Interaction with Industry

Although as a principle I have tried to keep my activities within the academic world, it has sometimes been necessary to act also in the commercial area.

As mentioned above I had a lot of experience from scientific collaboration with colleagues employed at the drug company Pharmacia. The introduction of hyaluronan in eye surgery around 1980 created a dramatic boost for Pharmacia, which was both positive and negative. On the positive side was the increase in research and development, on the negative side was the growth from a small company with informal ties to the university to a large company that became a game on the stock market.

Pharmacia was mainly owned by the Lundberg family in Gothenburg. They wanted to sell their shares for tax reasons and sold them to Volvo, the car manufacturer. The executive director of Volvo, Pehr Gyllenhammar, promised that Volvo was making a long-term commitment. However, only a year later (1986) it was announced at a press conference that Volvo would merge Pharmacia with Fermenta, owned by an Egyptian, Refat El-sayed, who had made money on large scale production of antibiotics for veterinary purposes. Gyllenhammar expressed his great confidence in El-sayed. Fortunately, it became known in time that El-sayed had lied about having a PhD-degree and Gyllenhammar was forced to withdraw from the deal. During this process I took an active part trying to stop the affair. I wrote a personal letter to Gyllenhammar informing him about the risks of destroying the informal collaboration between the university and Pharmacia. I also took part in the public debate. A merge with Fermenta would have been a catastrophe. Later that year I received "The Pharmacia Award'' at the share holders meeting for my effort.

Unfortunately, this blow to the prestige of Gyllenhammar demanded some kind of revenge. He declared that he wanted to structure and rationalize the Swedish drug industry and started to fuse a number of small drug companies with Pharmacia even if the companies had very different products and internal cultures. This started a turmoil in the company with internal feuds going on for many years. In the end Pharmacia was merged with international companies and today it is based in the USA. What is left in Uppsala are some production units while most research is gone. It has been a tragedy to follow the development of Pharmacia in Uppsala.

The disintegration of Pharmacia has forced a large number of former employees to start small biotechnology companies. Uppsala has become a center for new developments. For some years I was on the board of one of these companies, Medisan (later named Biophausia), which had taken over the sale of dex-tran from Pharmacia. The basic idea of the company was good; income from the commercial part should finance development of new products of which some also were connected to hyaluronan. Unfortunately, the market for dextran went down and the company ran into financial problems. I also became involved as a consultant in a Canadian company, Hyal, which tried to introduce hyaluronan products for clinical use without success. In contrast my former neighbor, Bengt Agerup, has been very successful in commercializing intra-dermally injected cross-linked hyaluronan for cosmetic purposes and his company, Q-med, has been one of the fastest growing biotechnology companies in Uppsala.

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