Demand for biobank business growing fast
Minna Hendolin, new Director, Strategy and Business Development at Auria Biobank, develops the biobank’s business, co-operation between Finnish biobanks, and the regional innovation environment.
Ph.D. Minna Hendolin changed jobs from Tekes in Helsinki to Turku at the beginning of September. In addition to biobank operations, the Strategy Director’s work includes development of innovation environment especially for drug development and diagnostics businesses, as well as national collaboration in the communication between biobanks.
Before coming to Auria, Dr Hendolin was responsible for financing and innovation activities for life science industries at Tekes. She also has previous experience in founding and managing a pioneering biotechnology start-up, development of regional and national innovation activities, and research work in the University of Kuopio.
”Now I’m developing both Auria Biobank’s business operations and the collaboration between Finnish biobanks. Auria has been a trailblazer since it was founded two years ago. There is already high demand for the services and it keeps growing. Both international companies and medical researchers have expressed their interest. We have had dozens of external assignments”, Dr Hendolin says.
Advantages and opportunities
The small resources of the biobank have been a challenge, and hence the merging of Finnish biobanks is being studied. The recently initiated study on the merger of the biobanks in Turku and Tampere will be completed in the spring.
Dr Hendolin thinks that Finnish biobanks still have a lead compared to the rest of the world. Auria Biobank’s specific competitive advantage stems from more than one million pathological tissue samples which have been collected since the 1930s, and especially the patient data related thereto. From 1986 on, the samples have been linked to digital diagnoses, and from 2000 on also to the treatment given and its results.
Digital access to archives
The utilisation of the biobanks is still limited by the separate information systems and the rigidity of the legislation. The interfaces have to be built in such a way that the data can be searched from several sources scattered in different systems and then combined. Things are moving forward, and e.g. the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is currently preparing for the Government a draft on legislation concerning secondary use of customer and patient data in the social and health care systems. Furthermore, the Ministry has promised that the My Kanta service for electronic medical records will be available in 2017.
Minna Hendolin sees here an opportunity for Finland to act as a pioneer country.
”We should take the opportunity, as it will generate business and health benefits to the citizens in the form of better treatment and thus pay for itself. Biobanks hold much more information than the archives of any single hospital, so using them will expand the research potential considerably”, she says.
”We now need bold strategic decisions and national investments in infrastructure and operating models to get our biobank operations running”, Dr Hendolin stresses.
Extensive use of the information
The extensive materials in the biobank also enable making financial calculations, for example, on the effect of certain treatment methods on the number of hospital days and the treatment costs of diseases. Precise information allows for proving the importance and effectiveness of different factors in an understandable form and developing the activities, as well as anticipating the results of treatment. Biobank research will also introduce new tools to the research of health economics.
”There are opportunities, and I’m convinced that there will be plenty of providers. We should not reach in many directions but focus on the essential. For example, international giant company GE founded its digital health research centre in Helsinki, although Silicon Valley was also interested in it. GE was particularly impressed by the start-up businesses, but the government’s investments in e.g. infrastructure and research funding also played a big role”, Minna Hendolin says.
She envisions Turku as a pioneer of national individualised medical science that would act as a dynamic development environment of the pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries for academic researchers as well as companies.
”Turku has systematically invested in medical research in universities and the campus infrastructure, plus we have here Finland’s leading cluster of pharmaceutical and diagnostics industry companies as well as a high-standard university hospital. A little more local and national co-operation, and I believe that the region will attract more e.g. international investments.”
Joy from a job in Turku
Minna Hendolin has studied and worked most of her life in Kuopio.
”I have lived in Turku for six years and travelled to work to Helsinki by train. Now it’s great that I can get to work from Harittu district in just five minutes”, she says.
There’s more time for hobbies: exercising, walks with the dog, and gardening. Dr Hendolin used to play volleyball when she was younger, and now she goes to gym several times a week. The two athlete sons of the family still live at home, so food consumption is huge. Her daughter studies in Turku School of Economics.
Text and photos: Anne Kortela
Born in 1965 in Eno (now part of Joensuu), in North Karelia
Place of residence: Turku 2009–
Education: Ph.D. 1998 University of Kuopio, molecular biology
• 9/2015– Auria Biobank, Director, Strategy and Business Development
• 1/2013–8/2015 Tekes, Executive Director, Health and Well-Being, member of Executive Group of Tekes
• 1/2010–12/2012 Tekes, Director, Life Science Industries
• 3/2008–12/2009 Technopolis Ventures Kuopio Oy, CEO
• 2002–2008 Teknia Oy, Development Director
• 9/1995–12/2001 Pharming Oy, Researcher, Manager Quality Assurance, acting CEO
• 1990–1996 University of Kuopio, Researcher
Family: one adult daughter, two sons aged 18 and 14 years
Hobbies: Various physical exercise, gardening, dog