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Personalized medicine and translational research promise better in vitro diagnostic tests to guide health professionals in their therapeutic decisions.

The biopharmaceutical industry has begun using diagnostic tests to gauge the efficacy and safety of new drugs on a patient-by-patient basis, a method known as companion diagnostics.

This trend demands innovation in medical diagnostics. Europe boasts a significant critical mass in this field, both scientifically and industrially, encompassing academic research, the development and production of diagnostic tests, and the application of new diagnostic technology in the health sector.

Research centers, hospitals and businesses from this sector are all working to stimulate innovation in medical diagnostics. Regional clusters play a key role in driving innovation locally and in creating opportunities for collaboration throughout Europe. Thus the European Diagnostic Cluster Alliance (EDCA) was created to help Europe’s local stakeholders become global leaders.

The Alliance was initially spearheaded by Euromediag; the diagnostic cluster network Eurobiomed (Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France); and Wal-Dx, the in vitro diagnostic group of the BioWin health cluster (Wallonia, Belgium). Other clusters quickly came aboard, including Biocat, which signed an accord with Eurobiomed last October to foster collaboration in medical diagnostics, among other projects. Eurobiomed and Biocat are of course partners in the Southern Europe Biocluster (BSE), a Euroregional competitiveness network that enables European initiatives such as the aforementioned bilateral agreement or incorporation into the European Diagnostic Cluster Alliance.

The remaining members of the Alliance comprise Life Science Cluster Krakow (Krakow, Poland), Nexxus Scotland (Scotland) and Oxfordshire Biotech Network (Oxford, UK), Uppsala Bio (Sweden) and ZMDB (Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany). An organization from Slovenia may join in the near future.

Various members from each cluster attended the Alliance’s inaugural meeting, held in Brussels on 9 December 2010. A total of 250 in vitro diagnostics companies and research organizations were represented.

The primary objectives of the European Diagnostic Cluster Alliance are to promote competitiveness of European in vitro diagnostics entities; through networking and innovative partnering; facilitate and accelerate access to non-European markets (especially North-American and Asia); and elevate the role of diagnostics in medical practice.

Members of the European Diagnostic Cluster Alliance focus on identifying challenges and needs in the sector, promoting innovation through R&D collaborations, and sharing technological platforms. One of the most important endeavors established by the accord is cross-fertilization between different fields of technology.

Slovenian professor Tea Petrin, former Minister of Economy of Slovenia and former president of the European Commission’s European Cluster Policy Group, which develops policies to boost European clusters, also attended the meeting in Brussels. According to Petrin, “The European Commission’s strategy for promoting clusters has numerous benefits, including the strengthening and expansion of regional value chains at the international level. The Diagnostic Clusters Alliance is a pioneer in this strategy and has opened the path to good practices for Europe’s capacities in technology”.

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