With BioVentureHub and Nordic Outreach AstraZeneca wants to reach out to companies, universities and clinics to contribute to a dynamic and competitive life science ecosystem in the Nordic countries.
Last year, AstraZeneca established the BioVentureHub at their Mölndal site. The aim is to create an alternative ecosystem for life science by inviting companies and academic research groups to tap into the company’s advanced R&D processes, infrastructure and systems, as well as the scientific experience and expertise among the 2,500 employees at the site.
“It’s interesting to note that in our research we conduct thousands of experiments, but hitherto we’ve never experimented with the way we work. Now we do, and it’ll be exciting to see where it leads us,” reflects Magnus Björsne, Director of AZ Mölndal BioVentureHub.
”Our focus is on what we can share without it damaging our business. If it doesn’t cost us anything, why not help out? It’s a new mindset,” he adds.
Approx. 250 offices and lab places are available at the Hub and at present ten companies have moved in. Companies subjected to admission are in the process of moving from research to product development.
“It could for instance be a company that has isolated an active pharmaceutical ingredient and is about to formulate a convenient drug delivery for it. We’re very experienced in that field and can give them a lot of good advice. Hence, the quality of the research will be higher, while the risks and costs will be lower and time to market shorter for a project developed at the hub.”
The only agreement signed is a rental agreement, including a section about confidentiality.
”The rent only covers our costs. However, we’re allowed to use the knowledge we gain from the collaboration, so there must be something for us to learn from the companies we assist and vice versa. AstraZeneca’s key therapy areas are cardiovascular and metabolic disease, respiratory, inflammation and autoimmunity; and oncology. We’re also active in neuroscience disease areas, infections and innovative technologies and personalised healthcare. BioVentureHub invites companies active in other areas as well,” says Magnus Björsne.
Centre for Vertical Innovation
He envisions BioVentureHub as a centre for vertical innovation, where traditional pharma and biotech companies meet medtech and e-health companies for fruitful cross-fertilisation. For AstraZeneca the BioVentureHub is a way of making the entire life science ecosystem more effective.
“We want it to be a catalyst for a new form of innovation, based on trust and a culture of collaboration. We’re not alone in this endeavour. Vinnova, VGR, Carl Bennet, Göteborgs Stad and AstraZeneca have jointly invested MSEK 60 in total for establishing the BioVentureHub and running it for the first three years. We’re also collaborating with Gothia Forum and SP Technical Institute of Sweden,” he adds.
Supports Open Innovation
A recent report from Deloitte shows that open innovation triples the chances of succeeding with a pharmaceutical project, and AstraZeneca supports open innovation in all stages of research.
To further facilitate open innovation the company launched a web portal in March 2014, which provides an expanded avenue to connect academic investigators and clinicians worldwide with AstraZeneca R&D scientists and tools to explore mutually beneficial collaborations. This initiative provides access to optimised compounds, compound libraries, technologies, multi-disciplinary science, services or know-how with the prospect of joint publications in high profile journals and, most importantly, the opportunity to push the boundaries of science and deliver life changing medicines.
A company or research group interested in establishing an open innovation partnership with AstraZeneca is encouraged to review what AstraZeneca offers and submit a non-confidential proposal. If mutual interest arise, further collaboration discussions will follow.
Nordic Life Science in Focus
Another example of the company’s inviting approach is AstraZeneca Nordic Outreach. It’s a concept where AstraZeneca representatives meet representatives from hospitals, universities, politicians, investors and small- and medium-sized biotech companies in a Nordic country, during a one-day event.
“Nordic Outreach is part of a plan to stimulate life science in the Nordic countries, since we think it’s important with a vibrant and creative ecosystem in the region. It’s an interface between hospitals, SMEs, academies and big companies,” says Elisabeth Björk, Site Lead Mölndal & VP CVMD Global Medicines Development, AstraZeneca.
For AstraZeneca, Nordic Outreach is a way of tuning in and learning about what’s happening in the different countries and how their life science sectors work.
”It’s a way of expanding the number of channels across the field in our key therapy areas. We’re also keen on learning new ways of thinking about problems faced in our key areas of interest,” Elisabeth Björk adds.
The first Nordic Outreach meeting was held in Oslo in August 2014 and the second in Copenhagen in April 2015. Already, projects have been initiated between AstraZeneca and groups represented at these meetings.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. The Nordic countries are very open for a big pharma company like us to have deep scientific discussions with external parties, be they academic, governmental or commercial,” states Elisabeth Björk.
The ambition is to arrange 2-3 meetings per year and the next is scheduled for late 2015 in Helsinki, Finland.
”Nordic Outreach and BioVentureHub are two, out of many, examples of how we support life science in the Nordic countries, which is an important and long-term undertaking for AstraZeneca,” Elisabeth Björk concludes.