DUBLIN, Ireland - The Oresund Bridge, linking the greater Copenhagen area with southern Sweden, is expected to give the region's biotechnology sector a boost when construction is completed in 2000.

Borge Diderichsen, director of corporate research affairs with Novo Nordisk A/S, of Bagsvaerd, Denmark, is a board member of the Medicon Valley Academy, a joint initiative between Denmark and Sweden that promotes the biomedical industries in the Oresund. The region is centered around Copenhagen, in Denmark, and the cities of Lund and Malmo, in Sweden.

The area, which has a population of 2.5 million people, already ranks as Europe's third biggest biomedical knowledge center after Cambridge, in the U.K., and Paris, Diderichsen said.

The Medicon Valley Academy was established less than a year ago to stimulate interaction between companies, universities and hospitals in the region. However, it only appointed a managing director, Jes Ostergaard, a former corporate vice president at Novo Nordisk, six months ago.

“Since then, things have been moving quite fast,“ Diderichsen told BioWorld International.

The organization, which has a secretariat based in Copenhagen, holds regular workshops for all the players in the region. It also aims, Diderichsen said, to organize one high-level scientific meeting each year.

The Medicon Valley Academy is not funding research projects itself, though. Its budget for the first three years of its existence is DKr 18 million. Beginning next year, when the organization aims to offer specific services, it expects to start charging companies a membership fee, Diderichsen said.

“The real strength of the academy stems from the fact that the people sitting on its board are, each of them, quite influential,“ he observed.

The 14-member board includes Uli Hacksell, president of Lund-based Astra Draco; Berthold Lindqvist, president and CEO of Gambro AB, of Lund; and Elisabeth Bock, of Copenhagen University, who chairs a committee that is developing a US$100 million research facility in the city. (See BioWorld International, Aug. 20, 1997, p. 1.)

In addition to stimulating indigenous activity, the Medicon Valley group also is promoting the region as a candidate for mobile investment from and industry collaborations with U.S. companies.

For example, Structural Bioinformatics (SBI), of San Diego, Calif., recently opened a Danish subsidiary, SBI Advanced Technology A/S (SBI-AT), in Horsholm, north of Copenhagen, and obtained financing from Danish sources.

The privately held company, which uses high performance computing technology to analyze 3-D protein structures for rational drug design, established SBI-AT to commercialize work developed by Danish scientists Jakob Bohr, Soren Brunak, and Henrik Bohr, all from the Technical University of Denmark. All three have joined SBI's scientific advisory board.

Two Danish funds, Dansk Kapitalanlaeg A/S and the Danish Development Finance Corporation, both participated in a recent financing round in which Structural Bioinformatics raised US$7.5 million, according to the industrial development agency Copenhagen Capacity. *