Nordic Life Science 1
58 The Nordics have quite a good track record in
bringing molecular tools companies to global market, often through partnerships. One such example is the acquisition of Cartana by the US-based 10x Genomics for the price of 425 million SEK in 2020, only three years after its founding. Cartana, sprung out of professor Mats Nilsson’s work at SciLifeLab, Stockholm University, had developed an in situ sequencing technology that maps the brain based on tissue analysis and image data with a resolution all the way down to the single cell level. “The area of use is to look at tissue sections, for example from tumors and see exactly where in the tumor certain genes are active. The gene activity comprises a signature for which type of cell it is. In that way, you can see, for example if immune cells, which can fight the tumor, are active. This is seen visually, in a microscope,” explains Mårten Winge, former CEO of Cartana. “Analysis of the tumor’s closest surroundings (the tumor micro environment) is a highly interesting research area esides the technology, he also points out that Cartana’s commercial organization had made a good deal of progress. Sales were increasing strongly and several of the large pharma companies were among the customers, with recurring orders. A key factor was also a very talented team. “The timing was also good, there is a large demand for this type of in situ analysis,” adds Mårten. When it comes to finding partnerships and perhaps also opportunities for getting acquired, he advises companies to be open and to encourage dialogue early on, even with big companies. “You should of course make sure that you do not reveal sensitive or confidential information. However, acquiring companies are rarely out to eliminate a competitor, firstly they want to tie up technology and individuals. So you should assume that early discussions are the beginning of a long-term relationship, rather than a shortcut to quick returns. If you have a truly innovative technology you will probably get well rewarded. The buyer does not want to take over a disappointed founder, it is not good for the return of the investment,” says Mårten. Innovations will always be in demand and the big companies are dependent on smaller rapidly moving companies for that, he continues. “Smaller companies that are being sold generate incomes that can be reinvested in new innovative companies. A serial-entrepreneurial business environment is not necessarily a bad option.” Today Mårten Winge is the CEO of Strike Pharma, sprung out of an immunotherapeutic cancer vaccine delivery-platform, developed at SciLifeLab. The company just finished a financing round of 45 million SEK, and is now planning to develop the technology platform into clinical products for individualized cancer treatment. “We will eventually seek partnerships in order to take advantage of the platform’s full potential, something that we cannot explore entirely on our own. It looks incredibly promising, although there are many things that have to fall into place before there is a product on the market. Again, we have an outstanding competent team behind the company. It is a privilege to be involved!” says Mårten. NLS Mårten Winge, CEO, Strike Pharma, former CEO of Cartana in order to increase the understanding of which mechanisms cancer drugs should affect. Using the technology you are able to perform these analyses with a unique precision and on basically any kind of tissue sample.” At 10x Genomics, the technology is highly prioritized, and great resources are invested. The company aims to make Stockholm a hub for their European presence, which has led to extended responsibility for the staff. Extensive further development projects are in full swing that involve the Cartana team, plus additional staff that has been hired, says Mårten.