Life Science

Only our imagination and creativity – or the lack of it – will set the limit!

State Secretary of Sweden: Peter Honeth
State Secretary of Sweden: Peter Honeth

Today I went to the Medicon Valley Alliance annual meeting 2009 in Copenhagen. A notable list of speakers were chosen for the event. The grand Swedish research project ESS was the theme for the meeting.

A prize was given, The Medicon Valley Cross-Border Award, to a scientist or business person who has established a collaboration across Øresund which has produced results within life science that would not have been possible without the collaboration.

The lucky receiver of the award this year was MD DMSc Professor Nils Brünner, who has has a background from both Denmark and Sweden. He opened his thank you speech by claiming that there has never been a border between Sweden and Denmark!

The Jury’s verdict for giving the prize to Nils Brünner: “For his effort to set up collaborations with scientific groups from Lund and Uppsala University, which has produced joint results within identification and clinical validation of biomarkers for colorectal cancer prognosis and treatment prediction and prognostic and predictive markers for breast cancer as well as the development of a new treatment for breast and colon cancer patients”.

Over all, speakers from both sides of the Øresund praised the success in getting the ESS project to where it is now with all the opportunities it opens for the future science within energy, health, new materials, chemistry, climate and environment.

Uffe Toudal Pedersen, Permanent Secretary, The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation said that “If it hadn’t been for the clever work and constant pressure from the Swedish administration of ESS, we wouldn’t be here today.”

Uffe Toudal Pedersen also emphasized the importance of building an attractive region and work on the international marketing of this region.

He concluded that from a perspective of beneficial investments that gives a lot back to the people, researchers and business life around Øresund, ESS can only be a winner!

The Swedish Government was represented by the Swedish State Secretary, Peter Honeth, who talked about Sweden’s commitment to stay ahead in the global competition and that Øresund is one of the large science regions in the world – “ESS represents possibilities in this region which is of utmost importance for the future.”

Another great speaker who came across really well, in explaining the benefit of the advanced research that will be done at the ESS, was Liselotte Højgaard. She is the Head of Department and director at Copenhagen University Hospital and Professor in Medical Technology at the University of Copenhagen.

Liselotte talked about the paradigm shift in the studies of medicine and the treatments of diseases. We have moved from the “resolution” of man, to cells, to the molecules and atoms we’re made of. One atom can be the difference from sick to healthy. Neutron science is relevant for nano medicine to protein research.

Understanding disease at the cellular and molecular level, based on fundamental discoveries in chemistry, physics and biology is crucial for understanding the processes of life itself. Neutrons can help solving major challeges in health scieces and Liselotte enthusiastically promoted the booklet Neutrons and Health (downloadable here) produced by ESS deputy director for science, Dr Christian Vettier.

Giving some examples on what neutron science can do for us, Liselotte told us that in the future human bone cells will be cultured to produce new artificially regenerated bone, new cartilage in joints and lung airways. Neutron diffraction is central to reveal the atomic-scale detail of the new artificial material.

The challenge for structural biology in the 21st century is to develop a comprehenive description of protein structures. Research and innovation with neutron scattering will make major contributions in this area.

Liselotte Højgaard concluded: Only our imagination and creativity – or the lack of it – will set the limit!