At the beginning of this year, the Norwegian government decided it couldn't sit back while the country's biotech industry was slammed by the global recession.
In a $2.9 billion stimulus package prepared by the country's lawmakers, $418 million was set aside for biotechnology companies. Innovation Norway tripled the amount of money that can be loaned to research-heavy companies, offering a £95 million lifeline to drug developers. And Argentum, a government fund, picked up $279 million to invest in biotech and IT companies.
"This is the most active political move in Europe regarding support to the biotech industry," Bjarte Reve, chief executive of the Oslo Cancer Cluster, told reporters at the time.
"The funding comes through two main public facilitators," says Ole Jørgen Marvik, PhD, sector head for health and life sciences for Innovation Norway in London. "The Research Council of Norway has funding for company-driven research. They can sponsor up to 50 percent of the cost for research. The other entity is Innovation Norway. We can hand out loans as well as grants for research and grants for some elements of business development. In addition, we have an equity fund, an early-stage life science fund Norway. There are also a number of smaller seed funds which are regional. These funds are all 50-50 public-private partnerships."
Norway's small but thriving development industry is largely focused on new cancer drugs, and has about 50 oncology programs in the clinic. The government money is expected to make a big difference in keeping those programs alive and well.