LifeSciences Insight - No 4 - 2011
No 4 - 2011
The Magazine about Life and Science in Medicon Valley
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40: Optogenetics sheds
new light on the brain 06:
Pharma and Facebook
Medicon Valley’s financial challenge
Learn why dealmaking is an art, not a science
LifeSciences Insight no. 4 - 2011 LifeSciences Insight is distributed in Denmark and Sweden to: • Named decision-makers in the life science industry • Investors • Science parks • Hospitals • Universities • Life science media • Relevant MPs in Scandinavia • Medicon Valley Alliance’s members and • collaboration partners In addition, the magazine is available at relevant exhibitions and fairs in Europe, North America and Asia. Publisher: RASK Media ApS Frydendalsvej 3 DK-1809 Frederiksberg C Denmark +45 3326 9520 email@example.com www.raskmedia.com Partners: Medicon Valley Alliance www.mva.org EBD GROUP www.ebdgroup.com Editor in chief: Carsten Elgstrøm Editors: Lone Frank and Claus Clausen Editorial team: Mikkel Ais Andersen, Torsten Jepsen, Fredrik Hedlund, Anette Orheim, Charlotte Strøm, Christina Thyrring, Eva Tiwe, Birgitte Aabo Advertising: Sales Manager: Mads Elgstrøm +45 2887 0776 firstname.lastname@example.org Cover photo: Viviana Gradinaru, John Carnett , Karl Deisseroth Photographers: Lars Kaae - www.larskaae.dk Christian Hjorth Øhlenschlæger www.hjorth-photo.dk Layout and print: artegrafix and PE Offset A/S Next issue: February 2012
The Column - Denmark and Sweden on top now, but growth is threatened
Pharma and Facebook Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and youtube are established and in some cases effective communication channels. Still only few pharmaceutical companies make use of them.
Investors have modest awareness of Medicon Valley A survey among 34 international venture capital firms indicates that investment funds have only to a limited extent discovered the life science cluster Medicon Valley.
Show me your microbiota and I’ll predict your risk of type II diabetes A Danish research team aims as a partner in a European consortium to read the gut microbiome to investigate how bacterial signatures influence metabolic and cardiovascular health.
New strategy would boost Biotech In its programme of policies, the new Danish government highlights the biotech industry as a position of strength on which to build, and the Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education is working on an innovation strategy.
Biotech is cutting to the bone The biotech industry generates billions, and in the past few decades, the Øresund Region has become a mecca for biotech research.
Medicon Valley’s financial challenge For over a decade, the Øresund Region has invested heavily in biotechnology. At the turn of the millennium, this region, now given the telling alias Medicon Valley, was predicted to be a future player that should be taken seriously by the global market.
Learn why dealmaking is an art not a science Now Medicon Valley Alliance, in cooperation with BioMentorz, offers you the opportunity to participate in a hands-on practical course in dealmaking in Copenhagen, 19-20 January 2012.
Medicon Valley-companies profiled at Cancer Event At this year’s European Cancer Cluster Partnering (ECCP) event in Toulouse, France, seven companies from the Medicon Valley region presented their technology.
Optogenetics sheds new light on the brain A new technique called optogenetics is in the process of revolutionising neuroscience and may result in many new answers and treatments. It involves very specifically controlling nerve cells in living brains using rays of light.
Opportunities in Massachusetts for MVA-members The collaboration between MassBio and Medicon Valley Alliance (MVA) established as a part of the Life Science Ambassador Programme opens up a number of MassBio services that can be utilised by members of MVA.
People - Great expectations for new cancer vaccine 1,200 patients in 300 hospitals across 20 countries are taking part in phase 3 studies for a vaccine for prostate cancer.
New Series - Is there gold in the science parks? “The science park for people of the life sciences” - that is how Medeon in Malmö describes its business. Medeon helps life science companies grow and be strong.”
The Baton - Medicon Village raises the pulse in Medicon Valley Medicon Village in Lund opens its doors on 10 January. In an area of 80,000 m2, researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs will work together under the same flag to create value for people’s health and better lives.
XXX-XXX Printed matter
52 Upcomming Events and New Members of Medicon Valley Alliance 55
Denmark and Sweden on top now, but growth is threatened By Fredrik Hedlund, medical journalist Translation: CLS Communication A/S The global economy is quaking in its boots, Greece is making life difficult for the Euro, and venture capitalists are leaving the small biotech companies in droves, but there are still things to smile about this Autumn. At least here in Denmark and Sweden. Because we are outside the Eurozone and have a somewhat different public finance system, we are in a stronger position than most of the euro countries and the USA, which has an enormous budgetary deficit and a presidential election next year that will likely steal energy and focus away from financial development. The turbulence we are currently experiencing is probably a passing phase, primarily affecting consumer markets. The international consultancy Ernst & Young’s newly published Global Biotechnology Report for 2011 shows that both profits and investments in research and development within the biotech sector are increasing. And when the global economy recovers, both Denmark and Sweden will be well-equipped to tackle the future. Not only in the hit Danish-Swedish TV series The Bridge do the two countries go hand in hand, as it is clearly shown by Scientific American’s Worldview Scorecard, that ranks countries by their capabilities and accomplishments within life science and biotechnology. Sweden and Denmark were already well-placed in last year’s ranking as numbers four and five after the USA, Singapore and Canada. But now both Nordic countries have risen in the rankings, reaching the winner’s podium, with Denmark taking silver and Sweden bronze in the biotech sector world championships. Only the USA is ahead of them. The scorecard comprises ratings in five categories: Intellectual Property, Enterprise Support, Intensity, Education/Workforce and Foundations. Each country is awarded points in these areas on a scale from one to ten, giving a maximum possible score of 50 points. Denmark is at the top of the list for Intensity, and Sweden is the world leader in Foundations. But the report also points out the areas where there is potential for improvement. And Education/Workforce is very clearly the weakest link for both Sweden and Denmark. It is primarily the lack of young people following science or technical tracks in upper secondary school that bring scores down. And I think this is the key,
because without good replenishment of talented and involved young people with an interest in life science, our days of glory among the best biotech countries in the world will soon come to an end. But what is the actual state of things? When I flip through a Swedish catalogue of upper secondary schools in Skåne, I find page after page of sports schools for all types of sport, a music college, a fashion college and even a hippology college for those interested in horses. In comparison, I find only one upper secondary school with a science programme focusing on medical research in the entire region of Skåne. Why not use our relatively good starting point to build for the future? Attempts to stimulate more young people to apply for science and technical qualifications show the usefulness and need for talented chemists and biomedical professionals and points towards the creation of more programmes at upper secondary school level with a life science profile. The few that exist drown in the abundance of music, media and sports tracks.
Top Five Biotech Countries in the World Points 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 USA
Source: Scientific American Worldview Scorecard Graphics: RASK Media ApS, Frederikke Hald
P.S. With regard to the threat from China that I wrote about in my previous article, I can say with confidence that China still has a fair way to go before reaching the top of the biotech world. They are now ranked 30th, with a total of 17 points, an increase of three points from last year. On the other hand, they seem to have no problems getting young people interested in life science. ■
Fredrik Hedlund has followed a four-year upper secondary school programme in chemistry and holds a BSc in Pharmacy from Uppsala University.
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Pharma and Facebook Photo: European Comission
Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and youtube are established and in some cases effective communication channels. Yet only few pharmaceutical companies make use of them. By Charlotte Strøm, MD, PhD, Journalist
As patients, physicians, and other stakeholders of the pharmaceutical companies increasingly turn to the internet for health care information, one would expect the pharmaceutical industry to follow on and provide relevant information. But this is only rarely the case. A survey made by the MVA based communications agency Effector and The Danish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry (Lif DK) demonstrated that among twenty-four Danish pharma companies the vast majority (83%) have never used social media in the general communication from the company. For disease and health care communication 87% have never used social media. The reasons given are generally lack of knowledge and uncertainty of how to handle these types of communication channels. Head of Communications at Lif in Denmark Lars Bech understands perfectly well why so few members of the association make use of social media. “Product related communication is highly regulated
John Dalli, European Commissioner for health and Concumer Policy
and as the pharma companies generally want to stick to the rules there are many barriers to overcome,” Bech says. He stresses that Lif and its members are very well aware that end users, ie patients, turn to the internet for product information, and he points out when direct-to-patient medicinal product related information is prohibited it leaves the patients without any quality assurance of the available information. “We know that patients look to the internet for information, but undoubtedly far from all patients are able to assess the quality or reliability of the information they find. Currently, anybody can in fact post information at various social media, blogs or elsewhere on the internet. That is an enormous problem concerning patient safety,” Bech says.
Photo: LIF Denmark
EU commission wants clearer rules
Head of Communications at Lif Denmark (The Pharmaceutical Industry Association) Lars Bech
But how is it ensured that online information on medicines is accurate and reliable if the manufacturers are not allowed to provide the information? Bech is pleased that now finally the EU commission appears to act on this as the issue has been discussed for several years in this forum. In a press release 11 Oct 2011 the EU commission states its wish for patient empowerment through clearer rules for information that industry can supply to the public on prescription-only medicines. John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, says: ”The revised proposals put rights, interests and safety of patients first. They oblige industry to provide certain key information to patients and set
clear rules for additional, voluntary information on prescription medicines. In addition, they further strengthen the control of authorised medicines.” The next steps are that the revised proposals will be debated by both the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Bech agrees that making the industry a key player in informing patients is a step forward that will strengthen the registered drugs. He expects that potential changes will apply to the industry at the earliest by the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013.
Two steps forward and one step back Whether the new proposals from the EU commission will encourage the industry to start providing prescription drug information in social media remains to be seen. The current trend is that established institutions withdraw from social media. In 1997 The Lundbeck Institute was established by pharma company H.Lundbeck a/s. The aim was to improve the quality of treatment and life for patients suffering from illnesses of the central nervous system through educational activities. One of the activities of the Institute has been to sponsor and run the patient community depnet.dk about depression, where patients and relatives can turn for support and
guidance. Psychiatrists respond to medical questions from the members of the community. Depnet.dk is quite a successful network with more than 50.000 unique hits every month. Still, The Lundbeck Institute has recently handed over the community to a third party after more than ten years of sponsoring the network. “Incorporating a rather strict interpretation of the EU regulations we are obligated to monitor all user-generated content, including private diaries and chat rooms. This collides with our intention of the community, where we were looking to provide a
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free, private and anonymous platform on the internet for the patients,” Mariannne Helwigh, Manager of Operations at The Lundbeck Institute says to explain this unfortunate move. She underlines that the other activities of The Lundbeck Institute continue as before. Depnet.dk is now run by a patient association (Depressionsforeningen).
Social media as a liability
Anders Sølgaard, CEO and founder of the social network DoctorsOnly.dk
The Swedish pharma industry association (Lif S) has a section on its website outlining the do’s and the don’ts on the internet, and specifically there is a warning. User-generated information must be monitored specifically to catch potential adverse drug reactions, which the pharma company is obligated to monitor and report through their pharmacovigilance system on any marketed drug both prescription and over-thecounter (OTC). This holds a potential liability for the pharma companies that are present in various social media. Social media expert Martyn Glanville says about the fear of being visible in social media: “We know that a lot of discussion is going on in social media about medicines, but few pharma companies are ready to commit to playing an active role in this. They think it is difficult to control, but if
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they engage in monitoring the traffic and managing responses in a responsible way they could in fact also benefit from it, by getting a deeper understanding of the end users of their products,” Glanville says. He realizes that it requires a set up where potential safety issues are captured and reported into the system.
the pharmaceutical companies can actually access currently with drug information, the prescribing physicians, there still seem to be a lot of hesitation. Anders Sølgaard is an experienced pharma marketer and has worked with the pharmaceutical business most of his career.
One-way-communication does not equal social media
Glanville’s point is that many pharma companies have taken the position to have one-way communication in social media. “Facebook made a decision a few months back that the comment feature is a mandatory part for any pharmaceutical company communicating on the site. Previously the comment box could be switched off,” Glanville says, continuing “This resulted in a number of pharmaceutical companies shutting down their Facebook pages or as a minimum adding a disclaimer on the page saying what can and what cannot be commented on. This is hardly the way social media is supposed to work.”
Conservative business segment Turning for a moment towards the segment that
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“Marketing trends including making use of social media tend to have a much slower uptake among pharmaceutical companies compared to other business areas. Pharma is about five years behind,” Sølgaard says. He explains how equal parts of regulation, conservatism, and caution relate to this phenomenon. “Danish and Swedish pharma companies are very reluctant to take on new communication channels and reflect also that their customers, meaning the doctors – with all due respect – are a rather conservative group of people. Having said that, internationally social media increasingly plays a role in drug launch campaigns in the UK and US,” Sølgaard says. Photo: ScanStockPhoto
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Tectra is the interdisciplinary unit for technology transfer established by the Capital Region of Denmark. It serves all the hospitals and psychiatry units in the region and is located in Copenhagen Bio Science Park (COBIS). Tectra represents the connecting link between the inventors, on the one hand, and the collaborative partners, the companies, on the other. Tectra has three main functions: 1. Business-related utilisation of inventions, including patenting and commercialisation as well as establishing companies. 2. Consulting in the areas of research and development agreements. 3. Strategic and support initiatives aimed at improving conditions for commercialisation and collaboration with business and industry. Tectra covers the following main focus areas: · Evaluation of new inventions, including preparation of market analyses. ·
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Anders Sølgaard started the social network DoctorsOnly.dk a year ago. The network is exclusively for physicians and similar professional networks are immensely successful in the US (sermo.org) and in the UK (doctors.net.uk) that has more than 188.000 members and with its 12 years it is one of the first communities of its kind. “All things considered DoctorsOnly.dk has been well received by the Danish physicians. In particular we are fortunate to have a steady growing number of very dedicated and loyal members who on an ongoing basis contribute a lot to the community,” Sølgaard says and admits that it takes a lot of time and energy to build a professional community like this. Sølgaard plans to build similar DoctorsOnly communities in Norway and Sweden.
Applications and games At one point the physicians seem to resemble other social media users. They like applications and indulge themselves with games. Hence calculators, applications for tablets or telephones that increase information accessibility are quite popular among physicians.
In the ranges of games and applications this has a serious touch because it has an educational purpose, but it is comes in an entertaining, humoristic yet simple form. Recently Boehringer-Ingelheim Denmark set out to test this area as a communication channel for providing information on mode-of-action of a prescription drug. This resulted in ‘Dr.Trombino.’ Here the main caracter tries to prevent blood clot whilst doing an operation unter time pressure.
“The game is unbranded, available in the AppStore and on the internet. It is free of charge and thus it can be downloaded by anyone, but the specifics of the game are difficult to understand for people without a medical background,” says Mark Petersen, Nordic e-marketing manager at Boehringer-Ingelheim. He carries on, “In the ranges of games and applications this has a serious touch because it has an educational purpose, but it comes in an entertaining, humoristic yet simple form.”
It is a definite learning that it is never enough just to create the game or the app. You need to promote is as well. Within two months Dr. Trombino was downloaded 776 times from AppStore. Petersen comments on this: “It is a definite learning that it is never enough just to create the game or the app. You need to promote is as well,” Petersen says. Anders Sølgaard agrees to this as he has seen many different online pharma marketing campaigns go wrong. “Often the ideas or the concepts are really working well educationally and fulfill the needs of the customers. But often the pharma companies hesitate to engage their sales forces properly and thus they miss out on opportunities to expand messages” Sølgaard ends. ■
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Facts about the EU proposal on direct-to-patient information In its revised proposals, the Commission amends its original proposals of 2008 and responds to requests from the European Parliament. The proposals maintain the current advertising ban on the prescription-only medicines and foresee that: • Only certain information on prescriptiononly medicines would be allowed. For example, information on the label and on the packaging leaflets; information on prices; on clinical trials; or on instructions for use. • Information on prescription-only medicines would only be allowed through limited channels of communication. For example, information on officially registered internet websites; or printed information made available when specifically requested by members of the public. A publication in general print media will not be permitted. • The information must fulfill recognised quality criteria. For example, it must be unbiased; it must meet the needs and expectations of patients; it must be evidence-based, factually correct and not misleading; and it must be understandable. • As a general principle, information which has not been approved before needs to be verified by competent authorities prior to its dissemination. Source: http://europa.eu/rapid
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Investors have modest awareness of Medicon Valley A survey among 34 international venture capital firms indicates that investment funds have only to a limited extent discovered the life science cluster Medicon Valley. Among American firms, about two thirds have not heard of the region. By Claus Clausen Translation: CLS Communication A/S When Medicon Valley was defined as a life science cluster about ten years ago, the words used to characterise the biotech sector, pharmaceutical companies and research centres were optimism and growth. Now, however, the Danish and Swedish biotech companies have entered into much fiercer international competition to raise capital, not least in the wake of the financial crises. A new survey conducted by Medicon Valley Alliance among 34 international venture capital companies, 12 American and 22 European, gives clear indications that Danish and Swedish biotech companies are facing an ever increasing challenge in the race for risk capital. A majority of the venture firms, 22, have heard about Medicon Valley, but 16 of them do not have any detailed knowledge of the region. Quite a large number, 12, have not heard about Medicon Valley at all, and thus have no awareness of the region. Among the American firms, about two thirds have not heard of Medicon Valley. A majority of the participating venture capital firms have heard of a few Danish biotech companies in Medicon Valley. Their knowledge of Danish biotech companies is slightly better than of Swedish companies. More than half of the venture capital firms have received applications from biotech companies in Medicon Valley, but relatively few have invested in these companies (seven have invested in Danish companies and two in Swedish).
Location is not decisive The international venture capital firms do not find it decisive to any great extent that a biotech company is located in a life science cluster such as Medicon Valley. Only three consider this of significant importance.
Stig Jørgensen, CEO, Medicon Valley Alliance: ”Medicon Valley is under pressure from a global perspective. When it comes to large companies it is vital for their continued presence in Medicon Valley that they are able to attract talented employees to their activities. This is only possible if graduates from local universities are bred at world-class study programmes and research environments”. Medicon Valley Alliance has initiated a process of pinpointing on Medicon Valley’s positions of strength.
The venture capital firms which value the location of a biotech company highly, usually point to the fact that it can be an advantage when hiring staff. The 19 firms which consider location to be of less or no importance usually value the technology and management of the company itself higher than being located in a life science cluster. The venture capital firms were also asked which life science cluster they find most interesting in Europe in terms of research and development, as well as in terms of the concentration of interesting biotech
companies. Here it is quite obvious – with regard to both the European and the American firms – that the UK (Cambridge-Oxford UK) is clearly in the lead followed by Switzerland (BioValley) and Germany (Munich Biotech Cluster). Next in line are the Benelux countries, Medicon Valley and Stockholm-Uppsala. Medicon Valley – together with the Benelux countries – comes in fifth out of the six life science clusters which the venture capital firms find attractive in a European context.
Medicon Valley under pressure Stig Jørgensen, CEO of Medicon Valley Alliance, is not surprised by the figures from the survey of international venture capital funds. He points out that Medicon Valley is under pressure from a global perspective. “Medicon Valley is just one of 250 similar life science clusters in the world with thousands of biotech companies. The clusters all compete for the same limited financial and human resources. We have a number of promising biotech companies in Medicon Valley – actually far more than our size entitles us to have. We just need some patience, and one or more of them is bound to develop into commercial successes. But in a situation where the competition for capital has become much tougher, we have to really be on our toes. If we want to be a region with a strong standing that attracts investments in the biotech area, we need to focus. Focus on the areas where we are strongest. And on the fields where there is a need for innovative thinking in Medicon Valley.” Medicon Valley Alliance has already initiated the process of pinpointing on the region’s positions of strength. “Medicon Valley has the potential to cultivate new innovative areas, and we are initiating a process of identifying special ‘research beacons’ in the region. Medicon Valley needs to market itself as specialising in specific areas, called ‘beacons’, where the region can supply world-class research and thereby demonstrate the potential here,” says Stig Jørgensen. He emphasises the importance of understanding that Medicon Valley is about more than just the biotech industry. It is not least about how to retain large companies like Novo Nordisk, Lundbeck, Gambro, Coloplast and Leo Pharma in the region, and about maintaining a dynamic university and research environment that can attract the sharpest minds in the international arena. “If we take a bird’s eye view of the entire cluster cooperation in Medicon Valley, we see that we are facing two strategic problems: How do we develop Medicon Valley as an attractive place for the large, researchintensive companies to locate job-creating activities? And how do we ensure the best growth conditions for small and medium-sized enterprises – not only biotech companies, but medtech companies as well?”
The first question is essential to the economic future of Denmark and Sweden. Due to globalisation, more and more activities are moving East – clinical research, production, IT activities and basic research. If the dynamics of the cluster are reduced by the relocation of large companies, the small companies will not have the same access to experience and competences they have now.
Talented employees are key “When it comes to large companies it is vital for their continued presence in Medicon Valley that they are able to attract talented employees to their activities. This is only possible if graduates from local universities are bred at world-class study programmes and research environments. Medicon Valley needs to get used to benchmarking and competing with the best in the world. At the same time Medicon Valley should be so attractive that the best international researcher are willing to move here to work,” says Stig Jørgensen. The Board of Medicon Valley Alliance, which comprises key decision-makers from all the relevant
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players in the region, has decided to initiate a process that can be driven forward by the players in the region themselves – by the universities, companies and politicians in Denmark and Sweden. The process shall: • Map and document the research and business areas in Medicon Valley which are of international standard or have the potential to become. • Create new research and business environments, ‘beacons’ by establishing collaborations characterised by: - A clear potential for synergies between public and private-sector players - Health challenges of the future – aging populations, common diseases - The concurrent use of several technological areas, many scientific disciplines and complex solutions across sectors • The aim is to have no more than five beacons, and for each one an ambitious plan will be drawn up for how it can be brought up to world-class standard. Close collaboration is to be established with the region’s private investment funds with a view to investing in the development of the beacons. • International marketing will, in future, be based solely on communicating the attractiveness of the five beacons identified.
“This approach will require us to concentrate our efforts on specific areas at the expense of others. And that can hurt. But the more specific and targeted we are, the greater are our chances that foreign companies will find it attractive to invest in our region. And the more likely it will be that local companies will stay in Medicon Valley. We need to create coherent environments where we work closely with the education institutions to form the talented employees that the large international companies are dependent on,” says Stig Jørgensen, who emphasises that action is also needed at the political level to ensure the future of Medicon Valley. “We can take many initiatives in Medicon Valley through a joint effort, but the regional players have no influence on the general framework conditions – tax rules, immigration policies for talented employees, subsidy schemes and so forth. This is where our Swedish and Danish politicians need to do their part. We have the potential to develop Medicon Valley as an attractive place to live, work, study, conduct research and invest. But we need to make a coordinated effort while there’s still time. Let’s get started. It’s now or never for Medicon Valley.” ■
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About the survey The survey of international venture capital firms was conducted by Medicon Valley Alliance, and data was collected from April to June 2011. The venture capital firms were identified using the Dow Jones Venture Source and The Money Tree (provided by PricewaterhouseCoopers). Based on investments for the past three years in life science and biotech, the most active and well-capitalised venture firms in the USA and Europe were shortlisted. The survey is not a complete scientific mapping of the awareness of and attitudes towards Medicon Valley among international venture capital firms; some of the venture capital firms were quite difficult to approach, and some did not want to participate, just as it was not possible to establish a dialogue with a number of the firms. This means that Medicon Valley Alliance has not received responses from a number of the relevant funds which were initially identified. Awareness of Medicon Valley 9% Have visited several times Have been once Have never been Have heard about it Haven’t heard about it
The awareness of Medicon Valley is rather limited among the 34 venture capital firms in the survey. Only six of the participating venture capital firms (9%) have visited the region, whereas 16 have heard of it without having any further knowledge (47%). 12 of the participating venture capital firms (35%) have not heard of Medicon Valley at all.
Both the European and the American venture capital firms consider the UK (Cambridge-Oxford) an exciting potential region for investment. Also Switzerland (BioValley) and Germany (Munich Biotech Cluster) are top-of-mind at the venture capital firms. Several of the European venture capital firms also mention Switzerland (BioValley) and Benelux as flourishing regions for biotech.
Graphics: Medicon Valley Alliance
Whether a biotech company is located in a “life science cluster” is of no particular importance. (56% of the venture capital firms responded “no importance” or “minor importance”). Technology and people (management) in the company are of greater importance among the venture capital firms than location in a life science cluster. However, easy access to a qualified workforce and a support structure is appreciated by a number of the venture capital firms.
Don’t know 32%
Munich Biotech Cluster
18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0
Number of capital firms pinpointing the most attractive life science clusters in Europe in terms of R&D and interesting biotech location
Importance of a biotech company being located in a life science cluster
Show me your microbiota and I’ll predict your risk of type II diabetes A Danish research team aims to become a partner in a European consortium to read the gut microbiome and investigate how bacterial signatures influence metabolic and cardiovascular health. Metagenomics is a next research frontier in discovering and characterizing complex diseases. By Charlotte Strøm, MD, PhD, Journalist
Since the draft of the human genome was reported in 2001 researchers have had the tool to uncover molecular biologic secrets through DNA sequencing. Recently, the technique of next-generation DNA sequencing has also proven very useful in identifying and characterizing the enormous amount of bacteria present in the human gut which cannot be grown and identified in the laboratory. In fact, less than 30 % of gut bacteria species are easily cultured. The remaining 70% are unknown, since they normally live without access to oxygen and cannot be grown outside of the intestines. “The human gut holds about 1.5 kg bacteria and can
Human gut microbiota and metabolic health ≈ 1.5 kg microbes; ten trillion microbial cells Bacteriodetes and Firmicutes account for > 90% Functions: Trophic Control of epithelial cell proliferation and differentiation Protective Education/priming of the immune system Protection against pathogens Metabolic Fermentation of non-digestible polysaccharides and storage of the extracted energy in host fat depots. Contributes to 5-10% of total daily energy infusion Synthesis of nutients, vitamins and more
Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen, MD, Dr. Med. Sci. from LuCamp (the Lundbeck Foundation Centre for Applied medical Genomics in Personlised Disease Prediction, Prevention, and Care).
be perceived as an organ that unfolds it effects in the gut as well as in the body as a whole,” says Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen, MD, Dr. Med. Sci. from LuCamp (the Lundbeck Foundation Centre for Applied medical Genomics in Personlised Disease Prediction, Prevention, and Care). Borbye Pedersen works at Hagedorn Research Institute in Gentofte and at the University of Copenhagen. He and his institutions are part of LuCamp , which also counts scientists from Steno Diabetes Center, Danish Universities and Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen..
The discovery of the second human genome LuCamp is part of a European research consortium called MetaHIT that is sponsored by the EU. The MetaHit project aims at identifying by sequencing the full human gut microbiome= the collective genomes of all gut bacteria, and in this context LuCamp is responsible for physiological studies of the volunteers who participate in the project and especially to study the role of gut bacteria in the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Doing so, LuCamp investigators
Identification of 3.3 million microbial genes from distal gut of 86 Danes and 38 Spaniards • Human gut gene set is likely more than 100 times larger than the gene set of the human genome • Each individual harbors ~ 160 gut bacterial species with ~ 530,000 bacterial genes • 18 species were found in all individuals • 57 out of 160 gut bacterial species are shared by >90% of individuals
Nature 464:59-65, 2010
belong to the pioneers in this field. By now, the group of MetaHit researchers has reported two ground breaking scientific progresses in Nature ( May 2011 and March 2010) to show for it. Last year the MetaHit investigators discovered and reported 3.3 million gut bacterial genes corresponding to about 1100 different bacterial species in stool samples from 124 Danes and Spaniards. This novel gene catalogue inspired Nature editors nick naming the gut microbiome ‘the second human genome.’ “The ground breaking part is that once the microbiome has been identified and characterized it allows us to dig deeper into its functionality and the physiological aspects that were previously unknown to us. We can now investigate the bacterial proteins and metabolites produced in the gut and learn how they influence whole body metabolism, regulation of appetite, the immune defence and much more,” says Borbye Pedersen who has worked most of his research career with uncovering the molecular biologic aspects of type II diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases.
People can be classified in accordance to three bacterial ecosystems in the gut The most recent Nature publication from the MetaHit group uncovered how the gut microbiota in fact organizes itself into three robust clusters also called enterotypes. “Interestingly the enterotypes are not nation or continent specific, nor age or gender specific. It appears that people are generally stratified into these three fundamentally different enterotypes. The enterotypes are mostly driven by the composition of bacterial
genera. However, abundant molecular functions are not necessarily provided by abundant species and tell us that it is very important to do a functional analysis in order for us to understand microbial communities,” Borbye Pedersen says. The next step is to investigate how the different enterotypes relate to physiological performances, diet, drug intake etc.
Deeper and complementary understanding of the causes of obesity and type II diabetes Will the understanding of the enterotypes and the functionality of the microbial environment uncover the mysteries of type II diabetes? Professor Borbye Pedersen says no and explains on this: “Most likely we will never fully uncover the riddles of type II diabetes because the disease is so complex and heterogeneous. However, we learn as we go along. And by now we know that the gut microbiota definitely plays a role in metabolic diseases like obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Recent experimental insights from gut microbiome research suggest that we may be able to predict on risks of disease or identify high risk groups from this knowledge.” “It has also been demonstrated in animals that faecal bacteria transplantation from obese mice to lean
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mice is associated with development of obesity in lean animals although their dietary intake is withheld at the same level or at a lower level as when they were lean,” Borbye Pedersen says.
Present and future challenges
FACTS • Metagenomics is the study of metagenomes, genetic material recovered directly from environmental samples. The broad field may also be referred to as environmental genomics, ecogenomics or community genomics. Traditional microbiology and microbial genome sequencing rely upon cultivated clonal cultures. This relatively new field of genetic research enables studies of organisms that are not easily cultured in a laboratory as well as studies of organisms in their natural environment. • The intestinal gut microbiome is sometimes referred to as the ‘second human genome’ referring to the amount of DNA information which the 1.5 kg bacteria in the gut hold. It has recently been shown that the human gut microbiome counts 3.3 million genes. • MetaHIT is an EU sponsored research programme that aims at reading the human gut microbiome influencing risk of obesity and inflammatory bowel disorders. Scientists from all over Europe participate in various parts of the research project. • In Denmark investigators from the University of Copenhagen, The Technical University of Denmark and LuCamp – a Lundbeck Foundation Research Center participate.
Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen took part in the initial DNA sequencing of stool samples from 400 Danes which took place while he spent 1.5 years at Beijiing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen outside of Hong Kong. “In the beginning of this project the price for sequencing the gut microbiome of one individual was about DKK 100.000. This did not include data analyses and interpretation. Now the price has decreased considerably to approximately DKK 15.000. Still, it is a costly affair and will likely remain a barrier for the expansion of this area of research for some time still. ” He pinpoints that what he and the remainder of the scientists in the project have seen so far remain snapshots of the state of the gut microbiota. “The rapid turnover of the bacteria and the changing environment create an enormous variation that we have not had the possibility to disclose yet. As the costs of DNA sequencing will come down and the techniques will improve even further we will be able to decode the gut bacterial DNA from many more individuals under various circumstances and likely learn more about the dynamics of the gut microbiota as part of the human biology,” the professor says. “We know that the gut microbiota produces proteins and metabolites that act locally in the gut – but also systemically. Some of the bacterial products diffuse into the blood stream and may exert their effects elsewhere in the body far from its originating destination in the gut. Our future focus will be to understand how these bacterial metabolites and protein affect human health and risk of common disorders,” Oluf Borbye Pedersen ends. ■
• For more information www.lucamp.org and www.metahit.eu
• LuCamp is funded by a 5 year grant from the Lundbeck Foundation and has scientists from Hagedorn Research Institute, Steno Diabetes Center, Danish Universities and Beijing Genomics Institute. LUCAMP was established in late 2007 and was designed to decode the human genome and the gut microbiome and relate the DNA driven data to metabolic and cardiovascular health.
Spanish pharmaceutical company with strong focus in research is heading north By Charlotte Strøm, MD PhD Journalist While several pharmaceutical companies consolidates and move closer together in larger regional or European hubs, the Spanish pharmaceutical company Almirall stands out from the crowd. About a year ago the Danish affiliate opened in the Copenhagen city centre and is now establishing a new Nordic organization. ”Almirall was previously completely unknown as a pharmaceutical business in the Nordic region. Now we are here and busy building our organization with skilled employees. They are all going to take part in developing and marketing the medicinal products that the company has to offer now and in the years to come,” says Lars Smedegaard Andersen, CEO at Almirall Denmark.
Heavy in research Even if Almirall belongs to the smaller pharmaceutical businesses, he is pleased that the company manages to benchmark as a heavyweight, when it comes to research. ”Almirall has a long and strong research tradition within inflammatory diseases broadly speaking. This really belongs to the company’s key competences,” says Lars Smedegaard Andersen and points out that the organization spends about 15% of the turnover on research. Almirall researches, develops, and markets medicinal products for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), gastro-intestinal, skin, and respiratory diseases. The company head office is located in Barcelona and Almirall is represented widespread in Europe and Mexico by its own affiliates and through distributors in the rest of the world. Globally, Almirall counts 3000 employees of whom 550 are working within research. The Danish affiliate by now counts sixteen employees and the majority works out of the office in Larsbjørnstræde in Copenhagen. Regardless the fact that Almirall remains a smaller pharmaceutical company globally speaking, Lars Smedegaard Andersen explains about the urge for growth: ”It is quite some time ago that a pharmaceutical
business has managed organic growth to this extent. In itself that is in fact quite extraordinary. For us the establishment in the Nordic markets is an acknowledgement that it is important for us to be present and to take ownership of our products in the countries where we market medicines.”
Cultural leap At Almirall there is an understanding that there is a significant distance from the Mediterranean, in kilometers as well as culturally. ”Being present locally is a prerequisite for building strong working relations that are required for continuous development,” Lars Smedegaard Andersen says, continuing, ”In the Nordic region there is long and fine tradition for competent drug development. Here we find skilled health care professionals, and health care systems with high standards in documentation and registration, facilitating clinical drug development.” In July this year the drug Sativex from Almirall was registered by the Danish Medicinal Agency for the treatment of spasticity in patients suffering from MS. The product is the first and only registered medicinal product in Denmark based on cannabis. ”Effective symptom relief is opening new doors for patients with MS, socially and physically. Sativex is the only registered product for the treatment of these symptoms that a large proportion of MS patients are suffering from. The treatment is based on cannabis and that is quite innovative, and it makes even more exciting to take part in the development of the product,” says Lars Smedegaard Andersen. Almirall continues the development of Sativex and investigates now the effect of the drug in other indications, eg clinical studies are currently conducted within cancer pain. Furthermore the company is developing other types of medicinal products, which are also expected to be marketed in Denmark. In particular the focus areas in the coming years are new treatments for the treatment of chronic obstructive lung disease and irritable bowel syndrome. ■
Knowledge is power From time to time your stakeholders change jobs, titles, area of responsibility and names. Remaining perfectly updated in your stakeholder management system requires diligent and continuous research and validation of information.
Anyone who has tried it knows how laborious it is: Updating information on stakeholders and customers. In principle it is a matter of collecting and copying publicly available information, but it is in the validation phase things tend to require stamina. Cegedim is a service provider of technological tools and specialized software and customer databases specifically for life science. Ole Hansen, General Manager at Cegedim Denmark explains on this particular issue: “It is not rocket science to collect information, any of our customers can do that. However, it is a great deal of work to validate the information that has been gathered, and moreover to keep on updating the information continuously. In Denmark alone we have five
Photo: Lars Kaaes
By Charlotte Strøm, MD PhD Journalist
Ole Hansen, General Manager at Cegedim Denmark.
full time employees to work specifically on our database for life science alone,” Ole Hansen says.
Continuous update He has the numbers to show for it. Cegedim Denmark runs more than 100.000 updates a year on the database which currently has information on around 65.000 health care professionals and individuals related to the industry. “The database is updated continuously and integrated with our customers’ Sales Force Automation/Customer Relations Management (SFA / CRM) systems. The updates operate through Cegedim’s SFA / CRM system or via a third party supplier, ensuring real time update or continuous update of information.
Facts about Cegedim Validation • Cegedim supplies services, technological tools, specialized software, data flow management services and databases • Its offerings are targeted notably at healthcare industries, life sciences companies, healthcare professionals and insurance companies • The world leader in life sciences CRM, Cegedim is also one of the leading suppliers of strategic healthcare industry data • Cegedim employs 8,500 people in more than 80 countries and generated revenue of €927 million in 2010 For more information www.cegedim.com
Getting back to the issue of validation, Ole Hansen points to this as an essential part of the quality in the service for Cegedim’s customers. “The point is that every piece of information is double checked by hand literally. We call people up, or write to them to check that the changes we have received on their working place, name, title or area of responsibility has truly changed,” Ole Hansen says and stresses that information is never changed in the database until after it has been validated.
Global compliance The individual’s privacy is fortunately protected by law, and Ole Hansen stress that Cegedim is in compliance with all local and international legislation on this point.
“We are a global organization and operate in 80 different countries hence we can deliver information on customers in almost any area of the world. Our quality assurance system ensures our customers that we are in compliance with any national and international law within this area,” he says.
Stakeholder mapping Reimbursement issues and cost restrains in the public health care is forcing pharmaceutical businesses to focus on how to access the market. Cegedim has specialized on this to help identify the key stakeholders. “Obviously you will find some overlap to the health care professional database, only it has a different scope. Further the market access database holds information on key stakeholders among payers,” Ole Hansen says and explains how stakeholder mapping is increasingly becoming an interesting and useful service within pharma.
Tools to apply Ole Hansen points out that a number of different software tools may be applied on top of the “OneKey Database” holding all the information about the health care professionals.
Cegedim’s main entrance in the atrium
Photo: Lars Kaaes
“We conduct market surveys that may be taken off the shelf or specifically customized to the customer’s needs in a project. The great strength of our solutions is that we always consult specialists within the given therapeutic area, in order to ensure that the questions we ask in the survey are qualified and professional,” Ole Hansen ends. ■
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New strategy would boost Biotech In its programme of policies, the new Danish government highlights the biotech industry as a position of strength on which to build, and the Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education is working on an innovation strategy. He wants to promote cooperation between the public sector and the business community to strengthen marketing globally.
Biotech is mentioned four times in positive contexts in the new government’s policy programme, which clearly states that biotech is a position of strength with the potential to become a strong export area for Denmark. There is no doubt that biotech has caught the attention of the new government, comprising the Social Democrats, Social Liberals and Socialist People’s Party (SPP). But the extent to which the industry can keep that attention and set its sights on a future with better growth conditions is still unclear. “We take the biotech industry seriously or we wouldn’t have mentioned it in our policy programme. Many other industries feel they should have been mentioned, but weren’t. However, this is not a matter of delicate political sensibilities and preferential treatment of the industry. Our approach is analytical and based on a thorough evaluation of Denmark’s positions of strength,” says Morten Østergaard (SocLib), the newly appointed Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education.
Clearer strategy When he took over the Ministry at the beginning of October, he expressed in his speech that research must, on the one hand, have freer frameworks and be developed more and, on the other, be met with a clearer centralised strategy.
Fotograf: Nicky Bonne
By Birgitte Aabo Translation: CLS Communication A/S
Morten Østergaard, Danish Minister for Research, Innovation and Higher Education
Both aspects are to be incorporated in an innovation strategy being developed by the government. It is to be based on mapping Denmark’s positions of strength and an analysis and clean-up of existing funding programmes and innovation schemes. The aim is to put Denmark back up among the elite of innovative nations. “We want to prepare the first real national innovation strategy based on the growth areas that Denmark can exploit best. The process will involve consulting broadly with the players in the growth industries during 2012, and in the light of specific analyses, we will then evaluate which areas will ultimately be covered by the strategy
– biotech is well positioned, but it is too early to say anything final,” says the Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education, who will be cooperating on the strategy with the Minister of Economic and Business Affairs Ole Sohn (SPP) and other central ministries. The specific elements to be included in the finalised innovation strategy are not a subject he can disclose with certainty yet: “In the discussion ahead, we will be considering whether existing constructions are appropriate for distributing the strategic research funding. Perhaps there should be fewer but larger programmes”, says Morten Østergaard.
New partnership The strategy will also clarify how the public sector can support development most effectively – the public sector is responsible for about one third of the demand in society, and the government sees opportunities for promoting innovation in this direction. The Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education is therefore also ready to make an effort to strengthen cooperation between the public sector and the business community: “I have been tasked with establishing a new partnership between the business community and the universities. This is something the business community has been calling for,” he points out. Morten Østergaard believes, for example, that research in the private sector should have the same importance as research conducted in the public sector: “One problem you often face in biotech is that research in a private context, which often has the character of basic research, ought to give credit and qualify the researcher for professorships,” says the Minister for Science, Innovation and Higher Education, who believes that this kind of official stamp of approval for researchers in the business community will increase the scope for global marketing and facilitate help attract experts and investments from abroad. “We need to draw attention and market ourselves as a country that offers good research conditions so companies can easily appreciate the benefits of continuing to develop in Denmark – this will then bring us to the attention of global players looking for a location that will benefit their business.”
Becons This is one of the problems that has bothered experts in Medicon Valley for some time and has become topical after a recent study showed that awareness of the region and its biotech companies is lacking among some of the world’s largest capital funds. Meanwhile, a number of small companies have been forced to close due to lack of capital – which is the situation all over the world at the moment. “This is a global elimination race and only the very best survive. And we have many promising biotech
Biotech in the government policy programme In the Danish government’s policy programme entitled ‘One Denmark standing together’ (Et Danmark, der står sammen), biotech is mentioned in the following four contexts: “We must create the best framework conditions in order for Denmark to become a green science and production society. Denmark must exploit its leading position in the green sectors. Green companies must therefore be developed within, e.g. energy, the environment and biotech nology.” “Political frameworks are playing an increasing role in innovation in companies. The government will present a strategy that will outline the framework for strengthening innovation in Danish companies. For example, the strategy will cover possible regulation initiatives through which the public sector can support the development of strong new export areas within e.g. energy, water, biotech, the environment and welfare technology.” “With clear goals and intelligent regulation, Danish companies would be able to test new green technology in the Danish domestic market. This would give them a head start in competition for the new green export markets, regardless of whether this involves water technology, biotechnology, agriculture-related technology or energy technology.” “Danish exports must get back in gear. Denmark must invest more in new growth countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and not least China (the BRIC countries) as well as in the next wave of growth countries. Danish positions of strength must be marketed aggressively. This applies to sustainable technologies within e.g. water purification, renewable energy, biotechnology, energy-efficiency, welfare and health technology.”
companies in Medicon Valley – actually far more than our size entitles us to have. We just need some patience until one or more of them develops into a commercial success,” according to Stig Jørgensen, CEO of the Medicon Valley Alliance. But the dream of a strong region within life science will only be achieved under the right conditions: “In my opinion, we have plenty of opportunities but they don’t just land in your lap. It takes a coordinated effort,” he says. The board of the Alliance has therefore decided to initiate a process that can go hand-in-hand with the government’s upcoming innovation initiatives. The aim is to determine which research and business areas in Medicon Valley are of international calibre or have the potential to reach this level. Up to five areas, called becons, will be identified within the broad category of life science in the region, and ambitious plans have been prepared for how they can achieve world-class status. One potential becon could be healthy ageing, an area in which the universities in both Copenhagen (Denmark) and Lund (Sweden) have already established research centres. Similarly, Danish companies are streets ahead in developing mobile technology for caring for the elderly, and the City of Copenhagen has developed innovative ways of running nursing homes, for example, creating a good platform on which to base a stronger
campaign – and to market it globally, according to Stig Jørgensen.
Major challenges The CEO points out that several major problems are evident which can be resolved only by political means: “One of the core problems is to find a specific answer to how you can retain major companies such as Novo Nordisk and Lundbeck in order for them to keep a major share of their activities in the region. Large companies move where opportunities are most attractive. If they don’t find them in Medicon Valley, we risk losing such research-intensive companies,” says Stig Jørgensen, pointing out that the migration Eastwards has already begun in such areas as clinical research, production, IT activities, and basic research. He is in no doubt, for example, that the companies in Medicon Valley must be cable of attracting talented employees: “We need to be able to attract the most skilled foreigners and that requires a research environment that can match the best in the world and universities that are ready to adapt to future demands and intense competition so they don’t drop in the rankings in the years ahead. We have the potential but we need to work to develop it.” ■
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Medicon Valley Alliance and RASK Media cooperate to publish the magazine LifeSciences Insight.
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LifeSciences Insight will be the primary mouthpiece for the Medicon Valley region’s many companies and organisations within biotech, medtech and pharma as well as companies who have this segment as their customers or suppliers.
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A strong Team
LifeSciences Insight is a high-quality magazine that weighs validity and thoroughness highly. Therefore we have joined forces with a strong group of people. Life science journalists Lone Frank (DK) and Fredrik Hedlund (SE) will take turns writing a column for the magazine. Lone Frank is also a part of LifeScienses Insight editorial team. The exclusive and close cooperation with Medicon Valley Alliance ensures that LifeSciences Insight constantly has an in-depth knowledge of the life sciences industry, the latest trends and conditions in the market.
Distribution In addition to interesting and updated articles about the conditions of the industry, LifeSciences Insight gives companies in the region a unique opportunity to brand themselves both nationally and internationally. With its thoroughly selected distribution network, LifeSciences Insight is the ultimate and optimum opportunity to present one’s company. LifeSciences Insight is distributed in Denmark, Sweeden and Norway to: • Named decision-makers in the life sciences industry • Relevant MPs in Scandinavia • Investors • Medicon Valley Alliance’s members and • Science parks collaboration partners • Hospitals • Relevant national and international trade fairs, • Universities conferences and exhibitions in Europe, North • Life science media America and Asia There will be at least four editions a year, in total 60,000 copies. LifeSciences Insight gives its readers a thorough knowledge of and an updated insight into the industry and the conditions the industry is facing right now.
Would you like to know more? Please contact:
RASK Media Sales Department Phone: +45 28 87 07 76 E-mail: email@example.com www.raskmedia.com
Biotech is cutting to the bone The biotech industry generates billions, and in the past few decades, the Øresund Region has become a mecca for biotech research. Investors have pumped huge sums into the industry; but although the region has developed in the right direction, the optimistic expectations from the turn of the millennium are nowhere near to being fulfilled. By Mikkel Ais Andersen Translation: CLS Communication A/S Many small, start-up biotech companies have gone bankrupt over the past 15 years, but even larger companies are feeling the pinch as investors are less willing to take risks. Most recently, the Danish biotech company NeuroSearch was forced to let four-fifths of its staff go, and the remaining 200 employees are to be reduced to 35 by 2013. Rene Schneider, Executive Vice President of NeuroSearch, explains that the significant headcount
reductions are the result of a decision by the company to shelve the majority of its research projects and in future only work with a drug called Huntexil. “When NeuroSearch was established in 1989, the focus was on ion-channel research, and that has been our primary expertise ever since. We have had many different research projects within this area that have required significant investments. Unfortunately, we have not had success commercialising any of the more than 20 drug candidates we have attempted to bring to clinical trial stage, so now we are putting everything – except Huntexil – on the back burner. We are therefore concentrating our resources on the 35 employees who work with Huntexil,” he says. Rene Schneider is disappointed that they have not been able to find investors for the company’s other research projects, but emphasises that they have had dialogues with both current shareholders and potential investors regarding Huntexil and that the phase three clinical trials demonstrate a unique opportunity to bring Huntexil to market. “Our most important function as a biotech company is to bring drugs to market, and so far there has been a discrepancy between our spending and our investors’ view of the potential for financial returns. This means
Rene Schneider, executive vice president at NeuroSearch
Bo Jesper Hansen, Chairman of the Board, Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB
Martin Bonde, member of the board of the trade organisation DANSK BIOTEK
that there are not enough investors interested in maintaining our research, which is forcing us to focus on a single niche product such as Huntexil in order to attract new capital.” He adds, however, that if Huntexil becomes a success, NeuroSearch hopes to be able to resume work on other promising research projects, either from the existing pipeline or new projects from external sources. But for now, the company is winding up all research dealing with, among other things, the central nervous system, which has otherwise played a major role at NeuroSearch.
Labour moving to China According to Martin Bonde, member of the board of the trade organisation DANSK BIOTEK, NeuroSearch is by no means the only biotech company facing financial challenges in the Øresund Region. “The global financial crisis has definitely left its mark, and a lot of companies have been unable to find investors and have subsequently had to close up shop or make drastic cuts in staffing. There is a growing trend of doing as NeuroSearch and focus on fewer products that have an increased chance of success.” He adds that many established companies are also being forced to tighten their belts and concentrate on the financial aspects of the business, because funding and investments are not flowing as freely as they did ten years ago.
Companies have begun to realise that they need to cut costs, and labour is much cheaper in countries like China. He mentions Novartis as an example, which recently dismissed 2,000 employees and then a few days later hired 800 in China. “Companies have begun to realise that they need to cut costs, and labour is much cheaper in countries like China. This is one of the biggest challenges facing Denmark – we are losing workplaces and consequently competencies. We ought therefore to focus much more on working closely with the universities. We need to be better at taking the results from these collaborations and commercialising them – preferably through new biotech companies. One of our strengths in Denmark is this collaboration with the universities, but we can improve this even further,” he declares.
Greatest potential for patients and shareholders It may sound outrageous that a company like NeuroSearch, that has existed for 22 years, has never
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Huntexil is a drug for patients suffering from the hereditary disorder Huntington’s disease. The disease affects primarily 30-40 year olds and ends in death 10-15 years after diagnosis. The early symptoms of the disease are depression and serious difficulty planning and making decisions. The patient will then begin to display motor dysfunction, which develops into rigidity before the patient has to be admitted to hospital or a hospice. Huntexil can help minimise motor dysfunction and rigidity in patients living with the disease. Worldwide, 110,000 people have been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease.
had a product reach the market, but unfortunately this is not unusual, according to Martin Bonde from DANSK BIOTEK. He explains that venture funds, investing in biotech, very well know that a great deal of patience is required before you see an actual return on your investment, and a great many research projects are initiated that the public never hear a word about. “When a company like Novo Nordisk initiates 300 projects, perhaps only three or four are ever actually tested on humans, and with a bit of luck they’ll be able to send one single drug to market. NeuroSearch has just not had that last bit of luck, and that’s the source of the current troubles.” Rene Schneider from NeuroSearch agrees with Martin Bonde that they have been short on luck and that their investors have lost patience. “In future, we need to be value-generating in the short and medium-term. We need to be able to show results in order to generate economic resources in the form of investments. This is why Huntexil is a good product. It has shown promising results in the clinical trials and it’s a drug with a manageable timeframe for coming to market. It’s the product with the greatest potential for both patients and shareholders.”
Sales for DKK 4 billion In the golden days around 2000, Medicon Valley saw
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many biotech companies mush-rooming, both in Denmark and Sweden. The atmosphere at the time was filled with budding optimism, and investors poured capital into the region. “When we look back on that period, a number of rookie mistakes were made,” says Martin Bonde, who continues: “If you had an idea, it was easy to establish the seed money to get you started, but many of these companies quickly ran into difficulties. Many of them didn’t really understand how to run a biotech company.” But there are also success stories. One of them is the pioneer Dr Bo Jesper Hansen, who helped start Swedish Orphan, which distributed and conducted research in orphan drugs. Orphan drugs are based solely on research and development of medicines for the treatment of rare diseases. And in just two years, he has achieved sales of nearly SVK 4 billion.
Success is in the niche Dr Bo Jesper Hansen and his business partners had done their homework by studying the American biotech market in search of “orphan” products, which at the time was many years ahead of Denmark. Even then he thought it should be possible to focus on this particular niche in order to come to market and grow the company. “A lot of people made mistakes by starting out with
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huge platform strategies and multiple development plans without an eye to the future. But, of course, money was flooding the region, so it was possible to continue doing research. We focused exclusively on research in our chosen niche – orphan drugs – and we never had any external investors. We financed the company ourselves from the very beginning,” he explains. This turned out to be a successful strategy that other companies are now choosing to follow. Dr Bo Jesper Hansen’s recipe for success is to follow what is known as a Blue Ocean Strategy where the company operates in an unknown market and therefore without competitors. This is the strategy that NeuroSearch has now adopted with its focus on Huntexil, where they are global leaders. “You have to focus on the core product, because otherwise no one is willing to invest. This is a direct consequence of the market. Biotech companies have to face up to the fact that they can’t survive with only a team of talented researchers. They also need a clear strategy for commercialising their products to ensure financial returns for their investors. Otherwise there simply won’t be any money for research,” concludes Dr Bo Jesper Hansen. ■
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Medicon Valley’s financial challenge For over a decade, the Øresund Region has invested heavily in biotechnology. At the turn of the millennium, this region, now given the descriptive alias Medicon Valley, was predicted to be a future player that should be taken seriously by the global market. However, the Øresund Region’s rapid development has declined in cadence due quite simply to lack of capital. The bubble has popped, investors are less willing to take risks, and Medicon Valley is facing its largest financial challenge to date. By Mikkel Ais Andersen Translation: CLS Communication A/S At the end of the 1990s, it was difficult to imagine that Copenhagen and southern Sweden could ever be a budding biotech area. There was very little vision. The US was striding ahead at that point and was also the source of inspiration for investing in biotech. Florian Schönharting, co-founder of Nordic Biotech – a major Danish investment fund, is one of Denmark’s most experienced biotech investors. He is described as a pioneer in the area, and back in 1997 he was also one of the first to recognise Denmark’s future potential within biotechnology. He invited a group of pension companies to the USA to demonstrate the enormous scope there might be in investing in biotech companies in Scandinavia, and he recalls the record-high number of visitors who accompanied him on a tour to about 20 major US biotech companies.
Sten Verland, Partner at Sunstone Capital, CEO and owner of Verland Capital.
“They were fascinated that you could transform what appeared to be desert into high-end investments. After this tour, the pension companies gradually began investing money in venture funds, which then invested in Danish biotech companies.”
Gold fever rages This was the starting signal for investors flooding in, and suddenly astronomical amounts were being injected into newly started biotech companies. Carsten Schou is a partner at SEED Capital, an investment fund specialising in biotechnology. He explains how at around the turn of the millennium, both the capital and optimism were great. “It was like an investor gold rush. This was an area where you could earn enormous amounts, and success stories from the US proved it worked. It was just full speed ahead and a feeling of being able to conquer the world.” The problem was that at the time neither Denmark
Florian Schönharting, Co-founder of Nordic Biotech. A major Danish investment fund.
Carsten Schou, Partner at SEED Capital, an investment fund specialising in biotechnology.
nor Sweden had the competencies to start a biotech company and make it grow as a business. Plenty of researchers had good ideas but the way the companies were established, with a large platform and pipelines covering a broad area, requires many years of patience before you can see results from this type of research.
Learning by doing The large amounts investors had pumped into biotechnology did not give the expected return because the investment was on such a large scale and at the same time people with commercial competence were lacking. Many companies therefore quickly died out again. Carsten Schou explains how it was gradually realised that Denmark is too small to drive biotech companies with very broad research. It is simply too big and expensive.
It was like an investor gold rush. This was an area where you could earn enormous amounts, and success stories from the US proved it worked. “At the time, not many people knew how to actually create growth in a company that worked with biotechnology. Researchers had good ideas but no business sense. The investors and politicians lacked the patience and understanding to appreciate that it takes 20 years of research before you have a product, and many small biotech companies were forced to close down. On the other hand, this learning process has been necessary to create growth in Medicon Valley,” he says.
Patience required Sten Verland is a partner at Sunstone Capital which, with total capital of DKK 3.7 billion, is one of the largest venture capital investors in the Nordic region. He explains that one of the reasons for Medicon Valley’s crisis is a lack of perspective on the part of politicians and investors, and not least the press. “Many people didn’t understand that it doesn’t take three but more like 10-15 years before you see genuine results from an idea, and if returns are not fast enough, it is described as a fiasco. This makes it harder to find investors for research projects, which ultimately have to close down. It’s a vicious circle.”
Commercial competence He also explains that immediately injecting large amounts of capital into a start-up company is useless today. Instead, companies should be developed
gradually with few resources – and thereby little risk – and large sums should only be invested when results begin to appear. “Companies need to get used to no longer having access to the same financial resources as in the past and must therefore find the start-up capital from public-sector research funding, seed investors and business angels rather than expecting venture investors to provide it, as they typically do not invest until the research has resulted in specific product concepts and the business model is ready.” He admits that this can mean fewer small companies, but that they will be more competent and have a greater chance of success because they have the necessary competence. “At Sunstone Capital, we invest in early biotech companies but they have to be at the point where the research has resulted in specific product concepts and the business model is ready. At the same time, they have to have established a competent team comprising researchers and company managers who can commercialise the products.”
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Sten Verland from Sunstone Capital is cautiously optimistic. He believes that the past 10 years have helped develop Medicon Valley and that at the moment it is an exciting place to be in terms of investments. “After all, normally only one in five biotech companies win the jackpot. Therefore, most of the companies naturally must find it tough going, without this indicating a crisis. There is still venture capital in Medicon Valley – both Danish and foreign – and if the venture industry has learned from developments over the past 10 years, the Øresund Region will blossom within the next 10 years. Like in the USA, it takes time to develop biotechnology, and I am convinced that the past 10 years of development will begin to bear fruit,” he says.
Wait for the stock market However, Florian Schönharting from Nordic Biotech does not share Sten Verland’s ready optimism. He is convinced that the crisis currently looming over the Øresund Region like a dark cloud is far greater than first anticipated, and that Medicon Valley is facing huge challenges. “The entire global financial crisis is affecting biotech investments. No one wants to take risks right now because share prices are incredibly low. You have to face the fact that chasing round to all kinds of conferences explaining about your good ideas and research is useless because no one wants to make investments right now – especially not in start-up companies. You can look at the stock market and as long as the Dow Jones is under 20,000, you might just as well stay home,” he predicts. He also thinks it strange that so much money was ever pumped into a market that largely speaking hasn’t put any products on the market.
A matter of survival He explains that biotech companies currently have to take a long look in the mirror and admit that they won’t be making money any time soon. He advises them to use the remaining capital and investment
agreements to keep their heads above water until the market changes. “You have to analyse the company and ask yourself: How much money do we have? What do we need? And why are we using resources the way we are? Cut away all unnecessary research, and very quickly get used to the fact that the situation is not favourable at the moment. It’s a very tough time for small companies that need investment capital to start up because that’s almost impossible. People have been used to focusing on the long haul, but now it’s a matter of pure survival,” he protests. He believes it will be a long time before the crisis abates but that time is sure to come. However, he fears that the worst scenario will see the restrictive economy reducing the Øresund Region down to a dozen small biotech fortresses with a large pharma industry next door.
Medicon Valley – unknown territory The Medicon Valley Alliance, which is responsible for marketing the life science cluster in the Øresund Region, recently conducted a survey that asked 34 randomly selected major international venture funds specialising in the biotech and medico area about their knowledge of Medicon Valley. It emerged that half of them knew nothing about Medicon Valley, and that is another of the region’s major challenges, explains Florian Schönharting. “The major venture funds have their own portfolios with their own products and have restricted their outward focus considerably because of the financial crisis. The survey highlights that the investment market has stalled and we are now right back where we were in 1991-94. The positive aspect of the situation is that those who can maintain their research using their own funds will achieve results that investors will notice and then they’ll come to reap the fruits. Undoubtedly, something good will emerge from the current situation, but not for a long while,” he concludes. ■
The ultimate protection against deadly respiratory diseases A new protective suit, ProChem III MED, from the Danish company ArSiMa protects the health and lives of hospital personnel caring for high risk patients and prevents the spreading of extremely contagious respiratory diseases. Although we have developed the technologies to control many infectious diseases, new diseases continue to rise and spread posing a real threat not only to people in general but to health care professionals in particular. Caregivers and other hospital staff members can be exposed to risky situations throughout any routine workday but during an outbreak of e.g. SARS, Ebola or another respiratory infection the occupational risk rises significantly. Developed specifically for health care professionals At the newly opened isolation ward Q at the Danish hospital Skejby in Aarhus, the health care professionals are to provide medical care to high risk patients infected with for example SARS or other highly contagious and potentially deadly viruses. The choice of personal protective equipment is of paramount importance in protecting the health and lives of the hospital personnel and in connection with the establishment of the new ward. The Danish company ArSiMa was contacted and asked for help in the development of a protective suit for the isolation ward personnel.
FACTS: The protective suit ProChem III MED offers: • Protection against viruses and bacteria • A safe work environment for health care workers • Easy and fast change of clothes • Good visibility • Comfort and performance – all in one • Freedom to move and user-friendliness • Undisturbed communication with patients and colleagues ProChem III MED comes in all sizes
Based on six decades of experience ArSiMa has been protecting workers from a wide range of businesses with performing yet comfortable personal protective equipment for more than six decades and is today Denmark’s leading supplier. The company offers complete solutions and consultancy services advising customers on how to select the most appropriate equipment and on current regulations and legislative requirements. ArSiMa specializes in identifying and controlling occupational hazards and focuses on creating solutions that increases safety and comfort while motivating workers to be more compliant with safety rules. Meeting the demands of the isolation ward The danger of infection and the high risk patients in isolation ward Q at Skejby Hospital place severe demands on the health care workers’ protective equipment. The protective clothing has to provide protection against all kinds of virus and bacteria but it also has to be comfortable to wear allowing caregivers, doctors and nurses to take care of the patients and perform their jobs. It should enable nurses to handle personal care duties such as helping the patients eat or bathe and doctors to perform surgical procedures. In addition, it has to be possible to communicate easily with both patients and colleagues when wearing the suit and it has to be fast to put on and take off. Combines performance and comfort With the protective suit ProChem III MED, ArSiMa has developed a suit that meets with all the strict requirements. The suit has fixed socks and highly resistant nitril examination gloves built in that apart from being approved for chemical use also enable doctors to perform surgical procedures and insert drips without risking infection. The suit is equipped with a loose-fitting hood, a large visor to ensure good visibility for persons of all sizes and with the breathing apparatus attached inside the suit only the disposable, outside air filters become contaminated. ProChem III MED combines performance and comfort creating a safe and comfortable work environment as well as preventing the spread of disease.
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Learn why dealmaking is an art, not a science Establishing R&D collaborations for life science companies in today’s financial and market environment is a completely different exercise than just a few years ago. Now Medicon Valley Alliance, in cooperation with BioMentorz, offers you the opportunity to participate in a hands-on practical course in dealmaking in Copenhagen, 19-20 January 2012.
Thousand and thousands of life science companies worldwide are all endeavouring to raise capital, develop products, build successful enterprises and attract talent to execute complex strategies. With fewer funds, more small companies seeking funding in competition within the areas of Greentech, Social Media, BioFuels and other potentially attractive opportunities, the race for venture capital is more complex than ever before. “Given this competition, it is more important
than ever before that biotech companies and other institutions are able to tap into the growing demand of pharmaceutical companies for products and technologies that will allow them to grow and prosper in an era of patent expirations. In fact we are seeing VCs and pharmaceutical companies now working closely with each other to identify promising opportunities with creative financing deals,” says Jack M. Anthony from BioMentorz. “The Secret Sauce of Dealmaking” is a seminar
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that enables you to carefully plan and execute your partnering funding campaign. It is designed to provide participants with the “real world” tools necessary to achieve dealmaking success. It is intended for industry executives within life science companies (pharma, biotech and medtech) who want to sharpen their business development skills and obtain a higher level
of confidence in their ability to nail the appropriate deal for their company. Other stakeholders who are important participants in the company’s dealmaking process will also benefit from this course. BioMentorz keeps the number of attendees small in order to have the right instructor-to-student ratio and ensure a productive experience.
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Learning by doing “This is a very hands-on practical course where you learn by doing, learn by watching, learn by example, learn from your peers and learn from the facilitators. You will get time in the “elevator” to do your pitch, and you will have an opportunity to bring your own abbreviated, non-confidential company slide deck to obtain specific pointers, thereby making it more effective. On this course we focus on how to maximise the people aspect of dealmaking. We take you through the process step by step. It’s not a technical course or one that focuses on calculating endless NPVs or wastes time on contrived negotiations,” says Jack M. Anthony. “You can find those seminars attached to large partnering meetings in rooms filled with a hundred
This is a very hands-on practical course where you learn by doing, learn by watching, learn by example, learn from your peers and learn from the facilitators.
people. We focus on the details that drive carefully planned campaigns surrounding worthy potential products into critical and meaningful collaborations.” If you are entering the partnering ring for the first or second time, or if it has been a while since your last collaboration, this session will focus you and ground you for the experience ahead. For example, according to Jack M. Anthony, one of the biggest pitfalls in dealmaking is pushing a project to a potential partner before it is really ready for serious consideration. “A savvy business development executive in a biotech company not only needs to know what a particular pharmaceutical company is looking for at this moment, but also needs to be aware of the right timing to begin the approach and how. It’s a classic mistake that a project is pushed too early. By pushing a project before it has appropriately matured often earns a NO in the database of the potential partner, and then it’s almost impossible to reverse that comment until its author moves on or a significant new milestone is met at a later stage. It’s much better to introduce a project as a ‘coming attraction,’ stay in touch on a regular basis by email and at meetings; then the interest will develop gradually and move towards real discussions,” says Jack M. Anthony, who
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during negotiations has worked with such well-known Danish companies as Novo Nordisk, Novozymes and Symphogen.
The Market is still there Even if the market situation has become tougher, the pharmaceutical companies still need products they can sell. “The pharmaceutical industry pays people to find products – even during a financial crisis there is a market out there with needs. In fact these people are waiting for the telephone to ring, although they may not pay as much in the initial phase as they used to and they may require more analysis. It’s an important point that money isn’t a big issue in the initial phase; if you can otherwise agree on the project, you will find the money along the way,” Jack M. Anthony says. When asked what characterises a good negotiator, Jack M. Anthony replies “patience”, adding that it’s all about preparation, preparation and preparation. The negotiator also needs to be attuned to the expectations within his or her organisation from among others the CEO, CFO, CSO and Board of Directors. With regard to the funding needed, it is also important to be able to explain yourself very precisely. “Perhaps a company needs 8 million dollars but goes for 15. Here you have to account for precisely why you
are asking for 15,” Jack M. Anthony says. It is his experience that some people change their personality when they arrive at the negotiations. “Before sitting down at the negotiation table you have often travelled, had meals together and socialised. Then many BD people sit down at the negotiating table and they think they need to be tough and demanding. Let a lawyer be the bad guy, the BD executive is facilitating to bring the deal to a satisfactory conclusion. Lawyers walk out the door, the biotech people live with the deal.”
“Just a business deal” Jack M. Anthony does not believe that Americans on the whole are better negotiators than the Europeans. “In the US we have longer experience in the life science sector and in raising capital for biotech companies, but there is no reason why Europeans should not be able to move successfully on the American market, and many have. This just requires you knowing the Secret Sauce which applies globally with adjustments for cultural habits. As a practical detail, Jack M. Anthony recommends that European companies, when negotiating in the US, invite an American legal expert as a companion/ advisor.
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“Many things run more smoothly when a legal adviser can explain the special American regulations, tax issues etc. to the European company on an ongoing basis. And remember, you can always take a 15-minute break from the negotiations. It’s just a business deal and it has been done many times before. This is also important to remember when things might seem a little difficult in the process of negotiations.” “The Secret Sauce of Deal Making” will take place in Copenhagen on 19-20 January 2012. ■
Seminar organisers with solid experience in life science Secret Sauce features Jack M. Anthony who has been a Business Development Executive and CEO at nine biotech companies over the past 25 years; five have been sold, three remain very active and one has been tanked. This follows 17 years at a large hospital supply company. Jack will be joined by Phil Haworth, PhD, who has 30 years of experience in the biotechnology industry as a research scientist, business development executive and private and public company CEO.
Thomas Mortensen Business Development Manager Medicon Valley Alliance Mobile: +45 2467 4140 Direct: +45 3287 8008 Email: email@example.com
Jack M. Anthony, CEO and Business Development Executive
Phil Haworth, Scientist, CEO and Business Development Executive
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Medicon Valley companies profiled at cancer event At this year’s European Cancer Cluster Partnering (ECCP) event in Toulouse, France, seven companies from the Medicon Valley region presented their technology. The experiences gained at this event are so positive that Medicon Valley Alliance expects to team up with the ECCP again next year. The European Cancer Cluster Partnering (ECCP) event is an oncology partnering meeting in Europe for biotech, pharma, investors, clinicians and academia. ECCP offers a vital networking arena for the oncology community in Europe and is the direct result of the close collaboration between two of Europe’s strongest cancer clusters, the French Cancer-Bio-Santé and the Norwegian Oslo Cancer Cluster. This year, Medicon Valley Alliance partnered with these clusters to arrange a European Technology Showcase – a new initiative as part of a large EU project called “ABC Europe”. This showcase invited all European universities, research centres, technology transfer offices, and SMEs to present innovative technologies within cancer research to an international business community. Together with eleven other companies from UK, Norway, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, four Swedish companies (Qpharma, Immunovia, Biovent and Alligator Bioscience) and three Danish companies (Symphogen, Meabco and Bioneer) presented their technology to about 130 participants from 12 different countries. “The feedback on this event has been very positive. This Technology Showcase provides a platform for presenting new and exciting technologies within the ECCP main focus areas and is an excellent business opportunity for SMEs and academia,” conclude the two project managers from Medicon Valley Alliance, Pernille Aasholm and Peter Nordström.
A total of 445 participants from 285 companies/organizations and 19 countries joined the ECCP 2011 in France in September. 640 one-to-one meetings were scheduled at the event.
The ECCP has already provided participating companies from Medicon Valley new business contacts, of which Alligator Bioscience is an example. “We are looking for exciting new protein/antibody candidates within cancer (and inflammation) for in-licensing, alternatively collaboration, and we have initiated confidential discussions with one of the companies we met in Toulouse,” says Karin Larsson, Director, Business Development at Alligator Bioscience. ■
For more information about the Technology Showcase 2012, please contact:
Project Manager Medicon Valley Alliance E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Direct: (T) +45 32 87 80 12 (M) +45 20 13 13 01
Senior Project Manager Medicon Valley Alliance E-mail: email@example.com Direct: (T) +45 32 87 80 07 (M) +45 40 10 41 45
Photo: Chistian Hjorth Øhlenschlæger
Merab Kokaia, Professor Ph.D. Lund University
sheds new light on the brain A new technique called optogenetics is in the process of revolutionising neuroscience and may result in many new answers and treatments. It involves very specifically controlling nerve cells in living brains using rays of light. The research is already under way in the Øresund region and several researchers are planning to start working with the method that can give a person the ultimate answer to who he or she is. By Frederik Hedlund, Medicon Journalist Translation: CLS Communication AS
“Optogenetics creates opportunities that simply were not available earlier, i.e. the ability to inhibit or activate a specific population of nerve cells without affecting the other nerve cells. This allows us to study the fundamental mechanisms of how the brain and the networks in the brain work and get answers on the role they play in various processes. This opens up a whole new perspective in research,” says Merab Kokaia, Professor of Neurophysiology at Clinical Sciences Lund. He leads a group of researchers who are mapping the function of various brain cells in epileptic fits and trying to find new ways of stopping the fits. Their latest tool is called optogenetics. This is the very latest thing in neuroscience at the moment. Last year, optogenetics was named the research method of the year by the prestigious scientific journal Nature Methods. At that time the
method had existed for five years. The basic principle can be described as a way of genetically inserting a light-sensitive switch into a certain type of nerve cell in the brain or spinal marrow. Using rays of light it is then possible to switch the nerve cells on or off and thus study how they work. “The nerve cells in the brain are not all the same. For example, there are at least 16 different types of inhibitory nerve cell in the cortex and hippocampus. These populations can be studied individually using optogenetics. Previously, this was completely impossible,” says Merab Kokaia. One of the more sensational experiments was reported back in 2005 by the Austrian researcher Gero Miesenböck, now Professor at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He had introduced an optogenetic switch into a fruit fly’s flight reflex nerves, which meant that it flew when he illuminated it with a laser beam. To show that the fly was not just afraid of the rays of light, he cut the head off the fly, which can live for up to 24 hours without its head, although without being able to
Photo: Karl Deisselroth
Karl Deisselroth, M.D. Ph.D., Stanford University
Photo: Lars Kaae
do anything. When the laser beam struck the headless fly, it began to fly, not as far and not in as controlled a fashion as before, but still it flew. However, the history of optogenetics actually begins much earlier. Back in the early 1970s, microbiologists had discovered that there were microorganisms with proteins that are directly controlled by light. However, it would take over 30 years before brain researchers linked the microbiological findings to their own field. The first successful attempts to insert lightsensitive cells into a different organism were carried out by Gero Miesenböck and his group, but they used a complicated technique that requires several different genes to work. Instead, the optogenetics of today was born when a psychiatrist at the Faculty of Biotechnology and Psychiatry at Stanford University in California, Karl Deisseroth, began to use the genes for the light-sensitive ion channels, so-called opsins. He and his group published their first article in 2005, in which they were able to show that they had succeeded in inserting the gene for the opsin Channelrhodopsin-2 in mammal cells and that they were able to control the cells with light. At that time, optogenetics was an unknown method and now it is used in principle at all major universities worldwide. One reason why the method has grown so fast is Karl Deisseroth’s attitude to sharing his results in very tangible form. Every year he holds courses at the University of Stanford in California, which interested researchers can attend to learn the technique, and he shares all the genetic engineering tools that his group has developed with all researchers who are interested free of charge. To date he has sent clones of various opsins and other items to over 1,000 labs. He likens it to the system of free open source programming code in the computer world. “Some people have been surprised at our approach. But this is based a great deal on my clinical background as a psychiatrist. Every week, I see the need for better, more specific treatments. Therefore, I want to help other researchers get started with optogenetics fast,” he says. Although the method is spreading fast across the world and more and more people are using it, Karl Deisseroth is the clear leading light of optogenetics. Over the past 12-15 months, he has published more articles in Science and Nature than any other researcher has ever done in an equivalent period of time. The most recent was published at the end of July in Nature. In it he used optogenetics to study a hypothesis on the cause of the social behaviour disorder that occurs with autism and schizophrenia. The hypothesis is that it is caused by an imbalance between activation and inhibition of various nerve cells in the brain. The hypothesis could not be tested before as both electrodes and medicines are much too unspecific and would affect both the excitatory (activating) and inhibitory nerve cells in the brain at the same time and
David P.D. Woldbye, Ph.D. Professor, Copenhagen University
thus preserve the imbalance that was to be acted on. But it is possible with optogenetics. By first activating excitatory nerve cells in a mouse, Karl Deisseroth and his group of researchers were able to disturb the mouse’s normal social behaviour so that it resembled what can be seen in autism. When they then activated inhibitory nerve cells, they were able to partially restore the social function disturbed. “The greatest effect of this research is that we have reinforced the evidence of a physical and biological background to something as abstract as social function. It may enhance understanding, empathy and support for psychiatric patients, who are often stigmatised in society today,” says Karl Deisseroth. “Secondarily, the findings may contribute to finding better treatments. We can look for medicines that correct the balance between excitatory and inhibitory nerve cells,” he says. The experiment is also a shining example of the entire point of optogenetics. Thanks to its specificity, it is possible, in one living animal, to activate one nerve signal in the brain and inhibit another at the same time. This is not possible with any other method. It is also on account of its specificity that optogenetics can be used in many different ways. The most common application is to map and understand neuronal networks as Karl Deisseroth uses it. However, others are trying to use optogenetics as a treatment method. One of them is Merab Kokaia in Lund, who is
Optogenetics – how it works By inserting the gene for an opsin, a light-sensitive ion channel, into nerve cells, researchers can use optogenetics to switch nerve cells on or off using rays of light. 1 A genetic sequence is created using a unique promoter for
the nerve cell type to be studied and a gene for an opsin, a light-sensitive ion channel.
2 The gene sequence is inserted into a virus, usually an adeno-
associated virus, AAV. 3 The virus is injected into the brain of
the animal in which the nerve cells to be studied are located. The virus infects all nerve cells in an area 1-2 mm around the injection, but the opsin is released only in the cells that can read the promoter. 4 A fibre optic cable is installed in the
cranium over the area where the nerve cells are located. 5 Light of a specific wavelength in the
fibre optic cable opens the lightsensitive ion channel in the nerve cell and creates or blocks an action potential in the nerve cells, just as if they had reacted to their natural stimulus. In this way, researchers can switch the genetically modified nerve cells on or off.
Graphics: RASK Media ApS, Frederikke Hald
6 The researchers then observe the
mouse’s behaviour and measure its nerve signals to determine the role played by the specific nerve cells they have chosen to switch on or off. Glossary: Promoter: the sequence of base pairs in the DNA that is upstream of a gene and controls the gene’s expression. Opsin: a light-sensitive ion channel, i.e. a channel that is located in the cell’s membrane and, under the impact of light, can be opened to let ions through. There are various opsins that either switch the nerve cells on or off. They react to light of different wavelengths (colours).
trying to develop a method in which he can use optogenetics to treat patients with severe epilepsy. Electrodes are already being inserted into the brains of very ill patients suffering from epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease and being used to control brain cells with electrical signals. However, the electrical impulses affect all the cells near the electrode. By genetically modifying the brain cells of epilepsy patients in their epileptic centre so that they can be inhibited with light, it should be possible instead to moderate epileptic fits without affecting other surrounding cells. “In the future it should also be possible to use it in a closed loop. You have a detector that senses when the convulsions are in the initial stage and activates the optical stimulation that inhibits the convulsions in a specific way. Such systems exist for electrical stimulation. Therefore, it is conceivable for the same principle to be used with optogenetics,” says Merab Kokaia. He is a pioneer in the Øresund region when it comes to optogenetics and he is seeing interest spreading now. “I started working on this in 2006 and the first publication came in 2009, so it takes a little time to get going with the technique. Interest exists and many labs have contacted me to ask about optogenetics. However, not that many have started using it here in the region. In a few years, it will explode here,” he says. One of the researchers who have been inspired by Merab Kokaia and are now at an advanced stage of their planning to start working with optogenetics is David Woldbye, senior lecturer at the Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen. He is one of several Danish researchers who are interested in the new technique. “My impression is that we have been a little slow in getting startet with optogenetics here in Denmark. However, this does not mean in any way that we have no interest in the method. It is undoubtedly a fantastic technique with great potential,” says David Woldbye. His research field concerns gene therapy for brain diseases such as epilepsy, anxiety and Parkinson’s disease. Just like Merab Kokaia, he primarily
intends to use optogenetics to treat seriously ill patients. “There are patients today who have severe treatment-resistant epilepsy, and here we sometimes remove the epileptic centre in their brains by surgery. In both Denmark and Sweden, this procedure is carried out on around 40 patients a year. These patients could conceivably be treated with optogenetics instead,” he says. He thinks he will have the optogenetic lab up and running within a year and he has several colleagues at the department who are interested in using the new technique. Optogenetics is probably a technique that will boost collaboration between Sweden and Denmark in the future. “Copenhagen and Lund are not that far apart. In fact, the distance is less than to the other big university in Denmark, in Århus. As a result, I have been very pleased to be able to interact with Swedish researchers in Lund in recent years. So there is good potential here since we have had the Øresund bridge,” says David Woldbye. However, it will be a long time until it will be possible to use optogenetics as a treatment method even in the most specialised health care. Both agree completely on this. “There is a great deal of work left to be done,” says David Woldbye. “I think we are talking about 5-10 years, but it may be less,” says Merab Kokaia. The thought of treatments involving genetically modified brain cells and optical cables in people’s heads is a vision of the future that may scare some people. And there are some protests against the method in which it is claimed that it will be used to remotely control people in a manner similar to that in which Gero Miesenböck controlled the headless fruit flies. “There is always a risk of science being misused but I think the path to take is to have good control and good legislation on how the technique must be used. You cannot brake science because you are afraid that certain techniques can be used in a controversial manner,” says Merab Kokaia. Karl Deisseroth also affirms that this concern is entirely unrealistic. “Some people may believe that we have achieved such a level of precision in this technique that we are able to switch in principle anything on and off. But even if we have a high level of precision, we are an extremely long way from being able to exert such a type of control over a person. It is not possible to create a remotely controlled person. I can assure you of this,” he says. However, he can understand that people react to the experiment with the headless fly. It shows how important it is for researchers also to be good communicators and understand how people may perceive and interpret things, he says. However, there is another ethical or perhaps even
Microbiological basic research made optogenetics possible The light-sensitive ion channels originally come from extremely unusual organisms and were found by microbiologists without any thought that they might be able to be used in neuroscience. The most common positive ion channel, channelrhodopsin, comes from a monocellular alga that lives in freshwater ponds. It functions as the on button in the nerve cells as it admits positive ions to the cell when it is struck by blue light, which leads to the nerve cell being activated. The negative ion channel halorhodopsin becomes a prehistoric bacterium that lives in extreme saltwater in desert lakes in Egypt. It functions as the off button as it admits negative chloride ions when it is struck by yellow light and the nerve cell then becomes inactive. Karl Deisseroth often emphasises that, without this pioneering work in the form of microbiological basic research, optogenetics could never have been developed. Optogenetics is thus a very good example of why it is so important to preserve both basic research and biodiversity, he says.
more philosophical level to optogenetics and its potential to produce answers on our brain and how it works. “The fact that we can now control such things as anxiety and social behaviour identifies the biological basis of our most complex actions and motivations. It takes us to some of the deepest, unresolved philosophical questions such as what free will is and what actually defines a person. This is a discussion that we in the research community must raise,” says Karl Deisseroth. He thinks that optogenetics is a tool that will help people achieve the highest scientific dream, to be able to understand their own brains. But he also understands that the dream is not shared by all. “I respect people who are uneasy about this. They are either of the view that people cannot understand everything about themselves and their own brains or they think that we should not try. At the same time, I am extremely pleased to be part of a process that enhances our understanding of ourselves.” ■ Links: You Tube: Gero Miesenboeck reengineers a brain You Tube: Controlling the Brain with Light
Opportunities in Massachusetts for MVA-members The collaboration between MassBio and Medicon Valley Alliance (MVA) established as a part of the Life Science Ambassador Programme opens up a number of MassBio services that can be utilised by members of MVA. MassCONNECT MassCONNECT is a mentorship programme focused on creating new companies by helping you build a robust business network that you can tap into to move your inventions out of the lab and into a business. MassBio created MassCONNECT to link new entrepreneurs and founders with seasoned biotechnology professionals and entrepreneurs to: • Provide industry expertise, evaluate and provide feedback on the commercial feasibility of opportunities (technologies that may serve as the basis for start-up or present a value-added license opportunity); • Provide guidance on as well as identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as a means to commercialising your ideas. The goal is to enable new company start-up through partnerships with mentors and to establish the right connections with industry facilitators. This may result in working with venture capitalists, angel investors and other financiers who will help launch your company. The service is open to Medicon Valley biotech members and would especially help young companies develop a network in Massachusetts, while also receiving valuable advice from high-level US industry experts.
MassBio Global Innovation Exchange MassBio’s Innovation Exchange facilitates the exchange of technology, molecules, diagnostics and tools out of academia and biotechnology and into large pharmaceutical companies. It circumvents bottlenecks to collaboration such as: • Not knowing who in industry you should reach out to • Not knowing who the internal champions are • Not understanding internal review processes and gate-keeper criteria • Not knowing what type of information industry wants to receive The Exchange works on a push-based mechanism, which means that uploaded opportunities of interest are directly routed to the interested pharma company on the back-end. At the moment there are over 300 technologies
in the exchange and three large pharma companies signed on to review potential opportunities: Shire, Merck and Takeda. Soon to come on board are Sanofi, BMS, AstraZeneca and Abbott. These pharma companies are actively looking at the Exchange to search for and evaluate opportunities as it serves as a one-stop-shop for all technologies, not just in Massachusetts but on a global scale as well. Discover
MBC Global Innovation Exchange powered by ideaPoint
Small Biotech Academic Research
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In addition, opportunities to showcase technologies can be added to the Global Innovation Exchange in advance of partnering and networking functions. If a major pharmaceutical company is carrying out a Pharma Day, they come to present and meet one-onone with biotech companies and universities. Providing a submission into the Global Innovation Exchange prior to the event allows their business development team to view your opportunity. Thus the Exchange leverages the personal interaction of partnering meetings with the secure confidential exchange of information using cutting-edge technology.
Global Gateway Day Once a year MassBio organises a partnering event called Global Gateway Day. This event, exclusive to international biotech companies, is an intensive partnering session designed to connect MassBio’s international partners with Massachusetts-based biotech & pharma business
development contacts, venture capitalists and angel investors. Scheduled as a half-day event, each biotech company will pitch their idea and company to 15 top pharma BDs contacts and VCs. The feedback from last year’s event was extremely positive and encouraging. The next event is scheduled to take place in connection with BioPharm America in 2012.
Nanomedicine Partnering Mission to US Nano Connect Scandinavia and Medicon Valley Alliance invite you to join a partnering mission in January 2012 to the two most interesting nanomedicine clusters in the USA, North Carolina and Massachusetts. The programme includes visits to some of the world’s leading universities, research teams and biotech companies working within nanomedicine. Massachusetts is home to a biotechnology cluster that is second to none. There are more than 480 biotechnology companies in Massachusetts and 277 of them are developing therapeutic drugs. The cluster has some of the most interesting nanomedicine companies and academic research centres in the world, including the MIT-Harvard Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence and the WYSS Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. North Carolina is also known throughout the world for its life science industry and has the third largest concentration of biotech companies in the USA. The cluster has approximately 70 nanotech companies and 35 nanomedicine companies and is recognised as one of the leaders in nanotechnology in the USA. A total of 35 nanotech university research centres as well as major research parks are also located in North Carolina. The Nanomedicine Partnering Mission is an opportunity to meet new partners and gain insight into the latest research and best practice within nanomedicine in the USA.
Pharma Days As one of MassBio’s new partnering programmes, Pharma Days are designed to maximize buyer and seller interactions and to prospect for pipeline growth. Pharma Days gather more than 120 biotechnology companies in one place, bringing buyers and sellers together for face-to-face conversations. This highly efficient forum reduces meeting set-up inefficiencies and provides an intimate opportunity for you to meet with the pharma company in an intimate setting. Pharma Days planning starts at least eight weeks in advance, so if there is international interest in attending the event we will be able to work with you to make it a useful event for you. More information: If you have an interest in participating in any of the services listed, please contact MVA’s Life Science Ambassador in Massachusetts, Torsten Jepsen by email: Torsten.firstname.lastname@example.org; telephone: + 1 617 475 1637; mobile: + 1 617 583 2044. ■
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If you have further questions please don’t hesitate to contact the organisers: Nano Connect Scandinavia Majken L. Møller, DTU Email: email@example.com Lund University Line Lundfald, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org MVA’s Life Science Ambassador, Massachusetts Torsten Jepsen, Email: email@example.com
Anders Hedegaard CEO of Bavarian Nordic Photo: Peter Dahlerup
Great expectations for new cancer vaccine 1,200 patients in 300 hospitals across 20 countries are taking part in phase 3 studies for a vaccine for prostate cancer, which the biotech company Bavarian Nordic and its business partner will be launching before the end of the year. By Birgitte Aabo Translation: CLS Communication A/S
“One little jab and that’s it!” Worried children often need reassuring and persuading before the needle with the vaccine slides into their shoulders. But for men who will soon be voluntarily exposing a patch of skin ready for a dose of the Prostvac vaccination, the injection brings hope. They are all very ill with prostate cancer and have a life expectancy of only one to two years – unless the vaccine can prolong their lives. Bavarian Nordic in Kvistgård, north of Copenhagen, strongly believes that Prostvac will make a vital difference, and the upcoming phase 3 study will confirm that the vaccine can prolong life for patients who have developed metastases and are seriously ill. This faith is based on science – the essence of years of work and phase 2 results that show it prolongs life by almost 50%. But it is also based faith that will have to wait to be well-documented science for another two and half to three years, when 1,200 patients have completed either the vaccination programme or a placebo treatment.
We have grown rapidly and have had no redundancy rounds, but the biotech industry goes up and down, and we feel it. It’s how the industry works. Only then will the statisticians sitting at their computers with the figures from the 300 hospitals in the 20 participating countries break the security code and obtain the answer so vital for prostate cancer sufferers – and for the biotech company: “On the day the code is broken, the tension is intense. It will be a big day. The only fact we can address during the study is the death toll, and
although it is enough to encourage some employees to try to assess the effect, it is pure guesswork. We won’t know where we stand until the day we open all the material. But we have high expectations that Prostvac will set whole new standards for treating prostate cancer,” says CEO Anders Hedegaard, who has experienced similar dizzying heights in other companies but not yet at Bavarian Nordic.
Only swings Generally speaking, there’s been no lack of excitement during the four years he has the boss’ chair in the corner office in one of the buildings that houses 260 employees in Kvistgård, while the rest of the 450 employees work in Germany, the USA and Singapore. “We have grown rapidly and have had no redundancy rounds, but the biotech industry goes up and down,
Blue book: Anders Hedegaard Education Graduated from the Technical University of Denmark as a chemical engineer specialising in molecular biology. Career In 1988, scientific staff member in the Genetic Engineering Group, from 1988-91 Market Manager at AGA, then nine years with Novo Nordisk, ending as Marketing Director. Group Director from 2000-02 and then a five-year period as a board member and with responsibility for the Group’s commercial activities in AlkAbelló, which manufactures allergy vaccines. He was appointed CEO of Bavarian Nordic four years ago when the biotech company had just won an order worth billions for smallpox vaccine for the US Department of Defense.
and we feel it. It’s how the industry works – there are things that don’t turn out the way you would like. Bavarian Nordic is a company that always has some major events on the horizon, but we don’t have a vast portfolio of projects and turnover to draw on like, say, Novo Nordisk, so we can’t make up on the swings what we lose on the roundabouts. Much of what we work with is binary – either it works, or it doesn’t. For example, we took a big chance based on advanced discussions with potential partners and spread the word that we expected to have a business partner for Prostvac within a certain time frame. It didn’t work out, and the impact was very dramatic – share prices dropped,” explains Anders Hedegaard. Afterwards he led a campaign to raise DKK 650 million in capital via a rights issue in May, which equipped Bavarian to proceed with its prostate vaccine alone: “We are still very interested in finding a business partner, and are always working on that aspect. However, we don’t need a business partner now that we have the money to complete the phase 3 study ourselves. It won’t be necessary until we reach the point of launching Prostvac on the market,” says Anders Hedegaard, who has just returned this morning from one of his many US business trips – as so often before, the meetings with the Americans involved the Imvamume smallpox vaccination.
Smallpox vaccine at the ready
Photo: Bavarian Nordic
Imvamume is a third generation smallpox vaccine that, along with Provac, carries Bavarian Nordic. The
smallpox vaccine was developed in cooperation with the American authorities, which have invested four billion in the project as part of their bioterrorism preparedness – even though the smallpox virus has been declared extinct, US bioterrorism experts are concerned that in the hands of terrorists, the highly infectious smallpox virus could pose a threat to the US population. When Anders Hedegaard was appointed head of the biotech company four years ago, a long-awaited and vital US order for the smallpox vaccine had just been finalised and Asger Aamund, Chairman of the Board and Co-founder of Bavarian Nordic, gave the new CEO the task of taking Bavarian Nordic from its position as a leading biotech company to a position as a pharmaceutical manufacturing company. The steam discretely rising from the company chimney on this beautiful Autumn day testifies that this mission has been accomplished, as behind the walls, production of the smallpox vaccine is under way. Although the smallpox vaccine still requires phase 3 studies, it has shown such clear and convincing results that by the end of this year, the Americans will have bought 6 million doses. Orders for another 14 million doses have been placed for the years ahead and the Americans have an option to order up to 60 million doses. The cooperation between the US authorities and Bavarian Nordic has also been praised in a new report from an independent congressional body that has evaluated the USA’s bioterrorism preparedness. The report describes Imvamune as one of the greatest success stories in the prevention of bioterrorism in
Photo: Bavarian Nordic
the past ten years – “a text book example” of how things should be done. Smaller quantities of Imvamume have also been sold – mainly to the military – in Canada, an Asian country, Denmark and two other NATO countries.
same patented technology (called poxvirus technology) as the smallpox vaccination. In addition to Prostvac, the company has achieved good clinical results with CVAC-301, which has been developed to fight cancer on a broader scale. Whereas Prostvac contains a single antigen directed specifically at prostate cancer, CVAC “This reinforces our cancer portfolio considerably. If and when we break through with Prostvac, it will set the trend for the significant use of vaccines to fight cancer. And we are ready with CVAC-301, which creates a range of product opportunities for us,” explains Anders Hedegaard. At the moment, the National Cancer Institute is conducting a phase 2 study with breast cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy alone or in combination with CVAC-301. The study will be completed in the spring: “If the findings are as good as those we have seen in the initial studies, we may skip a larger phase 2 study and move directly to phase 3. It would be unusual but the initial results with CVAC-301 look very promising,” says Anders Hedegaard, who celebrated some years ago a large US order by treating all the employees at Kvistgård to cake and champagne. They hope there will be similar cause for celebration in the years ahead – many of them, with any luck. ■
Cooperation on cancer vaccines
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Bavarian Nordic is also cooperating with the American authorities on their cancer vaccines, which basically involve boosting patients’ own immune systems to fight the cancer: “The idea of boosting the immune system rather than poisoning the body with chemotherapy appeals to most people,” says Anders Hedegaard. He can see a large and unexplored market ahead, as currently only one vaccine for prostate cancer is available on the market, and according to the CEO, it has a number of significant major disadvantages in relation to Prostvac. The market is virgin but not due to a lack of attempts to create cancer vaccines: “If you consider the churchyard full of companies that have failed in their attempts to create a cancer vaccine, you might think that it will probably fail again. But at some point someone will succeed with new research. We believe we can succeed because we have far more convincing data to work with thanks to our cooperation with the National Cancer Institute, and which also gives us an entirely different professionalism than many other companies.”
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Bavarian Nordic’s cancer vaccines are based on the
Is there gold in the science parks? “The science park for people the life sciences” - that is how Medeon in Malmö describes its business. Medeon helps life science companies grow and be strong.” By Eva Tiwe Translation: CLS Communication A/S “While Ideon in Lund only has 30 per cent of its companies working in life sciences, Medeon has 100 per cent,” says Medeon’s CEO, Bengt Lövdén, explaining the difference between the companies. And he does not see any competition between the two.
at Medeon or withdraw and stand on their own two feet. “Our philosophy has been that every growth industry has its unique needs.” The benefits proclaimed on the website include: Adapted premises with the opportunity for new build.
“We have mutual respect for each other.” Medeon is home to around 30 companies with 450 employees and has experienced significant growth since the first meeting on 8 January 1985. SUN, the University of Gothenburg’s joint venture with business and industry, among others, took the initiative for the discussions. “Medeon is a stimulating environment, a network. Not an office, more of a meeting place.” The city of Malmö finances this development and marketing company, together with Wihlborgs Fastigheter, which holds a 40 per cent stake. Medeon is part of the city’s business policy strategy. The contract with Wihlborgs Fastigheter, which is responsible for Medeon’s lease, expires during 2011, but Bengt Lövdén is optimistic that the collaboration will continue. This is where life science growth companies have the opportunity to develop through fertile collaboration with each other. But is there gold in the science parks? “That is not the aim. But companies in this sector can certainly develop into something bigger if they have good growth potential,” says Bengt Lövdén. “There is great potential in science parks in general, and our participation in Medeon Science Park gives us both goodwill and good contacts,” says Anders Jarl, CEO of Wihlborgs Fastigheter.
The future looks bright for Medeon. “What’s good for Malmö is good for Wihlbergs.” The companies themselves decide if they will remain
Close collaboration between the healthcare sector and the university. Strong incubator and networking functions. Excellent services, including reception, switchboard, travel agent and restaurant. “More and more companies within pharmaceuticals, medical technology, biotechnology and healthcare are attracted by Medeon’s activities.” New buildings are planned and will give the area a more attractive profile. A total of 100,000 square metres is reserved for life science enterprises. When Medeon, formerly known as Ideon-Malmö, formulated its business concept at the first meeting, said: “Establishment of companies within the pharmaceutical technology, medical technology and disabled technology sectors, as well as various companies that provide various types of services to the direct healthcare sector.” SUN, the city of Malmö and MAS provided the funding of SEK 10 million. The ground was broken on 24 January 1985. The second stage was begun on 24 April 1985. Six companies moved into the buildings. Initially, plans were for 30,000 square metres. Around two years later, there were 11 companies in Ideon-Malmö, including Pharmacia, Nycomed and Leo. Today there are more than 30 companies of varying sizes in what is now known as Medeon, located close to Malmö University Hospital (UMAS). On 24 September 1998, Ideon-Malmö changed to Medeon AB after a Malmö council decision, and in 2002,
the city of Malmö became the majority shareholder. The company structure was changed so it was clearer that the company had activities within the general business-promoting area for enterprises associated primarily with the former University Hospital MAS, now Skåne University Hospital (SUS), the Faculty of Odontology and Malmö University. “Our task was to create better conditions for new businesses and increase employment,” says Bengt Lövdén.
It is possible to rent an office, a whole floor or build a new building at Medeon. In Medeon’s incubator, companies with a business concept within medical technology, biotechnology or pharmaceuticals have the opportunity to grow. The only condition is that the business concept is assessed to have potential for growth. Support is provided in all conceivable ways, including assistance with business plans, lectures, consultancy and coaching for a maximum of two years. The incubator also provides assistance with finances, legal matters and marketing. “The incubator is primarily for innovative ideas and
up and coming companies, and to get a place you have to undergo a selection process. You present your business concept to us here at Medeon and to our collaborators, and we decide whether we can offer you a place,” explains Bengt Lövdén. Furnished offices, cleaning services, favourable rent, conference rooms, copying facilities and broadband are only some of the benefits a new company has access to in order to make a company start-up as smooth as possible. At the moment, there are eight companies in the incubator, including Cerotto, Chromalytica and Humanus Dental. There are currently more than 600 members in Medeon’s network, which promotes contact between researchers, life science enterprises and healthcare professionals. Popular talks, in a number of fields, are held at the four annual network events, which are followed by the opportunity to mingle, in order to promote both business and research contacts among members. ■ You can read more about Medeon at www.medeon.se.
Mats Leifland, CEO Medicin Village
Photo: Annika Persson, Precius People
Medicon Village raises the pulse in Medicon Valley Medicon Village in Lund opens its doors on 10 January. When AstraZeneca hands over the facility, there are already several members waiting to move in to the new Life Science village. Around 500 jobs are expected to be created in various enterprises in the facility from the outset. In an area of 80,000 m2, researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs will work together under the same flag to create value for peopleâ€™s health and better lives. Caring for the little things and involvement in the big things will characterise life in Medicon Village.
Medicon Village and the future research facilities, MAX IV and ESS, will constitute world-class infrastructure, giving the entire Øresund region a big boost and creating breadth and growth opportunities for Life Science research and business in the region. The focus will be on research in Medicon Village and synergies will be created with the innovators and entrepreneurs. Lund University is planning a centre for cancer research in Medicon Village and Region Skåne is working to locate parts of the planned regional cancer centre and biobank in the facility. The facility is also close to other important players such as Skåne University Hospital, Lund Bio Imaging Centre, Clinical Trial Skåne (CRC) and the Biomedical Center (BMC). Interdisciplinary collaboration is sending ripples way beyond the Øresund region. Medicon Village wants to be involved and create a world-class Life Science region.
Meetings that create opportunities At the beginning of March last year, AstraZeneca’s management announced that the company was leaving Lund and moving its research to its facility in Mölndal. The announcement came as a tremendous shock to Lund, but the change in circumstances was quickly transformed into opportunity. Allan Larsson (Chair of the Board of Lund University, ESS negotiator and a well-known name on the political stage) took charge from day one. This was on behalf of Lund University, Region Skåne and the cities of Lund and Malmö. Allan Larsson faced an equation that was difficult to solve, the task of finding a buyer for a large-scale facility with high-quality laboratory premises who was willing to pay. And preferably as much as possible, as the idea was for the difference to be reinvested in research and innovation rather than to create profit for the owners. As it turns out, even the most difficult equations can be solved if you look at the opportunities rather than the difficulties. The concept, to create a meeting place for research, innovation and business in the field of Life Science, emerged steadily under the guidance of Allan Larsson. The idea of creative meetings and cross-border collaboration was to become the core of Medicon Village. The interesting concept journey had been followed from the start by the entrepreneur Mats Paulsson, one of the founders of the construction company Peab. An entrepreneur at an early age, Mats Paulsson quickly saw that what he is conserned, namely caring for the little things, could be realised in Medicon Village. By personally donating SEK 100 million to a foundation, Mats Paulsson found the solution to the equation and the purchase of AstraZeneca’s premises could go ahead. In less than one year, the idea, the will and the money
came together to create value for people’s health and better lives. The academic, political and business worlds were able to present a triple-helix solution that wasn’t half bad. Being able to develop and drive this enterprise is incredibly exciting.
Better growth opportunities for small companies In its care for the little things, it will be important for Medicon Village to create a good innovation environment and help small companies grow. A business park linked to an expansive research and innovation environment will create fruitful new arenas. Small companies will get proximity to research, clinical departments and innovation while being offered the advantages of large companies as part of a large structure. In particular, the facility offers high-quality laboratory premises with an area of 30,000 m2. The equipment was previously used by AstraZeneca, but can now instead be used by the small companies that move in. As the companies can share expensive equipment with others, they gain access to development-critical equipment that they cannot afford to buy themselves. The same applies to IT solutions, databases and business support. Costs can be saved here too by sharing common resources. A Science Support Centre will help companies and function as a one-stop shop for assistance on hiring the right instruments and finding the right expertise, among other things.
By Anette Orheim, Medicon Village Translation: CLS Communication A/S
Environment from Medicon Village
Lund Life Science Incubator is one of the enterprises planning to move in to Medicon Village and thus also triple the area of its current premises. The move would grant access to the wider range of equipment available and the opportunity for small companies to remain in the incubator for longer. In particular, a new environment would create the conditions to help companies during the important growth phase as well. By involvement in the big things, the conditions are created for the little things. This is the essence of what we want to offer our members at Medicon Village.
We all know that it is a long road from research to innovation, growth and viability for a Life Science company. Now that the Swedish side of Medicon Valley is changing shape and becoming an arena for small companies, good help with business development is required. Making the wrong choices from the start, in the important but long development phase, could prove disastrous and expensive. A recently published Danish report shows that many companies in the Life Science field lose a year because they do not have sufficient information or the right information. As a result, they base their decisions regarding customers, markets or product development on incorrect assumptions. An important cornerstone of Medicon Village will be a new research institute for future studies and business intelligence, the Life Science Foresight
Baton with Points of View “The Baton” is a point of View feature about life science in Medicon Valley. It is written by business people, researchers, politicans ans opinionshapers with a personal and extensive commitment to Medicon Valley. The holder of the Baton passes it on to a new person along with one or more questions related to life science in Medicon Valley. Mats Leifland gives the relay baton to Carsten Rose, Professor RCC Syd (Regionalt Cancercentrum Syd). The question that Mats Leifland will pose to Carsten Rose: “How can the cancer research cluster in the Öresund region help tomorrow’s innovators?”
A world-class Øresund region with a special belief in the future
Main Entrance at Medicon Village
Institute. The institute has already begun its operations as an EU-financed project but has the ambition to become a national or Scandinavian institute. A platform in Medicon Valley means favourable development for the institute and for the customers with which the institute works. Cross-border collaboration The mix between researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs is one of the main ingredients in the concept created by Allan Larsson. The aim is for new opportunities to be created in the interface and cooperation between the regional actors, the university and the business community. A good example, and the first company to move in to Medicon Village, is Bactiguard. The Swedish medical devices company is moving in with a strategy and marketing office. Bactiguard’s establishment in Medicon Village creates new openings for crossborder collaboration between the health care sector, the academic world and industry. The fact that Bactiguard is growing fast in an international arena also making it a good example for the medical devices start-ups that are in the process of becoming established. The objective for Medicon Village is to create an internationally competitive business park and attract both small and large expansive life science companies. Teamwork is our guiding star. The ball is rolling and we will score a few goals along the way. The lettable area of Medicon Village is the size of 11 football pitches. ■
New members & Upcoming Events Expand your network:
Latest members of Medicon Valley Alliance Medicon Village AB www.mediconvillage.se Ideon Medicon Village want to create an environment where research, innovation and enterprise interact to create value for human health and wellbeing. Together with the medical research centres – BMC in Lund and CRC in Malmö – and the future research facilities MAX IV and ESS, Ideon Medicon Village forms a world-class infrastructure and thus provides a major boost to the entire region and its attractiveness. In total, the premises to be let comprise around 80 000 m2, of which around 30 000 m2 are laboratories.
Red Glead Discovery AB www.redglead.com RED GLEAD DISCOVERY offers first-rate contract research services focused on Lead Discovery by combining a range of
internal competencies (project management, IP, chemistry, biology and DMPK) with a supplementary network of experts and resources. Our customers are pharmaceutical companies but also regional players who have need for combinations or parts of our competencies. We initially consist of seven scientists with long experience from global pharma. Ricerca Bioscience www.ricerca.com Ricerca Bioscienses is a preclinical one-stop shop: - A leading European GLP safety and toxicology facility, offering all common GLP tox species (Lyon, France) - The widest catalog of discovery pharmacology assays, including in-vitro profiling, in-vivo disease models, functional assays, and more (Taiwan, Seattle US) - North American GMP chemistry facility supporting drug discovery and development and offering radiochemistry and other specialty services (Cleveland US)
Events by Medicon Valley Alliance DECEMBER 2011 December 1 Annual Meeting, Lundbeck, Valby Medicon Valley 2020: The Attractiveness of Medicon Valley and the Challenges Ahead The theme of the Annual Meeting 2011 is about ensuring the attractiveness of Medicon Valley in the years to come. The keynote speaker will be Mr Jan Leschly, Chairman and partner of Care Capital. Presentations will also be given by representatives from Merck Serono Ventures and LEO Pharma. The Annual Meeting is also an excellent opportunity to network with other life science professionals in Medicon Valley. Venue: Main Auditorium, H. Lundbeck A/S, Ottiliavej 9, Valby/Copenhagen Time: 13.30 – 19.30 More information: www.mva.org/AM2011 December 5 Boost seminar: Outsourcing to the East, Ideon, Lund This Boost seminar is organised by MVA in partnership with our member Pharmacosmos Cro and is free of charge. The seminar focus on the challenges of selecting the right partners for clinical development in the East. The focus of this seminar will be China and India. Venue: Alfa Building, Ideon, Scheelevägen 17, Lund Time: 9.00 - 14.00 More information: www.mva.org/content/us/initiatives December 6 Boost seminar: Outsourcing to the East, Ørestad This Boost seminar is organised by MVA in partnership with our member Pharmacosmos Cro and is free of charge for
members. The seminar focus on the challenges of selecting the right partners for clinical development in the East. The focus of this seminar will be China and India. Venue: Main Auditorium, Edvard Thomsens Vej 14, Ørestad/Copenhagen Time: 9.00 – 14.00 More information: www.mva.org/content/us/initiatives
JANUARY 2012 January 19-20 The Secret Sauce of Dealmaking - an Intensive, Hands-on Practical Course MVA in cooperation with BioMentorz is proud to offer you the opportunity to participate in the Secret Sauce of Dealmaking hands-on course. It is a skill honing course targeted at individuals who are tasked with developing collaborations directly or as a key collateral assignment to their other daily activities. Venue: To be decided. Time: To be decided. More information: www.mva.org/calendar January 22-28 NanoMedicine Partnering Mission – North Carolina and Massachusetts Nano Connect Scandinavia and Medicon Valley Alliance are pleased to invite you to join us on an exciting mission to the two most interesting nanomedicine clusters in the U.S, North Carolina and Massachusetts. More information can be found at a later date online. Venue: North Carolina and Massachusetts More information: www.mva.org/calendar
LifeSciences Insight - No 4 - 2011
No 4 - 2011
The Magazine about Life and Science in Medicon Valley
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40: Optogenetics sheds
new light on the brain 06:
Pharma and Facebook
Medicon Valley’s financial challenge
Learn why dealmaking is an art, not a science
Published on May 7, 2012
Published on May 7, 2012
LifeSciences Insight is solely devoted to the life science industry. The magazine addresses numerous relevant issues like Economy, Investme...