Interview

#TogetherAgainstCOVID19 - Interview with Finnish Bioindustries

Finlands biotech scene is growing fast and Finnish Bioindustries is playing an important part. Read our interview with Carmela Kantor-Aaltonen in our #TogetherAgainstCOVID19 series!

The COVID-19 pandemic put life on hold – how is the current situation in Finland?

The lockdown in Finland began in the middle of March and the emergency powers legislation was implemented. The lockdown was not total since all stores were allowed the be opened. At the moment the situation is very good in Finland, we have only a few new COVID-19 cases daily and the number of deaths is all and all approx. 300 people.

The biotech & life science sector has seen a big boost in Finland recently. How is the biotech ecosystem tackling COVID-19?

Right at the onset of the crisis, researchers of the University of Helsinki demonstrated admirable social responsibility, offering their expertise, research capacity and equipment to public and private operators. The list of the help offered by scientists is long and impressive.

There are at least three vaccine research projects going on in Finland against the SARS-CoV2 virus, and one of those projects is done in a small biotech company called Valo Therapeutics Ltd. Valo Therapeutics Limited (Valo Tx)  is working to develop a potential novel COVID-19 vaccine with applications across future pandemics[1]. Valo Tx will use its PeptiCRAd technology to coat an (undisclosed) adenovirus vaccine vector, engineered to express coronavirus associated spike proteins, with HLA-matched peptides optimized to further boost CD8+ T-cell immune responses. The other two projects are developed in the University of Tampere and in collaboration with University of Helsinki and University of Eastern Finland.

Finnish biotech company Faron Paharmaceuticals Ltd has a drug candidate Traumakine, which is part of WHO's Solidarity trial investigating potential COVID-19 treatments. WHO has included IFN beta-1a on its list of priority drugs to be tested against COVID-19, especially the IV form of the drug, which is what we believe critically ill patients need.[2]. There are several diagnostics companies who have contributed to the fight against COVID-19. For example, Medix Biochemica Ltd has produced SARS -CoV2 antibodies, antigens and other raw materials for timely support of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. MobiDiag Ltd is Finnish diagnostic company who has produced diagnostic tests Amplidiag® COVID-19 Novodiag® COVID-19 whisch have now CE-IVD approval. Mobidiag offers rapid and easy to use molecular diagnostic tests for the detection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for the coronavirus infection, as well as an antibody test for the discrimination of Anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG and IgM. ArcDia Ltd is also a diagnostic company, which has produced automated coronavirus point-of-care test (CE marked) for mariPOC® platform. The CE marked test conforms to the requirements of EU IVD directive and ISO 13485 quality standard. Customer deliveries of the test have started[3].

There is also a discussion going on in Finland about starting our own drug and vaccine production. There are three companies in Finland which have the facilities for manufacturing biologics; Biovian Ltd, FinVector Ltd and Orion Pharma, which has also its own drug discovery and manufacturing. This week there were news that Biovian has signed an agreement with a European biopharmaceutical company for contract development and manufacturing of a COVID-19 vaccine. The contract covers the early-stage development and purification of the biological vaccine candidate.

All and all the Finnish Life Science ecosystem is quite small and the collaboration with the authorities, universities and companies is good, people know each other and that helps the communication between the different parties

In these unprecedented a multitude are tirelessly working together to beat the novel virus as well as its economic consequences - national biotech associations, such as FIB, are taking a key role at the intersection of current debates. How does FIB support the ecosystem and collaboration between actors in the current situation?

Our main roles have been in coordinating, communicating and marketing. We have kept companies aware of the collaboration possibilities between universities and other companies and informed about the financing possibilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

The recovery after the crisis is crucial for Europe. The EU puts forward plans for a green recovery in line with the EU Green Deal. What solutions does the innovative biotech industry develop and how have these to be fostered and accepted in order to make true impact?

The most important thing, that we can learn from the crisis is the importance of collaboration both in national and international level. Without collaboration we are not able to win the pandemic, especially when we now open the borders the crisis is again global , it is not enough that we control the pandemic within a certain country, we have to win the  pandemic worldwide.


[3] (https://www.arcdia.com/uutiset/mediatiedote-suomalaisen-arcdia-oyn-koronavirustesti-on-ce-merkitty-ja-saatavilla-heti/)


Carmela Kantor-Aaltonen is the Director of Finnish Bioindustries and Chief Advisor in Chemical Industry Federation. Finnish Bioindustries (FIB) is Finland's biotechnology industry association, established in 1997. It is a private, independent non-profit organisation. Find out more about FIB: https://www.finbio.net/