New IP rules will stifle medical innovation in Europe, Swedish life science leaders conclude during seminar 

While Sweden has a well-developed ecosystem supporting life science companies, the global competition is fierce and it remains a struggle to put Sweden, the Nordics, and Europe on the map. The newly proposed EU pharmaceutical legislation puts European innovation at risk due to proposed changes in IP rights for new drugs, industry experts and leaders concluded during a seminar in Stockholm this summer.

Leaders from the Swedish life science industry gathered on 27th June in Stockholm during a seminar to highlight the importance of IP-protection throughout the life science innovation process. The seminar coincided with the government-sponsored conference on life science which marked the end of the Swedish EU presidency.

Organised by SwedenBIO and the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA), the seminar offered interesting discussions and presentations on the strengths and challenges of the Swedish life science industry, the proposed EU pharmaceutical legislation, and related topics.

In today’s rapid global transformations, the game is shifting for the life science industry. Regulations and legislations change with the best intent for the benefit of patients. But how do these transformations affect the industry’s ability to innovate and develop the therapies of the future? Many fear that new data protection laws proposed by the EU Commission will slow down medical innovation in Europe.

Most notably, the proposed shortened IP period from eight to six years has the potential to drive companies away from the EU, particularly small and medium-sized businesses that often rely on the protection of IP to attract investment. Linking regulatory data protection to factors outside of the companies’ control creates uncertainty for investors and the industry alike, particularly when combined with such a significant reduction in the period of IP protection. While the proposal contains provisions for companies to later apply for two additional years of IP protection, the added uncertainty is likely to discourage companies and investors alike.

While acknowledging that the proposed EU legislation has its positive sides too, several of the speakers at the seminar raised their concerns regarding this specific aspect.

“Yes, there will be a chance to apply for the longer IP rights of eight years, but you don’t know that when you start and make the decision on where to put your innovation,” said Elisabeth Björk, SVP at AstraZeneca, elaborating further: “This means that this kind of innovation will not happen in Europe but in other places. Companies like the one I represent will no longer put that innovation in Europe and that’s not going to help patients in Europe.”

Gunilla Osswald, CEO of BioArctic, weighed in on the same topic expressing fear that the EU, already outcompeted in the life science sector by the US and challenged by China, is burdening itself with more regulations and making the conditions for innovation even more difficult.

“I’m worried that we’re making it more and more difficult for European companies, for small companies from some perspectives and for big companies from other perspectives. We don’t need these extra difficulties for Europe, we need the opposite”, Gunilla Osswald concluded.

The participants also discussed some of the strengths of the Swedish ecosystem, noting the high level of trust and collaboration, the availability of grants from government innovation offices like Vinnova and the uniquely Swedish rule of the teacher’s exemption, allowing teachers at universities to patent their findings.

Jesper Hedberg, CEO of Testa Center said: “In Sweden we are already really good at working together but I think actually it’s an untapped opportunity and that we can do even better. We already have lots of pieces of the innovation ecosystem such as the SciLifeLab, incubators and the innovation offices”, he explained and shared what is in his view another of Swedens’ strengths: the ability to move and adapt quickly due to our small size.

You can watch the entire seminar here.