A very unique conference
The idea behind the Swedish-American Life Science Summit (SALSS) was born in 2000/2001, when Barbro assisted Swedish Consul General Olle Wästberg in arranging meetings at the popular 600 Park Avenue in New York. The concept was that Barbro would invite investors and the owners of investment companies to meet new hot Swedish biotech companies.
She initiated the first SALSS meeting in Stockholm 2005 and down the years the event has highlighted important progress and challenges within the life science industry. On the agenda are the most interesting topics and the most exciting people. This is mixed with Barbro’s sense of creating relaxing settings where conversations can grow and new contacts can be made. Everybody I have spoken to for this article repeated the same words, “SALSS is a very unique event.”
“It is the only meeting that has succeeded in attracting people from the top of the US life science industry, scientists, companies and investors, to Sweden,” says Nikolaj Sørensen, CEO of Orexo. “There is no doubt that Barbro’s commitment and network in both the US and in Sweden is the key to this success. Without Barbro this meeting would probably have been like all other meetings in Sweden; mainly Swedish representatives and perhaps an occasional lone American.”
“In every encounter I have had with Barbro I am struck by her commitment, her professionalism and warmth. Thanks to her personality, her experience and broad network SALSS has received the status and the extremely interesting content that it has,” agrees Maria Strömme, professor in Nanotechnology at Uppsala University.
Last year Barbro also decided to arrange a SALSS meeting in Washington D.C., together with the Swedish Embassy there, and a second meeting was arranged there earlier this year.
“When we got the opportunity to arrange SALSS at the amazing House of Sweden in Washington it felt like a great honor. In addition Washington D.C. is a very important city for all life science companies aiming to market themselves in the US,” says Barbro.
Helén Waxberg, Senior Advisor and Lawyer at Mannheimer Swartling participated in SALSS D.C.
“The cross-fertilization that occurs is extremely exciting. In addition the SALSS meetings are a great source of energy and you always feel very positive and enthusiastic after Barbro’s events,” she says.
Li-Huei Tsai, Professor and Director at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, MIT, attended SALSS in 2018 and says it was a wonderful experience and that Barbro’s passion is contagious and that she sees her as a role model.
”Sweden is a power house when it comes to life science research and industry. SALSS provides a much need forum for the two sides to get to know the latest and the most exciting development in life science industry. This creates opportunities for collaboration and joint venture,” she says.
In 2020, SALSS in Stockholm will be something extra special, reveals Barbro. The two themes will be Gene and Cell Therapy and Sustainability.
Mohammed Homman, CEO at Vironova and a SALSS Senior Advisor, sits down with me and Barbro and explains a little bit more about the topics. He is certain that gene and cell therapy will revolutionize several diseases in the future, not only cancer, which is where we have currently seen the most progress. In order to reach the full potential of this therapy, however, it is essential that the legal framework follows the development and does not slow it down, and also that the costs decrease.
Barbro’s commitment, drive and ability to move mountains cannot escape anyone’s attention. When she reveals a personal tragedy during our interview, a recent operation to remove a tumor, her inner strength and fighting spirit shines even brighter. She does not want anyone to feel sorry for her, it should be she who helps and cheers up others. Down the decades this has been the women she helps. “I have always felt like I compete with the men and I stand up for the women.”
But now Barbro has started to think and just before we say goodbye she says that it might be time to also do something for the men as she concludes, “Men also have a tough time.”