If you hear the word biobank, what image does it conjure? You might think of a lab, sterile and white, or quite literally envision samples of bio materials in test tubes. For Bayer, an international Life Science company hailing from Germany, it means research and business opportunities.

Biobanks have been collecting Finnish medical and genetic samples for decades. In fact, Finland is one of the top countries worldwide for conducting biobank research (Source: Delisio, E. Finland Tops for Biobank Research).

We talked to Bayer Nordic C.E.O. Oliver Rittgen about the presence and potential of biobanks in Finland.

“Bayer is a Life Science company and together with our stakeholders we see Life Science as a growth industry sector here in Finland. Finland has proven innovation capabilities in the field and the potential for future advancements is great,” says Oliver.

The origins & developments

Bayer was the first global pharmaceutical company to sign a collaboration agreement with a Finnish biobank. Together with the Turku-based Auria Biobank, Bayer entered into an oncology research agreement in April 2015. Bayer uses the data collected from biobanks to fuel the insights and understanding of diseases, to create better medical products and to improve human health overall.

Biobank operations in Finland are based on the public healthcare system. There are several public and established biobanks in Finland – including health care districts, universities and the Institute for Health and Welfare.

New biobank laws require that samples collected for existing and future biobanks must be stored in a biobank. Specifically, the Biobank Act established in 2013 approved the transfer of samples taken several decades earlier by healthcare professionals to the biobanks.

The samples are used for various purposes, including but not limited to research of inflammatory diseases, autoimmue diseases, fibrotic diseases and cancer. Through this collection of population-based, inclusive samples for various disease groups, Biobanks can provide extensive, ongoing insights.

Endless opportunities

Biobanks represent a huge opportunity for innovation, and for Bayer as well. Their growth can greatly contribute to Finland’s competitiveness, hence increasing foreign investment. They, however, are not the only attraction that can help increase Finland’s competitive edge in the global market.

“At Bayer, we have been able to achieve global success with Finnish innovations and pharmaceutical expertise. Finland has great tradition rooted in research and development. I am certain that with increased co-operation between the public and private sector and the academia, we can build an innovation platform to attract investments and foster new growth,” says Oliver.

Interested in knowing more? Contact Tomi Vahevaara, Director of the Life Science Committee. Email: tomi.vahevaara@amcham.fi or Phone: +358 (40) 053 7924.

By: Lauren Ayala