Big companies increasingly interested in Finnish life science expertise


The HealthBIO event attracted nearly 200 visitors to Turku to discuss the current state and future of the Life Science sector in Finland. Over the past year, the sector has seen a slight increase in the number of new companies, exports and acquisitions. The Drug Development Centre, which will start its first year of operation in 2023, aims to improve the translation of Finnish research expertise to markets, also internationally.

Tero Piispanen, Senior Executive of HealthTurku, traditionally opened the HealthBIO event with his annual overview of the state of the industry. According to him, exports, turnover and employment in the life sciences sector in Finland are now at a record high. Over the past year, 17 new companies have been created in the sector, six of them in the Turku region.

“There is a slight upward trend in the number of new companies being set up after a few years of decline,” said Mr Piispanen.

Tero Piispanen, Senior Executive of HealthTurku, gave a snapshot of the sector to kick off HealthBIO.

At the same time, mergers of small and medium-sized companies with large pharmaceutical companies and acquisitions are on the rise, reflecting the interest of large companies in Finnish expertise and the activity of the sector.

“This is great for the sector, but on the other hand, the Finnish industry is becoming less entrepreneur-driven, which will in some way change the market dynamics. We should think about how to attract more medium-sized companies to the sector as part of the network. At present, it is often only when they are owned by an international company that they have access to wider international markets,” Piispanen said.

Investment in manufacturing in both the pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries is also growing strongly in Finland.

All in all, according to Piispanen, the pharmaceutical sector in Finland has undergone a lot of changes in recent years, which shows that the sector has matured.

Jyrki Liljeroos, Chairman of the Board of the Drug Development Centre, believes it is now important to build a network of cooperation and partners around the centre. Many people at HealthBIO were interested in talking to Liljeroos about potential partnerships.

Drug development centre to start operations next year

A big new opening for the Finnish life science sector is the Drug Development Centre, which will start its operations in Turku in 2023. Jyrki Liljeroos, Chairman of the Board of the Drug Development Centre, told the HealthBIO audience about the background, current situation and next steps of the centre. The government’s decision to fund the Drug Development Centre with €20 million enabled the concrete planning of the activities.

The next steps for the Centre include the recruitment of a CEO and other senior management.

“Another important step now is to build trust with key stakeholders and to form a national and international network of collaborators and partners,” Liljeroos said.

As an expert organisation, the mission of the Drug Development Centre is to build a bridge between academic research and commercialised drug development projects and innovations by creating the capacity for collaboration and providing financial support.

“The mission of the Centre is to help companies, start-ups, universities, research institutes and other stakeholders to move from research to a commercial product or service. We create the conditions for advancing Finnish life science knowledge as a cohesive community. We also aim to make internationally large companies interested in Finnish companies.”

Although the Centre is based in Turku, it operates throughout Finland.

“The Drug Development Centre does not create competition nationally, but internationally. We can’t necessarily compete with big countries on quantity, but we can compete on quality.”

An important asset of HealthBIO is networking and exchange of information between other experts in the field.

Other speakers at this year’s HealthBIO included Pekka Simula from Innovestor Ventures Ltd, Mika Saramäki from Salofa Oy, Sari Liitti from Syrinx Bioanalytics Ltd, Nina Ekholm-Wenberg from Janssen Finland Oy and Arto Pakkalin from Bayer Nordic SE. Antti Viitanen from Novartis Finland Oy opened the event.

The day also included a tribute to Risto Lammintausta, a pioneer in the pharmaceutical development sector who passed away in the summer and who was heavily involved in the design of the Drug Development Centre and a major figure behind the creation of the HealthBIO event.