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Lithuanian life sciences sector: facts and numbers

On 26–27 October, Vilnius is hosting the European Forum for Industrial Biotechnology & the Bioeconomy 2022 (EFIB’22). The forum will bring together business leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, and investors as one of Europe’s most important events for biotechnology. What puts Lithuania on Europe’s life sciences map and what are the strengths of the country with only 2.8 million people trusted by the biggest global names in biotech?

  • Lithuania contributed immensely to the development of genetic engineering. Lithuanian scientist and Vilnius University Professor Virginijus Šikšnys was the first to discover CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool, which makes it possible to modify the DNA with great precision. For his discovery of gene molecular scissors, Prof. Virginijus Šikšnys was awarded the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize by Harvard University and the prestigious Kavli Prize in 2018. He is also a laureate of the 2017 Novozymes Prize of the Danish Novo Nordisk Fund.
  • Lithuania has an ambitious goal to accelerate the sector’s growth so it would contribute 5% to the national GDP by 2030.
  • In 2021, the biotechnology industry in Lithuania contributed 2.5% to the country’s GDP. The annual growth of the sector is 22%.
  • The sector currently has 571 companies that employ 7,500 people. Notably, the Lithuanian biotechnology industry’s revenue increased from €230M in 2010 to €2B in 2020.
  • In 2020, the Vilnius University Life Sciences Centre became home to the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Partnership Institute to develop genome editing technologies. Six international research groups work at the EMBL Partnership Institute in Vilnius, each tackling a different facet of gene editing.
  • Lithuania is home to six universities offering life sciences and biotechnology-related majors. In 2021, there were 1,309 students enrolled in these study programmes with over 400 graduating each year.
  • Overall, around 5000 scientists in the country are involved in research and projects related to life sciences.
  • 90% of the output of life sciences are exported to more than 100 countries worldwide. Lithuanian-made medical and pharmaceutical equipment and other products are trusted by customers in the USA, Germany, France, and elsewhere.
  • Dr Urtė Neniškytė, who focuses on mechanisms that shape our brains and may be linked to neurodevelopment and neuropsychiatric diseases such as autism and schizophrenia, was named one of the world’s 15 most promising female scientists by the L`Oréal Foundation and UNESCO in 2019.
  • In 2022, Dr Ieva Plikusienė received the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award for a breakthrough in research on the interaction between SARS-CoV-2 proteins and antibodies.