Ten Swedish companies spearheading the country’s biotech scene

Photo/Elena Resko
biotech companies in Sweden

This article was originally published in January 2019 and has since been updated by Roohi Mariam Peter, on June 6, 2023.

Known for its abundant forests, smorgasbords and not to mention the famed Europop group ABBA, Sweden has a thriving economy that largely depends on manufacturing and exports. And the country’s life science sector having recorded a net turnover of almost SEK 365 billion ($33.5 million) in 2020, is ever-growing.

Home to more than 1,000 life science companies, and with the rigorous research conducted by ​​globally-renowned Karolinska Institutet, as well as other leading institutions, the country has a booming biotech industry. 

As we celebrate the National Day of Sweden of June 6, let us explore 10 biotech companies that have secured funding to further strengthen their projects and pipelines, in the past year.

Table of contents

    Anocca

    In the fight against solid tumors, immunotherapy has been at the forefront of cancer treatment. Based in the city of Södertälje, Anocca focuses on developing immunotherapies against tumors, and has more than 10 indications in its pipeline, which are in preclinical stages.

    Its technology platform uses engineered human T-cells, and aims to identify disease antigens. Part of the company’s goal is to construct libraries of these engineered antigen presenting cells (eAPCs), where each cell carries a single HLA gene, enabling the ability to map antigens. The company has its own in-house clinical-scale manufacturing and process development facility. Here, the production of viral vectors for the genetic modification of patient T-cells takes place, along with cryopreservation of its product. 

    The company has collaborated with Karolinska Institutet for the development of its T-cell therapies. In May, the company raised SEK 400 million ($36.7 million) through an equity financing round led by AMF and Mellby Gård, making a total of $110.1 million in investments since it was founded in 2014. 

    Gedea Biotech

    An imbalance of the vaginal microbiome can lead to a condition called bacterial vaginosis, where an abnormal vaginal discharge is secreted. The disease, which increases the chances of infertility, preterm birth and contracting sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), is usually treated with antibiotics, but when overused, can promote antibiotic resistance. Gedea Biotech aims to tackle this problem by developing the first-ever antibiotic-free treatment for the condition.

    Situated in the city of Lund in Southern Sweden, the biotech company’s drug candidate pHyph is designed to restore the pH in the vagina which is elevated in the case of bacterial vaginosis, due to infectious bacteria. pHyph removes the infectious bacterial build-up of biofilm so as to rehabilitate the healthy vaginal microbiome. The active ingredient in the drug has received the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Having observed symptom relief in 90% of its patients in its latest clinical trials, Gedea Biotech obtained €1.3 million ($1.4 million) for marketing pHyph, in a funding round that took place in May, in addition to a grant received from Swelife and MedTech4Health.

    BioInvent

    As immuno-oncology drugs are regarded as a significant breakthrough of this century, BioInvent has developed a technology platform to create antibody-based immunotherapies. 

    The company’s F.I.R.S.T platform identifies targets and the antibodies that bind to the targets for drug development. The screening tool has led to an extensive pipeline with six indications, which includes BT-001 – which is being developed in collaboration with French biotech Transgene – that targets the protein receptor CTLA-4, and BI-1808, which targets tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2). Both the candidates – currently in phase 1 trials – reduce intratumoral Treg cells and expand antitumor CD8+ effector T cells. Moreover, this month, BioInvent obtained Investigative New Drug (IND) approval from the FDA for its anti-TNFR2 monoclonal antibody BI-1910.

    To make the process of precisely identifying antibodies that bind to the specific target protein easier, the Lund-headquartered company’s antibody library n-CoDeR contains more than 30 billion human antibody genes stored within phages in test tubes.

    In April, the company announced that it had secured $3 million in a post-IPO equity round during the first quarter of 2023.

    Hamlet Pharma

    Also located in Lund in Southern Sweden , this biotech company specializes in therapies for different types of cancers. Its drug candidate, Alpha1H, works by binding to oleic acid to form a complex that inhibits tumor development in bladder cancer. In a collaboration with Welsh biotech Neurochase, Hamlet Pharma is also investigating the candidate for central nervous system (CNS)-related tumors. Animal studies have shown that it markedly delayed the development of glioblastoma. 

    Additionally, the company has BAMLET in its pipeline, which has shown potential in the treatment of colon and oral cancers. Made from cow’s milk, BAMLET contains alpha-lactalbumin that can hinder the growth of tumor tissue. 

    Set up in 2015, the biotech received €300,000 ($320,650) in a grant from the European Commission (EC) in April to accelerate its bladder cancer project, and is set to receive funds from the EC later this year, which would bring the total funding amount to €2.2 million ($2.4 million). 

    Diamyd Medical

    Set up nearly three decades ago in Sweden’s capital, this biotech company is focused on developing precision therapies for the treatment of autoimmune diabetes, which affects the insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells, due to inflammation.

    One of the drug candidates, Diamyd, is an antigen-specific immunotherapy that targets the protein antigen GAD65. It is being evaluated in a phase 3 clinical trial along with a booster regimen in phase 2 trials. The company’s other candidate is Remygen, an immunomodulatory and regenerative therapy, which is based on the cell signaling molecule GABA found in the pancreas. Remygen is currently undergoing phase I/II trials, and preclinical data has demonstrated its potential to stimulate the growth of insulin producing cells.

    Diamyd Medical has raised a total of $5.1 million in funding over 2 rounds, most of which – $5 million – was acquired in the latest financing round that took place in April, which saw participation from investors like The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

    Modus Therapeutics

    Sevuparin is a non-anticoagulant molecule that is being developed by Stockholm-based Modus Therapeutics for the treatment of sepsis. Sepsis, which is the body’s extreme response to infection, can be deadly in its most severe form, sepsis shock – as mortality rates exceed 30%.

    The company’s drug candidate aims to counteract the inflammation in sepsis, but unlike its predecessor compound heparin, it does not cause blood thinning. With options for both intravenous and subcutaneous delivery, sevuparin interferes with white blood cells during inflammation. Earlier this year, the company announced positive results for the candidate which was found to be safe and well-tolerated.

    Founded in 2011, the company secured access to bridge financing of SEK 7 million ($645,000) from investment firm Karolinska Development in March. The company has obtained a total of SEK 190.5 million ($17.6 million) in funding.

    Aprea

    To enable cells to function properly, a set of processes collectively known as DNA damage response (DDR) takes place. What may be the activation of repair pathways or, if irreparable, the induction of apoptosis in normal cells, in cancer cells these pathways vary. Thereby, targeting the DDR could treat a range of cancers. And Aprea is focused on exactly that.

    The Sweden-based biotech company aims to target ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3 related (ATR), a protein that regulates the response of defective replication. Having developed a macrocyclic inhibitor of ATR (ATRN-119), it is investigating the drug both as a monotherapy as well as in combination with PARP inhibitors (PARPi) – a kind of cancer drug. ATRN-119 received IND approval from the U.S. FDA for which it began clinical trials this year. The biotech has also created a drug that inhibits WEE1 – a protein that, when overexpressed, promotes cancer cell resistance – which is in its preclinical phase for the treatment of advanced solid tumors.

    Established in Stockholm, Aprea secured $5.5 million from a post-IPO equity round in February, amassing a total of  $120.4 million in funding over six rounds since it was founded in 2003.  

    Mycorena

    While vegan foods like tofu and pulses are rich in proteins, the nutritional value of fungi is being leveraged by Swedish company Mycorena to expand fibrous, protein-filled dietary options.

    Based in Gothenburg in Western Sweden, the biotech company has two products in its lineup: PROMYC, a vegan mycoprotein ingredient produced through fermentation, which has less than 3% of fat and is sugar-free, and Mycolein, for people who are looking to reduce their consumption of saturated fats – like animal fats. Mycolein is developed from the company’s proprietary emulsion technology, where fungi is used as a stabilizer. Mycorena’s fermentation process employs filamentous fungi to grow mycelia – networks of fungal threads – in order to maximize the output. 

    Additionally, the company is collaborating with the European Union (EU) in a food waste recycling program that utilizes fungi, where resources are fed back into the food production system. 

    In January, Mycorena received €1.5 million ($1.61 million) from an EU grant for the development of 3D printable mycoprotein, along with Austrian startup Revo Foods.

    EnginZyme

    Enzymes are vital for many of the processes that support the functioning of our body. EnginZyme applies the catalytic properties of enzymes to provide alternatives to chemicals, in an attempt to boost sustainable manufacturing.

    Located in Stockholm, the company’s cell-free platform technology EziG enables significantly lower amounts of waste production when compared to traditional methods that rely on chemicals. The enzymes are manufactured in fixed-bed reactors. Through enzyme cascades, EnginZyme serves markets such as the prebiotic foods industry, pharmaceutical sector – for the production of raw materials for vaccine development – and in the cosmetics industry.

    The company was selected to be part of the 2023 GCT100, an index created by Cleantech Group to commemorate companies that are committed to taking action on the climate crisis. 

    Last year, in December, the company raised €21 million ($22.5 million) in a series B financing round. The round saw new investors, including Almi Invest GreenTech, Navigare Ventures and Bunge Ventures, join existing investors Sofinnova Partners, Industrifonden and SEB GreenTech VC.

    Amferia

    Focused in the field of antimicrobial peptides, Amferia is developing wound care dressing to expedite healing. Its antimicrobial gel is designed to bind and kill bacteria for up to five days before dressings need to be changed. With a shelf-life of up to 18 months, the product can also be formulated as a spray that can be dispersed through an aerosol to cover broader areas of the skin and wounds. These antimicrobial peptides are derived from the mammalian immune system and can rapidly and selectively kill bacteria, including those resistant to antibiotics.

    Using its technology platform, the company has also created antimicrobial patches that can be applied at an incision site prior to a surgical procedure, to ensure a sterile environment and reduce complications. In a collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology, Amferia is looking to produce antimicrobial catheters and even develop antimicrobial coatings to catheters.

    Having proven that the application of Amferia wound dressing led to bacterial reduction by 99.9% in clinical trials, the company, which was founded in 2018, is also examining the efficacy of its Amferia hydrogel dressings to treat post-surgical wounds in cats and dogs.

    Situated in western Sweden in Mölndal, Amferia raised SEK 15.4 million ($1.4 million) in a seed funding round in January, with investment from Chalmers Ventures AB and Almi Invest.

    As Sweden’s biotech industry grows rapidly, companies like cancer diagnostics company Elypta and clinical-stage biotech Sigrid Therapeutics have also received funding this year. Moreover, relatively newer startups like molecular diagnostics company Rarity Bioscience, sustainable biotech Norbite and Arcede Pharma – specializing in developing therapies for respiratory illnesses – have all secured funding to further develop their respective products, platforms and drug candidates.

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