BioWorld International Correspondent

A lack of coherent government strategy and leadership is hampering the development of Sweden's biotechnology sector, according to the industry's representative body, SwedenBIO. The lobby group has published a strategy document that sets out the current problems facing the sector and proposals for alleviating them.

The Stockholm-based association is seeking government financial commitments in the order of €100 million to €200 million annually, and, in the immediate term, the establishment of a national biotechnology committee comprising senior members of government. Sweden's biotechnology sector, the document states, suffers from low public expenditure on biomedical R&D, a lack of fiscal incentives for conducting R&D in biotechnology start-ups, decreasing education quality and difficulties in attracting experienced personnel.

Government involvement in financing company formation would represent a break with previous policy, which has required companies to find financing solely from private sources.

"We have not had any soft money going into the sector," SwedenBIO President Hans Nyctelius told BioWorld International. Although that has ensured those companies that do obtain investment are competitive and commercially focused, he said, it has made company formation more difficult.

A consortium of research bodies in Sweden previously called on the government to boost R&D funding. Even if that is not forthcoming, SwedenBIO wants to see current spending focused primarily on internationally competitive clusters located in Stockholm, Uppsala, Gothenburg and the Lund-Malmo area. It also is seeking a rebalancing of the graduate education system, with an emphasis on creating more post-doctoral positions while lowering the total number of Ph.D. positions.

The overall environment in the country is becoming less attractive when compared to those of other states that have implemented a range of measures to support biotechnology. "Canada is a good model," Nyctelius said.

A comparative benchmarking exercise carried out as part of the study identifies the U.S. as the most attractive environment for biotechnology R&D, while it puts both Canada and France in second place, just ahead of the UK. It ranks Sweden along with Germany as the least attractive centers among the industry's top-tier countries.

Initial government reaction to the report has been positive, Nyctelius said, and the two parties are engaged in dialogue. "But always when you work with government it takes time."