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Tromsø – An up-and-coming hub for biotech & health tech north of the Arctic Circle

Long known for its natural beauty and abundant natural resources, the City of Tromsø in Norway’s far north now is making a name for itself in medical and life sciences’ research.

The world’s northernmost university, several of the Nordics’ major research institutions and a comprehensive hospital all draw researchers and professionals to Tromsø, the Nordic countries’ largest city north of the Arctic Circle, with a population of 65 000. While still recognized for a vibrant fishing industry and work in marine sciences, Tromsø now is a hub for up-and-coming industries including telemedicine, pharmaceutical development and biotechnology.

“Tromsø is a leader within marine bioprospecting and biodiscovery; that is the isolation, determination and characterization of bioactive compounds and molecules in biological material and biomass,” according to Ernst Kloosterman, cluster manager of Biotech North, a cluster organization that assists life science startups and facilitates collaboration among members. “Tromsø has also a high competence in further commercialization of these: all steps from product development, application development, approvals and upscaling market development. Typical markets are nutraceuticals, cosmetics/cosmeceuticals, enzymes, diagnostics, medical devices and biopharmaceuticals.”

Easy to collaborate

The fact that the city is home to several medical institutions and health-related resources add to its draw, according to Stein Olav Skrøvseth, director of the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, located in Tromsø.

Stein Olav Skrøvseth

Stein Olav Skrøvseth

“It also is a small community, so you are able to reach out to people and collaborate easily. The availability of the university draws a lot of international workers and students. It’s easy to attract people to live here.” Businesses and research and development entities also work well together, he added.

The Arctic university

The University of Tromsø, also known as the Arctic University of Norway, offers numerous degrees in life and health sciences, including bioengineering, biomedicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and health sciences.

Among the university’s strengths are epidemiology, antibiotics and resistance, e-health and telemedicine, thrombosis, basic cancer biology or autophagy, indigenous people and health and psychology.
Close interactions and collaborations among the university, University Hospital, the center for e-health and the Tromsø Health Population Study all help make the city a good location for health and life sciences research.

E-health

Developing new ways of using technology in health care ties in with a long tradition of community medicine in the area, Skrøvseth said. “A population study has been run regularly and there is a long medical history of a large segment of the population, which enables people to do strong research,” he added.

Among the goals of e-health research is to apply the technology to assistive care and help elderly people stay at home longer, he noted. Researchers also are hopeful e-health will help to integrate different levels of health care in Norway.

R&D&I

Tromsø also is involved with emerging fields such as the developments within the -omics and CRISPR, which is a new type of gene editing; and the creation of medicines such as new antibiotics and alternatives, said Kloosterman.

Local professionals actively recruit businesses or investors to the region, he added.

“It is the attractiveness of the R&D&I environment and accessibility that is promoted most; local but also national authorities offer good R&D support programs.”


7 X Life Science companies in Tromsø

Biotec Pharmacon
This biotechnology company develops, produces and markets immune modulating beta-glucans and novel recombinant enzymes, according to its website.

Biotec Betaglucans
One of two business units of Biotec Pharmacon. It specializes in “immune modulating compounds for the human health sectors.” Currently it is investigating products that could prevent or treat diseases caused by failure, imbalance and over-reaction of the immune system.

ArcticZymes
The second business unit of Biotec Pharmacon. Arctic Zymes “develops and markets recombinant enzymes for use in life science research and in the molecular diagnostics sector. “

Calanus
Features Arctic Marine Bioactives – including its “third generation omega 3” Calanus Oil and the hydrolysed protein Calanus Hydrolysate, providing functional properties and health benefits to humans, domestic aquatic animals and pets.”

Marealis
Develops natural health products from marine peptides, like PreCardix, a natural product that prevents high blood pressure.

Olivita
Produces a nutraceutical with the same name, with a patented combination of marine omega-3 and antioxidants from virgin olive oil, beneficial for joint pains and cholesterol levels.

Nordic Pharma Inc
Exclusively dedicated to manufacturing Nordic Naturals omega oils.