The collaboration between Estonia and Sweden is set to drive innovation in the healthcare sector and improve healthcare outcomes globally. Estonia is well-prepared to lead the global HealthTech industry in the coming years with its favourable ecosystem, including strong governmental support, an innovative mindset, a skilled workforce, and supportive infrastructure. Likewise, Sweden’s Skåne region has become an influential innovation centre, home to a tenth of the headquarters of all Nordic companies.
“Many of the methods used in contemporary science only become available when countries jointly invest their knowledge and funding,” Alar Karis said.
During the visit, President Karis opened the business seminar in Scandinavia’s biggest life science research park, Medicon Village, where Estonian health technology companies are showcasing their innovative HealthTech solutions.
Estonian investments to Sweden to innovate healthcare
Lund is home to two of the world’s best-known materials and bioscience research centres that both have strong connections with Estonia. The MAX IV Laboratory in Lund uses shortwave synchrotron radiation to study materials and develop technologies. Estonia has invested €3.5M in the construction of a beamline there. Another top laboratory created with the participation of Estonia is the European Spallation Source in Lund: the world’s most powerful neutron source, it simplifies the study of, among other things, the structure of molecules, thereby explaining the qualities of materials and substances.
“Estonia’s contribution to these world-class laboratories enables our researchers to make new discoveries and advances in their work. This is the only way we can make ourselves more competitive in the fields of science and research,” Karis noted while visiting research centres in Lund.
“The different rule sets in each country are challenging HealthTech companies and make it difficult to enter new markets as the health data is particularly sensitive and protected,” noted Piret Ree, Invest Estonia’s Business Development Director in Sweden. “Even at the EU level, we will achieve a greater impact if the New Nordic countries cooperate. This is a move forward for the entire EU in competition with other large markets,” Ree added.
On the mission of healthy people
Estonia focuses on providing more effective and accessible healthcare services that are more patient-centred and science-based in both treatment and prevention, as well as developing personal health services. From eHealth to HealthTech, from personalised medicine to telemedicine, and from cybersecurity to AI, there are 177 science projects going on in Estonia with the strong potential to leave a mark in global medicine history and to improve healthcare all over the world by using Estonian advantages for research, digitalisation, innovation and piloting. Estonia is a home for 127 HealthTech startups and 1,500+ medicine-related companies supported by a vivid network of clusters, R&D institutions and science centres.
Digital healthcare in Estonia
Estonia’s e-Health journey began in 2008 when it conceived and built its state healthcare information system. Initially delivering patient data online, the system has since scaled to include new services, integrate private sector partners and Blockchain technology for system access and data integrity. 95% of medical data, including prescriptions and x-rays, is digitised in Estonia. Patients can view their data at all times, benefiting from convenience and trust, while healthcare professionals can make informed decisions, and the state saves significant resources.
Government is one element of a broader e-Health ecosystem. In academia, where Estonia ranks number 3 globally for teaching science, several universities and hospitals support research, clinical trials and applied care. Estonia is one of the few countries in the world possessing a genome database. MedTech solutions ranging from Big Data analytics to mobile self-treatment are developed, with cloud, Blockchain, and cyber security seamlessly integrated into everyday processes and services. Estonia’s ability to combine multiple disciplines and technologies, supported by enabling infrastructure and policy-making, will significantly increase R&D in areas such as genetics, biotechnology, and patient self-treatment in the future.
Healing by personalised medicine
Estonia is a world leader in the field of personalised medicine, with a number of companies and research institutions working on developing new therapies tailored to patients’ individual needs. However, 90+% of commonly-prescribed drugs achieve the desired effect in only 30-50% of the population. According to the Estonian Genome Center of the University of Tartu, about one-third of patients do not respond to the treatment at all.
Treatment success is related to genetic differences, drug metabolism enzymes, drug transporters, or drug targets. In order to make the cure work, the Estonian Genome Center has established the Estonian Biobank. This population-based biobank has already genotyped more than 200,000 individuals, reflecting the age, sex and geographical distribution of the adult Estonian population.
As one of Europe’s most successful population-based biobanks, joined by 20% of Estonian adults, the Estonian Biobank is a welcome partner in international research projects worldwide. The aim is to create a solution that enables doctors to access information about the interaction between a patient’s gene information and a specific drug when prescribing medication. This will allow doctors to prescribe more suitable drugs based on the patient’s genetic information. Additionally, there are plans to pilot an estimation of disease risk scores for some common diseases, like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some malignancies, based on genetic information. This will assist doctors in making better treatment decisions and advising patients on health problem prevention.
Estonian healthcare startups such as Migrevention are already using a personalised medicine approach. This HealthTech startup aims to provide accessible treatment to over 1.4 billion migraine patients worldwide through a digital therapeutic. Currently, only 1-4% of migraine patients receive evidence-based treatment, leaving the majority undiagnosed and untreated. Migrevention’s digital headache clinic aims to transform the patient-specialist relationship and revolutionise personalised medicine.
The Estonian delegation included representatives of the Estonian Genome Centre, Enterprise Estonia (Invest Estonia’s parent organisation), TalTech, the Estonian Academy of Arts, Universities Estonia and Estonian HealthTech, IT, AI, and cybersecurity companies, including Connected Health, MindTitan, Proud Engineers, Cognuse, Activate Health, Nanordica Medical, Cybernetica, Guardtime, and Migrevention.