The largest and oldest Life Science cluster in Finland operates in the Turku region. The long-term work is now reflected in the ability of numerous companies to respond to the challenges and business opportunities presented by the corona pandemic.
In healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant new opportunities in both diagnostics and treatment. Over the past two decades, Finland has enjoyed a continuous rise in health technology exports; The value of export has increased five-fold while the net trade surplus has increased ten-fold.
“Last year only, Finnish in-vitro diagnostics industry’s export, including equipment and reagents, grew by 10 % and reached 656 million euros. The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating this growth as several Life Science companies from Turku are reporting successes in their fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” says Tero Piispanen, senior executive of the HealthTurku cluster at Turku Science Park Ltd., Finland.
More diagnostics capacity
To mention a few examples, Abacus Diagnostica Ltd., ArcDia International Ltd., and Labmaster Ltd. have each developed a SARS-CoV-2 test kit. The tests are quick to do and add significantly to a much-needed testing capacity on the Finnish market and abroad. Moreover, Perkin Elmer Wallac Ltd, which is part of the Perkin Elmer global corporation, has significantly ramped up the production of their COVID-19 test in Turku.
Aqsense Health has developed a non-invasive method that enables different health disorders and diseases to be screened quickly, accurately and at low cost. This enables effective, large-scale disease screening, and could be applied, for instance, at airports to detect SARS-CoV-2 infections.
“Our testing method is much more reliable than measuring body temperature, which can be manipulated using antipyretics or cooling down with cold water”, points out Timo Teimonen, CEO of Aqsense Health. The company is in the negotiation phase with Chinese authorities, as well as with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading national public health institute of the United States.
Work for medication
Faron Pharmaceuticals Ltd. has contributed to the fight against COVID-19 in the field of drug development. Faron’s drug Traumakine is taking part in WHO’s Solidarity trial investigating potential COVID-19 treatments. Over 90 countries are involved in the trial, which aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow disease progression or improve the odds of survival using an adaptive trial design to enable the rapid worldwide comparison of multiple interventions simultaneously.
The special expertise of Biovian, a contract manufacturer of biomedical medicine in Turku, has also been prominent during the spring. The company has just signed an agreement with a European drug development company for the initial production of the COVID-19 vaccine preform. It would be possible for Biovian to start vaccine production even at short notice.
Modular rooms to fight viruses
Probably the most unconventional product to fight COVID-19 was developed by a company from the Turku area that goes by the name Vetrospace. A modular room-in-room system, where photon disinfection lighting together with photocatalytic nano-coating destroy harmful bacteria and viruses — coronavirus included. Soundproof rooms are equipped with their own smart ventilation that filter out up to 99,95 % of particles from the incoming air. These rooms reach the ISO-7 clean room standard.
– Our patented solutions, which has sparked great international interest, creates a powerful and error free antimicrobial effect that is deadly up to 99.99 % of microbes, but still completely harmless to humans and materials. The light is non-ionizing, unlike commonly used UV light. Disinfection works automatically and no human effort is needed. Due to the pandemic, the demand of our most powerful series of rooms has increased heavily outside of the healthcare business as well. People are now ready to invest in offices in order to provide the employees with safe working and meeting rooms, says CEO Jouko Urpolahti.
Tools for biomarker commercialization
In the Turku region, the operating conditions of companies in the cluster have been developed on a long-term basis and by taking into account the needs of the business network. For example, the University of Turku and the regional development company Turku Science Park Oy are involved in a BIC project funded by the EU Interreg programme, which is developing tools for the commercialization of new diagnostic biomarkers. Of the previously mentioned companies, ArcDia International, Abacus Diagnostica and Labmaster participated in the pilot phase of the project as experts.
”The tools created in the project will be published online this summer and they will be available to everyone for free,” Tero Piispanen says.