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Highlights from NLSDays Digital 2021

Although NLSDays was arranged as a digital event this year, the organizers managed to create an interesting program, including a mixture of hot life science topics, and to showcase our region’s exciting life science industry.

Nordic Life Science Days (NLSDays) has throughout the years 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 September 2020 to go for a fully digital event 2021.

Challenges and opportunities with a digital format

Re-creating the event in a digital format is 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.

And 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. 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 (OCC).


Chelsea Ranger, Program Director, NLSDays 2021

“Everything was instant”

NLSDays Digital meant everything was instant – from instant connections, to instant business and outcomes, states 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 feed back that the quality of the meetings was very satisfying and that deals are actually being made,” she writes in an e-mail to NLS.

Strigård also writes that the event was “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.

Record figures

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

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


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.

“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 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,” says 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

The NLSInvest day also included workshops on Navigating a proactive approach to regulations, Investing in life sciences and medtech: creating an intellectual property checklist and Enhance your value creation: recruiting boards wisely.

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, have all been selected for their personal contribution to Nordic values and success.

The first day of the event also included three supersessions, Data as the new currency – The Nordics as world leaders on health data, Microbiome: The new Genetics? (which we will write more about in next week’s newsletter), and New Vaccine Technologies.


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 health data session addressed questions like how to ensure a fair and sustainable use of health data for innovation in the long term and what factors that are needed to explore the full potential of Nordic health data. The speakers agreed upon 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.

“Tech we have, agree we do, action we need.”

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: 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.

“Both, Seald from Norway and Elypta from Sweden are examples for 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.”

“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 for 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 programme 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, discussed among other things, who is involved in this field, how are they working together, and what does this mean for the future of clinical trials. The speakers also spoke about the updates around the new Medical Device Regulations (MDR).

Read more: Are you ready for MDR?

The NLSDays event also included workshops on the themes Standing out in the crowd, Bridging the gap: Across Oceans, Sectors and Regulations, Successful CRO navigation and Sustainability in Life Sciences.

Next year: Malmö

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