Johan Normark, Mattias Forsell and Julia Wigren Byström. PHOTO: Mattias Pettersson/Hans Karlsson, Umeå University.

Mattias Forsell, Johan Normark and Julia Wigren Byström, the founders of the UBI Alumni Xerum AB, have been awarded Umeå University’s and Nordea’s Innovation Prize for utilisation 2024. This is for the successful COVID-19 research conducted by a clinician, a preclinical researcher, and a biomedical analyst.

The trio works at the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Umeå University. Their successful research has led to new products that have contributed to new, sustainable strategies for sampling and diagnostics. It has also led to collaboration with the surrounding society (the Public Health Agency of Sweden, Region Västerbotten and others) to great benefit for public health.

In their laboratory, an at-home test was developed to measure antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19. The tests were then used in the Public Health Agency of Sweden’s national mapping of the spread of the virus. Today, the technology is being developed further to be used for other diseases, such as vole fever.

The trio started the company Xerum AB, which has developed a sensitive method for analysis of viral antibodies in capillary blood and serum and offers self-sampling in combination with a high-quality analysis of viral antibodies. Via the mobile phone, you could order a sampling kit. The blood sample was sent by post for laboratory analysis by Xerum, and test results were delivered digitally to the mobile phone. During 2021–2023, Xerum has conducted corona antibody analyses in several national population surveys on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Sweden.

“We are very happy and proud to receive this prestigious award! It feels great that we, as researchers at Umeå University, have been able to facilitate testing during the pandemic and give back to society when it was needed most. This has been possible thanks to a good collaboration between academia, healthcare, the industry and the innovation system in Umeå. It has been a journey to start a business, and it is great that our work is being recognized!” says Julia Wigren Byström.

In addition to the honor, the winners will share SEK 100,000, and the award will be presented at Umeå University’s annual ceremony in October.

Xerum received business support from Umeå Biotech Incubator between 2020 and April 2024.

From the motivation for the nomination:
“In summary, it is fantastic with this translational collaboration between a preclinician (Mattias Forsell), a clinician (Johan Normark) and a biomedical analyst (Julia Wigren Byström), which has resulted in synergy, where the result far exceeds the individual components.”

About the Award

Successful implementation of research and new knowledge is a prerequisite for meeting societal challenges with new and sustainable solutions to important needs.
Nordea’s and Umeå University’s Innovation Prize for Utilisation has been established to highlight extra outstanding efforts in innovation, implementation and commercialisation of research results that can be traced to the recipient’s work with utilisation of their research.
The prize is intended to address all disciplinary domains at Umeå University, and a special focus is to be placed on how the recipient’s efforts have contributed to societal benefit, sustainable growth or increased competitiveness based on the UN’s global goals.

Text: Claes Björnberg/Tomas Ruuth