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Danish pharma and biotech cluster

Global leader in percentage of biotechnology patents.

Photographs: iStock

Text: Mariano Anthony Davies

The official statistics speak for themselves and explain why so many biotech companies have chosen Denmark as the leading country in Europe for R&D, where more biotechnology patents have been registered than any other country in this part of the world. As a result, Denmark has the largest commercial drug pipeline and is globally one of the most R&D intensive areas for researcher concentration.

The cleantech and life science sector is vital for Denmark that the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has Special Advisors and Investment Specialists dedicated to this sector with representatives in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Oslo, Munich and London.

Denmark offers attractive business solutions for foreign biotech companies. The Danish biotechnology cluster is a significant world player, especially in enzymes, CNS (Central Nervous System) research, diabetes care and cancer research. In addition, clinical trials are in general approved faster in Denmark than anywhere else, which explains why companies choose Denmark for drug discovery and development.

A long-standing agricultural tradition created a research industry in Denmark more than 150 years ago and since then, research methods have continuously developed, and the biotech industry emerged in the 1970s as a new recombinant DNA technology evolved. With the help of recombinant DNA (also referred to as genetic engineering), proteins can be produced, such as human insulin and other drugs in cells that are grown under controlled conditions. Since the 1970s, biotechnology has created more than 200 new medicines and vaccines, including drugs to treat diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS and autoimmune diseases. Biotechnology is also the cause of hundreds of diagnostic tests.

The Medicon Valley Alliance was formed in 1997 as a natural result of the completion of the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. Medicon Valley is the bi-national life science cluster spanning the island of Zealand in Eastern Denmark and the Skåne-Region of Southern Sweden. It is the crucible of Scandinavian life sciences. Located at the gateway to Denmark and Sweden, it has a vibrant ecosystem and deep talent pool underpinned by world-class life science universities and research infrastructure. Set in a competitive business environment with the Scandinavian quality of life close at hand, Medicon Valley is an attractive location for both business and people.

Medicon Valley facts & figures

• Employs 40.000+ people.

• Has 12 universities and 32 hospitals.

• 80+ biotech, 20+ pharma and 100+ medtech companies.

• 7 science parks & 6 incubators.

One of the main reasons for Denmark and Southern Sweden’s stronghold within biotechnology today is the presence of world-class universities, university hospitals, research centres and private companies of various sizes, all working at the forefront of biotech research, targeting medicine as well as environmentally friendly products and solutions. Furthermore, this research leads to cutting edge development, more than likely due to a Danish educational system that teaches students to work together in an interdisciplinary context, resulting in efficient teamwork and innovative research and products.

Another contributing factor for the Danish position within biotechnology is a powerful and unique interplay between the Danish universities and industry, domestically and abroad. University students often work with the industry on their master’s degree thesis or PhD. In addition, it is not uncommon to see competitors joining forces to support or establish various university research centres. There is a strong culture of collaboration between universities, hospitals and companies all over Denmark.

The European Spallation Source (ESS) is one of the most significant science and technology infrastructure projects being built today. It is a pan-European project built by at least 17 European countries, with Sweden and Denmark (Medicon Valley) as the host nations. The ESS facility will be built in Lund, whilst the ESS Data Management and Software Centre will be in Copenhagen. The facility design and construction include the most powerful linear proton accelerator ever built, a 4-tonne, helium-cooled tungsten target wheel, 22 state-of-the-art neutron instruments, a suite of laboratories and a supercomputing data management and software development centre.

Medicon Valley has a rich life science heritage and pioneering spirit that continues to attract many successful companies, who can use this unique science-minded environment to carry out cutting edge development.

"Another contributing factor for the Danish position within biotechnology is a powerful and unique interplay between the Danish universities and industry, domestically and abroad."
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