Umeå is well-recognised globally as a most innovative and active region with strongholds in areas such as infectious diseases and new antibiotics, medtech and diagnostics, plant and forest biotechnology, metabolic diseases and neurodegenerative diseases. The Scientist recently ranked Umeå University as the fourth best place in the world (outside the US) to work as a postdoc.
The cluster initiative Biotech Umeå together with actors such as Uminova Innovation and Umeå Biotech Incubator (UBI) support further growth by pursuing opportunities available to both new and established companies within biotechnology and life science.
One of Sweden’s fastest growing
Biotech Umeå is one of Sweden’s fastest growing life science clusters with nearly 70 active companies in areas ranging from drug development, medical technology and diagnostics to production, clinical research and analytical services.
The strengthening and focusing of the regional innovation system, combined with state-of-the-art academic research in Umeå and increased cooperation regionally, nationally and internationally, have led to the emergence of new innovative companies, many of which are global leaders within their field today.
Both Uminova Innovation and UBI are important contributors by providing advisory services, knowledge and expertise, office facilities (UBI also has laboratory facilities) as well as seed funding to companies.
“The incubators have an important purpose in strengthening our region, their focus is to create growth by helping innovators to commercialise their research. At the same time, both new and established companies can turn to Biotech Umeå for support in developing their company. Easier access to venture capital, an extensive network and market knowledge are examples of what we can offer”, states Kurt Strömgren, MD Biotech Umeå.
A breakthrough in medtech
Umeå is characterized by close collaborations throughout the whole community, involving researchers, companies, investors, venture capitalists, politicians and regional and national authorities.
Umeå-based medical device company Likvor is currently installing the LIKVOR CELDA™ instrument in neurological clinics all over Europe. The instrument is the result of over 30 years of research at Umeå University and Umeå University Hospital assessing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dynamics. The company’s instrument measures the pressure and flow of the fluid (liquor) surrounding the brain and spinal cord. If this system is disturbed, it may lead to the syndrome Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) that might be misdiagnosed as dementia, Alzheimer or Parkinson. With a correct diagnosis, the liquor system could be restored by shunt surgery, which could bring patients back to a normal life without symptoms.
Likvor is now in active discussions with business partners and distributors to expand the European and international sales network whilst the process of FDA registration has also been initiated.
Umeå in a global perspective
Another outstanding example is BioResonator’s unique technology for measuring pressures in for example the eye, and the company’s first product is an eye tonometer for measuring intraocular pressure. Too much pressure can actually cause the optic nerve to break down, leading to blindness. Pilot studies have also been conducted in relation to cancer diagnostics and oedema diagnostics.
“The order volumes are getting larger and key opinion leaders in the field are very interested in our products” says Mikael Lindblad, CEO of Bioresonator. In May 2011, the tonometer ART® had been delivered to 16 countries in Europe, and the instrument had also been exported outside of Europe for clinical studies.
The above examples illustrate just two of many major breakthroughs in life science originating from Umeå.
“We aim to promote and keep a high level of expertise in our region. Our researchers, companies and medical institutions have an important role in placing Umeå on the global map of life science and biotechnology strongholds worldwide. We have a tradition of strong players in this field, and I think that all co-operating parties, from academia, companies and incubators, feel very positive about the future”, Strömgren concludes.