Uncertainty about the government’s life science work

The government’s national coordinator for life science, Jenni Nordborg, left her position almost four months ago. No one has yet succeeded her, and now questions are being raised both about the government’s plans for the office and the Swedish life science strategy.

In 2018, the then government established a life science office to “strengthen Sweden’s position and meet the increasing global competition”. Jenni Nordborg was Head of the office and the government’s coordinator in the field.

Although she stepped down at the end of last year, no one has yet been appointed her successor, and no equivalent post has been advertised. This has raised questions about the government’s intentions with the life science office and whether there are any plans at all to appoint a new national coordinator.

In mid-March, Peter Nordström and Eva Sjökvist Saers, Programme Manager respectively Chairperson of the national strategic innovation programme Swelife, wrote a debate article in Life Science Sweden in which they called for political leadership for life science in Sweden. They especially emphasised the need for a permanent national life science office with a coordinator.

In December last year, Life Science Sweden asked the Ministry of Social Affairs about the office and whether the government planned to appoint a successor to Jenni Nordborg. The Ministry’s press contact stated that they would get back to us. Since then, Life Science Sweden has also contacted the Ministry of Economic Affairs for a comment.

Last week the government presented its spring budget, and the issue of what will happen to the life science office was not addressed. In fact, the word life science is not even mentioned in the budget.

Life Science Sweden has spoken to several people in the sector who call for the government to give an answer regarding its plans for life science.

Clara Hellner, Director of Research and Innovation at Region Stockholm, particularly emphasises that the work on the Swedish life science strategy ought to continue.

“The strategy included working groups for, among other things, precision medicine and health data, and they have done plenty of good work that needs to be addressed. It would be unfortunate otherwise, as many people have spent a lot of time formulating needs and directions for the future”.

She also clearly states that a successor to Jenni Nordborg is needed.

“Jenni was highly visible, and a person whom many people turned to with important issues. There are numerous stakeholders in the sector, such as universities, hospitals, small and large companies, authorities, etc., and many of the issues require a national partnership and collaboration. A national life science coordinator is essential in this work.”

Frida Lundmark, at LIF, the trade association for the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Sweden, finds it regrettable if the government should not continue the investments made within the framework of the life science office.

“To get the full benefit from the work done in companies, healthcare and academia, it is necessary to ensure coordination,” she tells Life Science Sweden.

“Life science is a unique industry because it involves the Ministry of Education, Business and Social Affairs. To get the full benefit from the work done in companies, healthcare and academia, it is necessary to ensure coordination. The life science office has had an essential role in establishing this coordination, and it is important to maintain it”.

She emphasises that international competition in medical research is intensifying.

“Therefore, a strengthened life science office that is once again led by a coordinator is crucial. In addition to the office itself, the government and the stakeholders in the sector need to develop a concrete action plan linked to the life science strategy.”

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