Raise the ambition level for the Life Science sector

It is often mentioned that Denmark is a life science nation, but there is a need for a clear, ambitious, and long-term strategy to realize the significant potential and thus create further economic growth, health, and welfare.

Date: September 30, 2022

Author: Jonas Hink

Published: Dagens Medicin

In May of last year, a broad political agreement was reached on a life science strategy with economic initiatives running through 2023, and it was also decided to establish a national Life Science Council. The latter has recently issued its recommendations for strengthening research and innovation efforts, which are assigned a crucial role in Denmark’s future position in life sciences.

The economic potential in the life science industry is enormous, and for this reason, many other countries are investing heavily in enhancing their competitive parameters and framework conditions. For example, in 2021, the French government launched a ‘Health Innovation Plan’ with a budget of 7.5 billion euros over ten years, equivalent to a staggering 54 billion DKK. In the UK, the government released their ‘Life Sciences Vision’ last year outlining ambitions for the British life science sector over the next decade.

If Denmark is to become a leading nation in life sciences in the future, with associated economic growth, health, and welfare benefits, we must also be willing to create the best conditions for our life science sector.

We lack goals

The Life Science Council highlights the need for a national innovation strategy and calls for initiatives that strengthen the transition from research to innovation and product development.

Although the development of drugs and medical devices is subject to regulatory requirements at the EU level, we could still aim to create easier, faster, and more efficient pathways for the commercialization of life science products and services in Denmark. We could also strive for a greater turnover of ideas towards market-ready solutions.

Quite simply, we could start by setting clear objectives. These could include more clinical trials leading to changes in practice, as well as the implementation and increase in the number of solutions and new methodologies based on artificial intelligence. It could also involve more inventions from hospitals and universities, with a higher proportion resulting in startups, products, or solutions. With defined objectives, new, appropriate, and effective incentives and initiatives can be more easily created.

It makes sense when the Life Science Council recommends focusing research efforts on resource-intensive disease areas and prioritizing high-tech research even more for the development of specific therapy areas and artificial intelligence.

However, we don’t know whether the major future commercial successes and health benefits will be due to new cell or gene therapies, the use of quantum computers in personalized medicine and real-world evidence, or something entirely different.

Invite the industry in

Therefore, we should consider a program similar to the American DARPA projects, but focused on life sciences (rather than national security), where an ecosystem consisting of academic, public, and industrial partners work together to create transformative rather than incremental medical and technological changes.

According to Statistics Denmark, the public research budget was approximately 25 billion DKK in 2020, with 10 billion DKK allocated to health science and another 10 billion DKK for natural and technical science. In comparison, according to an analysis by the Ministry of Industry, the Danish life science industry invested around 16 billion DKK in its own research and development back in 2018.

Imagine if in Denmark, we could get the industry to participate in the development of potentially groundbreaking technologies and methods in public-private partnerships, with a vision to create new solutions in life sciences based on world-class innovation and science.

This would require ambitious and long-term plans for public research investments combined with industrial incentives to initiate public-private programs on such a large scale. It would be daring because there is no guarantee that any of the projects will hit the mark – but that’s what it takes if we want to be a leading global life science nation in the future instead of a local one.