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Finland: Pushing biotech forward in the land of a thousand lakes

Finland’s biotech industry is dynamic and particularly involved in areas such as precision medicine and immunotherapy. For instance, Herantis Pharma is developing advanced therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, while TILT Biotherapeutics focuses on enhancing the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapies using oncolytic viruses

While Finland’s biotech isn’t focused solely on health and contributes to the fields of food or sustainability with companies like Solar Foods or Metgen, healthcare remains a strong component of the country’s landscape. Here are seven biotech companies pushing the industry forward in Finland.

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    The Finland-based biotech company has developed a proprietary silica-based technology known as the Silica Matrix. This platform is designed for the controlled release of small-molecule drugs, biologics, and vaccines. By embedding the active pharmaceutical ingredients into a biodegradable silica matrix, DelSiTech can achieve a controlled and sustained release of the drugs enhancing the efficacy and safety of the treatments.

    Its lead program revolves around entecavir, an already approved antiviral drug for hepatitis B that has to be taken daily. With Delsitech’s delivery technology, the drug could be given every three months instead. The company also offers its technology to drug developer partners.

    In 2024, DelSiTech entered into a licensing agreement with an undisclosed global pharmaceutical company, granting exclusive rights to its Silica Matrix technology for developing and commercializing a long-acting injectable drug product. This deal includes an upfront payment of $9 million, potential milestone payments exceeding $200 million, and royalties on net sales. Additionally, DelSiTech expanded its collaboration with Tolmar International to develop more drug products across therapeutic areas such as urology, reproductive health, and pediatric endocrinology​​.


    Founded in 2011, Desentum aims to transform the treatment of allergies by modifying the immune system’s response from hypersensitivity to tolerance. This is achieved through the use of recombinant hypoallergens, which are engineered proteins designed to reduce the risk of serious adverse effects and decrease the time required for effective immunotherapy​​.

    Desentum’s lead product candidate is DM-101PX, a birch pollen hypoallergen vaccine currently in phase 1 clinical trials. This vaccine aims to desensitize patients to birch pollen, one of the most common allergens, by reducing the histamine release that typically triggers allergic reactions. The technology underlying DM-101PX is also being applied to develop vaccines for other allergies, including grass pollen and peanut allergies​​.

    In early 2024, the Finland company secured $12.9 million (€12 million) in a funding round led by Springvest Oyj. 

    Faron Pharmaceuticals

    Faron Pharmaceuticals, based in Turku, Finland, is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing immunotherapies for cancer and other diseases. The company’s lead product, bexmarilimab, is a humanized antibody that targets the Clever-1 receptor on myeloid cells and macrophages. By binding to this receptor, bexmarilimab aims to reprogram these cells from an immunosuppressive state to an immunostimulatory state, enhancing the body’s immune response against tumors.

    Bexmarilimab is currently being evaluated in the BEXMAB study, a phase 1/2 clinical trial. This study is investigating bexmarilimab in combination with standard-of-care treatments for aggressive hematological malignancies such as acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Preliminary data have shown promising results, with patients exhibiting durable remissions and significant immune responses​​.

    Herantis Pharma 

    Listed on Nasdaq Helsinki since 2014, Herantis Pharma, based in Espoo, Finland, is a clinical-stage biotech company focused on developing therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. 

    The company’s lead product, HER-096, is a brain-penetrating peptidomimetic derived from the cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF). CDNF is known for its neuroprotective and regenerative properties, but its therapeutic application has been limited by its inability to cross the blood-brain barrier. HER-096 has been engineered to overcome this challenge, enabling subcutaneous administration while retaining the neuroprotective properties of CDNF.

    HER-096 targets the unfolded protein response and brain inflammation triggered by alpha-synuclein aggregation, key factors in the progression of Parkinson’s disease. The drug’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier positions it as a promising treatment for Parkinson’s and potentially other neurodegenerative diseases as well.

    Herantis recently completed a phase 1a clinical trial for HER-096, which demonstrated favorable safety, tolerability, and significant concentrations of the drug in the cerebrospinal fluid after a single subcutaneous injection. The company plans to advance to a phase 1b trial in 2024 to further assess the safety and tolerability of multiple doses in Parkinson’s patients. This phase will also explore the drug’s potential in other indications.


    Nanoform specializes in using nanoparticles to improve the performance of drug candidates. There are many new compounds with medical potential that are challenging to dissolve and therefore, it’s hard for the drugs to enter the patient’s bloodstream. The particles developed by Nanoform are intended to make these molecules more soluble to allow them to simplify the formulation process.

    Utilizing its proprietary Controlled Expansion of Supercritical Solutions (CESS) technology, the Finland-based biotech company creates nanocrystalline forms of drug molecules to improve their solubility and bioavailability. 

    Nanoform’s pipeline features several innovative projects, with nanoenzalutamide being one of the most advanced. Nanoenzalutamide is a nanocrystalline formulation of Xtandi (enzalutamide), an Astellas Pharma medication used to treat prostate cancer. The traditional formulation, Xtandi, requires multiple large tablets daily due to its poor solubility. Nanoform’s nanocrystalline alternative aims to reduce the pill burden by increasing the drug load in a single tablet, making it easier for patients to manage their medication​​.

    In early 2024, Nanoform announced promising results from a bioavailability study of nanoenzalutamide. The trial demonstrated that the nanocrystalline formulation had superior bioavailability compared to the amorphous solid dispersion (ASD) used in Xtandi.

    TILT Biotherapeutics

    TILT Biotherapeutics is developing an immunotherapy designed to improve the efficacy of cancer treatments. The therapy consists of oncolytic viruses that selectively infect tumor cells and make them produce cytokines — molecules that help the immune system identify and fight the tumor. 

    The company’s lead candidate, TILT-123 (Igrelimogene litadenorepvec), is a chimeric adenovirus armed with TNF alpha and IL-2. TNF alpha is a cytokine involved in systemic inflammation and is part of the body’s immune response while IL-2 plays a crucial role in the activation and proliferation of T lymphocytes (T-cells), which are essential for the adaptive immune response. This candidate is currently being tested in multiple phase 1 clinical trials for various cancers, including ovarian cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors like pembrolizumab (KEYTRUDA) and avelumab​​.

    TILT Biotherapeutics presented promising clinical trial results for TILT-123 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) 2024 annual meeting

    Valo Therapeutics

    Valo Therapeutics is developing a new form of cancer immunotherapy. Its technology consists of coating the surface of oncolytic viruses with tumor peptides, which strongly activate the immune system against the tumor. The Finland-based biotech company leverages its platform PeptiCRAd (Peptide-coated Conditionally Replicating Adenovirus). This platform aims to deliver highly specific, adaptable, and immunogenic treatments for various cancer types.

    The lead product in Valo’s pipeline is PeptiCRAd-1, currently in a phase 1 clinical trial. PeptiCRAd-1 combines an oncolytic adenovirus with immunogenic peptides derived from tumor-specific proteins (NY-ESO-1 and MAGE-A3). This combination is designed to generate a strong systemic cytotoxic T-cell response against multiple tumor antigens. The trial involves patients with melanoma, triple-negative breast cancer, and non-small cell lung cancer, and it also includes an extension to treat certain types of sarcoma​.

    In 2023, Valo Therapeutics began dosing patients in their phase 1 trial of PeptiCRAd-1 to evaluate the safety, immune activity, and tumor response of this innovative therapy both alone and in combination with pembrolizumab. Additionally, Valo received regulatory approval to expand the trial to sarcoma. 

    Finland biotech’s focus on sustainability

    While Finland might not be the most health-related biotech-oriented country, it still invests in biotech innovation and is home to innovative companies. Government support plays a significant role in the future of Finland’s biotech industry. The Bioeconomy Strategy, which aims to promote sustainable growth through the use of renewable biological resources, sets ambitious goals, such as increasing the value of bioeconomy output to $107 billion (€100 billion) by 2035 and creating 100,000 new jobs. 

    Overall, the future outlook for Finland’s biotech industry is promising, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.4% over the next 6 years. 

    This article was originally published in May 2020 by Clara Rodrigues Fernandez and has since been updated by Jules Adam on June 2024.

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