Denmark boasts plenty of strong fundamentals as a clinical trials hub, but is perhaps constrained by a population of just 5.8 million and a correspondingly small patient pool. However, international collaboration, not least with neighbouring Sweden (population 10.4 million), has the potential to greatly increase the pool from which trial participants can be drawn and bolster the entire region’s competitiveness as a clinical trial destination.
“It should be remembered how much the two countries have in common,” notes Petter Hartman, CEO of the Medicon Valley Alliance (MVA), a unique non-profit membership organisation spanning the Danish-Swedish life science cluster Medicon Valley. “We both have similar welfare models, a significant amount of public trust and willingness to participate in research, and a high level of public R&D spending. The fundamentals for the life science industry are fantastic in both Sweden and Denmark.”
Pooling talent, resources, research infrastructures, and healthcare data, and making sure that these structures are aligned would make us more attractive internationally than we would be on our own
“The question is, therefore, how we utilise these fundamentals in the best way. The issue of volume is very important; although we are strong life science countries, we are constrained by our size. To stand out internationally, we need to pool our resources and act regionally, at least between Denmark and Sweden but ideally across the entire Nordics.”
Hartmann continues, “There is a fantastic opportunity to conduct clinical trials in both countries in a coordinated way without any hurdles. Having the correct structures in place so we can assist companies that want to develop their products in our region is an extremely important part of attracting the investments needed to continue this journey. Pooling talent, resources, research infrastructures, and healthcare data, and making sure that these structures are aligned would make us more attractive internationally than we would be on our own.”
One biopharma company watching these developments closely is US giant AbbVie, which has selected both Sweden and Denmark as priority countries for clinical trial initiation. “Together with Medicon Valley and other stakeholders we are looking into the possibility of running clinical trials from one site in Denmark or Sweden, but with patients from both countries, in case only one country has been selected for participation,” explains Linn Mandahl, general manager of AbbVie Scandinavia.
Joining forces would create a bigger patient pool and allow even better leveraging of our great infrastructure, cutting edge science, strong academic institutions, and political will
“That would increase the competitiveness of this region internally in terms of resource allocation and investment, as it would for the entire life sciences ecosystem. Joining forces would create a bigger patient pool and allow even better leveraging of our great infrastructure, cutting edge science, strong academic institutions, and political will. Such collaboration would create an even more competitive and fruitful ecosystem – from public healthcare to academia, start-ups, and big multinationals – which would also be beneficial for the overall economy.”
However, Mandahl is keen to note that there is still much work to be done to reach this goal. She adds, “The key hurdles we need to work on are the exchange and pooling of health data across borders, incentives for cross border research, the movement of workers between the two countries, and attracting the right competencies and capabilities. There are some good initiatives already in place on these points, but we are hoping for more regulation to come in to create an even smoother interaction process.”