Lithuania: the future hub of life sciences?
The Covid-19 pandemic has turbo-charged the biotechnology sector. What is particularly fascinating is that the development of this sector will not only affect how we treat viruses but also how other diseases such as cancer are tackled. Several Lithuanian companies, notably CasZyme or Droplet Genomics, are ready to step in and help advance global healthcare, while making the country a life sciences hub.
Lithuania is quickly establishing itself as a life sciences powerhouse. Last year alone the sector grew by almost 87% and generated revenues of 2 billion Euros. Today, thanks in part to the country’s EU-leading higher education numbers, the life sciences sector is accelerating even faster with 40 new startups. Looking to the future, Lithuania has a goal to have over 500 biotech startups with a combined turnover of 3-4 billion euros by 2030.
CasZyme is increasing the availability of new treatments
One of the better-known biotech companies in Lithuania is CasZyme, which is developing new tools in support of CRISPR-Cas genome editing technology research. As CasZyme CEO Monika Paule notes, Lithuania has many strengths, especially in molecular biology, biophysics, genetics and biomedicine. and others.
“There are many reasons why Lithuania’s ratings in life sciences grow every year: we have a lot of talented professionals, strong research and development infrastructure. Meanwhile, our environment for business development proves that Lithuania still hasn’t unleashed its full potential in life sciences,” she explains.
Genome editing technology is new, unique, and innovative – that is why the whole world is so interested in it. Mrs. Paule believes that this pinoneering technology will form not only the future of medicine but also the future of agriculture. “In medicine, scientists hope to use CRISPR to fix genetical disorder such as sickle cell disease and Huntington’s disease, she notes. Whereas in agriculture, CRISPR could help fix climate change issues, including drought and changes in pest populations.” Such a wide range of applications is useful for both small and large corporations on an international scale to improve research, including in drug therapy, medical diagnostics, agriculture and industrial biotechnology.
Droplet Genomics shows how Lithuanian and German scientists are making research more accessible
Droplet Genomics is another example of Lithuanian innovation. It commercializes droplet microfluidics technology, which facilitates cutting-edge discoveries. Their goal is similar to CasZyme’s: to make high-throughput research more accessible. One way this can be achieved is by increasing the ease of use. Droplet Genomics are attempting to achieve this by simplifying the process of adopting droplet microfluids technology, while also solving technical problems surrounding new applications of the technology.
Droplet microfluidic technology is best used for high-throughput research, especially developing new drugs and analysing complex diseases at single cell and molecular level. One prominent example of this is the discovery of therapeutical antibodies. This technology is researched not only by Droplet Genomics, but a whole host of other companies, including biotech startups in Germany. Obviously, this is an area where both countries could – and should – cooperate.
The companies discussed above are just a small sample of Lithuania’s growing biotech ecosystem. As Lithuania’s infrastructure develops further and our partnerships with German companies deepen, this Baltic Tiger can solidify its status as one of Europe’s biotech centres – a goal that the country does not hide.
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