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Seven life science trends 2024

Rapid advances in precision medicine will fundamentally change healthcare. Digitalisation and AI, together with new advanced therapies and materials, create completely new possibilities for both companies and healthcare providers – and not least for people who can become healthier and live longer. Read about seven trends that are shaping the life science sector right now.  

Strong life science trends that can improve people's lives

One of Sweden's fastest growing sectors is life science, which contributes more export income than traditionally strong industries such as passenger cars, iron and steel, and paper products.  

In simple terms, life science is about improving people's health – for example, through the development of pharmaceuticals and medical devices, research and education on health, and through new, growing innovation companies. A strong life science sector is a prerequisite for a functioning future healthcare system.

Gothenburg has long had a strong position in this fast-growing sector. Companies are searching intensely after skilled employees. There are fantastically exciting jobs here.

But what's particularly hot right now? In which areas do we see the advances that have the potential to fundamentally change healthcare? Here's our roundup. 
 

  1. Increasingly important to control wounds and infections
  2. Incurable diseases soon to be curable with advanced therapies
  3. More efficient healthcare and better decisions with digitalisation and AI
  4. Better care and quality of life with self-monitoring and medical IoT
  5. Huge opportunities with medical imaging and simulation
  6. Advanced implants and 3D printed tissues
  7. Sector convergence – a Gothenburg speciality

Throughout, it is about integrating and taking advantage of advanced technology to create a more efficient and personalised healthcare system.

 

1. Increasingly important to control wounds and infections

Bacteria that are resistant to penicillin and other antibiotics are a growing problem, currently estimated to cost the lives of 79,000 people every year in OECD countries. The last resort drugs are less effective on difficult-to-treat infections such as pneumonia and infected blood.  

Concern about new viruses is also growing. If things go badly, society can be completely dependent on the ability to manage and control infections. This became painfully clear during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Preventing infections is also extremely important in the care of patients with severe wounds or weakened immune systems. Add to that the constant threat of infections that occur while receiving health care and it's easy to see why infection control is an increasingly prioritized area. Good control means that hospital stays can be shortened, illnesses avoided, and costs saved.

In the Gothenburg region, there are over 60 companies that together cover the entire area of infection control, including major global players. There is outstanding innovative research in both academia and industry, and many close collaborations in areas such as wound care and antibiotic resistance.  

The world's first effective drinkable cholera vaccine, Dukoral, was developed at the University of Gothenburg. A Nordic Master's programme in Infection Control is offered here. Sahlgrenska University Hospital was also the first to discover a drug against tuberculosis and a thromboses. The large company Getinge has several complete solutions for sterilization, in many cases world leading.  

Some of the most exciting advances are taking place at the intersection of infection control and material science. Here, for example, the company Abigo has developed its advanced wound care products with a special surface layer that binds bacteria. The company is currently owned by Essity and its products are sold all over the world. The startup company Amferia has developed an antimicrobial hydrogel that binds and kills antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 

  • 650

    life science companies in Western Sweden

  • 10,000

    employees in Gothenburg's life science sector

  • 1B sek

    is the turnover of ten life science companies in Gothenburg region. 

Picture of scientist in life science

Hygiene products for healthcare and consumers

Essity and Mölnlycke Health Care are major global suppliers of consumer and healthcare hygiene consumables, sharing a common history. Essity sells leading brands such as Tork, Tena, Libero and Libresse, and has large operations in Gothenburg. Mölnlycke (image) specialises in innovative solutions for wound care and surgical procedures.

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2. Incurable diseases soon to be curable with advanced therapies

Imagine a future where it is possible to cure Parkinson's disease, diabetes, cancer, or blindness. Imagine if organs, tissues, and functions that are completely or partially impossible to repair today can suddenly be recreated. The idea is mind-blowing, but with regenerative medicine and Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products (ATMPs), we may be facing a paradigm shift in healthcare with completely new opportunities and methods to treat almost all types of diseases.

Regenerative medicine is concerned with repairing, replacing, or regenerating human cells, tissues, or organs. It is based on advanced knowledge in stem cell therapy and molecular biology.  

The closely related field of ATMP covers drugs based on genes, cells, and tissues. These new biologics have the potential to revolutionize healthcare with personalized treatments for diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease – and even rare genetic diseases that have previously been incurable. This is a very promising area of precision medicine, tailored to each individual.

The Gothenburg region has many strengths in advanced therapies, not least through AstraZeneca, which has a strong focus on regenerative care and ATMPs, and has, among other things, developed an advanced therapy drug for a severe form of lung cancer. The pharmaceutical giant has 3,000 employees from 70 countries at its global R&D centre in Gothenburg, which is one of the group's four. Around the company, GoCo Health Innovation City is now taking shape, an innovation-driven district that attracts other leading players in the field.  

Several niche startups across the spectrum of opportunities make the development even more exciting, including Cellink, Fluicell and Elicera therapeutics. The University of Gothenburg's holding company GU Ventures invests in a wide range of drug development companies, together with other investors.  

Gothenburg has the potential to make a big impression internationally. Advanced therapies for several types of diseases are already being used at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, both with approved drugs and in clinical trials. The hospital is the only hospital in the Nordic region to use ATMPs in the treatment of children, including cancer. 

Person working with life science

CCRM Nordic

Next door to AstraZeneca's facility in Mölndal, a large national biomanufacturing centre, CCRM Nordic, is now being built for the rapid commercialisation of regenerative medicine. There, the innovators will be able to collaborate with researchers from AstraZeneca, and companies such as CombiGene, Cytiva, Getinge, Takara Bio Europe, TATAA Biocenter and Verigraft (image).

Leads EU projects in precision medicine

Sahlgrenska Science Park and Business Region Göteborg have key roles within the prestigious PRECISEU project, in collaboration with Region Västra Götaland and Sahlgrenska University Hospital. The five-year project is worth a total of 22.7 million euros and will connect innovation systems across Europe to promote the development of precision medicine.

BioVentureHub

AstraZeneca has an open innovation environment inside its R&D facility in Mölndal, BioVentureHub, where some 30 small life science companies benefit from the environment but develop freely. Among these: Amferia, Lucero, Nanolyze, Nyctea Technologies, Profundus and Oligonova

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3. More efficient healthcare and better decisions with digitalisation and AI

A lot has happened since the early days of medicine, but much of today's healthcare is still based on human assumptions and judgments. It often gets it right, but not always. As long as human error is involved, there is a risk that patients will be misdiagnosed, mistreated or treated too late.

This is where digitalisation and AI can be of great benefit. Digitalisation in healthcare has been going on for a long time, but the potential is far from fully exploited when it comes to, for example, the management of patient data. Efficient digital systems make it easier to use, update and share patient information between different healthcare providers, reducing the risk of mistakes and improving treatment outcomes in cases such as cancer or stroke.

With AI as the brain of decision support systems, doctors and other healthcare professionals will have completely new opportunities to make informed decisions. AI algorithms can be used, among other things, to predict risks by seeing patterns in the patient's medical record.

The best results are achieved if you set up the systems and care based on the patients (see the next trend). That is why Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Region Västra Götaland are investing heavily in patient centred healthcare. The University of Gothenburg also hosts Sweden's Centre for Person-Centred Care. Publicly driven collaborations such as the Innovation Platform and Gothia Forum work in parallel to facilitate testing and validation of innovations in healthcare. This also benefits more mature companies that are often responsible for innovation in e-health.

Perhaps the most exciting AI-supported development in the region is taking place in drug development, imaging technology and patient data. Here, life science companies benefit from progress in other strong industries, and national cross-fertilisation through, for example, AI Sweden, Chalmers' AI initiative Chair and advances in quantum computing. 

Picture of a machine examining a persons skin

Small e-health companies with great growth potential  

  • Dermicus (image above) streamlines the management of skin cancer patients and connects primary care with specialist care. Staff who meet patients take pictures of skin changes and wounds via an app, which gives specialists the chance for quick diagnosis and recommendation.
  • Aweria is improving the capacity of emergency care. Patient information is coordinated all the way from the emergency response centre, via ambulance and into the emergency department. Ambulance staff, nurses and doctors get an overview from the start and can coordinate and plan their work.
  • Microwaves can also be used for diagnostics, and Medfield Diagnostics was early entering the field. With the help of their Strokefinder, it is possible to quickly distinguish a blood clot in the brain from a cerebral haemorrhage already in the ambulance. Both need to be treated urgently, but in different ways.
  • Interventions can also be made more precise with new digital technology, which can save healthy tissue. Micropos Medical delivers hardware and software that – without surgical intervention – allows more precise and effective radiation therapy of prostate cancer.  
  • Boneprox offers a digital specialist clinic in dentistry that facilitates smooth collaboration between clinics, dentists and specialists. The system supports guidance and skills development and ensures that analyses and referrals end up in the right place in the dental care chain. Images are diagnosed with the support of AI.  

Sahlgrenska is strong in clinical research  

Sahlgrenska University Hospital is the largest hospital in the Nordic region with nearly 18,000 employees. Sahlgrenska is a world leader in organ transplants and heart surgery, one of Europe's OECI accredited comprehensive cancer centres and was recently classified as number one in Sweden in clinical research. Academically, Sahlgrenska is part of the University of Gothenburg. Gothenburg is also a global leader in odontology. 

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4. Better care and quality of life with self-monitoring and medical IoT

Not having to be hospitalized, or not having to visit a health center or hospital for ongoing check-ups has many advantages. The patient's quality of life improves, the risk of infections is reduced, time and resources are saved in healthcare. With the development of medical IoT – the Internet of medical things, or telemedicine – this is about to become a reality.

The potential is great and the list of possibilities long:

  • Fewer hospital visits for patients with chronic diseases.
  • Patient data that is collected on an ongoing basis provides a better basis for medical decisions.
  • Better access to care, especially in remote areas.
  • Possibility of early detection of health problems, and fine-tuned treatment.
  • More efficient use of healthcare resources and greater opportunities to offer individualised care.

In medical IoT and AI, there are several interesting growth companies in Gothenburg, which have sprung from the region's cutting-edge ecosystem in life science.  They offer products that users and patients can benefit greatly from.

  • Sleep Cycle is a fast-growing company that offers an app that monitors the sleep of millions of users in 150 countries daily. The app helps users understand their sleep habits and improve their sleep, and can wake the user up in the right sleep phase. The company's statistics contribute to research and reporting on sleep worldwide.
  • Cuviva offers a digital platform for the care of people with multiple chronic illnesses and the frail elderly. The patient receives an easy-to-use piece of hardware at home that a nurse can install and explain. With the solution in place, healthcare professionals and families can communicate, and get joint control of sampling, monitoring and health planning. In Mölndal, for example, patients measure their own blood sugar, blood pressure, pulse and weight and have continuous contact with health care digitally.
  • By briefly filming a person's eye, the company Sightic Analytics can detect if a person is using drugs, alcohol or medications that impair cognitive ability. Sightic's software can be used in the driver's environment or other contexts where traditional drug tests – saliva, urine, and blood samples – cannot be used.
  • Detectivio has developed technology to scan a face from one metre away and thereby perceive vital signs of value for emergency departments, telemedicine and home care. Can also be useful in vehicles, in offices or at events. 
Picture of a hand, computer and pen working on life science

Sahlgrenska Science Park focuses on digital health

Sahlgrenska Science Park is an incubator for 140 companies in digital health, with the potential to become scalable internationally. Firms linked to the science park at Medicinareberget in Gothenburg include:

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5. Huge opportunities with medical imaging and simulation

Recent major advances in medical imaging technology provide entirely new benefits and opportunities for both patients and healthcare providers. With AI and machine learning, researchers and doctors can help interpret medical images, and can more easily detect details and abnormalities that are difficult for the human eye to see. Increased resolution and detail constantly make diagnoses more precise.

For a few years now, Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg has been equipped with a state-of-the-art Imaging and intervention centre (image below), where the latest imaging technology is used for both diagnosis and intervention. Many new areas of application are being explored.  

Here, advanced procedures are carried out with the help of keyhole surgery, small tools and robots on, for example, tumours in the brain, monitored by advanced magnetic resonance imaging. These can stop acute bleeding, fix broken backs, replace heart valves, remove clots from the brain, dilate calcified vessels and much more. Usually through minimally invasive procedures through small portals in the skin. Cardiologists, oncologists, surgeons and other specialists are also trained in new technologically advanced methods, both live, via screen and in a fully simulated environment.

Gothenburg-based Mentice has over 100 employees and delivers such simulation equipment for the training of heart surgeons, both software and hardware, to ten countries. Surgical Science is an even larger company that specializes in training resident physicians in a simulated environment before embarking on live operations. Software from both companies is embedded by other global medtech companies in their products. Ortoma is a third company that uses a platform based on AI to support orthopaedic surgery. 

Picture of a operating room at BoiC

Digital twins of the body

Digital twins of organs or the entire human body can also be produced using medical imaging technology. They can be used to model the effects of treatments or plan surgical procedures. The real-life procedure that follows can then be more precise and cause less discomfort for the patient. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and Sahlgrenska University of Technology, for example, are working on a new AR method in which surgeons can see a pre-produced digital twin of the liver tumour in real time, as an enhanced layer on top of the camera images during ongoing surgery. 

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6. Advanced implants and 3D printed tissues

Shortage of human organs is a major global problem. Gothenburg contributes in many ways to increasing the availability of human organs and tissues. For example, the high-tech company Xvivo Perfusion keeps donated vital organs such as lungs, hearts, and livers alive until transplantation, and is a world leader in recovering lungs through warm perfusion.  

But imagine not having to wait for a suitable organ to be available for donation. Imagine if it was possible to create an artificial liver, or maybe even a heart, that is a copy of the original organ, and that fits the body perfectly. That would be an incredible win for patients who need organs. More lives could be saved, and there would be fewer complications.

Verigraft develops regenerative medicine products based on recycled blood vessels, and other donated human tissue. A clinical study now under way is testing how patients with chronic vein disease react when they have had the biotech company's personalized blood vessels implanted.

It sounds like science fiction, but the fact is that even 3D-printed organs could become a reality in the foreseeable future. Research and development are ongoing all over the world, not least in Gothenburg, where Bico-owned Cellink has received international attention for its development of bioprinters and bioinks for the world's research environments.  

3D technology may also play an important role in implants and prostheses that can replace worn-out or destroyed parts of the body. Another area is pharmaceutical production, where 3D technology can be used to produce medicines with personalized dosages or unique combinations of active substances.

Gothenburg has a long and strong tradition in implants, ever since Per-Ingvar Brånemark discovered in the 1960s that titanium grows together with bone. The phenomenom is called osseointegration, and it gave rise to Nobel Biocare, which has since treated millions of patients around the world.

Today, Dentsply Sirona is a leader in dental implants, but the technology is central to all types of bone-anchored implants. Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions. Both companies have development and an important presence in Gothenburg. Growth company Promimic develops smart surface treatment for bone anchored implants. 

Arm with protestheses

The world's smartest arm and leg prostheses

Fast-growing Integrum delivers interfaces and operating systems for arm and leg prostheses that patients can control at will in a natural way. The AI-enhanced robotic prostheses are attached to the body via a titanium socket that is digitally connected to nerves, and thus to the brain. This unique technology has been developed at Chalmers University of Technology and is now being further developed through research at the Center for Bionics & Pain Research, Mölndal Hospital in Gothenburg. 

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7. Sector convergence – a Gothenburg speciality

Unexpected meetings are often the birthplace for new ideas and new innovations. The challenge is to create fruitful encounters.  

In Gothenburg, these are part of the city's DNA. Many of the growth companies have arisen out of unexpected encounters between different disciplines, something that has developed into a Gothenburg specialty. Many firms also combine several of the trends above.  

"Sector convergence" is a concept that is now seen and heard in more and more places around the world. As in all industrial shifts, the change means challenges for established brands and companies, but at the same time exciting business opportunities for new entrepreneurs and organizations that are open to new ways of working.

Gothenburg is extremely well positioned in this area, with the city's strong tradition of open collaboration. One explanation is the region's strengths and scope in the life science, tech and automotive industries. Saab, Ericsson, Telia and Beyond Gravity are examples of advanced, leading ICT companies, but the mobility industry is also becoming increasingly software-centred. Kognic and Volvo Cars-owned Zenseact are at the forefront of advanced machine learning, big data and AI for autonomous mobility.  

All this know-how is now cross-fertilising the life science sector, not least via AI Sweden and Chair, Chalmers' AI initiative, which collaborates closely with Region Västra Götaland and Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Broad collaboration also characterizes Chalmers University of Technology’s education and research in health engineering.

Other enablers are BioVentureHub, Mobility X-lab and the Great network, which focuses on developing a top-class digital infrastructure for the Internet of Things and Health Tech. For example, Volvo Cars and AstraZeneca are exploring how the car can be used to collect health data and analyse how we feel. The area is unchartered territory, but the opportunities for the future are vast.

But innovation is happening in many kinds of encounters right now. Between drug developers and medtech companies, between nanotechnology specialists and doctors, between materials scientists and wound care experts, mathematicians and nurses.  

Gothenburg's momentum in life science is increasing, every year. To the delight of both the healthcare system and all of us. 

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