Sweden Seeks Aid Abroad

STOCKHOLM—The two largest biotechnology companies in Sweden have set up foreign research centers to compensate for a shortage of trained scientists at home. Pharmacia is developing a center for genetic engineering research in La Jolla, Calif., while Astra has recently opened a research facility in Bangalore, India. Both centers will be staffed by local scientists. "We cannot find the right people here in Sweden," said Sune Rosell, head of research and development for Astra. The company pla

By | March 23, 1987

STOCKHOLM—The two largest biotechnology companies in Sweden have set up foreign research centers to compensate for a shortage of trained scientists at home.

Pharmacia is developing a center for genetic engineering research in La Jolla, Calif., while Astra has recently opened a research facility in Bangalore, India. Both centers will be staffed by local scientists.

"We cannot find the right people here in Sweden," said Sune Rosell, head of research and development for Astra. The company placed advertisements in the scientific press aimed specifically at Indian researchers in the recombinant DNA and molecular biology field, and received about 100 replies. "In Sweden," Rosell said, "the same advertisement would have brought in about 10 applicants."

Astra's new facility will concentrate on research into DNA techniques, cloning and protein chemistry, areas it has been unable to pursue for want of research expertise in Sweden. Its scientists have begun to look into DNA probes to speed up diagnosis of different kinds of diarrhea. The company has spent more than $5 million on the project, and expects eventually to employ 100 scientists.

Rosell said Astra hopes to play a role in slowing the flow of Indian researchers to the United States caused by the shortage of opportunities in India. The Swedish group also plans to carry out research into tropical diseases prevalent in India—a marked departure from its usual research.

Pharmacia, which markets itself in the United States as "the Biotech Swede," plans to invest more than $5 million in the next three years on its new facility in southern California, which is scheduled to open April 1. An initial staff of five Ph.D. scientists is expected to grow to 15 by the end of the year and 30 by the end of 1988. More than 200 scientists responded to its first recruitment effort. (Applicants may write to P.O. Box 8827, La Jolla, CA 92038 for more information.)

"We have many projects which would be well served by a genetic technology company, and we would prefer to have our own research company instead of putting our research out on contract," said Torsten Helting, president of the subsidiary, Pharmacia Genetic Engineering Inc.

The company hopes to use genetic engineering to produce pharmaceuticals and the key components in allergy testing kits.

Webb is a reporter with the Financial Times in Stockholm.

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