FinVector is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of viral-based gene therapy products. The company’s new production facility is being built in Savilahti, Kuopio, and is expected to be completed in 2024. The facility will have a major impact on the pharmaceutical sector in Kuopio and across Finland.
The new, four-storey, 24 000-square-metre production facility will produce various gene and cell therapy products at an even higher capacity. The main focus is on manufacturing a viral-based gene therapy product for bladder cancer. If needed, FinVector is also prepared to start manufacturing the coronavirus vaccine developed by Rokote Laboratories Finland Ltd.
FinVector has been developing viral-based therapies for quite some time – ever since the 1990s. It is far ahead of other similar businesses. The company owes its success partly to its financially sound ownership, which has seen the potential in FinVector and its expertise. The owner, Ferring Ventures SA, and its other subsidiaries have been happy to support FinVector. The company also has an extensive international network to leverage.
“We discovered the potential in viral-based therapies before others did. Our production processes also allow us to manufacture products at a high capacity compared to other manufacturers of gene and cell therapy products,” says Johanna Pantsar, HR Director of FinVector.
FinVector’s new production plant is being built in the area of Savilahti in Kuopio, near the company’s current facilities. The construction plans include a provision to increase the production capacity in the future. In addition to production, the new building will house storage, laboratory and office facilities. The building will use renewable energy solutions, such as waste heat recovery using heat pumps and solar energy. In addition, FinVector will be applying for LEED certification for sustainable construction for its new facility.
“Our group is owned by a family business and we chose a Finnish family business, Rakennusliike U. Lipsanen Oy, to build our new facility. This also allowed us to link the construction of the building to our values,” says Pantsar.
FinVector hopes to see more biotech organizations relocating to the Kuopio region so that there would be more local providers of analysis testing services, for example. There is one company in Kuopio providing this service and FinVector partners with them, but some services have to be purchased from abroad.
FinVector has over 300 employees from more than 30 different countries, and the number of employees is expected to almost double once the new facility opens. However, the company has occasionally struggled to find employees from Finland who have sufficient skills in the pharmaceutical field – particularly in gene therapy products. Because of this, FinVector is looking outside the borders of Finland to find more talent in the field.
“The city of Kuopio promised to establish an international school, something that is still missing in Kuopio. This will help tackle the challenge of attracting international talent to Kuopio and recruiting them to work for us. This was big, positive news for us,” says Pantsar happily.
She believes that one of the pull factors that should be emphasized to foreigners is the nature of working in Finland. We have long holidays and reasonable working hours. We provide a good work-life balance and employers also pay a large statutory pension to their employees. Unlike in many other countries, there is no limitation on the amount of sick leave either. Pantsar also points out that comprehensive school in Finland is free of charge and the price of day care is quite reasonable. Pupils are also entitled to a free meal during school days.
“Nature is a big factor as well, but these are some of the things that I’m sure would attract more international talent to Finland.”
FinVector is part of various networks dealing with HR issues related to talent and attractiveness. When talking with other HR people, Pantsar has noticed that while companies acknowledge that Finland needs more versatile expertise, they are still reluctant to hire foreign, international candidates. She believes we should not overcomplicate things.
“It’s a fact that there are simply not enough Finns for all the jobs that require special expertise. Finnish candidates may not have the right experience and there are just too few of us. So I would encourage companies to boldly seek solutions abroad,” says Pantsar.
“FinVector’s investment decision is a significant, highly welcome investment for the city of Kuopio. The investment of a company with such a strong focus on high expertise will further consolidate the knowledge- and research-intensive health ecosystem in the Savilahti area of Kuopio. As a growing university town, Kuopio provides an excellent business environment for FinVector and its international staff,” says Mayor of Kuopio Jarmo Pirhonen.
Text: Minna Akiola