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Nordic medtech – investments, challenges and new resolutions

The Nordic medtech industry has a long and successful history. Global giants like Gambro, Sectra, Getinge and Elekta have originated from the region, as well as successful researchers and innovations. In this issue, we take a look at some of the current news and trends within the Nordic medtech industry.

For many years Sweden has been a leading country in innovative medical technology solutions. The pacemaker, haemodialysis and the gamma knife are a few of the innovations that have gained international recognition. There is also a strong tradition of development within medical technology and collaboration between health care and industry.

“Sweden has been a strong exporter of medical technology and we are at the cutting edge within a lot of areas,” says Carl Wadell, Project manager for Innovation and Growth at Swedish Medtech, the Association for Medical Technology in Sweden.

The organization has approximately 170 member companies, which represent almost 90 percent of the total turnover of the medical technology market in Sweden. The goals of Swedish Medtech are to strengthen the preconditions for their member companies in order to achieve a better climate for procurements, innovation and investments, the latter being highlighted later this year. On September 13th, Swedish Medtech will team up will with the trade organizations for medtech in Denmark, Finland and Norway for the Medtech Investment Day Nordic in Stockholm.

Stimulating nordic investments
During this conference, thirty Nordic companies will get the opportunity to present themselves to investors and potential partners. The aim of the event is to stimulate more investments, collaborations, mergers and acquisitions in Nordic medtech. Some of the participating investors and companies are Healthcap, NBGIVentures, Sunstone 

Capital and Johnson & Johnson Corporate Development. Besides company presentations and networking opportunities, a representative from the European Health Technology Institute will present the latest research on the conditions for medtech companies to access the European market and get paid for innovation. There will also be a panel discussion regarding the investment climate in the Nordic countries compared to other parts of the world and how attractive the region is on a global level.

“During the last couple of years, it has become more difficult for medtech companies to find venture capital. However, this trend is valid for the whole life science industry. With this event, we want to gather the most interesting companies in the Nordic countries and create a platform for medtech entrepreneurs and investors,” says Carl Wadell.

“Today, the Swedish medtech industry consists of a few major companies and several smaller enterprises, where the bigger companies take a great deal of the turnover. Consequently, one of our missions is to help smaller medtech enterprises to grow.”

Challenges in healthcare
Thanks to medical technology and new innovations the lives of many people are made easier and more comfortable in many ways. Still, there are constantly obstacles to overcome and one of the biggest challenges within healthcare today is how to deal with increasing numbers of chronic and lifestyle related disease. Due to an increasingly aging population, there will be a great demand for medtech solutions and techniques that can facilitate the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of these diseases.

“One example is within diabetes, where new integrated solutions make it easier for persons with diabetes to monitor, plan and control their diseases so that it has a minimal negative impact on their overall life quality. Moreover, these innovative solutions also help unburden the healthcare systems,” says Carl Wadell.

“Another challenge that remains an issue for many medtech companies is the conditions for clinical research and finding the right healthcare partners. This has historically worked well but has been a dilemma for the last decade. In Sweden this is partly due to the healthcare systems being highly targeted towards the production of healthcare and not to collaborative research and development. There are unfortunately few resources for this type of collaborative clinical research – the healthcare personnel simply don’t have the time.”

Today, the Swedish medtech industry is focusing on moving towards the invention of new materials as well as finding new methods to make for example implants biocompatible.

“Also, we are seeing a trend where more companies are working with ICT, e-health, and m-health applications that make care more personalized and provide opportunities to deliver distributed care.

Since technology is moving forward so quickly, a large part of the challenge lies with the healthcare systems to keep up the pace and be a part of the evolving technology,” says Carl Wadell.

E-health and m-health are also becoming growing trends in Denmark.  According to the Danish magazine Medwatch, telemedicine is slowly moving from the periphery to the center of modern healthcare institutions, making Denmark a pioneering country within the area. At the beginning of 2012 the largest-ever telemedicine project in Denmark started. This includes approximately 2000 patients.

More collaborations in Denmark
Denmark is one of the leading medical technology industry nations. The industry is a big export success with 90-95 percent of the total Danish industry revenue generated outside Denmark, making the country one of Europe’s largest exporters of medical technology products per capita. The country holds particularly strong competencies within medical diagnostics, medical disposables and assistive technologies. The public health service is the largest purchaser of the industry’s products via Denmark’s five regions. According to Peter Huntley,

the Director of Medicoindustrien, the industry association for Danish medtech companies, there is a trend towards even more collaboration between the industry and the public health sector.

“An enormous emphasis on total cost approaches in public healthcare spending will drive the process of enhanced collaboration between industry and the public health sector. Many incentives to support this process are underway in the new government strategy on healthcare innovation,” says Peter Huntley.

Mixed feeling on new resolution
One of the biggest issues recently within Danish medtech – as well as in other European countries – has been the revision of the directive for the approval of medical devices. The discovery of the fraudulent use of non medical grade silicone in breast implants manufactured by the Poly Implant Prothèse (pip) Company in France created headlines all over the world. The new PIP resolution proposed by the Environment and Public Health (ENVI) Committee of the European Parliament was recently adopted. A breast implant register, more stringent checks, greater oversight of Notified Bodies and product traceability number among the measures in the proposition. The new resolution has so far been received with mixed feelings by the industry. Eucomed, the European medical technology industry association, stated in a press release that it welcomes most of the measures in the PIP resolution, but claimed not to understand the need to call for a pre-market authorization system for Class III devices as Europe currently has a de facto approval system for these devices.

“The revision of the directive for the approval of medical devices is surely an important issue following the cases of breast implants and hip implants. In the public perception, devices and pharma should follow the same criteria for approval, which the device industry and the medical experts do not agree on,” Peter Huntley concludes. γ