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Life Science in the Baltics

A short distance separates the Nordics and the Baltic States but there are surprisingly few interactions between Nordic companies and those based in Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia. Is there limited scope for collaboration or could this be due to lack of awareness of potential opportunities? Ola Björkman went to the Life Sciences Baltics conference to find out more.

Life Sciences Baltics 2023 took place on September 20-21 in Vilnius, Lithuania. The conference attracted more than 750 delegates from 33 countries. Delegates travelled to the conference from within Europe – Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Germany and the UK – and from further afield – the US, South Korea and Taiwan – demonstrating growing interest from these countries in tapping into the Lithuanian life science network. No fewer than 800 scheduled business meeting seeking opportunities for new partnerships, collaborations, and deal-making took place.

These ecosystems remain resilient amid global financial uncertainties. Companies are ready to test and adopt new ideas, and innovative startups are being created at an impressive rate.”

“Life Sciences Baltics 2023 is an important event for boosting life science innovation in Lithuania, since it brings together key stakeholders and facilitates knowledge sharing and collaboration,” says Paulius Petrauskas, Director of Innovation Department at Innovation Agency Lithuania. “We believe that Life Sciences Baltics showcases Estonia’s, Latvia’s and Lithuania’s distinct and strong potential in the sector. These ecosystems, especially in Lithuania, remain resilient amid global financial uncertainties. Companies are ready to test and adopt new ideas, and innovative startups are being created at an impressive rate.”

The conference program

An ambitious program during the two days was filled with parallel sessions covering a wide variety of topics. Delegates heard talks on digital technologies including AI, the Korean market, clusters and ecosystems, case studies, advanced imaging technologies, and listened to panel discussions on topics such as best practices, the future of medicine, personalized medicine and cancer treatments.

 

Lithuanian startup #hitenergy won the Startup Pitch Challenge and was rewarded EUR 125k investment + a supporting Acceleration Program. Photo: Ola Björkman

 

Asian companies stand out

It was particularly interesting to note the numerous links between Lithuania and Asia. It’s generally known that Asian companies are world-famous for advanced technologies and that both the public and private sectors are engaged in developing innovative solutions.

According to Innovation Agency Lithuania, Lithuania’s cooperation with Taiwan and South Korea has been ongoing on for many years and has yielded tangible results. For example, in January, Lithuanian AI medical imaging company Oxipit closed a USD 4.9 million funding round led by Taiwania Capital, Practica Capital, and Coinvest Capital.

Lithuanians and visitors from Asia seized the opportunity to sign collaboration agreements at Life Sciences Baltics. The Research Council of Lithuania signed a MoU with the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) of Taiwan for developing cooperation between Lithuanian and Taiwanese researchers. The two countries will fund joint projects between researchers from Lithuanian and Taiwanese higher education institutions and research institutes in the fields of biotechnology, laser and materials science, engineering, and computer information technology.

We can become a gateway to the European market for Asian companies.”

According to Paulius Petrauskas, Lithuania sees many opportunities to build further on the already developed relationships with Asian companies, investors or other organizations.

“We can become a gateway to the European market for Asian companies, increase the visibility of Lithuanian businesses there, and expand our startup activities in the Southeast Asian countries,” says Petrauskas.

 

No fewer than 82 companies and organizations exhibited and there were seven national stands as well. Photo: Ola Björkman

 

Collaboration opportunities with Nordic companies

With such interest and tangible partnerships between Lithuanian and Asian companies validating the quality of the Lithuanian biotechs, what might be the reason behind the absence of delegates and companies from the Nordic Countries? Could this be due to lack of knowledge and insight? Lithuania is home to a range of technology companies offering expertise and services including bioinformatics, AI, bioprocessing, synthetic biology, and exosomes, as well as CRO and CDMO companies. If you are part of a Nordic life science company developing new solutions for patients, or an academic scientist, why not take a closer look at Lithuania?

Collaborations within the life science sector between Baltic and Nordic countries have been in place for decades but most of them are focused on academic collaborations, research and regional development projects. In contrast, interactions between businesses in the life science sector are relatively small.”

Agnė Vaitkevičienė, Vice President at LithuaniaBIO shares her view on partnerships between the Nordic and Baltic countries: “Collaborations within the life science sector between Baltic and Nordic countries have been in place for decades but most of them are focused on academic collaborations, research and regional development projects. In contrast, interactions between businesses in the life science sector are relatively small. A vital component for fostering more collaboration would be a better understanding of the landscape of the life sciences in the Baltics.”

LithuaniaBIO will be a part of a BioConnect project, starting in 2024, led by Biocatalyst Foundation in Latvia, together with Estonian and Finnish organizations.”

LithuaniaBIO will be a part of a BioConnect project, starting in 2024, led by Biocatalyst Foundation in Latvia, together with Estonian and Finnish organizations. The project will focus on creating a more robust, integrated, and inclusive Baltic ecosystem/cluster for biotechnology innovations. This will help to map the landscape of the Baltics life science, thus showcasing possibilities for more collaborations within Europe. Collaboration areas would focus on Digital Health, Biomanufacturing and Product development.

Monika Paule, CEO of Caszyme of Vilnius, a pioneer of CRISPR technology, is also interested in tapping into the Nordic Life Science community: “Caszyme clients mostly come from US, but we have also had partners from Korea for several years. We are of course happy that they found us in a corner of the world so far away from home, and the partnership with them will continue as we signed an MoU with Korean company nSage during the conference. But Caszyme’s ambitious plans include exploring partnerships with more life science companies in Europe, including the Nordics.”

Next Life Sciences Baltics

Paulius Petrauskas will welcome everybody back to Vilnius in 2025: “Life Sciences Baltics is set to come back in Vilnius in September 2025 with the aim of creating opportunities for deeper cooperation between the growing life sciences ecosystems in the Baltics and international partners.”

Featured photo of Vilnius Old Town, and the author, Ola Björkman

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