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Three different drugs developed in Finland have received a marketing authorization during the past year, and a positive decision is expected on the application of a fourth marketing authorization. All the drugs that were granted a marketing authoirzation have been developed in Turku. The local drug development is based on long traditions and a functioning ecosystem which is also known internationally.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted this year a marketing authorization for two drugs developed in Turku. One is the intrauterine device Skyla developed by Bayer and intended especially for women who have not given birth. The other is Hormos Medical’s precision drug Ophena for postmenopausal symptoms. The third drug innovation coming from Turku is Selincro, developed by Biotie for the treatment of alcohol addiction, for which the European Medicines Agency (EMA) granted a marketing authorization in 27 EU countries.
"Turku has a strong tradition of drug development which dates back to the 1940s. Behind the innovations lies academic research, and there have always been active and growth-oriented companies that have the product development expertise. That cooperation continues to be a key model for the innovation process," says Risto Lammintausta, founder of Hormos Medical about the reasons for the global success of drug development based in Turku.
Three marketing authorizations is a high figure for one country, as only around 30 new drugs per year receive a marketing authorization in Europe. The exports of pharmaceutical products from Finland have multiplied: in 2002 the value of exports of pharmaceutical products stood at 0.4 billion euro, and last year it totalled 1.1 billion euro.
Turku holds a key position in the development of the biotechnology and life science sectors in Finland, and the local drug development is globally known in the industry.
"New companies gain competitive advantage from experienced players of the industry in the region, and in the future increasingly from synergy with diagnostics companies. There are currently 4 small pharmaceutical companies operating in Turku which have very promising drug projects in clinical testing," Dr Lammintausta continues.
HealthBIO cluster accelerates co-operation
Part of the OSKE Centre of Expertise Program initiated in 2007 by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the HealthBIO cluster has gathered different players for closer cooperation in the development of top expertise in biotechnology. HealthBIO operates under Turku Science Park Oy, and Program Director Tero Piispanen stresses the importance of OSKE to the evolution of Turku’s pharmaceutical industry into one of the global leaders.
"OSKE has been an indispensable forum for the internationalization of biotechnology companies. BioTurku in particular has been active in international partnering events where companies look for business partners. Turku’s drug development is a brand in itself which is known around the world in the pharmaceutical industry.”
"The focus has always been on the patient’s point of view, and that has certainly affected the success of drug development in Turku. The first consideration is how the innovations could benefit patients," Mr Piispanen says.
Biobank as a resource in the drug development ecosystem
The growth is based on Turku’s strong infrastructure in drug development. The contacts of the University of Turku with the University Hospital and hospital districts have made it possible to start biobank operations. The samples collected to the Auria Biobank can be used in medical research to promote the development of drugs and precision diagnostics. That creates an uninterrupted chain from scientific invention to product.
"The biobank is an important part of the drug development ecosystem that has accumulated in Turku over the decades. The future health care and individualized treatment give the enterprises an opportunity for successful business and offer the municipalities a chance to develop the quality of health care in a cost-efficient way. At its best, drug development expertise provides international competitive advantage for Turku and the whole of Finland," says Aleksi Randell, the Mayor of Turku.
Aleksi Randell, Mayor of Turku, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +358 2 262 7224