SwedenBIO is the national non-profit association for the life science industry in Sweden, with more than 300 members. Sweden has an innovative life science industry, strong academia and world leading infrastructure for research.
SwedenBIO represents the leading life science companies in Sweden
Our members are companies active within pharma, biotech, diagnostics and medtech and comprise the entire range from small start-ups, to SMEs and large enterprises. Many are engaged in research and development. Other members are experts in fields such as IP, law, finance, product development, life science communication and business development.
SwedenBIO is member-driven and our mission is to promote an environment bringing success and growth to the entire Swedish Life Science Industry.
Swedish life science in a brief
Sweden – a committed life science nation
Sweden is considered to be one of the world’s most prominent research nations. The government is investing significant resources in research and development as this is considered to be a prerequisite to Sweden being a leading life science nation and reaping the benefits of contemporary globalization.
Research enables innovation, which in turn contributes to jobs and growth. The Swedish government has identified that an attractive research industry is necessary both to retain and to attract talented researchers to Sweden and to get them to contribute with their knowledge and skills. There is a tax relief for foreign key employees that provide a 25 percent reduction of taxable income. This means that a key foreign individuals income tax will be based on only 75 percent of his or her income. To further stimulate research, a ten percent payroll tax reduction for all individuals working in research and development was introduced in 2014.
Every four years, the Swedish government presents a research and innovation bill that states the focus of its research policy for the next four years. The latest research bill was presented in October 2012 and included a series of investments in the life science industry. It stated, for example, that the life science industry provides an important base for Swedish research and that there is a need to strengthen Sweden’s position in this area.
Some salient examples of investments resulting from the latest research bill are MaxIV in Lund, a new centre for clinical trials in Gothenburg, and the SciLifeLab in Stockholm and Uppsala.
Universities with life science
Sweden has ten universities with life science oriented faculties spread throughout seven different cities from Umeå in the North to Lund in the South. Eight have a natural science faculty and seven have a medical faculty. In close cooperation with the medical universities are the University Hospitals. There are seven of them in the country. The universities and university hospitals are presented below in geographic order from north to south.
Umeå University was founded in 1965 and is Sweden’s second most northerly university after Luleå Technical University, and has both a natural science faculty and a medical faculty. The university has a number of excellent research groups, facilities and centres of excellence. Strongest research areas include genetics and molecular biology, microbial research and infection biology, mathematical modelling of living systems as well as protein dynamics, structure and function. Norrland University Hospital is also situated in Umeå.
Uppsala – Örebro
Uppsala hosts two universities, Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Uppsala University was founded in 1477, making it the oldest university in Sweden. It has outstanding science and medical faculties with a broad range of research areas, and a pharmacy faculty. Strong research areas are pharmacy, neuroscience, structural biology and cancer. Uppsala University Hospital is Swedens oldest university hospital, its first department was established 1708. Today it is a full scale university hospital with 8000 employees and 1000 beds.
Life science research at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences is primarily focused on veterinary medicine.
Örebro university is one of Sweden’s smallest universities with 1 260 employees. It has a faculty for medicine and health with strong research into gastrointestinal diseases. Örebro also holds Örebro University Hospital.
Stockholm has three universities engaged in life science – Stockholm University (SU), The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and the Karolinska Institute (KI). SU and KTH have exceptional research in different areas within natural and applied sciences, exemplified by a project to map the human proteome, The Human Protein Atlas, delivering information about the expression and localization of all human proteins. In contrast, the KI is a strictly medical focused university. KI is considered to be the premier medical university in Sweden and is ranked as one of the top 20 clinical universities in the world. The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet selects the Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine, adding to its global recognition.
The Karolinska University Hospital is one of the largest University Hospitals in Europe. It offers health care services to both the national and international market and is committed to development, innovation and research.
Linköping – Växjö – Kalmar
Linköping University has a large medical faculty with many different research areas. It is famous for having an interdisciplinary approach. Strong research areas are within medtech products and medical imaging. Collaborative research is performed with Linköping University Hospital.
The universities in Växjö and Kalmar college were merged into one and given the name the Linné University in 2010. The university still has two branches, with a natural science faculty with strong research in some drug discovery methods.
The University of Gothenburg is one of Sweden’s largest universities; it has both a medical and a natural science faculty known for outstanding research in regenerative medicine and prosthetic implants. The Sahlgrenska Academy, which is the faculty of health science at the University of Gothenburg, has a strong collaboration with the Sahlgrenska University Hospital. The world famous Chalmers University of Technology is also located in Gothenburg, and has a life science division and a division for nanotechnology with excellent research facilities.
Lund University is the southernmost university in Sweden; it is also the second oldest, and was founded in 1666. It has a strong tradition in medicine and outstanding research in areas such as epidemiology, diabetes, cancer, neuro- and nanoscience. Skåne University Hospital consists of the two large hospitals in Lund and Malmö. Lund University and Skåne University Hospital have created the joint initative University Medical Centre Skåne (UMCS) which is going to put Skåne’s clinical research on the world map.
Lund University is also one of the major funders of the research facility MAX IV that is currently under development.
A strong network of infrastructure
The Swedish research council and the Swedish government have made large investments in infrastructure to support life science research for a number of years, both in academia and industry. Another major sponsor of both infrastructure and research grants is the private Wallenberg foundation which has donated approximately 580 million euro to research in Sweden over the last five years.
One of the goals of the Swedish research council is to finance long-term plans for an effective research infrastructure that provides a positive climate for research. This has led to the establishment of national research centers spread throughout Sweden from Umeå in the north to Lund in the south. The centers have international ties and varying specialties, encompassing everything from nuclear magnetic resonance to translational research and bioinformatics.
SciLifeLab – leading technology platforms
One of the largest research institutes in Sweden is the Science for Life Laboratory, (SciLifeLab) situated in Stockholm and Uppsala. It was founded with grants from the Swedish government in 2010 as a collaboration between four universities in the Stockholm-Uppsala region: Stockholm University, the Karolinska Institute, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Uppsala University. Today, there are more than 200 research groups associated with SciLifeLab. Its operations are divided into nine different technology platforms of diverse orientation such as drug discovery, bioimaging and clinical diagnostics, to mention a few examples.
In 2013, the Swedish government proclaimed SciLifeLab as a national resource, giving researchers from all around Sweden access to the expertise and technical equipment of the research institute. Beyond being a resource for Swedish researchers, the institute also has extensive national and international collaborations with academic institutions, industrial partners and government agencies. In addition to the Swedish government, The Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation and drug giant AstraZeneca represent two major sponsors of SciLifeLab.
Sweden has many state of the art research centers
The Chemical Biology Consortium Sweden (CBCS) is a strategic, non-profit resource founded by the government. It supports academic researchers in areas such as small molecule discovery, development and utilization, and molecular probes for the life sciences. The Consortium consists of the Laboratories for Chemical Biology, the Karolinska Institute (LCBKI), the Uppsala University Drug Optimization and Pharmaceutical Profiling Platform (UDOPP) and the Laboratories for Chemical Biology Umeå (LCBU) at Umeå University. Researchers from drug developer Biovitrum were implemental in the founding process of CBCS, with Biovitrum providing generous donations in the form of substantial laboratory instrumentation, materials and over 70,000 high quality screening compounds to the LCBKI center.
There are several other research centers carrying out cutting edge research and analyses for other research groups. The Swedish Metabolomics Centre Umeå, in northern Sweden, has resources to perform full metabolome studies – a process that allows the measurement of tens of thousands of constituents in a blood sample or the creation of the kind of fingerprint that reflects a patient’s metabolism during the days preceding the test. Umeå University is also the node for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, MIMS, which is part of the Nordic EMBL Partnership for Molecular Medicine. MIMS is dedicated to investigate the molecular basis of diseases and explore moleculary and genetically based treatments.
The growing field of Metabolomics depends on methods such as mass spectrometry, and the Swedish NMR center in Gothenburg is a further example and one of the world’s best equipped facilities for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) boasting a large collection of instruments. These include several spectrophotometers suitable for biologic NMR spectroscopy and a state of the art mass spectrometer.
Two new world leading research facilities in south of Sweden
The MaxIV Laboratory and the European Spallation Source (ESS), currently under construction outside Lund in south of Sweden, represent two further important research facilities. The construction is being financed by the Swedish Research Council, Region Skåne, Lunds Universitet, Vinnova and in the case of ESS, several European countries.
The MAX IV Laboratory will be a top-notch facility where researchers from different disciplines can come and analyze their samples with so-called synchrotron radiation. The ESS-research center, expected to be up and running in 2026, is foreseen to be a multi-disciplinary research center based around what will be the world’s most powerful neutron source.
An excellent place for clinical trials
Sweden’s infrastructure support development all the way from early preclinical research to the patient. There is also a long list of centers capable of providing technical support at every juncture of a clinical trial. Examples of the latter include the Uppsala Clinical Research Center, Karolinska Trial Alliance in Stockholm, the R&D-center in Skåne in Lund and Gothia Forum in Gothenburg. During 2015 a national coordination will come in place via a new clinical trial center based in Gothenburg.
New Karolinska focus on triple helix collaboration
The New Karolinska hospital presently under construction will be a top class, modern research hospital with a strategic location in Stockholm’s life science quarter – Hagastaden. New Karolinska hospital will work together with research labs and life science companies in a “triple helix” type collaboration with the aim to shorten the path from innovation to the clinic and patients.
Bio banks – a goldmine for medical research
Factors unique to Sweden such as ubiquitous national personal identification numbers, the existence of numerous biobanks and extensive healthcare quality registers, provide an excellent environment in which to pursue clinical research. The healthcare quality registers are managed by the health authorities and cover a large number of different disease areas. They are mainly used for improvement and follow up on medical treatments and for research. Like the registers, the biobanks are a goldmine for clinical research. At present, there are more than 600 active biobanks in Sweden containing samples from patients with various medical conditions.
Test beds as an opportunity for innovators
The purpose of a test bed is to give innovators and companies the opportunity to test and develop their innovation or product in a real life setting. In Sweden, the largest sponsor of test beds is the Swedish innovation agency, Vinnova, that in the years 2012-2013 granted a total of 40 million SEK to 16 test beds within the healthcare sector.
The test beds have different focal points – an excellent example is a test bed for radiation therapy in the Karolinska University hospital where seven Swedish medtech companies, together with a number of health units have started a collaboration in innovative radiotherapy with the goal to improve cancer therapy for patients.
Swetox and SP Process Development recycled from AstraZeneca
Swetox is an interdisciplinary research institute founded to work towards a non-toxic environment and safe chemicals in Sweden. Swetox is located in the Biovation Park in Södertälje at what used to be the toxicological facility of AstraZeneca. The institute harbors both the skills and the equipment to integrate disciplines such as computer modeling, cell based systems and animal testing to understand how chemicals affect humans and other organisms. This effort is a cooperation between eleven Swedish universities and includes research, education, international collaboration and non-profit commissioned work.
Also located at AstraZeneca’s old facility in Södertälje is the SP Process Development institute. It is one of ten companies in the public corporate group SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden. It was founded in 2013 primarily to bring together the competent work force from the former AstraZeneca research site in Södertälje. The goal of SP Process Development is to contribute with competence and expertise to both private companies and public institutions throughout the innovation process.
Sweden a well suited country for manufacturing
Sweden is a country well suited for manufacturing of qualifed products from the life science industry. The labour force is well educated, dedicated, extremely loyal and efficient, meaning quality is top notch and the price per unit is highly competitive. Natural disasters and strikes are rarely seen and transport as well as energy infrastructure is of highest standard ensuring uninterrupted operations. Regulatory authorities are competent and solution oriented. Water is of excellent quality and supplies are plentiful adding to the competitiveness of Sweden as a prime location for manufacturing. Environmental awareness in Sweden is high and well matched by access to advanced technologies for sustainable production resulting in low impact on local ecosystems. A significant number of companies have established manufacturing units in Sweden ranging from pharmaceuticals and vaccines to medtech and laboratory equipment. Some produce proprietory products whereas others are contract manufacturers. AstraZeneca is operating the World’s largets tablet manufacturing plant in Södertälje and Pfizer has a state of the art high capacity factory for production of biopharmaceuticals in Strängnäs. GE Health Care have plants for manufacturing of products used in biopharmaceutical production as well as lab equipment.
This overview of Life Science resources in Sweden is based on work conducted in a joint project between SwedenBIO, the Swedish Life Science Industry Organisation, and Business Sweden, the Swedish Trade and Invest Council.
Find Sweden’s national life sciences strategy from the Swedish Government here.