25.10.2023 - Biomedicine, Innovation

Latvia and The Baltics can become one of the European centers of precision medicine

The latest medical treatment methods are currently being developed in the Baltic and Nordic region, concludes PMNET, the international Precision Medicine Networking forum. The aim of the forum is to ensure that these come into clinical practice as soon as possible and become more accessible in both paediatric and adult medical treatment.

Latvia has defined its areas of specialisation in tandem with global companies and specialists from more than 50 countries, including Lithuania and Estonia, for the establishment of a regional European precision medicine centre. It is hoped that Latvia will become one of the world’s leading countries for precision medicine services and research.

PMNET is one of the tools for establishing Latvia’s skills in biomedicine and in the commercially-viable products or collaborative projects resulting from Latvia’s scientific capacity which could strengthen healthcare. The collaboration agreements signed during the forum and the willingness shown to continue developing precision medicine were confirmed by Minister of Economics Viktors Valainis, Minister of Health Hosam Abu Meri, Vice Mayor of Riga Linda Ozola, Director of the Innovation and Technology Department of the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia Ņikita Kazakevičs, and representatives of global companies including Novartis, EUSA Pharma, Roche and Illumina.

Riga has good access to talent

Roche Services & Solutions opened its fourth business service centre in Riga. Evija Celma, Head of Roche Services & Solutions Latvia, explains that Riga is a base from which to reach young talented professionals from the other Baltic and Nordic countries as well as Latvia itself.

“Riga is home to many experienced professionals in positions which the industry greatly needs, like financial specialists and business process analysts. We were also particularly interested in the language skills of local specialists and the availability of talented people in the relatively new areas of marketing such as graphic designers, campaign project managers, social media and marketing automation experts, and others,” Celma says.

Today’s job market and professions are constantly changing, so she believes that education must be well-rounded: both technical knowledge and creative and social skills are needed. “An enormous role in talented international candidates from neighbouring countries and further afield choosing Riga as their home is also played by society’s openness and an inclusive environment, because employees who join Roche join a global business which opens up global opportunities,” explains Celma.

A step forward in promoting insight

Continuing the topic first initiated at the 2022 forum, the Ministry of Economics hosted a panel discussion this year entitled Human Capital Development in Healthcare. Representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and Science, and experts from Riga Technical University, the University of Latvia and Riga Stradiņš University took part. The panel concluded that Latvia’s universities have everything they need to work together to create study programmes which could become the leading ones in the region.

“Precision medicine opportunities are developing fast, which is why it is particularly important to find the most suitable ways to use this development to help as many people as efficiently as possible,” stated Simon Pfisterer, partner at pharmacy firm Novartis and a leading researcher at the Academy of Finland and the University of Helsinki.

The precision approach in oncology can be found frequently, but the picture in cardiology and heart and vascular health is different. In Pfisterer’s opinion, the mere fact that conversations are being had around this topic in Latvia is a significant step towards promoting insight and developing access.

It is also crucial to resolve the challenges of interdisciplinary research. This is why an agreement was signed during the forum on the establishment of BioMedPharm, a research platform for the development of biomedicine. The platform unites six Latvian biomedical research organisations: the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre; the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis; the University of Latvia; the Institute for Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment BIOR; Riga Stradiņš University; and Riga Technical University.

Agreement on the next steps

Smart Specialisation In Biomedicine, a panel discussion hosted by the Ministry of Economics, defined the practical steps towards the further development of precision medicine. The panel concluded that a priority should be continuing work on the Biobank Law and the Secondary Use of Data Law, allowing for medical data to be used in research while also adhering to data security requirements.

It is also important to improve the legal framework for intellectual property rights as regards state universities, adapting them to the interests of researchers and promoting the commercialisation of science. A decision was made during the discussion to continue collaboration on opening open-style laboratories.

Latvia’s research capacity will also be strengthened by a collaboration with the Karolinska Institute, Sweden and Oslo University Hospital, with whom several Latvian organisations — the Children’s Clinical University Hospital, the Latvian Biomedical Research and Study Centre, and partners the Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Latvian Children’s Oncology Foundation — signed a memorandum on the development of the Latvian Childhood Cancer Biobank while networking at the forum.

The development of this kind of biobank will enable the collection and storage of high-quality biological samples and data, improving diagnosis and treatment for children with oncological illnesses and expanding Latvian scientists’ contribution to international cancer research.

Source: Press release (www.labsoflatvia.com)
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