With a strong research base formed around the Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University, Sweden has grown to be one of Europe’s premier biotech hotspots. Several companies spun out of research conducted at these institutes and others are now listed on the Stockholm stock exchange and already have products on the market. Here are six to watch…
Sweden’s biotech sector includes more than 16,200 employees in 285 companies. More than 57% of these biotech companies are dedicated to drug discovery and development, nearly 14% to medical technology, and the rest are divided among various sectors.
We take a closer look at six Swedish biotechs to watch, all of which are listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm and have a number of drugs in their clinical pipelines.
CEO: Jakob Lindberg, since 2011
Therapeutic area: Cancer (myeloma)
Established in 2000 and based in Stockholm, Oncopeptides is focused on developing drugs for the treatment of cancer. Oncopeptides’ founders are among Sweden’s leading oncology, clinical and medical researchers, many with international reputations in their fields. Oncopeptides has developed melflufen (Ygalo®), the first peptidase potentiated cytotoxic therapy intended for use in the treatment of multiple myeloma. Oncopeptides has established collaborative relationships with leading researchers and institutions in Europe and the US, including Harvard Medical School’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In June 2019 scientists presented data from two phase I/II studies of its drug, melflufen, at the European Hematology Association in Amsterdam. Oncopeptides listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm in 2017.
CEO: Nikolaj Sørensen, since 2013
Therapeutic area: Opioid addiction
Orexo was founded in 1995 in Uppsala with a vision to fulfill unmet patient needs by developing improved pharmaceutical products. The company’s first product, Diabact® UBT – a breath test for diagnosing the stomach ulcer bacterium Helicobacter pylori – was registered in 2000. Orexo has developed from being an R&D stage company to becoming a profitable pharmaceutical company with commercial business in the US. The company aims to become a leader in the field of opioid addiction. Orexo’s key market is the American market for buprenorphine/naloxone products and the commercialization of Zubsolv®, which is an effective drug for people suffering from opioid addiction. CEO Nikolaj Sørensen reports a positive outlook for 2019, stating that “three of our four internal pipeline projects are ready to progress into the next development phase, our financial position continues to strengthen due to sales growth and our manufacturing efficiency program has had significant positive impact on the gross profit contribution from Zubsolv.” In 2005 Orexo was listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm.
CEO: Carlos de Sousa, since 2016
Therapeutic area: Cancer
Immunicum, founded in Stockholm in 2002, is a clinical-stage immuno-oncology company whose main focus is developing allogeneic dendritic cell technologies. Immunicum was founded in 2002 based on research originally carried out at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. Immunicum’s goal is to improve survival outcomes and quality of life by preparing the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. The company’s lead product is ilixadencel, consisting of pro-inflammatory allogeneic dendritic cells. In 2019 Immunicum expects results from the Phase II MERECA renal cancer trial, an important clinical milestone for ilixadencel and the company. This is the company’s first comparative trial and has a total of 88 patients in both Europe and the US. CEO de Sousa quoted that “since ilixadencel can be produced and stored for extended periods, and our data indicates that it might enhance the effect of different classes of I/O-drugs, like checkpoint inhibitors, immune enhancers and other targeted therapies, we see a potential for ilixadencel to become a backbone therapy in several future immunotherapies.” Immunicum listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm in 2013.
CEO: Uli Hacksell, since 2015
Therapeutic areas: Cancer (lymphoma, carcinoma, leukemia), osteoarthritis
Nasdaq: MVIR B
Medivir, founded in 1988 and listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm in 1996, is a pharmaceutical company focusing on the development and commercialization of innovative treatments for cancer. Its disease areas of focus are cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, basal cell carcinoma, solid tumors, hepatocellular carcinoma, blood cancer (acute myeloid leukemia) and osteoarthritis. Currently in its pipeline are Remetinostat for cutaneous T cell lymphoma, Birinapant for solid tumours, and Miv-711 for osteoarthritis. During its twenty-year history, Medivir has collaborated with Eli Lilly, Wellcome, Abbott, and Janssen.
CEO: Martin Welschof, since 2018
Therapeutic area: Cancer (non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia)
BioInvent, founded in 1997, is a research and development company in the biotechnology field which has created human antibody libraries that can be used in a broad range of applications. BioInvent delivers proteins to drug and biotechnology companies, grants licenses for use of its libraries, and establishes partnerships to develop and manufacture protein based drugs. BioInvent’s main focus is on the discovery and development of immuno-modulatory antibodies to treat cancer, advancing its research through collaborations with large pharmaceutical companies, academic research groups, networks of clinical specialists and research foundations. BioInvent has three products in its clinical pipeline. Its lead program BI-1206 is currently in Phase l/lla for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphatic leukemia, and is a product that represents a substantial commercial opportunity. Additional products in the clinical pipeline include TB-403 in paediatric brain tumours, in collaboration with Oncurious, and THR-317 in diabetic macular edema, under development by Oxurion. BioInvent’s preclinical pipeline includes a collaboration with Pfizer to develop antibodies that act on tumour-associated myeloid cells, as well as antibodies that act on regulatory T cells.
CEO: Ulf Hannelius, since 2015
Therapeutic area: Diabetes
Nasdaq: DMYD B
Diamyd Medical is a Swedish pharmaceutical company focusing on developing targeted treatment for diabetes. Its two principal products are the antigen-specific immunotherapy Diamyd® and the oral regenerative and immunomodulatory therapy Remygen®. Diamyd® and Remygen® target the underlying causes of diabetes in the pancreas and are currently being evaluated in clinical trials. Clinical data indicate the potential of Diamyd® to halt the autoimmune destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. The effect is achieved by reprogramming of immune cells through administration of three low doses of Diamyd® in superficial lymph nodes. Intralymphatic treatment with Diamyd® is now being investigated in a clinical phase II trial. Diamyd Medical is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm First North.