messages about the biotechnology sector. There was a clear feeling that unless the sector becomes better at collaboration, both between academia and industry, as well as internationally, it will not realise its full potential and that the continuing competitive struggle with the USA will continue. There was, however, also a clear belief that Scandinavian biotech is very strong, and has great potential for the future.

There was a high profile given to ScanBalt, both in two presentations by the ScanBalt chairman – Bo Samuelsson – but also in presentations given by other speakers, including Nordic politicians. It was clear that ScanBalt’s profile is increasing and that there is a growing awareness, of both its activities and increasing success as Europe’s first metaregion.

Politicians from Norway, Denmark and Sweden all described the biotechnology sectors of their countries, particularly in terms of the governmental mechanisms that exist to support them. There was a constant theme, however, that the sector must take steps to ensure future survival. Jens Petter Jaconsen, Director and deputy permanent Secretary for the Danish Ministry for Science said – The sector must actively form public/private partnerships…with a focus on strategic areas.
The Norwegian Science and Education minister, Kristin Clemet, said – Closer international cooperation is needed and the Nordic region must adopt measures to meet the challenge of global competition by uniting

Håkan Björklund, CEO of Danish company Nycomed, provided an industrial context to the discussion describing a European Biotech sector which cannot support big pharma due to its small size, and which is unlikely to develop further because of a risk adverse culture. The fragmented nature of the EU was a ‘major problem’ and that the solution was to break the barriers between industry, academia, venture capital and politicians. He said – the sector needs to change, learn from the USA and then develop a European model.

ScanBalt was presented in this discussion by Bo Samuelsson, who highlighted the fact that universities do not have the skills to develop biotech companies themselves and need to have greater and closer cooperation with industry. ScanBalt was presented as a solution to the problems that European Biotech faced. He highlighted the strength of ScanBalt, as a result of its diverse membership, and the need to strengthen transnational funding.

Lief Pagrotsky, the Swedish Minister of Education and Science, said that large scale projects were destructive, and that by working fast and competing in those areas where it could the sector could be competitive. Kristin Clemet said that there was an intense political pressure towards greater fragmentation of the Union, which was at odds with making the biotech sector more competitive. Lief Pagrotsky further stated, perhaps controversially, that – long-term stagnation, within the EU, is a fundamental problem, and that an overall EU perspective for Nordic Biotech could be damaging.

Further sessions presented more experts from Industry and Academia, who presented their experiences of the biotech sector.
Henrik Lund, the Medical Director of AstraZeneca, said that – Collaborative networks are of fundamental importance; it is unethical not to provide collaborative approaches to patients’. Lene Lange, the Science Director of Novozymes, said  – serious obstacles exist but biotech can do so much, this is not a time when we should confine ourselves to specific sciences. We have a fantastic opportunity and we will do it well.

The conference continues on the 6th, with more presentations by leading scientists and policy makers from the region. See the conference programme here.

News Source: ScanBalt

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