An extensive review article in this month's issue of Genetic Engineering News charts the increasingly rapid rise of biodefense sector competencies in Denmark. The country is steadily gaining global recognition on the world biotech stage with the Medicon Valley biotech cluster attracting considerable overseas interest. A recent report from Boston Consulting Group rated Medicon Valley as being "among the strongest biotech clusters in Europe and within several major fields, among the strongest in the world". Over 50 venture capitalists are located in the region, which has attracted a number of major foreign players such as Yamanouchi, Medarex, Acadia Pharmaceuticals and Genzyme to set up Danish subsidiaries. Others, like Siga Technologies and Maxygen, have taken the acquisition route in Denmark.
Biodefense is one of the fastest growing biotech sectors in Denmark. In response to the rising threat of terrorism, Danish companies have been quick to begin leveraging their technologies to develop, vaccines, antibodies, drugs and biosensors. One of the first Danish companies to make headlines in the post 9/11 world has been Bavarian Nordic, which 5 years ago began developing a safer smallpox vaccine. Sales of the vaccine to the US, UK and Germany have gone stellar, generating USD 30 million in Q3 2003 alone.
In the antibody field, the 4-year old Danish company Symphogen has gained prominence in polyclonal antibody technology with its Symphobody antibodies, which it says have several advantages over traditional plasma-derived immunoglobulins (IGs) for diseases involving complex target antigens. Symphogen's smallpox vaccine can help prevent side effects from older vaccines as well as its use for immediate treatment post-exposure.
Ace Biosciences, founded like Genmab by BankInvest, is focusing on infectious diseases, particularly the fungus Aspergillus and the food borne pathogen Campylobacter. Both bugs are weaponisable; according to WHO Campylobacter is the leading cause of enteritis worldwide. Ace Biosciences is using a broad platform that integrates proteomics (a Danish world-class competence area) bioinformatics, microbiology and call biology to deliver novel protein targets for a range of infectious bacteria and fungi.
In the decontamination area, the internationally known Danish company Novozymes is working on a 'green' enzyme that can reportedly decontaminate anthrax on surfaces with a certainty factor of 99.9999%. And in the detection area the newly formed Danish company Thomsen Bioscience has come rapidly to the fore. The company, which makes a BWAC (biological warfare agent detection chip), was founded on 1st September 2001. Ten days later the world was a different place, and Thomsen rapidly received a government grant to develop the chip. The credit-card sized hand held DNA detector, which is programmed for all known infectious biological warfare agents, is now in the final stages of development and due for completion in April 2004.