The Lithuanian biotechnology sector continues to grow consistently – according to the Lithuanian Biotechnology Association (LBTA), last year the revenues of companies in this sector amounted to 2.6 billion. EUR (EUR 1.9 billion in 2020), and one private sector worker generated approximately EUR 0.95 million. EUR of income (EUR 0.78 million in 2020). The number of people working in the private sector in this area also increased – compared to 2020, it increased to 2,790 last year – 565 more employees than two years ago. Since 2010 the revenue of our country’s biotech sector has jumped up more than 11 times.
LBTA President Tomas Andrejauskas is happy that the COVID-19 pandemic did not harm the growth of the sector, on the contrary – several Lithuanian biotechnology companies made a significant contribution to the management of the pandemic situation, and some started developing new products, producing test kits and vaccine components. According to T. Andrejauskas, the biotechnology sector has been growing and growing throughout the last decade – 3-4 new companies join LBTA every month, biotechnology competence centers are being developed in Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda and Panevėžys, we have a number of well-known companies: “Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics”, ” Northway Biotech, Biomatter Designs, Roquette Amilina, Bioenergy LT, Caszyme, etc., also boast success stories and technological excellence. We are seeing a growing number of startups in the sector. What is particularly encouraging is that there are more and more startups that are spin-offs from universities to which technologies or products developed at those universities are transferred.
“Lithuania has good conditions to reach the planned 5%. of the country’s GDP, but this requires a greater contribution not only from business, but also from the state: developing incubators, acceleration programs and, most importantly, systematically investing in the development of technologies and their commercialization. To achieve a global breakthrough, investments in the biotech and life sciences sector should be at least 10 times higher than today, at least 250-300 million. euros. Although today’s circumstances overstate the priorities, it is necessary to consider the fact that the biotechnology sector creates high added value and generates significant income for the state in the long term. In addition, this sector is anti-cyclical, which was also confirmed by the pandemic period, so it would be an excellent income hedging instrument for the state in crisis periods”, asserts the president of LBTA.
Human capital also reveals the potential of biotechnology and life sciences in Lithuania. According to data collected by LBTA from six higher education institutions, 1,309 students – 1,009 undergraduate students and 300 master’s degree students – studied biotechnology and life sciences related study programs last year. Although the number of students seems to be considerable, the market lacks biotechnology specialists. We have examples of some companies recruiting specialists from neighboring countries. With such a labor market conjuncture, we see a rapidly growing average salary in the field of biotechnology, which is around 2800 euros. This should encourage more young people to choose to study in this field and link their careers with life sciences and biotechnology. There is a shortage of places for state-funded researchers in research and study institutions, therefore, in response to market needs, the state and universities need to finance additional researchers and PhDs in the field of life sciences and biotechnology.
The modern infrastructure of biotechnology and life sciences created in our country further strengthens the sector, and in 2020 The Partnership Institute of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) started operating at the Vilnius University Life Sciences Center (VU GMC). This is a significant international assessment of the Lithuanian life sciences sector. Six high-level international research groups work in this institute, which has no analogues in Lithuania, developing and strengthening the globally recognized gene editing technology, one of the creators of which is VU GMC Distinguished Professor Virginijus Šikšnys. The new research centers not only contribute to the development of talent, but also carry out applied research for existing companies.
Lithuania, as a leader in the fields of biotechnology and life sciences and the center of European attraction, will soon receive global attention – on October 26-27, the leading European industrial biotechnology and bioeconomy forum “New generation economies: industrial biotechnology for a sustainable society” will be held in Vilnius, where it will be discussed how industrial biotechnology contribute to changes in sectors and consumer choices and needs. The event will be attended by more than 500 industry leaders, representatives of small and medium enterprises, policy makers, academics, and over 50 speakers will share their experiences and insights. This is the largest conference of its kind in Europe, which will further establish Lithuania on the world map of biotechnology.
LBTA unites 37 companies that manufacture and develop biotechnological products and provide services in the life sciences sector, as well as 9 scientific and study institutions conducting fundamental and research in the field of biotechnology, including individual researchers actively participating in research in the field of biotechnology.
The goal of LBTA is to promote the science of biotechnology and its wider application in the Lithuanian economy in solving global environmental and quality of life challenges. LBTA singles out life sciences, medical technology, and bioeconomy as priority areas of activity.
Photos from the Thermo Fisher Scientific archive.