8 Swedish companies spearheading the country’s biotech scene

Biotech companies in Sweden

Known for its abundant forests, smorgasbords, and, of course, the famed Europop group ABBA, Sweden has a thriving economy that largely depends on manufacturing and exports. Plus, the country’s life science sector recorded a net turnover of almost SEK 365 billion ($34 billion) in 2020 – an increase of just over SEK 158 billion ($14.8 billion) since 2014 – and it is still ever-growing.

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

In this article, we discover eight biotech companies in Sweden spearheading the country’s biotech scene.

Table of contents

    Amferia

    Focused on 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 for catheters.

    Situated in western Sweden in Mölndal, Amferia raised SEK 15.4 million ($1.4 million) in a seed funding round in January 2023, with investment from Chalmers Ventures AB and Almi Invest.

    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 known as TCR-T therapies against tumors. It currently has 15 candidates in the lead optimization phase and nine in the Investigational New Drug (IND)-enabling phase in its pipeline. 

    Its technology platform uses engineered functional human cells to identify disease antigens and cognate T-cell receptors (TCRs) that specifically and potently target those antigens. Part of the company’s goal is to construct libraries of highly validated TCRs that can be deployed as personalized TCR-T cell therapies. The company has its own in-house GMP certified clinical-scale manufacturing and process development facility. The company recently licensed a gene editing technology from EmendoBio to accelerate the manufacture and development of its therapies for difficult-to-treat solid cancers. 

    Anocca has also collaborated with Karolinska Institutet for the development of its TCR-T therapies. In May 2023, 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. 

    Aprea Therapeutics

    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. Therefore, targeting the DDR could treat a range of cancers. And Aprea Therapeutics is focused on exactly that.

    The Swedish biotech company aims to target ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3 related (ATR), a protein that regulates the response of defective replication. Having developed a macrocyclic – a type of host compound with a large ring-shaped structure – inhibitor of ATR, known as 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 last year. The biotech has also created a drug, called APR-1051, that inhibits WEE1 – a protein that, when overexpressed, promotes cancer cell resistance – which is expected to enter phase 1 trials soon.

    In March 2024, Aprea announced a private placement financing of up to $34 million. 

    Asgard Therapeutics 

    Swedish biotech company Asgard Therapeutics is exploring direct cell reprogramming technologies to develop cancer immunotherapies. Incorporated as a spin-off from Lund University, Asgard is specifically pioneering in vivo gene therapies and says that its approach overcomes many of the logistic and manufacturing hurdles of conventional cell-based therapies.

    The company’s lead program, known as AT-108, is both an off-the-shelf and personalized treatment applicable to a spectrum of cancer indications. According to the company, this seemingly paradoxical approach takes advantage of the Trojan Horse concept (TrojanDC), which can be administered to different patients inducing presentation of the tumor(neo) antigens and activating personalized anti-tumor responses.

    In one of the biggest private biotech investments of March 2024, Asgard announced that it had raised €30 million ($32 million) in a series A financing round. At the time of the announcement, the company said that the funds would go towards supporting the development of AT-108 to IND-readiness by 2026, expanding and reinforcing the company’s research and development team, and fueling new reprogramming modalities and delivery platforms to strengthen its pipeline. 

    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. 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.

    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 five clinical candidates, including BT-001 – developed in collaboration with French biotech Transgene – which targets the protein receptor CTLA-4, and BI-1808, which targets tumor necrosis factor receptor 2 (TNFR2). Both candidates reduce intratumoral Treg cells and expand antitumor CD8+ effector T cells. 

    The company is also investigating a candidate called BI-1206 in a phase 1/2a study in combination with rituximab and a phase 1/2a study with pembrolizumab. BI-1206 is a high-affinity monoclonal antibody that selectively binds to FcγRIIB, the only inhibitory member of the FcγR family. FcγRIIB is overexpressed in several forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and overexpression has been associated with poor prognosis in difficult-to-treat forms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, such as mantle cell lymphoma.

    In April 2024, BioInvent announced a new clinical trial collaboration and supply agreement with MSD International Business GmbH, a subsidiary of Merck & Co, for a phase 1/2a study of one of its other clinical candidates, BI-1910 (the company’s second anti-TNFR2 antibody) in combination with pembrolizumab.

    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 1/2 trials.

    A new facility for manufacturing, owned by Diamyd Medical’s subsidiary Diamyd Biomanufacturing AB, is being set up in Umeå, Sweden. The primary purpose is the manufacture of recombinant GAD65, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in the Diamyd. The long-term goal for the facility is to produce enough GAD65 to meet the market demand for Diamyd, as well as to be a key player in the production of biological substances for other drug projects.

    In February 2024, Diamyd Medical announced that the FDA had granted fast track designation for Diamyd. 

    Hamlet BioPharma

    Created as a result of a merger between Hamlet Pharma and SelectImmune Pharma in March last year, Hamlet BioPharma specializes in therapies for different types of cancers, as well as infections and tuberculosis. Its drug candidate Alpha1H works by binding to oleic acid to form a complex that inhibits tumor development in bladder cancer. In collaboration with Welsh biotech Neurochase, which is contributing its new technology for drug delivery, Hamlet BioPharma 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, which can hinder the growth of tumor tissue. The company says that daily, long-term treatment with BAMLET in the drinking water has been found to inhibit intestinal tumor development in mice genetically susceptible to intestinal tumors, compared to mice not receiving BAMLET. The frequency of tumors and the tumor size were reduced already after short-term BAMLET treatment but with continued treatment, the mice remained symptom-free and survived significantly longer than control mice.

    Hamlet BioPharma received €300,000 ($320,650) in a grant from the European Commission (EC) in April 2023 to accelerate its bladder cancer project, bringing its total funding as part of the EIC Accelerator program of the EC to €2.2 million ($2.4 million). 

    Modus Therapeutics

    Stockholm-based Modus Therapeutics is developing Sevuparin, a non-anticoagulant molecule 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, with mortality rates exceeding 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. Last year, the company announced positive phase 1b results for the candidate, which was found to be safe and well-tolerated.

    Shortly afterward, the company secured access to bridge financing of SEK 7 million ($645,000) from investment firm Karolinska Development in March 2023. Overall, the company has obtained a total of SEK 190.5 million ($17.6 million) in funding. 

    A significant increase in life sciences companies in Sweden

    Statistics show that the number of companies in the life science sector in Sweden increased significantly between 2009 and 2020. The number of businesses run by individuals tripled from 477 to 1,415 during this period, while micro-enterprises with 1 to 9 employees almost doubled between 2009 and 2020, from 782 to 1,324. There was also a significant increase in medium-sized companies, (with 50 to 249 employees), especially during the years 2015 to 2020, when they increased from 97 to 138. These figures prove just how quickly Sweden’s life sciences industry has been growing over the past few years.

    This article was originally published in January 2019 and has since been updated by Willow Shah-Neville in May 2024.

    Newsletter Signup - Under Article / In Page

    "*" indicates required fields

    Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest biotech news!

    Name*
    This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
    Labiotech.eu

    Suggested Articles

    Show More