Groundbreaking diagnostic method:
DiagGenic is Norway's most innovative company
A blood sample is all that DiaGenic ASA needs to determine whether a patient has breast cancer, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. Now they have been voted Norway's Most Innovative Company of the Year for 2009.
The biotechnology firm won an overwhelming majority of the votes as more than 1,000 of industry’s own representatives selected the winner from six companies nominated by the Research Council.
“This is an important acknowledgement, being chosen by peers who know how complicated it is to commercialise research findings,” says Praveen Sharma, one of the founders of DiaGenic.
Started with trees
When he was a student at the Agricultural University of Norway (now the Norwegian University of Life Sciences) in the mid-1990s Sharma and his supervisor Anders Lönneborg made an interesting discovery: it was possible to make a diagnosis of disease in one part of a tree by taking samples from a different part of that tree.
The two researchers hit upon the idea that this same biological communication may also be used for diagnostics in humans. By examining changes in gene activity in, for example, the blood, they believed they could recognise disease developing elsewhere in the body. And they were right.
Lönneborg and Sharma patented their technology in 1997 and founded Oslo-based DiaGenic in 1998.
A long road to success
Although Lönneborg and Sharma’s idea was unique, their and DiaGenic’s path to becoming a listed company was neither short nor easy. “It takes a very long time for an innovative idea to gain acceptance – and a long time before one can actually earn money from it,” says DiaGenic’s marketing director Christiansen.
Public funding, as well as a large group of shareholders that has long supported the project, have been essential to the company’s success. Now, 13 years after the idea’s germination, DiaGenic is listed on the Oslo stock exchange, and blood sample testing as a diagnostic tool for breast cancer and Alzheimer’s is on the market.
“Early, correct diagnosis makes it possible to treat and plan more effectively. A correct diagnosis is also critical to enable the pharmaceutical industry to develop new, more effective medicines,” says Christiansen.
Support from the Research Council
Throughout the company’s existence DiaGenic has received the steadfast support of the Research Council. Currently they are receiving funding under the Programme for User-driven Research-based Innovation (the BIA programme). Twice previously their project has been awarded grants from the Functional Genomics programme (FUGE), in addition to assistance provided under the SkatteFUNN tax deduction scheme.
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