When you are a small country, the key to success lies in looking outside your own borders and always considering the mantra - collaborate, collaborate, collaborate!

NDA's CEO, Johan Strömquist shares his thoughts in the current issue of Dagens Industri's Life Science supplement*.

If Sweden is to become a leading Life Science nation, we have to become a player in the global ecosystem, Johan Strömquist, CEO at NDA group says.

  • Life Science is a global industry. Biotech companies aim to develop drugs or therapies that will help as many patients as possible. Sweden is a part of this, and the question is how our part best fits into the global whole, Johan Strömquist, CEO at the international consultancy NDA Group says.

The Life Science sector in Sweden is well-developed with an internationally acknowledged competence within industry, academia and healthcare. For Sweden to remain competitive, ongoing efforts to update and coordinate the life science strategy must involve a global perspective in addition to the national and regional levels.

  • Globalisation is not only about placing new Swedish drug products on an international market. It is about engaging in a bigger context, exchanging intellectual capital within research, development and innovation. We can’t become a leading Life Science nation in our own backyard. We do it by being a successful player in a global ecosystem, and by taking advantage of the benefits this ecosystem has to offer.

A burning topic at the moment is how Sweden should position itself to attract clinical trials.  Malin Parkler, chair of LIF (Swedish trade association for the research-based pharmaceutical industry) and CEO of Pfizer Sweden, supports the idea that clinical research must be prioritised to achieve a better healthcare. Clinical trials also mean rapid and controlled access to the latest treatments for patients, already before formal approval in the EU. Johan Strömquist thinks that this is highly relevant for healthcare to strengthen the rollout of new therapies and treatments. It is however, perhaps not the most crucial issue for the continual development of Swedish Life Science. Today’s global pipeline has a strong focus on rare diseases and small patient populations, such as cell and gene therapies for inherited genetic disorders or specific cancer diagnoses. With this highly specialised focus it can become a problem thinking that clinical research must take place in Sweden for us to be a successful Life Science nation, Johan Strömquist says.

  • We will run out of patients. Sweden is a small country and competing over these patients may very well prove counterproductive. Instead, our clinical research will take off when we become a functioning partner internationally. This is politics, business, and science, all intertwined. We must understand how it all comes together otherwise we can never create optimal conditions.

Research funding is another topic that must be viewed from a bigger perspective. Developing a drug – from discovery to pharmacy – is a costly process demanding continual investments in the pharmaceutical companies. The size of capital that must be raised by the constantly increasing number of biotech companies is not accessible in Sweden.

  • A large part of the funding must come from abroad. But how do we attract foreign investors? Even if there is a large interest for Life Science among investors, the long lead time aggravates the possibilities for external financing. What we can do as a society is to encourage and support the companies throughout this internationalisation.

Johan Strömquist comes back to the fact that the Life Science community must reach out beyond the borders, not only to launch the product, but for inspiration, investments, contacts and competence.

  • Research breakthroughs stem from collaboration and learning, and these are areas where we, as a country, are strong. What we need to become better at is to collaborate and network beyond the discovery. When it is time to go from discovery to developing a product for the market it gets lonely. The knowledge we need might not exist in Sweden; we will have to go global.

The importance of internationalisation and a global perspective is something Johan Strömquist has personal experience of.

  • You will find a large part of the global pharmaceutical pipeline in Boston, Massachusetts. In this small area you find hundreds of companies and development programs. Being in the middle of such an expansive environment affects how you think about development. You become creative and start seeing new possibilities. I encourage more people to accept the challenge and go there, to San Fransisco or any other Life Science hub in the world. Absorb as much of the local atmosphere as possible and bring it back home. Such exchanges and experiences accelerate development faster than we can on our own.

Exploring the world as an investment in Swedish Life Science is not a philosophical hypothesis or an unattainable vision, Johan Strömquist points out.

  • There is literally a whole world of possibilities out there. We have many good examples of how valuable this type of exchange is. It is something that the Life Science sector and its stakeholders needs to leverage to accelerate their development. Those Swedish companies that have already figured this out are the ones operating with the whole world at their fingertips.


To read the original version in Swedish click here Framtidens Life Science & Vård

The Author

Johan Strömquist 



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