Stefan K. Nilsson, CEO of Lipigon, describes the life science environment in Umeå and shares his favorite spots.
Describe the vibe in Umeå for a company like yours!
“The environment is characterized by a friendly atmosphere where people are always willing to help. New entrepreneurs have a lot of knowledge to tap into. In most cases someone else has done something similar to what you want to do. At Lipigon we are trailblazers and we are always willing to share our wisdom. Umeå is a city with a full university and great life science research, all conveniently located next to the University hospital and the science park with support structures.”
The proximity enables easy collaboration.”
“The proximity enables easy collaboration. There are also a small number of dedicated early-stage investors like Fort Knox Förvaring that historically have been important for the life science scene in Umeå.”
What are Umeå’s greatest challenges when it comes to developing a life science company, and how can these be improved?
“Our community is still rather small, and we need a larger critical mass to fully exploit the benefits of a cluster, such as movement of ideas, knowledge and people. For the pharmaceutical companies it is hard to find experienced specialists. On the other hand, biotech companies usually work with consultants. I imagine growing beyond a certain size might be more difficult. The lack of a true cluster also reflects on non-specialist recruitments. Most lab personnel only have academic experience, but at the same time we can cherry-pick the best students immediately after graduation.”
There are few dedicated and knowledgeable entrepreneurs in academia, and for good reason, since in academia entrepreneurship is not really considered a merit.”
“The major problem of the Umeå life science cluster, and most of Sweden I might add, is the lack of innovation flow from the university. There are few dedicated and knowledgeable entrepreneurs in academia, and for good reason, since in academia entrepreneurship is not really considered a merit.”
“As it is right now, Swedish society is investing heavily on academic research with little commercial output. To tackle this problem, we need a fundamental shift of the Swedish system; either putting the teacher’s exception (Lärarundantaget) in the trash bin and putting the responsibility for commercialization with the universities, perhaps through a national tech transfer office, or by making commercialization and entrepreneurship a mandatory part of all university education, also at PhD level. Universities should appreciate proven entrepreneurship as a merit with similar or preferably higher weight as research and education when permanent positions are appointed.”
You are on an exciting journey and you have just moved into new bigger premises. Will you also recruit more staff and is it easy for you to find the right competencies in Umeå?
“We hope to grow in our new lab and office space. We are most likely to grow locally within the laboratory research part of the company. Lab personnel and project managers are probably what we would be looking for, and these we can find in Umeå, and we also hope to grow the clinical research team, but this growth is not necessarily linked to Umeå.”
What’s next in Lipigon’s journey?
“Next up is the start of Phase II. We are planning a study with the purpose of exploring the effects of our lipid lowering candidate Lipisense in patients with severe dyslipidemia and type 2 diabetes.”
Next up is the start of Phase II. We are planning a study with the purpose of exploring the effects of our lipid lowering candidate Lipisense in patients with severe dyslipidemia and type 2 diabetes.”
“This is foremost a safety study in patients, but we will also explore metabolic parameters that will help position our unique substance with current competition. There is strong scientific evidence that we will not only affect plasma lipids but also have a positive effect on e.g., glucose handling.”
Besides your new office, what’s your favorite spot in Umeå?
“That’s a tricky question, since there’s so many spots to choose from, depending on mood. If I have to mention one place, and probably the most unexpected one to people outside of Umeå, it would be the river/downtown area.”
Umeå is not a huge city but it has the mentality of a large city when it comes to quality.”
“Umeå is not a huge city but it has the mentality of a large city when it comes to quality. There are more than a handful of restaurants and bars that could compete on an international scene, all bolstered by several local microbreweries and the production of high quality ingredients for cooking.”
Featured photo of winter in Umeå: Fredrik Larsson