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How Sweden’s Intellectual Property Law Boosts Biotech Innovation

Founding one biotech company and making a success of it is difficult enough, but Mathias Uhlén has founded 20. Not only is he a successful entrepreneur, he is also a professor at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and has accumulated more than €135M in research funding during his career.

After doing a PhD in biochemistry and working in Germany, Uhlén was given the opportunity to set up his own lab back in Stockholm. Right from the beginning the lab had a focus on both basic research and how scientific advances could be applied in industry. This is a duality Uhlén maintains today.

In his academic life, Uhlén has spent the last 20 years building the largest database of human proteins in the world with €135M of external funding. Since 2012, he has also found time to be a part-time professor at the Danish Technical University near Copenhagen.

After experimenting with patenting and licensing the discoveries he and his colleagues made in the lab and becoming frustrated with how few of them actually reached the market, he began to found biotech companies. Twenty companies later he is still going strong.

Uhlén credits his double success, at least in part, to the unique intellectual property laws in Sweden — the so-called ‘teacher’s exception’ — and also the good relationship between the biotech industry and academia in the country.

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