The long-awaited Swedish-American Life Science Summit (SALSS) was arranged on October 20-22 in Stockholm, Sweden.
Focus 2021 was cell and gene therapy and a crucial discussion on the worldwide pandemic. The event also included exciting company presentations, a rising star exhibit, and the announcement of the SALSS Rising Star Award.
Opening remarks was held by Anna König Jerlmyr, Mayor, Stockholm City Council, Staffan Ingvarsson, CEO, Stockholm Business Region and Barbro C. Ehnbom, Founder and Chairman, SALSS. Welcoming remarks were held by Jenni Nordborg, Life Science Coordinator, Government Offices of Sweden, and Peter Dahlen, Managing Director, AmCham Sweden.
“I thoroughly enjoyed coming to Stockholm to participate in SALSS. The panel discussions with the young companies were really interesting. One company going for products that were not highly regulated and another creating products in a highly regulated space. The discussion could not have been more enlightening. The ability to interact with colleague of many years duration was an added bonus,” said Florence Haseltine, Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, after the event.
“The onslaught of the pandemic over the last one and a half year has certainly humbled and scared us all but also unified us and strengthen our belief in science. I am so thankful that we actually could have this summit and thank you all for helping making it happen!,” wrote the founder of SALSS, Barbro Ehnbom, after the event.
Lessons learned from COVID-19
The event include a crucial symposium and discussion on lessons learned from COVID-19 with renowned international experts, including William A. Haseltine, President, Access International (via video), who spoke about The face of COVID-19, USA. Mathias Uhlén, Professor, Human Microbiology, KTH, Multiple biotech entrepreneur, Anders Tegnell, State Epidemiologist of Sweden, Yuval Binur, Managing Partner, Arsuf Global Partners, and Florence Haseltine, Professor, Texas University, also discussed What has been learned about COVID-19 to date.
One of the take-home messages from the COVID-19 panel was: “It is by no means over! Something we now a few weeks later are very aware of!” describes the SALSS team.
Robert Langer, David H. Koch Institute Professor, MIT, and co-founder Moderna, spoke about The 10 months race for a vaccine and the importance of collaboration to succeed. In addition, Daniel Kraft, Chair, Singularity University, spoke about How COVID-19 transformed the future of medicine.
“This, put in the frame of the essence of SALSS – enhancing networking and bridging Swedish-U.S. exchanges in terms of interaction between academia, industry, politics and financing – will hopefully lead to new ideas, collaborations and acquaintances as it has many times in the past.”
“This year, perhaps more than ever, the ongoing pandemic and its current and coming imprints on the industry and human lives will be explored. There is an incredible amount of scientific research going into new diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and medical devices that have been crucial to combating this pandemic. This, put in the frame of the essence of SALSS – enhancing networking and bridging Swedish-U.S. exchanges in terms of interaction between academia, industry, politics and financing – will hopefully lead to new ideas, collaborations and acquaintances as it has many times in the past,” wrote Robert Langer after the event.
What it takes
SALSS 2021 also included inspiring speeches and discussions about what it takes for success in the life science industry, providing both a global and a Nordic/Swedish perspective.
Speakers included Sana Alajmovic, CEO, Sigrid Therapeutics, Evelina Vågesjö, CEO, Ilya Pharma, Sara Mangsbo, Co-founder, Immuneed, and Lao Saal, founder and COO, SAGA Diagnostics. Lars Ekman, Executive Partner, Sofinnova Investments, Mark Goldstone, Partner, Eckuity Fund and Roger Gunnarsson, Managing Partner, Segulah Medical Acceleration (SMA) provided the investor perspective.
Cell and Gene therapy
Another theme of the event was cell and gene therapy. Cell and gene therapy will revolutionize several diseases in the future, not only cancer, which is where we have currently seen the most progress. Lars Ekman, Executive Chairman, Sofinnova Investments, spoke about Gene therapy – what does it take? and Anna Sandström, Science Policy & Relations Director, AstraZeneca. spoke about Cell, Gene & Oligonucleotide Therapies ‐ the next steps.
“A lot of money and a lot of patience! About the way forward for the industry: Collaboration Collaboration!,” summarized the SALSS team.
SALSS 2021 also included sessions on Patient Entrepreneurship, Nasdaq Stockholm: The leading growth market in Europe, and Collaboration: The new way forward.
The SALSS Rising Star Award
During the last day of SALSS the winner of the Rising Star Award was announced. And the lucky winner was… EpiEndo Pharmaceuticals.
Robert Langer, one of our jury members, mentioned the following desirable characteristics of special interests in new companies: “Platform technologies, Good patents, Good in vivo data and a Great managing team.”
“EpiEndo is developing a candidate drug with a novel mode of action that, if successfully brought to the patients, could change the treatment paradigm for COPD.”
“The winner of SALSS 2021 Rising Stars is EpiEndo for its level of innovation and potential impact in COPD, one of the leading causes of debilitating disease and death globally. EpiEndo is developing a candidate drug with a novel mode of action that, if successfully brought to the patients, could change the treatment paradigm for COPD,” said Eugen Steiner, member of the award jury.
“EpiEndo won the top scores from all judges in the criteria of innovation and impact, giving it the lead over competitors. However, the competition was remarkably close and I would like to especially mention a few runners-up: SAGA Diagnostics won the bronze, only one point behind, and Ilya and Vironova Bioanalytics, which tied for silver, the latter – not surprisingly – was noted by the judges for commercial realization,” said Eugen Steiner.
Initiated by Barbro Ehnbom
Business woman Barbro Ehnbom initiated the first SALSS meeting in Stockholm in 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.
“When I started in the US pharmaceutical industry years ago, I often experienced it as rather callous and driven by profit chasing and growth, although I loved the people from the beginning. R&D spending at that time lingered perhaps around 2-3%. Then we heard about this crazy Swedish company called Pharmacia, which spent like 3 times as much. ¨Go see if we can buy it¨ said my president. I went to Sweden and talked to them, we did not buy them, but I kept in touch with the company, and I think from there on my respect and loyalty bridged the Atlantic,” writes Barbro Ehnbom on salss.com.
“The concept ‘SALSS Family’ has been born out of this feeling and makes me happy and proud!”
“The last 20 years has also changed my experience of the industry, not only have I had the fortune to meet so many brilliant and goodhearted people who truly want to improve people’s lives. With the expansion of Life Science into a worldwide segmented industry, and particularly following the financial crisis 2008, our own summit became more International with attendees from India, China, Singapore, Brazil etc, while all-along retaining a close-knit spirit based on knowledge and respect. The concept ‘SALSS Family’ has been born out of this feeling and makes me happy and proud!”