Q&A about SWElife “We need to go from words to action”

SWElife will build on already existing competence and infrastructure and will rather focus on enhancing cooperation between stakeholders and changing the mind set and collaborative culture in Sweden, says Peter Nordström, Programme Director for SWElife.

What is SWElife?
The programme aims at improving the life for patients with a non-communicable disease. We do that together with actors from the entire eco-system in Sweden. That is academia, for example scientists, industry, health care, and all the other partners they cooperate with. We have very powerful partners in SWElife, who all have a common goal and dedicated interest in being part of this and to contribute to strengthen Life Science in Sweden.

What are non-communicable diseases?
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), also known as chronic diseases, are not passed from person to person. They are of long duration and generally slow progression and have consequences which affect more than 1 percent of the population, such as e.g. cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.

Is the final goal to cure all these diseases?
More than anything it is about improving the lives for patients with a non-communicable disease and ensure early diagnosis and optimal treatments. Additionally, it is important to try to prevent people from being ill in the first place.

SWElife was founded in May 2014. Can you already say something about its strength’s?
SWElife will build on already existing competence and infrastructure and will rather focus on enhancing cooperation between stakeholders and changing the mind set and collaborative culture in Sweden.

There is a strong drive from the programme partners to collaborate and work to strengthen Life Science in Sweden. The entire programme is based on a “give and receive” mentality, where all involved parties want to contribute even if they don’t get anything in return immediately, but rather in a longer term by collaborating towards a common goal.

So the mutual interest is valuable?
The entire programme will build more muscles if everyone pulls in the same direction, and at that point we can do something really exciting together. It is also possible to use the programme as an engine to influence for example politicians.

Everybody knows about the challenges within the Life Science sector, which have been presented over and over again in different reports and strategic documents. Now we need to go from words to action and make sure that suggestions and ideas are implemented. There is a large value in participating, influencing and contributing, because in the end, it is going to give something in return for us all.

Who is going to benefit from SWElifes work?
At the end of the day it’s the patients. We are actively engaging stakeholders through the entire value chain, from idea to patient benefit. Everyone involved will benefit from SWElife by being actively engaged by specifying needs, sharing their competence, participating in specific projects and so forth. We want to contribute to an easier and faster road from an idea all the way to a ready to use medicine, diagnostic tool, technology, improved processes or anything that will improve the health and welfare.

How do you do that?
We do this by accelerating innovation and collaborative processes throughout the value chain from idea to patient and society benefit. More concretely, we provide collaboration platforms based on specific needs, finance innovative collaboration projects and work to enhance the clinical excellence to enable innovation.

Within the arena, we will engage stakeholders from the entire eco-system and provide continuous and structured interaction platforms to present needs, share competences and to facilitate and accelerate the development of research results to practical applications.

With our calls, SWElife supports projects before other financial investors are ready to contribute and aim to increase the value of the project so that it has a higher chance of receiving financing from public and/or private investors in the next phase. In addition to this, we are looking at finding other financial solutions to bridge what is often called the “Valley of death”.

SWElife will also work to address medical needs by more efficiently capitalising on scientific breakthroughs, clinical excellence, infrastructures and demands addressed by healthcare and industry.

Why starting SWElife right now?
The Swedish Life Science sector has declined over a number of years, and we are now at a situation where we need to act to prevent losing more jobs and competence. We have excellent possibilities in Sweden with regards to both competence and infrastructure. But potential is not enough. It needs to be translated into something concrete, or Sweden will lose its advantage.

Other regions in the world are making huge investments, and since Life Science is such a global environment, it is easy to locate or move activities anywhere. Sweden must present a compelling advantage in this competition and present this to interested companies and other actors. We will need to present something that adds value, preferably solutions that are ready to use: “plug and play”.

So SWElife is not only about Sweden?
No man is an island and neither is a nation. Sweden cannot compete in isolation but we will obviously need to collaborate internationally. The goal however, is to strengthen Swedish Life Science. Most actors already cooperate internationally or have activities abroad but we want Sweden to take global lead and become a hub within Life Science to improve health and welfare, not only in Sweden.

You started as Programme Director quite recently, in January. What will you primarily work with at this early stage?
Meet actors who are already involved, and anyone interested in being involved. Build my network in Sweden. More than anything it is important to capture the interest in the programme and the engagement that exists within the programme.

What is your background? Why did you get the job?
I have a background as a zoologist and took a post graduate diploma in Lund. I have worked for Astra Zeneca, mainly as a project manager and after that I started at Medicon Valley Alliance (MVA), a member organisation for the entire Life Science sector in the Öresund-region. My last year at MVA, I worked as Executive Vice President and was responsible for the international ambassadors programme. It felt natural for me to take these experiences with me, trying to strengthen Life Science in Sweden by acting on some of the ideas presented in reports through the years. I grew up in Västergötland but live in Skåne with my wife and our three children.

What is the duration of the programme?
There is funding allocated for ten years, pending on our progress and results, but that is VINNOVAs intention and our plan. Minimum.

What results do you expect?
That Life Science stakeholders in Sweden collaborate nationally to release our full potential.

 

For a competitive life science ecosystem in Sweden

With support from: