Thursday, October 31, 2002

What we can learn from each other - Swedish American Biotech event

The quality of the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce (SACCNY) event on October 31 at the Citibank Auditorium was impressive. Comments from everyone in attendance were of praise for the high-caliber speakers, their approachability throughout the day and the quality of information doled out in presentations and panels.

After a welcome and introduction by Ambassador Jan Eliasson, Henry Gooss and Dr. Ronald Krall, Krall spoke of their new drug that treats the "non-small cells" in lung cancer, Iressa, which offers the promise of a real improvement of the quality of life for lung cancer. Dr. Krall came to Astra Zeneca as a physician by training but who wanted to help a large number of people instead of just one-by-one. Working in biotechnology and developing new drugs to help people is a way for him to do that.

Astra Zeneca CEO Sir Tom McKillop spoke in the morning to the audience's delight. The Next panel, with Jan Lundberg, Carl Feldbaum and Mathias Uhlen on today's drug discoveries and human impact was also a hot topic. Scientist and Columbia University Journalism School student Magdelena Eriksson commented on the quality of the speakers.

The speakers addressed such topics as trying to find the cure for malaria, a lofty and noble idea that they were also actually in the process of trying to pursue. One guest felt the biotech market in terms of investments was more mature here. There certainly is a difference in how startups are invested in. American investors are more tolerant of risk and will go into a company as a seed or initial investor, but may not invest in the long haul. Swedish investors, on the other hand, are less likely to invest in startups, but when they do, they're in it for the long haul. They'll stay with the company and MAKE it work!

North Carolina Biotechnology Center president and CEO Leslie Alexandre commented on the high degree of collaboration she saw in Swedish biotech firms and their investors. She also noted the difference of ownership between Swedish and American inventors. She thought it was very interesting to learn that the Swedish inventors own their technology in a more straight forward mode whereas here it is typically the University that owns the technology or invention.

Mathias Uhlen also talked about his Boston-based firm, E-pill, thus named for the electronic aspects to pill taking. Their target market are adults who are taking care of their elderly parents, which, as we know about demographics, is a large percentage of the population. Sometimes there is the issue of making sure our elder loved ones take their medication. E-pill designed a coffee-maker-type machine that will dispense the pills at the time they are supposed to be taken and remind them up to half-an-hour. If the parent doesn't take it right away, then the pill will be put away, so the parent can't stash them and then overdose, if they're inclined to do so. It stores up to a month's worth of medication. The company has also designed a wristwatch that will vibrate every three hours to remind youngsters to go to the bathroom. This watch, with its reminder, is meant to help train young ones to go on a regular basis, so they don't wet the bed or have other accidents.

The distinguished researcher Olle Isaksson and Investor AB managing director Henry Gooss chatted afterwards about researching stem cells and how Isaksson is convinced they will discover cures to diseases like Parkinsons disease. The Swedish government has a novel approach and is globalizing and modernizing its research.

Uhlen thinks there needs to be more focus on proteins and developing drugs to target malignant cells. Gooss spoke highly of Sir Tom McKillop's speech, who, he said, had intelligent insights and shared the panel while he directed it's flow as well.

Based on the overall comments from people, the SACCNY offers compelling, noteworthy speakers and interesting panels. To find out more visit: