The number of Norwegian biotechnology and health care companies has been growing rapidly over the past decade. As part of this process, communication with the international economic environment is critical. This interaction does not happen by itself; it requires planning and dedication by a wide range of governmental and private organizations. Getting the word out has been the objective of organizations such as Oslo Technopole, a notion that is key in connecting Oslo-based companies with the international environment.
Others groups operate on a national level, notably Innovation Norway. This governmental entity contributes towards innovation, internationalization and promotion of the nationwide industrial development of the Norwegian economy as a whole, and the business sector in particular, by helping to increase the potential of the country’s various districts and regions. Biotechnology and health care are two of Innovation Norway’s prioritized areas.
Inventing the Future
Other organizations are focused strictly on biotechnology and medicine. A good example of this is Medinnova. This organization was established in 1986 for the purpose of coordinating activities between research organizations and industry. In 2003, the organization made the transition from a government entity to a private corporation. Now, Medinnova operates on a commercial basis, with the profits being reinvested in biomedical research.
Medinnova acts as a mediator between science and industry in situations relating to sponsored research, negotiations, agreements and other services in supporting inventors within the medical field. Medinnova helps to facilitate growth, as well as works to improve the usage of resources within the health care field.
Inventors with ideas apply to Medinnova; the ideas are then evaluated with respect to the patent and market potentials, and the inventors receive support and guidance in preparing to apply for venture capital or in setting up licensing agreements.
Thanks to Medinnova, the bridge between research and industry is becoming easier to cross for Norwegian scientists.
In the past, hospitals have not been at the forefront in terms of IT implementation and usage.The Norwegian Centre for Telemedicine is working hard to reduce this gap.
addition to the Well Communicator, Well Diagnostics has also developed the Well Arena, which allows for the secure exchange of patient-sensitive information over the Internet.
In the past, hospitals and medical activitie in general have not traditionally been at the forefront in terms of information technology (IT) implementation and usage. This has often resulted in an information gap, where much-needed data has not always been available when required.
The Norwegian Centre for Telemedicine (NCT) is working hard to reduce this gap, coordinating investigation, monitoring, management and education of patients through the use of computer systems – no matter where the patient is located.
A good example of a project where the NCT is involved is the management of an anti-tuberculosis network in Arkhangelsk County, Russia, a pilot project that has been running since early 2001. Currently, 12 district hospitals and a prison hospital are connected with the Arkhangelsk Regional Tuberculosis Centre (ARTC).
In the private sector, Well Diagnostics is a leader within software manufacturing for the health sector, providing solutions that make secure exchange of sensitive data possible. The Well Communicator is currently being used in more than 600 doctors’ offices throughout Norway. This makes the company the largest Norwegian supplier of communications software to the public health service.
Is That a Laboratory in Your Pocket?
A few years ago, the Norwegian company NorChip began looking at the possibilities for developing a tiny laboratory that could undertake such tasks as analysing and identifying bacteria and viruses in body fluids. Geir Morland and Frank Karlsen would not take failure for an answer, and by the year 2000 had developed a prototype – a laboratory the size of a shoebox. That was a good start, but not good enough. Today, it is the size of a credit card.
Currently, NorChip is beginning to develop products that can be used in relation to the “credit card laboratory”. The first product will be a disposable plastic chip specially developed to identify pathogens existing in saliva, stool or blood samples. Hospitals and research laboratories will first use the pocket lab and its accessories, but the goal is for this product to eventually become stand ard fare in ordinary clinics.
Passenger security on the open sea is knowing that an ECG diagnosis is just an e-mail away. The English boat MS Jupiter’s electronic connection to Norway’s Haukeland University Hospital makes this a reality
Navigating Through Uncertain Terrain
Produced and marketed by In-lieu AS, the Xtender will make it easier for many to enjoy a walk off the beaten patc
One has to look long and hard to find flat and level terrain in Norway. In many circumstances, this can represent a physical challenge – for individuals using a prosthesis, such difficulties are clearly amplified. Inventor Bjørn Andersen saw in this a need to be met and already came up with an idea for a new product back in 1995. The actual development of such a product, however, requires time and money, and the concept might have remained on the drawing board had it not been for Espen Aspnes from SINTEF. In his role as a member of InnoMed, the publicly funded innovation programme, investors were recruited to support the project through the development phases.
The result is the product called the Xtender, currently being tested by amputees in Norway. Xtender can be adjusted to different terrains on the spot. The Xtender features a shock absorber that not only makes it more aesthetically pleasant for the user, but more importantly reduces pressure and wear on parts of the body such as the backbone, a common sensitive area for amputees.
Listen to Your Heart
There are more than 18 hours of open sea between the Norwegian coastal city of Bergen and Newcastle, England. In addition to the cold, icy and treacherous North Sea, seafarers have to be ready to tackle emergency medical situations.
The English boat MS Jupiter has found a solution to an all-too-common medical situation. The boat has now installed an electrocardiogram (ECG) apparatus that communicates by e-mail to Norway’s Haukeland University Hospital. With this new equipment, sending pictures of any passenger’s ECG to the hospital has now become routine. Once received by the hospital, the pictures are then analysed and a diagnosis is sent back to the ship.
Installed in 2003, the ECG apparatus has been used repeatedly with enormous success.
Give Me That Fish Fat
There are indications that the Omega-3 fatty acid found in deep water fish contains a variety of health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acid may retard the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, add weight to the fetus in later stages of pregnancy, lower aggression levels, lower the risk of ischemic stroke in men, reduce the risk of dementia, and there are even indications that it can reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
With the history and emphasis on the fishing industry and aquatic research in this country, it is not surprising that a Norwegian company is a world leader in manufacturing and developing Omega-3 fatty acids. And just recently, Pronova Biocare launched its newest product in the United States. Triomega is a supplement that provides Omega-3 essential fatty acids, and is now being distributed in 25,000 stores all over the country.
When completed, St. Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim will be able to offer the most advanced solutions in the areas of medicine, information technology and patient care.
CARDIAC’s bedside terminals at St. Olav’s Hospital will allow patients to send e-mails, read their own medical journals, order food and call for medical assistance.
The Project of the Decade
St. Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim is currently undergoing a massive reconstruction. When completed, it will be the home of 6,000 employees and 270,000 outpatient treatments annually.
The basic philosophy at St. Olav’s is to view everything from the perspective of the patient, and this has led to the planning and development of routines and equipment focused on the patients’ world and their experiences.
In practical terms, this includes ORFs (Operating Rooms of the Future), facilities that will be used to develop and test new technology, surgical methods, logistics, ergonomy and communication solutions. ORFs are designed to increase the surgeon’s precision and control while at the same time increasing the efficiency of the operating room.
The Norwegian company Cardiac, a spin-off from SINTEF, will supply an IT solution to St. Olav’s that enables hospital patients to be more self-sufficient through the use of an apparatus that gives them the possibility to send e-mails, read their own medical journal, order food and call for medical assistance.
CARDIAC is a sub-supplier to the Norwegian telecom giant Telenor as part of its $50 million contract with St. Olav’s. Telenor is deeply involved in this prestigious project, and will be supplying a total solution that will enable the hospital to combine technology with the human factor in providing better solutions and support to patients as well as the human resource infrastructure.
The contract was announced in the winter of 2004, and calls for the full development and management of the IT solutions related to the first construction of the new hospital. This process will see the integration of solutions that will later become the very backbone of the hospital’s IT infrastructure. Telenor’s responsibilities for St. Olav’s IT infrastructure include design, projecting, supply, training and operation of network electronics, cabling, wireless networks and advanced telephony.
When the total project is completed in the year 2010, it will be the patients who will be the winners – as health personnel will have access to wireless equipment that can provide them with up-to-date information regarding patient status.
The true test of a pioneering product is to create a success where nothing existed previously, and then to establish that product as a standard in the international marketplace. In 1979, Norwegian professor John Uglestad invented Dynabeads, patented monodisperse and superparamagnetic particles that are used in research and diagnostics.
Dynabeads are superparamagnetic, which means that they show magnetic properties only when placed within a magnetic field. Once taken out of the magnetic field they have no residual magnetism. This allows for the washing, separation and concentration of the target, and the absence of any magnetic residual meets the highest research requirements within four major scientific areas: immunology, molecular biology, microbiology and tissue typing.
Dynal Biotech’s Dynabeads can help researchers isolate T cells that can recognize and kill specific cancer or virus-infected cells.
Today, Dynal Biotech’s head office is located in Norway with subsidiaries in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, Japan and China.
The World Health Organization is sponsoring
a major diabetic study in China using Axis-Shield’s NycoCard HbA1c product.
The Chinese Market Awaits
The multi-national pharmaceutical corporation Axis-Shield was created in 1999 by the merger of two groundbreaking diagnostic companies, one Norwegian and one from Great Britain. Since then there has been no turning back, with major business developments including the acquisition of the diagnostic division of Nycomed Pharma in 2000.
Now, the company is poised to tackle the biggest market in the world. Early in 2004 it was announced that Axis-Shield’s Chinese distributor had entered into an agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Health. The agreement involved the use of Axis-Shield’s product, NycoCard HbA1c, in a research project related to the prevention and treatment of diabetes. The first phase of the project will take two years, involving 200 sites and 100,000 patients. If this first phase is successful, the next step will be to make the procedures standard practice in China.
Development of the TerapiMaster has been made possible by committed and capable employees, close collaboration with leading physiotherapists and long-term investors. Here, the SET (Sling Exercise Therapy) system is being demonstrated in Japan.
All Over the World
Founded in 1991, the Norwegian company Nordisk Terapi is doing its part to help people either get back on their feet or simply improve their physical condition. The patented TerapiMaster and the SET concept are used daily by over 2,000 clinics in Norway and in 20 different countries. Users range from the top athletes at the Norwegian National Olympic Sports Centre to individuals in private homes.
The Future’s So Bright
Norwegians never take things for granted, but if the past few years are any indication, there are promising times ahead for the dozens of biotech and health care companies in this country who are poised to break into or expand the international market for their products.
There’s no stopping the Vikings.