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Pharmaceutical industry moving vital research to Denmark

After several years in which the number of clinical trials has been falling, Denmark is now well on the way to becoming a leader in pharmaceutical research at a global level. This is thanks to an entirely new type of public-private partnership which has made it easier for researchers to gain access to the right pool of patients.
Until two years ago, Leo Pharma mainly carried out their trials in Germany, the United States and Canada. New research centres mean that the company is locating an increasing number of trials in Denmark. Foto: Lundbeck.

Publiceret: 14.09.2016
Af Rikke Brøndum mail

Denmark is well on the way to entering the super league when it comes to research into the effect of pharmaceutical drugs on humans, also called clinical research.

A survey published by the Danish Medicines Agency shows that after about ten years of falling research levels in Denmark, the number of applications for clinical trials in Denmark is now increasing rapidly.

Last year, the agency received almost 16% more applications for clinical trials from businesses and public sector researchers than it did in 2014. This means that application levels are back to what they were ten years ago.

“Conducting more clinical trials is good news for Denmark. It generates an excellent research and development environment and potentially more jobs. The Danish population as a whole will also gain faster access to new treatments,” says Mette Rose Skaksen, managing director of DI Service at the Confederation of Danish Industry.

Public-private partnerships setting new standards

The reason for these developments can first and foremost be attributed to NEXT, a new partnership that a number of businesses entered into with universities and public sector hospitals two years ago.

These businesses have invested DKK 74 million and the public sector a total of DKK 50 million in new centres for cancer and skin research.

These centres allow clinical trials to get up and running faster because researchers have access to a larger pool of patients and because the Danish Medicines Agency and the National Committee on Health Research Ethics have sped up their clinical trial application approval processes.

“This is a type of public-private partnership that we have not previously attempted. We are learning about each other’s workflows in detail and we have ensured that the centres have become party to a national agreement with patients so that they are given faster access to a far greater trial group,” explains Thomas Kongstad, vice president, Pharmaceutical Design & Development at Leo Pharma and chairman of the NEXT partnership.

Until two years ago, Leo Pharma mainly carried out their trials in Germany, the United States and Canada because these countries give them easier access to the right pool of patients for their clinical trials. But the new research centres mean that the company is locating an increasing number of trials in Denmark.

“The greater part of our research is still carried out abroad. But Denmark has now become a leader in the most complicated part of the research, the part in which patients are issued drugs for the first time and have to test them. This is the most complicated stage,” says Thomas Kongstad and adds that clinical research benefits Denmark in terms of growth and jobs.

“Countries with strong research environments attract more international pharmaceutical companies and more researchers. Without clinical research, it is difficult for the pharmaceutical industry to grow and it is also more difficult for the Danish population to gain access to the latest drugs which will instead be sold in other countries first,” he says.

New growth team to retain the healthcare industry

Although both exports and research are seeing such rapid growth, the healthcare industry has no intention of stopping there.

Before the summer holiday, the Danish government appointed a new growth team which will be working until the end of the year on new strategy proposals for the industry in Denmark, a strategy that is to build on the work carried out by the previous government’s growth team for the health and welfare from 2013 which resulted in the NEXT centres.

With progress in clinical research, the road ahead has been paved for the industry to continue as successfully as it has in recent years with a doubling of its exports since 2008.

“The healthcare industry is important to the Danish economy. We are very pleased that the government has appointed a new growth team, and we encourage the government to follow up with an ambitious growth plan for the healthcare industry in Denmark over the coming years,” says Mette Rose Skaksen.

The healthcare industry in Denmark
Comprises pharmaceutical and biotech companies as well as manufacturers of medical technology, such as hearing aids, ostomy bags, scanners etc.
Exports of almost DKK 102 million (2015)
Employs 42,400 people in Denmark
Source: Statistics Denmark/Eurostat
Denmark has now become a leader in the most complicated part of the research, the part in which patients are issued drugs for the first time and have to test them. This is the most complicated stage.
THOMAS KONGSTAD, VICE PRESIDENT, PHARMACEUTICAL DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT AT LEO PHARMA AND CHAIRMAN OF THE NEXT PARTNERSHIP.
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PUBLISHED: 9/14/2016 LAST MODIFIED: 3/11/2017