10 June 2020

Scandinavia is The Latest Genomics Hub

By George Coe By George Coe

When we talk about genomics hubs, then usually we’d be talking about Oxbridge, Boston or Silicon Valley thanks to success stories like 10x Genomics, Illumina or Solexa. However, as the technology needed to conduct genomic R&D becomes more accessible and widespread, other genomic hotspots are emerging.

One such hub is Scandinavia. Long recognised for innovation in other areas, such as sustainability, Sweden and Denmark in particular are emerging as influential players on the global genomics scene. The afore mentioned 10x Genomics were quick on the uptake with this as far back as 2018 when they acquired Stockholm-based start-up Spatial Transcriptomics. That’s a move that’s already bearing fruit as they’re producing some of the most exciting gene expression tech on the market.

They’re not the only company making headlines in the Swedish capital. Malte Kuhnemund’s spin off from SciLifeLab, Cartana are also flying the flag for Scandinavian innovation. Cartana recently appointed Mårten Winge as their CEO, a life science professional with a strong track record in commercializing platform technologies, an exciting sign of their future ambitions.

Cartana’s technology maps gene expression in tissue via In Situ Sequencing (ISS) which has the capacity to decoding up to 600 genes in a single tissue section. Moreover, you don’t need a multimillion dollar NGS system to use it. Their kits, along side a fluorescent microscope mean that users still get access to the vast amounts of information from the process, but at a fraction of the price of NGS. There’s a huge amount of excitement about Cartana’s potential in fields like neurology and oncology; they’re a business you’re likely to hear a lot more about in the next few years.

Crossing the Öresund Bridge, we arrive in the Danish capital Copenhagen, home to Samplix, a company already doing extraordinary things in genomics. Samplix, headed up by seasoned Genomics leader Lars Kongsbak, have built a system that greatly improves applications and opportunities for any NGS user. Using some of the most complex microfluidics engineering on the market, the Xdrop makes it simple for researchers to discover new variants and enrich any genomic region they choose. After a phenomenal start and with their system already selling well, they look set for some major growth in future.  

From Copenhagen it’s an 8 hour ferry journey to the Norwegian capital Oslo, home to Bio-Me. They’re a small company with big ambitions. Dubbed ‘the next generation in microbiome profiling’, Bio-me’s technology uses targeted quantitative PCR as an alternative to NGS. This will help use the information of hundreds of different types of bacteria in your gut meaning connections between lifestyle, genetics and the microbiome can be identified. Such technology has numerous applications, but the really exciting one here is within companion diagnostics, a market with huge growth potential.

Head back east to Stockholm, you’ll find a rare European gem. Single Technologies are breaking the US and UK-centric NGS start up mould by basing themselves in the Swedish capital. Led by Johan Strömqvist, ST’s caption on LinkedIn is ‘Sequencing faster than anyone else’, which tells you a lot of what you need to hear.

Founded in 2012, exactly what ST are bringing to the table is still shrouded in mystery, with limited information available.  we do know is that they are looking to build a system that uses single molecule sensitive 3D imaging technology. This technology has promised to greatly bring down the cost and speed of NGS. With Sweden’s past record of completely changing markets for the better (Spotify as a great example), the genomics world will be watching.  

They’re some of the most exciting companies leading the Scandinavian genomic revolution. It’s a list that is growing year on year as many companies realise how welcoming the Nordics are for start ups. Could the Nordics become a European genomic powerhouse? Only time will tell.

Which location do you think will be the 'next big thing' in genomics? Scandinavia, or elsewhere? Get in touch at george.coe@lifesci-cm.com.

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George Coe

George Coe works across genomics and cellular biology, partnering with companies and candidates who are at the very forefront of research today. He is fascinated by the way in which genomics is going to affect our everyday lives and the growing regulations surrounding the technology.

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