Correspondence in Nature

Putting Norway on the gene therapy map

In a Commentary on "The future of gene therapy" in Nature (Cavazzana-Calvo et al. Nature 427, 779-781; 2004), a large map illustrated the number of gene therapy trials in different countries, indicating that no trials have been performed in Norway. Because Norway has the reputation of a prohibitive country when it comes to biotechnology, this incorrect impression can have serious consequences for the interest of pharmaceuticaal companies. Ola Myklebost tries to set the record straight. Seven gene therapy trials have been performed in Norway, of which six at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.


The letter (printed in Nature May 13th 2004):

Sir— I read with interest the Commentary by M. Cavazzana-Calvo et al. on “The future of gene therapy” (Nature 427, 779–781; 2004). However, readers should be aware that the statistics used to produce the map on page 781,“Number of approved gene-therapy trials” are incomplete.
The map, using data compiled from available sources by the Wiley Journal of Gene Medicine, indicated that no genetherapy trials have been performed in Norway. Yet, according to the Norwegian Directorate of Health, which approves such studies, seven trials were performed before 2004 — six at the Norwegian Radium Hospital and one at the National Hospital, both in Oslo.
For Norway, this is not just a question of incomplete statistics.When the first application for a gene-therapy trial was rejected in 1996 by the Norwegian Board of Health, on the basis of sound scientific advice, rumours circulated in the international community that Norwegian authorities were hostile toward gene therapy. Your map supports this impression. Yet, during the past five years the Norwegian Ministry of Health has funded an ambitious grant programme to help scientists in Norway acquire internationally competitive competence in gene therapy.
Some years ago, I participated in a technology-assessment study of gene therapy organized by the Norwegian Center for Health Technology Assessment, in which the Wiley, Medline, EMBASE and NIH databases were searched for information on clinical trials. This resulted in a much more complete survey, although there is still no single authoritative source for such information.

Ola Myklebost
Department of Molecular Biosciences,
University of Oslo Department of Tumour Biology,
Norwegian Radium Hospital, N-0310 Oslo, Norway


The Norwegian report, Gene therapy, Status and future possibilities in clinical medicine, can be found at: http://www.sintef.no/smm/Rapporter/Rapport7-00.pdf

The analysis has been published:

Lyngstadaas A, Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2002;18(3):645-74

Lyngstadaas A, Smeland EB [Gene therapy--status and recommendations in Norwegian health care
system] Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2001;121(3):343-8. Norwegian, English abstract
See www.tidsskriftet.no

The Norwegian Center for Health Technology Assessment can be found at:
http://www.sintef.no/smm