SWEDES TO INVEST IN BULGARIAN BIOMEDICINE
Prof. Inger Lundkvist, lecturer in the Caroline University in Stockholm and expert with the Nobel Committee for prizes in physiology and medicine, to the BANKER weekly. Bulgarian pharmaceutical companies will be manufacturing biomedical products as of 2004. Bulgaria has highly-qualified experts and a good production basis, said the Swedish Ambassador in Bulgaria H.E. Sten Ask, under whose patronage the Bulgarian-Swedish conference on biomedicine titled, Frontiers of Biomedicine was held at the Sheraton Sofia Hotel Balkan. Sweden is among the leaders in Europe in that branch. However, biomedical products have been called in question recently, even in the European Parliament, after it has become known that embryonal stem cells are the best material for them.Prof. Lundkvist, a few days ago the Europen Parliament voted with majority a ban on the creation of human embryos, through cloning included, for the purposes of extracting from them stem cells for treatment of ailments in grown-up people. Doesn't that decision trouble you?- In order to turn that decision into a law, it should be approved by the parliaments of each of the EU countries, which has not been done yet. So, there is still no effective ban on the activities in that sphere. Great Britain was the first country which allowed cloning in order to ensure material for cell studies. Stem cells are the source of growth of human tissues and organs. They could serve as donor material, e.g. for implanting where the tissue has been hurt and cannot be recovered in the natural way. Moreover, they are excellent material for the production of medicines for diabetics, people suffering from Parkinson's disease, ailments of the spinal cord, and leucaemia. Stem cells may be taken from grown-up individuals, but those from embryos are much more promising for the positive medical results. An eventual ban on using them would delay the scientific progress. In the Caroline University we have been working for three years on the so-called strategic procedures. We are seeking and we ensure financing by private persons, corporations, and NGOs for subjects such as clinical epidemiology, medical genetics, medical chemistry, and biology of the stem cell. Sweden is one of the few European countries which has at its disposal stem cells, and we can use them for treatment of many diseases. A year ago, together with Finland, Great Britain, Singapore, and Australia, we agreed to set up a consortium for studying the possibilities for their wider use in medicine. In addition to many upholders, biomedicine made quite a number of enemies as well, after it was announced that the first clonings were born. What is the stance of the scientists in the Caroline University on the cloning of human beings?- Colleages in Sweden are not unanimous in the stances on if its moral to clone a human being or not. But in the history of mankind novelties have always caused not only discussions, but scandals as well. After all, this is the risk, accompanying any innovation. Science and technologies, however, are developing and making progress, no matter if we like it or not. And what is your personal stance?- I stand for each novelty that could help mankind. I believe it would be immoral if the results of biotechnologies are not used to the benefit of people. What is the so quick development of biotechnologies in Sweden due to?- The phenomenon Sweden in the sphere of biotechnologies is due to the academic studies, but also to the fact that the State provides great opportunities not only for making science, but also for clinical tests and researches. The national healthcare system includes the entire population of the country. More than a quarter of the medicine persons in Sweden have scientific degrees and they manage to attract voluteers for these researches among their patients. Volunteers are paid well and are insured accordingly. Among the many legends about Sweden is the one that every scientist in the country has its own, at that thriving company...- Yes, almost every scientist has a firm. In the Caroline University we are working on projects of 16 companies, owned by our colleagues. All of them are engaged in biotechnologies. The contemporary man of science cannot be limited to pure knowledge. He should have a grasp of economy as well in order to find finances for his scientific work. Inventions in Sweden remain property of the inventor and under no pretext the rights on them can be conceded even to the universite where they have been made. In that way the State gives the inventor or innovator an opportunity to profit from his intellectual product till the end of his life.And who finances the scientific work?- The State participates only symbolically in financing scientific research. In the last decade a tendency formed that universities cope with that problem on their own. In some of them, as in the Caroline University, external financing accounts for more than 70 per cent of all funds. We are being sponsored by private foundations, business persons, and big corporations. The biggest sponsors in the sphere are the EU, the national Institute on Healthcare in the US, and the healthcare insurance funds. It is an obligation of the heads of departments (which are 30 in the Caroline University alone) to attract donators for the development of science. Therefore, competition between the heads of departments themselves is fierce. Everyone wants to get the money for scientific research and only the best ones survive in this battle. Bulgarians, like the Swedes, are a nation with a very high degree of education. Your scientists are as good as their European colleagues, but they should gain managerial skills as well. It is quite realistic that Swedish investments come into Bulgaria to help the development of biomedicine, especially in the sphere of medicines for treatment of diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and oncological ailments.