20220324 Lipum, Fotograf: Sune Grabbe

Umeå-based Lipum will reach an important milestone in its history this year as clinical trials begin on its antibody to treat inflammatory diseases. No less than 17 consultants are now involved in the drug’s development.
“Developing a new drug is complicated, and the process is governed by strict regulations. It is therefore important to build a competent team in and around the company. The number of employees a company has does not always tell the whole story. In reality there are often many more people needed to develop a drug”, says Pernilla Abrahamsson, Chief Operating Officer at Lipum.

Lipum, which was listed on the First North stock exchange in the spring of 2021, has developed a biological drug candidate that aims to offer better treatment for rheumatism than those currently available. Pre-clinical studies have already shown very promising results. Clinical trials are now in the preparation stages.

To help achieve its targets Lipum has engaged 17 consultants with cutting-edge expertise in drug development project management, CMC, toxicology, clinics, QA, regulatory requirements, patents, bioanalysis and more. They work alongside Lipum’s five full-time members of staff, five people from a scientific council and an additional five members of Lipum’s board.

“Everyone has their own areas of responsibility, but we are all connected so work a lot in different teams, both large and small depending on our objectives. We have deliberately chosen to hire smaller consulting firms, often individuals, in order to create a strong team spirit”, says Pernilla Abrahamsson.

Of Lipum’s five full-time employees, four work in Umeå. The rest of the extended team are spread out across Sweden. Pernilla Abrahamsson believes the powerful digital communication tools available today means there is no reason why all the competencies the company needs have to be available in a single location.

“The most important thing is to have a broad network so you can connect to the skills you need, when you need them. In our industry the need for different competences changes depending on what development phase we are in”, she says.

She believes there is a very high level of scientific competence in Umeå, primarily in research.

“It is a complex process to develop a drug, with strict regulations that govern how to validate and manufacture the drug in question. That’s why different skills are needed during the process. We have now reached a stage where we need both employees and consultants with experience in drug development. Most people who have such specific knowledge have usually already worked in the pharmaceutical industry. This is part of the reason why the consultants we’ve hired are not based in Umeå”, says Pernilla Abrahamsson.

She believes it is important decision-makers understand that drug development is a complicated process, and that the number of people involved in a project is not always the same number as a company’s employees. Sometimes up to four times as many operational people are required to help develop a drug, giving decision-makers more possibilities when making decisions about research, laboratory premises or product launches etc.

“The demands on the life science industry are immense. The companies in the Umeå region are growing rapidly and new projects are coming thick and fast. It is extremely important that decision-makers open their eyes and understand what resources are required. In order for any development not to lose momentum more competences, as well as more laboratory premises, are urgently required. It is time to act as soon as possible”, says Jennie Ekbeck, CEO of Umeå Biotech Incubator, which has supported Lipum to establish its own company.

She believes it is important that the whole of Sweden ensures these cutting-edge competencies are accessible in the future.

“In Sweden today we don’t have huge companies that contribute to ensuring national excellence. So we must implement other initiatives, such as industry-tailored training in vocational universities. We must maximize our potential in Sweden in order to continue to be competitive”, says Jennie Ekbeck.

Pernilla Abrahamsson and her colleagues are now looking forward to starting the first clinical study of Lipum’s new drug in 2022.

“It’s an important milestone in the company’s development. At the same time in our laboratory in Umeå we will continue with preclinical studies to evaluate the possibilities of treating more diseases with our antibody SOL-116. We believe it has enormous potential, so the future looks very promising”, says Pernilla Abrahamsson.