In August this year Robert Kronqvist joined the NDA team as General Manager for the Nordics. With his background from large pharma, small biotechs and research institutions he is bringing a plethora of experiences with him to the NDA team in the Nordics.

Through this short interview we tried to figure out what makes him tick.

You have worked for the best part of your career in life science. Tell us a little bit about what motivates you.

“Thank you! It’s great to have the opportunity.

To begin with I’ve always found life science and pharmaceutical development fascinating. Working in as diverse contexts as large pharma, where I’ve spent a significant part of my career at AstraZeneca, and then seeing things from both a small biotech and research institute perspective, I feel I’ve got a great breadth of experiences.

What ties them all together though is the wish to make a difference, and in drug development you really can make a difference – both every day at work, but of course at the end of the day for the patients we serve.”

So, what is the biggest difference between working at a large company and then taking over as CEO in a small biotech?

“Well, one of the most obvious differences is of course the access to resources. In a large pharma you have resources and capabilities that have been built up over many years relatively easily accessible, whereas in a small company you have to find partners and different ways to collaborate to get the different aspects of drug development covered.”

“It’s not uncommon to bring in different people to satisfy specific and very discreet needs in a small company, just because you have that need right there and then. There is always a risk that continuity will suffer from that, or that there are challenges with knowledge management across collaborators. In that respect it’s great that we have such an incredible breadth and depth of expertise here at NDA, since this gives so much expertise in one provider.”

How would you describe the Nordic Life Science scene right now?

“Nordic Life Science is quite remarkable, even though it certainly has its challenges. We have a very strong reputation of high-quality science and innovation in this corner of the world. We are also pretty good at taking science from academia and spinning out companies to take this forward, but we struggle more when it comes to financing of and doing good drug development when we reach those stages.”

“I think the situation for the industry has changed quite a bit in the last ten years. Both because we’ve got a good tradition and track record in spinning out innovation, but also because of large pharma’s increased willingness to rely on external innovation and in-licensing to fuel their pipelines.”

It seems like there are a few important hubs across the Nordics. Is this a trend you think will continue?

“Yes, I think so. Part of the explanation to the origin of these hubs comes from large pharma who have left or even continue to contribute to expansion of infrastructure in very specific locations that are attractive to smaller biotechs. But regardless of whether there is infrastructure in place or not we need proximity, partnerships and networks to build a creative environment for science and innovation to flourish.”


How do you think the Nordic Life Science scene will develop over the next couple of years?

“In two years’ time I believe we will see a number of the biotech companies with promising treatments will have achieved important scientific milestones as well as increased financing. With the current influx of biotech clients, I also believe that NDA as a consultancy company will have been able to have an even greater impact on the development of good medicines in the region.”

Speaking of which, what do you think that NDA will be able to contribute to the small biotechs?

“I think it’s a matter of providing coaching and guidance. We have so much experience from helping companies from all over the world optimize their development programs and it offers us a fantastic opportunity to bring this experience to the Nordic market.

This can provide such great benefits to companies, both in terms of plotting their route to market to enable good execution of their development activities, and, if they are contemplating earlier stage exits, to make sure that they get maximum value out of any out-licensing deal that they might be considering.”

Based on your experiences, what do you think that you can bring to small biotechs as a part of NDA?

“I think it’s really two things. Firstly, I have a lot of experience that is highly relevant to the small biotech company’s situation. As a CEO of one of the companies out of Karolinska Development’s portfolio I’ve been there and seen what it is like.

Secondly, I’ve got a pretty good network by now. This will be beneficial both because I know many companies out there that will benefit from the support that NDA can offer, but also because science and innovation really is a team sport and identify the right players for your team requires a large network. This is something that I can help with.

These two things coupled with a great commitment and enthusiasm for drug development is really what I think I can contribute with.”

What do you see as NDA’s greatest challenge in the Nordic region?

“I believe strongly that we have some fantastic opportunities engaging with small biotech companies in the Nordic region, supporting their development and augmenting their capabilities. That said, we have for the past ten years been an incredibly international company with our client facing people spending almost more time in the United States than here in our home markets.

I think that this has created the perception that we are not interested in supporting our local biotech scene, something that couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact that we have been very international and learned a lot from companies from all around the world is of course fantastic, but the perception that we are not available for our colleagues here in the Nordics is a challenge. I will work a lot on ensuring that we are present – that we are visible here at home – and that we are available, flexible and responsive. I think all those things will be necessary for us to be allowed to share our experiences in the Nordics.

I am really looking forward to the opportunity to meet with and get to know more of our colleagues in the Nordic Life Science community to learn more about their thoughts and needs so we can find ways to support in an optimal way.”

The Author

Johan Strömquist


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