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Highlights from NLSDays 2019

Another NLSDays event has come to an end and Nordic Life Science provides you with some of the highlights.

The event began Tuesday afternoon with, for example, the announcement of the winners of the Nordic Life Science Awards.

Breakthrough technology for the early detection of Parkinson’s Disease

The winner of the Academic Class Award was Patrik Hollos of Åbo Akademi University/Spark Finland, for his development of breakthrough technology for the early detection of Parkinson’s Disease. The research behind Hollos & team addresses a great medical need and has proven exciting, acknowledged even by the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Not only is there high commercial value, but the technology is likely to lower barriers to further investment in drug discovery for Parkinson’s, as well as bring long-lasting value to afflicted individuals and their families.

The jury congratulating Patrik Hollos of Åbo Akademi University / Spark Finland, winner of Nordic Life Science Award 2019 – Academic Class. Photo: Camille Sonally

Combining distinguished science and technology to create a disruptive platform for the early detection of cancer

This year’s Company Award – as well as the Delegates’ Choice Award – went to Elypta for their achievement in combining distinguished science and technology to create a disruptive platform for the early detection of cancer. Elypta’s high-end technology holds the potential to greatly benefit patients by lowering the burden of disease and improving how cancer is currently managed, thus dramatically lowering health care costs.

This year’s Company Award – and Delegates’ Choice Award – goes to Elypta for their achievement in combining distinguished science and technology to create a disruptive platform for the early detection of cancer. Photo: Camille Sonally

The jury consisted of Chairman Jonas Ekstrand, NLSDays Program Director – SwedenBIO; Ulrica Sehlstedt, Partner, Arthur D. Little; Christos Vaitsis, Business Creation Manager EIT Health Scandinavia; and Sophie Labrosse, Cluster Officer, Novo Nordisk Foundation. Behind the nominations stand organizations from across the Nordics: Spark Norway, Spark Finland, SciLifeLab, BioInnovation Institute, University of Oslo, Oslo Cancer Cluster, The Life Science Cluster, Health Turku, Turku Science Park, Promote Iceland, and SwedenBIO. The prizes have been sponsored by Arthur D. Little, EIT Health, and SwedenBIO.

From seed to market

The next morning started off with the first super session, on the theme Financing and with the title “From seed to market; maintaining a sustainable capital market in the Nordics”. Measured by the high level of business activities and the impressive number of companies, the Nordic life science sector is strong in an international context and has contributed to many innovations on the global market. Appropriate and timely financing is a must for the Nordic life science companies in order to progress the development of their respective project pipelines. The session highlighted specific Nordic features such as the growing number of early to mid-stage companies listed at the stock exchanges. It was also discussed how we can maintain a sustainable life science capital market in the Nordics.

Experts from Novo Holdings, Sciety, Button Capital, Nasdaq OMX, DNB, Industrifonden and Hadean Ventures shared their expertise and advice. For example, Adam Kostyál, Senior Vice President at Nasdaq OMX, told the audience about the differences in life science financing in the Nordic countries. He said that Sweden was in the forefront and that we have to try to create the same dynamics in the other markets and establish cross-border collaboration exchange.

The speakers also discussed when a company is ready for an IPO and they agreed that you must have a clear business strategy, you must have summarized your goals and thought about how you can manage the risks. Ingrid Teigland Akay, Managing Partner at Hadean Ventures, advised companies to look at the pros and cons before aiming for an IPO. She also advised them to seek for business angles who know the sector – otherwise they will have a hard time estimating the risks.

Thomas Gidlund, Investment Manager at Sciety, had a little different view than the others when he said that he thought it is not that hard for a Nordic company to be listed. “We are fortunate here in the Nordics because there are a lot of services available and three market places,” he said for example. The others said however that it is hard. But one of the reasons are that many companies are too immature to be listed and many are still run by scientists and not professional leaders, and they have an unrealistic view.

The final advice was to always look for a fair value and ask the question “fair to whom?” 🙂

Neurosciences R&D

The second super session of the day focused on Neuroscience and had the title “Latest developments in neurosciences R&D”. CNS diseases continue to pose immense burdens on both patients and society as a whole. But despite enormous amount of research most of current treatments only temporarily improve symptoms. What is needed to accelerate the development? Who is willing to invest in the neuroscience development projects despite all setbacks? And can we expect breakthrough the coming years that will change the way we will address the neurosciences area? International experts shared their views on what is expected and possible based on currently available knowledge.

Jina Elise Swartz, Global Clinical Development at MSD, started off by telling the audience about the complexity of the CNS and that we throughout history and still today have addressed symptoms rather than the cause in neurodegenerative disorders. There have also been a lot of failures along the way, but she also included recent progress and promising advances.

Per-Ola Freskgård, Vice Director and Distinguished Scientist Neurosciences at pRED Roche Innovation Center in Basel, spoke about his and his colleagues research with biologics and the blood brain barrier. Only 1 in 3300 mAb enters the brain and we need to do something, he said. At pRED they have developed a brain shuttle technology concept. The technology aims to increase penetration of large molecules such as antibodies into the brain. Access of large molecules to the brain is restricted by the blood brain barrier (BBB). The scientists have created antibodies that are able to cross the blood brain barrier by binding to one of the protein receptors located on its surface. The technology could potentially transport all types of therapeutic molecules into the brain, regardless of their intrinsic ability to cross the blood brain barrier.

Roman Lassnig, Development Engineer at Biocom Lab/RISE, spoke about their innovative projects in Smart Intrabody Network – a personalized web, comprised of sensors, bioelectronic actuators, and secure communication technology. In part, the platform makes it possible to record and monitor our ambient conditions, as well as a large number of critical health status parameters. Together with big-data analysis and suggested actuator and drug-delivery devices, a treatment regimen can be derived that provides high-speed feedback between diagnosis and auto-regulated therapy. The platform will thus enable a radically new, dynamic, and highly-personalized approach to healthcare, states the researchers.

Lassnig works with the rapid developing field of Printed Electronics. Printable inks made from conducting polymers, carbon, silver and other materials allow us to create electronic components and circuits with printing equipment. The process can be automated and allows for the mass production of electronics known as Printed Electronics. Printed electronics components are for instance transistors, conductors, resistors, displays, sensors, buttons/actuators, batteries and antennas. These components may be integrated in intelligent packaging, medtech devices, automotive applications, in buildings – in almost any field.

We can not wait for a revolution in CNS but instead we should look to the iterative improvements that have been characteristic in oncology development over the last years”

Steffen Thirstrup, Director at NDA Regulatory Advisory Board, also spoke about the advancements in neuroscience and he said that we need to go beyond existing endpoints and step by step add new interesting approaches. He suggested that “we can not wait for a revolution in CNS but instead we should look to the iterative improvements that have been characteristic in oncology development over the last years”.

The first day ended with very interesting seminars on funding opportunities for SMEs, the Nordic life science innovation landscape, drug discovery and development and advanced therapy medicinal products.

Cancer precision medicine

The last day of the event included a super session with the title “Cancer precision medicine: state of the art and future directions. Emerging treatments, diagnostics and digital solutions: how they are impacting R&D and patient care?” The global oncology pipeline is growing at an unprecedented rate, the number of approved therapies continues to rise and advances in cancer immunotherapy, novel cell and gene therapies offer novel therapeutic options. At the same time, big data, AI and digital solutions are changing drug development, diagnostics and patient care. International experts highlighted recent advances and illustrated these with case studies and examples. They shared their perspectives on how precise and personalized today’s approaches really are and how different technologies and new collaborations can address existing challenges and limitations.

Mark Swindells, Chief Operating Officer at Exscientia, spoke about the benefits of applying AI to drug discovery because it reduces costs and it reduces the time required to find a drug candidate, and hence, it will facilitate innovation. The challenge, he said, is implementing AI in clinical settings.

A decreasing number of pathologists faces a growing workload”

Kaisa Helminen, CEO of Aiforia Technologies, spoke about her company’s platform, created to provide versatile and scalable solutions for medical research, drug development and diagnostics. She emphasized the importance of image-based diagnostics and the fact that there are limited resources and continous issues with observer variability. There is a high need for more efficient workflows, highly-accurate diagnosis, novel therapeutics and personalized care. “A decreasing number of pathologists faces a growing workload,” she stated, and she said that she and her colleagues believe that AI will have a fundamental role in image-based diagnostics.

Academic institutions need to collaborate, and collaborate with other disciplines, to find new targets”

Jørn Skibsted Jakobsen, Vice President, Global Clinical R&D at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, highlighted his company’s work and progress using gene therapy in patients with bladder cancer and finally, Carl Borrebaeck, Professor at the University of Lund, spoke about a very important aspect of cancer precision medicine – collaborating with other disciplines. He said that one of the challenges with immuno-oncology is that there are too few molecules investigated. Academic institutions need to collaborate, and collaborate with other disciplines, to find new targets. In the unique collaboration project L2 Cancer Bridge he and his colleagues together with other world class researchers at the Swiss Cancer Centre Leman, shortly seated at AGORA, in Lausanne, explore cutting edge therapeutic strategies for cancer. The interdisciplinary, multi-institutional building houses competencies also from other fields. He emphasized the importance of collaborating with a clinic. The development of new advanced therapies and precision diagnostic demands a close collaboration between the clinic and research.

A hotbed for life science and business partnerships

This seventh NLSDays united 1 240 delegates from a record number of organizations across the global life science industry, states SwedenBIO. This year also saw an extended first day with a number of satellite events, including educational sessions on clinical development, funding for SMEs, and advancing ATMPs into the clinic. There was also a series of pitches to showcase the best of Swedish and Danish life science from Medicon Valley. The event featured 46 company presentations with updates from organizations of all sizes, and 2 750 partnering meetings for delegates throughout the event.

“We would like to thank our regional co-hosts, our Nordic consortium partners, sponsors, exhibitions, presenters, speakers and delegates for making this such a great event. We are also happy to be back in Malmö for the next two upcoming years. This is really a hotbed for life science and business partnerships. See you again next year on September 8-10!” said Olivier Duchamp, Managing Director, NLSDays.

Next week there will be more updates, testimonials and highlights from NLSDays 2019 on our site, so stay updated!