Finnish biotechnologists are moving to the UK, where technology doesn't stop at mobile phones.

Finnish biotechnologists are moving to the UK, where technology doesn’t stop at mobile phones. The mobile phone industry is so dominant in Finland, says Auvo Kaikkonen, CEO of Finnish biotech firm Inion, that expertise in other areas loses out.

Kaikkonen was speaking at the launch of Inion’s European Technical Centre in Cambridge, UK. Inion develops biodegradable medical implants, such as plates, screws, and pins, used in the treatment of skeletal injuries. 

The next generation of products, which the Cambridge site will focus on, combines the structural role of these implants with properties that accelerate healing. The company received its first patent in September for its Optima PLUS implant platform, which incorporates a bioactive component designed to stimulate bone growth.

Preclinical research with the system, which incorporates the bioactive component N-methyl-pyrollidone (NMP), shows increased bone growth rates in models, the company reports.

’NMP stands in Finland for Nokia Mobile Phones,’ said Kaikkonen, ’hopefully it will have a similar impact.’

UK science and innovation minister, Lord Sainsbury, opened Inion’s new centre on the Cambridge science park. ’Biodegradable medical implants have the potential to revolutionise many areas of surgical practice,’ said Sainsbury, adding that a site in Cambridge will make the company ’part of what is arguably the most exciting hi-tech cluster in Europe.’

The Cambridge facility has six staff, which the company plans to double in six months, says CEO Kaikkonen. Initial research will focus on proof-of-principle studies and on screening further bioactive molecules, all of which are currently used for other medical purposes. NMP was already used as a solvent in several pharmaceuticals marketed in the US.   Kaikkonen says the company will have chosen which molecules to pursue by the end of 2006/early 2007.

The company is also on the lookout for innovative ideas, particularly anything that might once have been deemed impracticable.

’There are a number of brilliant ideas around that have been put in a drawer somewhere,’ Kaikkonen told Chemistry World. ’Those need to be pulled out and presented to companies like ours because maybe something that was not do-able a year or five years ago is now a possibility.’ Bea Perks