02 Nov 2012, Manasi Vaidya, BioSpectrum
Singapore: Denmark has been accelerating its efforts towards promoting life science research in the country in a substantial way. One of the initiatives taken by the country is the establishment of the Medicon Valley, Europe's second largest life sciences cluster spread across Denmark and its neighboring country Sweden. There are 439 companies in Medicon Valley, of which 160 are located in Denmark.
On his recent visit to India, the Danish High Commissioner Mr Freddy Svane revealed to BioSpectrum that, "The Medicon Valley offers a good plug-and-play facility. Additionally, we have a very flexible labor market, which is easy to hire and fire, allowing companies to scale up or scale down according to market conditions. We have some of the lowest corporate taxes in Europe at 25 percent and plans in the works for lowering that as well."
Denmark is not a part of the Eurozone, which is currently in the midst of a severe financial crunch. About the Eurozone debt crisis affecting them, he says, "In the European context, with the Eurozone debt and other issues, we still have a competitive economy. It does affect us, as we depend on trade with these countries. We only have a few big companies that are global in nature, but we have thousands of smaller companies that are very skilled in technology, clean tech and life sciences. We have an open economy, and since we are a very small country we are dependent on global trade and in that context we have been open minded."
Another unique feature that is being promoted is the National Biobank in Denmark. According to a report put out by the Danish government, more than 15 million blood and tissue samples have been collected to be stored at the national biobank at Copenhagen, making it one of the largest in the world. The Danish National Biobank hopes to attract biomedical researchers by allowing access to this plethora of samples that can aid in research.
The biobank contains blood samples taken from all Danish children born after 1982. Blood samples collected from expectant mothers, has allowed for research on the transmission of disease carrying genes to off springs to be studied as well. Since the samples can be traced to a particular individual, the genetic changes resulting in diseases in later parts of the person's life can be studied on a more detailed basis. In addition to the biological material stored here, a number of hospitals have their own biobanks as well.
Professor Michael Theisen, Statens Serum Institut and Vaccines, who has been working at Medicon Valley for 20 years, said that the companies that are a part of the cluster are making rapid progress. He said, "Staten Serums Institute has had a long tradition in producing biologicals, vaccines, and diagnostics. There are similar companies in Medicon valley such as Symphogen who is working on vaccine for cancer and they have just signed a contract with Merck for it. The company grew really quickly and have a made a huge success on a global scale with their IPR. Another company is Bavarian Nordic that is doing very well in vaccines. The intellectual environment there can be very stimulating."
Professor Theisen also said that he thinks Denmark is a good place to live and work. He added that, "Copenhagen in Denmark is a very good place to bring your family, easy access to airport, and other facilities. A good educational system and a pleasant life are also major advantages. Once you have established yourself in Denmark, you have access to all of Europe."