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A new Swedish innovation center for life sciences is open

Today, August 21st, a new innovation center, aimed at boosting manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals was inaugurated in Uppsala, Sweden.

The new center, Testa Center, is located at the GE Healthcare site in Uppsala and  is supported by €4.5 million in equipment from GE Healthcare Life Sciences and €10 million in funds from Vinnova, the Swedish government’s innovation agency.

The center is owned and operated as a non profit company by GE Healthcare in Uppsala that also provides operational support and expertise for project owners.

Other sponsors include SWElife, Region Uppsala, Uppsala BIO, The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and The Foundation for Collaboration between the Universities in Uppsala, Business and the Public Sector (STUNS).

A successful private-public partnership

“Testa Center is a real-life example a successful public-private partnership that has brought together many key players in Sweden,” said Lotta Ljungqvist, the CEO of Testa Center in a press release.

At the inauguration Jenni Nordborg, Director National Coordinator Life Sciences at the Government Offices and Head of Health Division of Vinnova said that the center is a key component of the Swedish government’s life science strategy and “a node for new knowledge and innovation”.

A testbed fo academia, start-ups and industry

The 2 500 square metres large center consists of four industrial research laboratories (non-GMP), equiped with mostly GE Healthcare’s equipment for cell culture and protein purification at a scale slightly larger than an ordinary lab. It is a testbed open to academia, start-ups and industry. The center has bioreactors and filtration and protein purification equipment for growing and processing up to 500-liter cultures. There is also laboratory space for process and digitalization techniques, as well as offices. The clients in the center will maintain total control of their IP and their data and GE Healthcare will not have any rights related to processes or innovations.

The center could manage around 10-15 different projects per year, lasting from four weeks to up to six months, and companies pay 60 000 SEK/week. Five employees will work solely on supporting clients at the center and Lotta Ljungqvist, GE Nordics CEO and president, Vinnova board member, will spend around 50 % of her time being the Testa Center CEO.

“Our aim is to help academic groups and start-ups  that do not have the infrastructure for pilot-scale biomanufacturing,” says Ljungqvist.

Participants will be able to perform cost efficient research because they will be able to develop, test, verify and create production parameters before they invests in equipment of their own.

“We also hope that this will lead to collaborations and synergies between Swedish companies and researchers, and further on perhaps also between Swedish companies and international companies. GE Healthcare will also take advantage of the new facilities, and hopefully find new collaboration partners,” adds Ljungqvist.

The first users

The first company in the center will be BioLamina and Kristian Tryggvason, CEO of the company, emphasized the importance of this kind of facility. If he and his colleagues would not have been able to scale-up their production capacity at the new center they would have had to rely on large global contract manufacturers. Now these competencies will remain in-house

BioLamina develops and manufactures protein-based reagents, Biolaminins, used to create reliable and robust processes to develop therapeutic cells from stem cells. Through a collaboration agreement with Novo Nordisk they will support the development of new cell therapies targeting Parkinson’s disease, heart failure and loss of vision.

Among the first users at the center are also Ilya Pharma, developing biological drugs for treating wounds in skin and mucosa, and Uppsala University.

Important educational activities

Testa Center will also host bioprocessing educational activities in collaboration with for example Uppsala University, and this was something that all speakers agreed upon being very important. These skills are very much sought after and it is hard to find a place to train as a student or as a newly graduated student. The first course will begin in December 2018.

A life science strategy

Life sciences is one of the Swedish government’s top five strategic areas, where they strive to increase collaboration between the public sector, business and academia to strengthen the country’s competitiveness and innovation capability. For example, earlier this year, the government opened an office that is fully dedicated to life sciences.

“Testa Center is important for Sweden and our life science strategy, as we are facing tougher health challenges globally. People grow older and chronic and lifestyle-related diseases are increasing. Life sciences is a knowledge-intensive sector with a high growth potential,” said Mikael Damberg, Minister for Enterprise and Innovation in Sweden, at the inauguration.

 

In the photo: Jesper Hedberg, Project Manager, Testa Center, GE Healthcare, Mikael Damberg, Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Emmanuel Ligner, President and CEO GE Healthcare Life Sciences and Lotta Ljungqvist, CEO Testa Center. Photo: Anniki Skeidsvoll Edén