In addition to the pharmaceutical industry, the Health Sector Growth Strategy also comprises the entire Life Sciences sector. The strategy highlights the opportunities created by the health sector and lists the most important measures to develop the Finnish research environment. The implementation of the strategy is ongoing for a second Government term, and the current cabinet under Prime Minister Sipilä has invested in projects which support the operations in the sector, such as the founding of a national cancer centre and genome centre. The Health Sector Growth Strategy is a cooperation between three Ministries (Employment and the Economy, Social Affairs and Health and Education and Culture) and the funding parties (Academy of Finland, Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation TEKES).
Commitment of actors make Finland a strong research country
Finland already has several strong competitive edges that make the country an excellent venue for health-focused research operations. Finnish healthcare professionals are highly educated and professional. They are committed to research and see to the projects being finalised in agreed timetables. Finnish patients have a positive attitude to research, and once they decide to participate, they also stay on board and adhere to the research-related instructions. This is reflected in the number of research projects done in Finland: compared to the population numbers, Finland has hosted a proportionally high number of clinical trials.
Over the decades, Finland has been collecting comprehensive patient data in various healthcare registers. The healthcare system has also accumulated blood and tissue samples in biobanks for a good many years. From the research point of view, the Finnish legislation on biobank operations is considered to be the most progressive set of laws in the world, and it is being further revised and improved in a research-friendly manner.
New possibilities open in Finland
The Finnish society shares a strategic intent to promote health-focused research. One example is a pending legislative amendment whereby the information in the healthcare registers can be utilised for patient recruitments and register-based research. This will facilitate and accelerate the targeted recruitment of research patients, for example.
The possibility to combine the data stored in patient records, biobanks and registers will generate an immense volume of new kind of data that will benefit academic basic research, clinical trials in pharmaceuticals and follow-up and effectiveness studies needed when novel medicines are launched to the market. Finland is currently constructing a one-stop application and filing process which will considerably accelerate the current handling of applications.
According to the legislative draft, the patient data can be used in research unless the patient expressly refuses it, meaning that a separate consent-giving process would no longer be needed. The bill will go to Parliament in the autumn of 2017 and it is expected to enter into force as of the beginning of 2018.