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Highlights from NLSDays Digital 2021

Although Nordic Life Science Days was arranged as a digital event this year, the organizers managed to create an interesting program that showcased our region’s exciting life science industry, including a mixture of hot life science topics.

Throughout the years, Nordic Life Science Days (NLSDays) has attracted leading decision makers from biotech, pharma and medtech, as well as finance, research, policy and regulatory authorities. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic the team behind the event, SwedenBIO, decided early in September 2020 to go for a fully digital event in 2021.

Challenges and opportunities with a digital format

Re-creating the event in a digital format was of course a challenge, but Olivier Duchamp, Managing Director of NLSDays, said in an interview with NLS earlier this year that he and his colleagues would still be able to deliver the three strong pillars of the event, Partnering, Educational Program and Exhibition. “Through specific design efforts, live sessions with real time interaction, and extended partnering times, we are doing our best to make this transition smooth and sustainable,” said Duchamp.

It looks like the transition went well, according to Chelsea Ranger, NLSDays Program Director and NLSInvest Committee Co-Chair. “Going digital has allowed new participants to join who might not have otherwise done so. This includes investors across all time zones, US to Asian Pacific, in record numbers: 179, in fact,” she said in an interview with Oslo Cancer Cluster.


Chelsea Ranger, Program Director, NLSDays 2021

“Everything was instant”

NLSDays Digital meant everything was instant – from instant connections, to instant business and outcomes, according to Helena Strigård, Director General of SwedenBIO.

“There was also a higher activity in partnering, with an increased number of meetings per delegate compared to previous years. We know already that there will be real outcomes following this high activity level. We have interviewed around 40 delegates and from these conversations we got the feedback that the quality of the meetings was very satisfying and that deals are actually being made,” she wrote in an e-mail to NLS.

Strigård also described the event as “investor dense.” “Every fourth delegate was an investor, which was very visible during partnering.”

“I was struck by the warm and appreciative sentiments from the participants we spoke to,” she adds.

SwedenBIO has also announced record figures for this NLSDays event, including over 800 participants joining from more than 30 countries.

“Of these, 21% of attendees were investors from 115 financing companies, including venture capital, family offices and business angels. Networking and partnering continued strongly throughout the week, with a record number (over 9600) of meeting requests made among delegates, of which at least 1700 were accepted and scheduled,” stated SwedenBIO.


On April 19th, a pre-event to NLSDays, the Nordic Life Science Investment day (NLSInvest) was held, featuring 80 selected Rising Stars who were given the opportunity to pitch to investors in three tracks: biotech/pharma, medtech/diagnostics and digital/e-health. The winners from each track, ApoGlyx, Respinor and RetinaRisk, received cash prizes and complimentary registrations to NLSDays 2022.

“We believe the Nordic ecosystem has all the ingredients required for success and are happy to see international investor interest in the NLSInvest Rising Star companies. Our view is that high-growth Nordic start-up companies must play on a global playing field, and the Rising Star Award is a step in that direction. We wish the participants and the winners of the competition continued success,” said Bobby Soni, Chief Business Officer at BioInnovation Institute to NLS.

Read more: The winners of the NLSInvest Rising Star Award share their journeys so far and their advice to aspiring life science entrepreneurs

Nordic success and exploring the full potential of health data

The opening session of the event included a keynote speech from Emmanuel Ligner, Cytiva’s CEO. A red thread in his speech was the importance of collaboration and commitment (“You can not do it alone”) and he emphasized that we should continue to build upon our strong life science legacy here in the Nordics, such as our successful public-private collaborations.

The opening session also included a showcase of the NLSDays 2021 flagship companies: Kerecis from Iceland, Exact Therapeutics from Norway, Cellink from Sweden, Pancryos from Denmark, and Aiforia Technologies from Finland. These companies have all been selected for their personal contribution to Nordic values and success.

The first day of the event also included a supersession on Data as the new currency – The Nordics as world leaders on health data. It addressed questions including how to ensure a fair and sustainable use of health data for innovation in the long term and what factors are needed to explore the full potential of Nordic health data.


Bogi Eliasen, Director of Health, Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, Niina Aagaard, Chief Operating Officer, Nordic Innovation, Louise Rosenlund Nielsen, Head of International Development & Partnerships, CopCap, Mervi Aavikko, Project Manager FinnGen, University of Helsinki, Amy VanBuskirk, General Manager, Roche Sweden, Nikolai Brun, Chair HMA-EMA Taskforce on Big Data, Frederik Knud Nielsen, Strategic Pipeline Lead, Nordics, Novartis and Lars Lindsköld, Portfolio manager, Sweper / Swelife. Photo: SwedenBIO


The speakers agreed that collaboration and sharing is very important for the future, but we need to create frames for the data and the eco systems, to ensure transparency and integrity. In order to succeed with this, we need to actively partner to shape the system and to drive the policy making, remove national competition, engage patient voices in the debate, and initiate private-public collaborations, suggested the speakers.

The moderator, Mr. Bogi Eliasen, Director of Health, Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, summarized the session with the words “Tech we have, agree we do, action we need”.

A special focus on precision medicine

The second day also included interesting supersessions, such as The push for intelligent capital (including an all-female panel of experts who addressed the question of whether there can actually be gender equality in corporate finance), From population to precision, and The new cross-industry playground.

The precision medicine session, presented by Oslo Cancer Cluster, highlighted progress in the field and also an interesting panel discussion between the speakers.

“The speakers illustrated challenges and opportunities for bringing products to the market in a set of complementary presentations. Both Seald from Norway and Elypta from Sweden are examples of recent Nordic innovations in cancer diagnostics and we hope to see more diagnostic innovation building on Nordic research, data and biomarker expertise in the future,” said Jutta Heix, member of the NLSDays program committee and Head of International Affairs, Oslo Cancer Cluster in an interview with Oslo Cancer Cluster.


Sam Oddsson, co-founder of SideKick Health (also one of our five Nordic life science stars 2021), speaks at the session “the new cross-industry playground”. Photo: NLS

In the last supersession, The new cross-industry playground, experts in regulatory affairs and digital therapies, from startups and large pharma companies, among other things discussed who is involved in this field, how are they working together, and what does this mean for the future of clinical trials.

Next year: Malmö

NLSDays will return to Malmömässan, Malmö, Sweden, next year, 20-21 April 2022.