A newly founded family company with great growth potential
BioLamina is a new, rapidly expanding biotechnology company within the stem cell and cell differentiation fields. Started as recently as 2009, it is already acknowledged as one of Sweden’s 33 most promising young technology companies.
BioLamina produces and sells high-quality human recombinant laminins that are the foundation on which cells grow in vivo – and most likely the optimal surface for stem cells, primary cells and cell differentiation in vitro. These materials, based on research by Karl Tryggvason, a world-leader in basal lamina research, have the capacity to revolutionize the field of stem cell research. Karl’s son Kristian is the company’s CEO.
Stem cell research tools with a clear market opportunity
One of the most difficult obstacles in developing stem cell therapy is the well-recognised difficulty in growing stem cells on culture dishes over long periods of time. In addition, gaining approval to enter clinical studies has proved difficult when the surface on which the stem cells grow is derived from mice, which is often the case today. BioLamina overcomes both these obstacles by providing human-derived laminins that allow stem cells to grow for an unlimited period of time without differentiating in an defined environment. Interestingly, these laminins can also be used for growing primary cells and differentiated cells, such as nerve cells.
Although several products for growing stem cells are found on today’s market, none of them dominate, which signals that the alternatives available thus far have simply not been good enough.
Today, BioLamina has three laminins on the market and will soon launch two more. Several others are waiting in the pipeline. In addition, the company plans to offer other high-quality research products, from antibodies to cytokines, growth factors and cell culture medium.
The company’s current premises in Sundbyberg outside Stockholm include a laboratory certified for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). BioLamina’s products are among the few that can be used for stem cell production in accordance with GMP. However, it will still take about a year until BioLamina will be able to provide GMP-grade laminins. The laboratory also has the potential to scale up production significantly.
Started in the kitchen
Over a family dinner, Karl Tryggvason presented his business idea to his son Kristian, who found it much too interesting to ignore. Some time later, a neighbour revealed himself as a further useful resource – he was willing to help finance the project – and is now Chairman of BioLamina’s board. The company also received support in the very beginning from the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems (Vinnova) – a very important contribution. To date, BioLamina has financed the company three times, the last in order to cover the move to the current premises and GMP manufacturing.
BioLamina already has customers in more than 20 different countries, spanning individual academic researchers, small businesses and large pharmaceutical companies; a diversity that indicates continued good growth potential. Sales now represent an increasing part of financing.
In addition to customers all over the world, BioLamina also has distributors in China, England and Japan.
CEO with visions and ambition
Kristian Tryggvason was born and raised in Oulu, Finland, but moved to Stockholm at the age of 23 to do a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology. After a short post-doc at Scripps Research Institute in California, USA, and an MBA at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, he worked for a few years as project leader and within business development at Atlas Antibodies and later at Orexo. Now, at 35, he feels that BioLamina is the perfect platform for him to make use of this broad experience.
In his own view, Kristian’s greatest assets are his ability to convey ideas to others and to find the right people when he needs them. He feels he has a very good network to rely on.
BioLamina only has six employees, which may sound very little for a company developing products for life science. But it is doable thanks to a highly competent staff plus an excellent network. Kristian has also had good help from colleagues he worked with previously.
Stockholm–Uppsala an excellent region in many ways
Kristian is happy about settling down in Stockholm, for both personal and business reasons. Personally, he fell in love with the city at first sight and decided he wanted to live there. Today, he and his wife and their one-year-old son feel well at home.
Kristian also sees several advantages with having BioLamina based in Stockholm. Thanks to companies like Pharmacia and Astra, the Stockholm–Uppsala region has a long tradition in the pharmaceutical field and there are plenty of experts at hand when needs arise. In addition, there is also fairly good access to capital of various types. Another positive aspect with the region is its association with the Nobel Prize, especially for a company built on an innovation originating from the Karolinska Institute. This is a sign of quality, at least among academic researchers, and makes it easier to attract foreign capital.
Many activities bring people with different competences together. In Kristian’s experience, people are generally willing to help out when asked. Furthermore, it is often easier for a newcomer to get advice without having to reveal too much detail – or having to pay for it! On the other hand this goes both ways, and Kristian is always eager to attack other peoples’ problems and give advice if he has the time for it.
Nevertheless, Kristian feels that one aspect that could be improved is support for companies in early development phases. The support that does exist today is very focused on drug development, but there are plenty of other areas that can also be successful and profitable, he points out.
Great plans for the future
The most important challenges for BioLamina are to scale up production and start manufacturing in accordance with GMP. Another important challenge is to increase awareness about BioLamina and the company’s products globally.
Within the next two years, BioLamina hopes to generate profit, and in five years they hope to have won a significant market share. But they have no plans for moving from the Stockholm–Uppsala region – not even from their current premises.