OncoBone offers scientific expertise especially in the fields of oncology and bone diseases. In this blog we discuss and comment new scientific discoveries, new accomplishments in drug development and emerging technologies, and biomedical business -related issues. In this first blog post, we would like to introduce the brief history of OncoBone and share our experience in what it is like to start internationally operating business in Finland during the COVID-19 crisis.
OncoBone was established on January 23, 2020. The company is located in Oulu, Northern Finland. Just about two weeks before the company was established, on January 10, the World Health Organization (WHO) had given the first warnings of a novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus causing pneumonia in Wuhan, China. A week later coronavirus infections were already reported outside China and the disease started to spread uncontrolled. On February 11, the disease was named COVID-19 and active fast-forward moving research on treatment and prevention was started.
To try to control the spread of the disease, meeting and travel restrictions were advised by WHO on February 17, and they were followed on February 26 by advises how to get business ready for COVID-19. Despite the actions and precautions, the virus continued to spread and WHO announced a global pandemic on March 11. By this time, the virus had affected more than 100 countries and over 100 000 people. Soon after, on March 13, Europe became epicenter for the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Finland, COVID-19 started to spread in mid-March, but due to rapid governmental actions and guidance that were well taken and followed, Finland has handled the crisis quite well. Up to August 31, there has been only 8 086 COVID-19 cases in Finland causing 336 deaths.
Businesswise the restrictions have been hard for many companies and due to significant loss of sales during the COVID-19 crisis, a substantial amount of governmental funds have been given to companies that have lost over 30% of revenue compared to the same time last year. According to this criterion, over 200 m€ funding was given to Finnish companies. However, this criterion ruled out all start-up companies who cannot show the required decrease in revenue. This places many companies in a difficult position to carry out their business during these uncertain times, and it is likely that many start-up companies will not survive the COVID-19 crisis. We have personally communicated this to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in Finland that is responsible for defining the funding criteria, and we hope that the situation will change and there will be funds available for eligible start-up companies also.
For companies operating globally and where the majority of sales and marketing activities are outside Finland, the travel restrictions filed by a martial law in March 16 caused difficulties to new client acquisitions. As for many other companies, we also needed to acquire new platforms to communicate with our international clientele. It has been delighted to notice that despite missing the physical presence, the communication has been excellent. However, it is fair to state that not even the best video conference can be as productive as a face-to-face meeting. Furthermore, the insecure atmosphere with many of our clients has delayed the start of new projects.
A significant change in our business has been that all scientific events have been made virtual. While the virtual events have worked surprisingly well and allowed to gain the latest scientific information, they still lack face-to-face contacts and introductory discussions that are typically needed especially with new contacts.
Despite the COVID-19 crisis and the delay of projects, OncoBone is in a very good financial position. Together with our own investments we have received a total of 250 k€ funding from our bank Nordea and the governmental institutions Finnvera and ELY-centre, and we would like to sincerely thank them for believing in our business.
Sadly, June 29, 2020 was acknowledged as the six-month anniversary of the COVID-19 outbreak. A lot of effort has been put in research and development to end the crisis. There are more than 200 vaccine candidates in development and currently 7 vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials. The vaccines will most probably be needed for people to feel comfortable in traveling and meeting their colleagues face-to-face.
OncoBone would like to acknowledge all the healthcare professional and researchers for their current and continuing valuable work to overcome the COVID-19 crisis. We hope that the crisis will be over soon, and it will again be possible to travel to attend scientific and business events and meet our existing and potential clients and other contacts.
We hope to see you all on the road when the situation allows it. Stay safe!
References, cited on August 31, 2020: