Why biotech investors are attracted to Lithuania

robin@tech.eu
Editor’s note: This is a sponsored article, which means it is independently written by our editorial team but financially supported by another organisation, in this case, Vilnius City Innovation Industrial Park. If you would like to learn more about sponsored posts on Tech.eu, read this and contact us if you are interested in partnering with us.

With policies to attract and support new investments and innovation in biotechnology and medical research, Lithuania’s goal is to become Europe’s most attractive country for life sciences by 2030.

By fostering innovative businesses and increasing cooperation between science and the private sector, the country aims to become home to more than 500 startups with a combined turnover of €3-4 billion.

Located in the heart of Europe, Lithuania is dedicated to transform itself into a business-friendly hub for the life sciences industry, trusted by the biggest global names in biotech. Thermo Fisher Scientific and Biogen are just two of the major companies that have already established operations in the country.

Some of the biggest names in biotech operate in Lithuania

The rapid growth of Lithuania’s biotechnology industry demonstrates the sector’s impact and potential, both within Lithuania and around the world. A track record of scientific excellence, ease of doing business and notable results in a variety of fields, from bio-molecular engineering and biochemistry to epi-genetics and protein engineering, have seized the attention of some of the world’s biggest global life sciences investors.

Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world’s largest producer and supplier of products and services for biomedical research, has expanded its manufacturing capacity in 2020. The company’s experimental development centre in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, focuses on the creation and development of new products in the fields of molecular, protein and cell biology.

Another US giant, Biogen – one of the world’s oldest and largest global biotech companies – is a more recent arrival. The company has just opened a new branch in Vilnius to conduct clinical trials and other projects in collaboration with local partners. Biogen develops drugs to treat neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy and more.

These leading companies benefit from the vast talent pool and strong scientific community that Lithuania has been nurturing and expanding over the years. Overall, around 15,000 scientists in the country are involved in research and projects related to life sciences.

There are 7 universities and colleges offering studies in the life sciences field – an impressive number for such a small country. It should be no surprise then that Lithuania’s life sciences industry employs around 7,500 specialists today.

Life sciences – one of Lithuania’s fastest-growing sectors

A business-friendly investment climate that is tailored for life sciences companies is another critical factor that attracts world leaders.

Lithuania’s life sciences sector is one of the fastest-growing in the European Union, with growth of 87% during 2020.

Life sciences businesses in Lithuania are also among the most profitable in the country, exporting 90% of their output to more than 100 countries worldwide. Lithuanian-made medical and pharmaceutical equipment and other products are trusted by customers in the USA, Germany, France and others.

And yet the market remains unsaturated, with an available pool of talented scientists and researchers working in an integrated network of technology parks and educational institutions alongside world-famous scientists such as gene editing pioneer Virginijus Šikšnys and rising life sciences stars like Dr. Linas Mažutis, as well as Vilnius University’s iGEM team of most promising and internationally recognized life sciences students.

For companies looking to gain a head start on international rivals, Lithuania is a prime destination.

The success of local biotech startups also proves the potency of Lithuania’s life sciences sector.

Vilnius-based startup Biomatter Designs, for instance, has recently raised €500,000 in investment to develop AI for generative protein design. Meanwhile Droplet Genomics, which aims to commercialise droplet micro-fluidics technology, has raised €1 million in funding to boost its research and development efforts.

Science and technology parks provide infrastructure for innovation

Lithuania’s science and technology parks offer favourable infrastructure for establishing new and innovative businesses. Vilnius City Innovation Industrial Park (VCIIP) – based in the country’s capital, at the centre of international transport links and home to a multitude of universities – is a leading example.

Dedicated exclusively to the development of innovative businesses, VCIIP offers fully-developed infrastructure for building research centres, laboratories and production facilities. It’s a hub for business and science collaboration, a home for four innovation clusters and with a life sciences incubator to be built by 2023, where many of the most promising enterprises in the field will find a favourable ecosystem for their growth.

Among them are companies like Diagnolita, Droplet Genomics, Biomatter Designs and Experimentica, as well as the branch of Vilnius University Life Sciences Center which are about to settle at VCIIP.

Vilnius City Innovation Industrial Park with its resources, infrastructure, access to data and business advisory programs, aims to create a leading research hub in the region, like other major hubs for life sciences R&D across Europe – such as pharma giant Bayer’s ‘CoLaborator’ bio-incubator, Bio City Leipzig, Biotechnology Park Luckenwalde and others – serves as a platform for establishing innovative high-tech companies.

The Park facilitates collaboration between the worlds of business and science and helps to build clusters of both like-minded and interdisciplinary businesses to exchange knowledge and expertise. Indeed, the key objective of the Park is to connect startups and companies that are receptive to knowledge, science and innovation.

For this purpose, the life sciences incubator of VCIIP will provide and further develop all necessary infrastructure. The incubator will house two open-access research centres – one for molecular biotechnology, the other for bio-informatics. More than half of incubator’s premises will be dedicated for incubation of life science startups and their accessibility to modern molecular biotechnology laboratories and high-efficiency bioinformatics computing capabilities.

Lithuania’s government has plans to further focus on research and innovation over the coming years. Long-term investments in life sciences are seen as key element of the national strategy for economic recovery and future growth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, was named the 4th Mid-Sized European City of the Future by the Financial Times, alongside such cities as Zurich, Belfast, Utrecht and Edinburgh. The country’s status as a fast-growing European hotspot for life sciences is expected to attract an increasing number of investors in the health science and biotech sectors – drawn by its talent, strategic location, star-up infrastructure, and R&D expertise, as well as comprehensive support for science and innovation.

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