LSMU in Kaunas: The Cradle of Innovation in the Field of Life Sciences
Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU) is the largest institution of higher education for biomedical sciences in Lithuania and one of the founders of the Hospital of LSMU “Kauno klinikos” and Kaunas Clinical Hospital. The university actively contributes to the growing sector of life sciences business. As noted by LSMU Vice-Rector for Science Prof. Vaiva Lesauskaitė, most of the studies currently being carried out by the university’s researchers are application-based. Cooperation with business is growing, spinoff companies are being created, and the best evaluations in Lithuania prove that the university is dealing with the challenges very well and is internationally competitive.
Entrepreneurship is developed during science and business cooperation events
“We constantly promote science and business cooperation: joint projects, patenting of ideas, and licensing. Scientists are pleased not only to receive financial benefits but also to see that the technologies they have created are needed and widely used. In this respect, the scientists from the Faculty of Pharmacy stand out from the rest: not only the number of products they produce but also the number of customers is expanding rapidly,” says Prof. V. Lesauskaitė.
Even 48 creative projects were presented last year at the science and business cooperation event “Innovations for Health 2018” organized by LSMU. Another 16 unique solutions to improve the health care system have been presented at the innovation laboratory “Smart up Lab 2019” that had a prize fund of up to 10,000 EUR.
Entrepreneurship and innovativeness of the university community are raised not only at events organized by the university and its partners. No less important is LSMU’s active participation in the activities of the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), promoting Lithuanian and foreign private and public sector institutions, encouraging researchers to use the services provided by LSMU in the fields of biomedical and agricultural sciences or commercializing the results of scientific activities.
Startups receive full support from the university
The university fully encourages the academic community to create companies whose ideas start with research conducted at LSMU. The LSMU Development Department, which carries out innovation and technology transfer functions, unites the startup community of life sciences from Kaunas and the whole Lithuania by providing pre-incubation services, organizing events that help to develop entrepreneurial and innovation skills, offering access to the necessary infrastructure and expert advice on innovation, intellectual property and funding.
Not by accident in 2018, LSMU in cooperation with Kaunas University of Technology has become the center for health innovations of the European Institute of Innovation & Technology EIT HEALTH. One of the main goals of the EIT HEALTH is to invest in the most promising students, scientists and other researchers creating products or services with commercial potential in the health system. LSMU actively encourages students, scientists, and startups to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the EIT HEALTH to finance and develop ideas, establish contacts, and so on. One of the most famous startups who took advantage of the opportunities offered by EIT HEALTH is MB Fidens, led by a former KTU student, and now a scientist Dr. Mantas Venslauskas. This startup, in collaboration with LSMU, develops several products related to blood circulation improvement.
Reached by developers of medical devices
As noted by LSMU representatives, it is now very popular both among the big manufacturers well-established in the world market and among young startups to create a wide range of health devices and equipment.
Prof. V. Lesauskaitė. Nuotrauka: LSMU.
“The university’s infrastructure works on an innovative open access principle, which means that both internal and external users have the opportunity to use modern and up-to-date scientific equipment to meet the needs of both science and business, the public sector, or study. LSMU is often reached by companies that have ideas for creating or improving a particular medical device or functional food. They can be offered a full cycle: from molecular research, experiments on animals to all-phase clinical trials. We are also seeing an increase in the demand for biotechnology and medicine development services,” says Prof. V. Lesauskaitė, emphasizing that LSMU, in cooperation with “Kauno klinikos” and Kaunas Clinical Hospital, has every opportunity to perform both preclinical and clinical studies.
Development is important not only for the country’s economy but also for the treatment of patients
Although the number of life sciences innovations is increasing, their product development time is usually much longer; there are higher investment needs and complex scientific infrastructure is needed. Moreover, product development requires different competencies: interdisciplinarity and the ability to lead a team of scientists, product development and market knowledge, and of course entrepreneurial skills.
“Life sciences startups are almost always not limited to the Lithuanian market but must compete internationally, so the incubation period and entrenchment usually take longer. It is important not only to create the best conditions for the development of the life sciences sector but also to make additional efforts in science, mentoring projects, to focus on the promotion of entrepreneurial skills, incubation, start-up acceleration programs, and early-stage enterprise financing,” says Prof. V. Lesauskaitė.
On the other hand, according to the professor, it is important not only to create favorable conditions for companies operating in Lithuania but also to attract large foreign investors: by successfully attracting and effectively using investments, the life sciences sector could create many new jobs, stimulate the development of the research, contribute to the economic growth of the country, and no less important, effective patient care.