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The COVID-19 virus’ impact on Swedish life sciences

Helena Strigård

Helena Strigård, Director General of SwedenBIO, emphasizes that the Swedish life science industry’s innovation power needs to be safeguarded and with the right measures at the right time, we can turn this into a strengthened industry instead.

The risk of the new coronavirus spreading in Sweden is considered to be very high. The Public Health Agency of Sweden advises all those with symptoms to avoid social contact to reduce the risk of infecting others, and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (UD) advises against any non-essential travels to all countries.

The COVID-19 outbreak has also affected the Swedish economy severely. Two days ago the government presented a crisis package worth up to 300 billion kronor to protect businesses and jobs. The measures presented included amended rules for temporary layoffs, under which the government would shoulder a bigger share of the pay for staff made temporarily redundant, reports The Local. Also, during April and May the state will pay sick leave from day one. In addition, companies would also be able to put off paying taxes.

Promising, viable companies in what is an industry for the future

Helena Strigård, Director General of SwedenBIO, the national non-profit association for the life science industry in Sweden, says that the situation is severe. Clinical trials have stopped, the stocks go down, and a lot of companies could risk bankruptcy. “The government’s efforts are missing the target for this industry,” she writes to NLS. “Two percent of all financing activities in this industry are bank loans, and a big part of the staff are consultants.”

“Still, we need to remember that nothing has actually changed in the project portfolios as such. These are promising, viable companies in what is an industry for the future. With the right measures at the right time, we will turn this into a strengthened industry instead. What we need now are measures to increase liquidity in the Swedish life science companies and attract domestic and international intelligent capital to this sector. The government can help in this,” says Strigård.

“With the right measures at the right time, we will turn this into a strengthened industry instead”

A dialogue with decision makers

In a statement to her members she also writes that now is the time to collaborate and listen to each other; authorities, academia, healthcare and industry. “This critical reciprocal action is now more clear than ever”.

SwedenBIO has started a Q&A function on its website where questions about the Swedish life science industry’s role in facing the challenges can be asked, but also practical questions that member companies might be facing.

“We are also having a dialogue with decision makers about our industry’s needs. This dialogue will continue even when the attention around this societal challenge wears off, ” she assures her members. “The innovation power that we are gathering in Swedish life science companies is part of the societal preparedness we need to safeguard. Research within the business sector, often in collaboration with academy and healthcare, is an engine for innovation, and it should have strong conditions to function. Similarly, Sweden’s strength in pharmaceutical production benefits patients both in Sweden and globally.”