The Danish health sector lags behind that of many other countries in its application of advances in personal health and artificial intelligence (AI) technology solutions. “In order to address this gap, our hospitals, universities, and companies need to work together towards one clear vision to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of the healthcare system in Denmark”, says Peder Jest, Medical Director at Odense University Hospital.
This prescription for stronger collaboration across these sectors will require a powerful handmaiden. Luckily, such a unifying force is emerging in the shape of the newly formed national cluster for Life Sciences and Welfare Technology.
A unified life sciences cluster can be of benefit to everyone, making it easier to get Danish health solutions on the political agenda
Thomas Lethenborg, CEO of Monsenso
In order to secure its place among Denmark’s future positions of strength, the healthcare sector is undergoing a major restructuring. This new cluster dedicated to life sciences and welfare technology is a critical part of that restructuring with the goal of bringing a common framework for the systematic application of innovation, research, and development across the field.
Strong precedent for what can be achieved through collaboration
Thomas Lethenborg, CEO of Monsenso, believes that a joint cluster is the right path forward. Monsenso is already a member of the health clusters Welfare Tech, HealthTech Nordic, and Health Tech Hub Copenhagen. In Lethenborg’s words: “A unified life sciences cluster will benefit to everyone by making it easier to get Danish health solutions on the political agenda. Just look at how much focus there has been on cancer – which is thanks to the Danish Cancer Society successfully bringing together all of the stakeholders to ensure sustained focus, donations, and research funding for cancer. The same principle of focusing and combining forces to improve the Danish healthcare system has led to clustering of our life sciences and welfare technology sector.”
Monsenso develops digital solutions to improve mental health outcomes through prevention, early intervention, and treatment. The company has participated in 13 research projects — each of which has been cross-sectoral and collaborative, benefitting from the involvement of leading researchers and health professionals in Denmark and abroad.
One ecosystem for mutual gain: Why hospitals need the business community and vice versa
“The healthcare system is facing major changes. Innovation is essential to fulfilling our ambition of personalised healthcare and precision medicine. We need input and solutions from businesses and researchers that think outside of the box,” proclaims Peder Jest, Medical Director and Chairman of the Innovation Council at Odense University Hospital.
Odense University Hospital has a successful track record with development projects that involve both companies and research institutions. The latest example of such an initiative is the Center for Clinical AI or CAI-X, which is a collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark that brings together research-based evidence in AI with clinician point-of-care needs.
CAI-X is working on algorithms to track intestinal cancer through the use of camera capsules. The group is also using AI to detect early signs of diabetes and pregnancy complications through facial video sequences. “These projects exemplify the value of combining the skills and experience of universities and companies in order to bring AI advance that increase the value and success of healthcare interventions.”
Solutions through research and evidence
A core mandate for the new National Life Sciences and Welfare Technology Cluster will be to ensure that the knowledge built up in research institutions and university hospitals is translated and applied directly to patient care. The Danish company, Chromaviso, which develops health-promoting lights for hospitals and nursing homes – serves as an excellent example of the benefit to health outcomes that can be achieved by applying evidence-based insights.
“There is a massive amount of research, knowledge, and technical skills behind Chromaviso’s lighting protocol, which was developed in collaboration with Aarhus University Hospital and Rigshospitalet,” asserts Torben Skov Hansen, Chromaviso’s head of innovation and quality. “Solid research and evidence are indispensable for a technology company like ours.”
Mobilising efforts, the Danish Executive Board for Business Development and Growth has announced that clusters must be consolidated by the end of 2020.