Research Council’s Awards 2009 to DiaGenic

Praveen Sharma with the two blood sampling kits that are currently on the market. Photo: Andreas B. Johansen.

DiaGenic ASA can boast the title of Norway’s Most Innovative Company of the Year, in recognition of the firm’s revolutionary diagnostics method based on a simple blood test.

Norwegian Minister of Research Tora Aasland presented the awards at the Research Council’s annual Evening of Excellence event in the Oslo Concert Hall on Oct. 14.

A blood sample is all that DiaGenic ASA needs to determine whether a patient has breast cancer, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Over 1,000 Norwegian business leaders voted to crown this developer of a groundbreaking diagnostics method as Norway’s Most Innovative Company of the Year for 2009. The biotechnology firm won an overwhelming majority of the votes as industry’s own representatives selected the winner from six companies nominated by the Research Council.

“This is an important acknowledgement, being chosen by peers who know how complicated it is to commercialise research findings,” says Praveen Sharma, who founded Oslo-based DiaGenic in 1998 together with Anders Lönneborg.

“Early, correct diagnosis makes it possible to treat and plan more effectively. A correct diagnosis is also critical to enable the pharmaceutical industry to develop new, more effective medicines,” says the firm’s marketing director, Dag Christiansen.

In the mid-1990s, Sharma was a student from India at the Agricultural University of Norway, now the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. He and his supervisor, Anders Lönneborg from Sweden, made an interesting discovery: it was possible to make a diagnosis of disease in one part of a tree by taking samples from a different part of that tree.

The two researchers hit upon the idea that this same biological communication may also be used for diagnostics in humans. By examining changes in gene activity in, for example, the blood, they believed they could recognise disease developing elsewhere in the body.

Lönneborg and Sharma patented their technology in 1997 and established DiaGenic in 1998. Although their idea was unique, their path to becoming a listed company was neither short nor easy.

Currently we are receiving funding from the Research Council’s Programme for User-driven Research-based Innovation (the BIA programme). Twice previously we received funding under the FUGE programme, in addition to assistance provided under the SkatteFUNN tax deduction scheme. This public funding, as well as a large group of shareholders that has long supported our project, have been essential to our success. It takes a very long time for an innovative idea to gain acceptance – and a long time before one can actually earn money from it,” adds marketing director Christiansen.

Now, 13 years after the idea’s germination, DiaGenic is listed on the Oslo stock exchange, and blood sample testing as a diagnostic tool for breast cancer and Alzheimer’s is on the market.


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