“The life science sector in the Gothenburg area is on an amazing trajectory”
Astra Zeneca’s ambition is to go from treating symptoms to curing, or even reversing, disease. Matti Ahlqvist, Executive Director for the Gothenburg site, share his view on why collaboration and sustainability is critical for the life science industry and what people coming to Park Annual 30 November can look forward to.
You are one of the sponsors of this year’s Park Annual and will participate at the event. What are you looking forward to?
– The life science sector in the Gothenburg region is on a very good trajectory, with some great initiatives happening. I’m looking forward to having the conversations that allow us to continue this journey, spreading awareness of good initiatives and letting the people behind these initiatives inspire each other. And I’m hoping to see some of what I don’t know yet.
One of the themes this year is collaboration. According to you, how important is collaboration for the life science industry?
– It’s absolutely critical. The types of problems we take on in life science are typically cross-sectorial. They span a deep biological, chemical and pharmaceutical understanding, an understanding of technology and behavior, health care systems and of course, first and foremost, an understanding of what it is to be a human with a decease. It´s only when we have that joint understanding that we can make a real difference. That understanding is too complex to exist in one organization. It requires a lot of collaboration. When I look at many of the new treatments that are on the horizon, Astra Zeneca has a very firm ambition to go from treating symptoms to curing, or even reversing, disease. That means a whole different way of working with healthcare systems.
At Astra Zeneca, how do you strengthen your business by collaboration?
– We strengthen our ability to push the boundaries of science to deliver lifesaving medicines by operating in all parts of the drug development process. We have global collaborations, and we collaborate very actively with healthcare providers and patients to make sure that we can make medicines available. Not only the medicines we have today but also the ones of the future. And then of course we collaborate to understand future potential for example in data science and AI and medtech devices.
We have just lived through a pandemic. What role would you say life science has today?
– The pandemic has been an eyeopener to the world. One thing is of course the pharmaceutical set up; the general public’s awareness of the pharmaceutical industry is very different to before the pandemic because the pandemic touched everybody. It became obvious that the vaccines were a necessary way out of the pandemic in a feasible time. That put the pharmaceutical sector in a different view in people’s eyes. Another thing is how fast the world was able to deliver several vaccines for covid-19, and after that also antibodies. The speed of which they were delivered has never been seen before and that speed was not achieved by taking shortcuts, it was achieved by unprecedented collaborations, and of course, unprecedented efforts and hard work.
What role will life science have in the future?
– What we see around us is huge medical needs among patients. We have the big killers in cardiovascular and metabolic deceases, in respiratory deceases and in oncology. We also have an increased awareness of our vulnerability of infections, and we have huge and devastating medical needs for smaller patient groups with rare deceases. I think in all of those sectors we will see important breakthroughs. In the future I really think and hope that we will be able to cure many of the deceases that previously meant a death sentence. Some of this will probably be happening on a very large scale. Overall life science has a huge role in society for all our wellbeing.
Sustainability is a prioritized area for Astra Zeneca. Why?
– The environmental and climate crisis is absolutely obvious, and we need to be part of the solution. We have taken a bold stand by saying that we will be carbon negative by 2030 including all of our own business, all of our suppliers and the full supply chain and life cycle of our medicines. We are on a good trajectory towards it and are investing extremely heavily, last year we announced that we will spend 1 billion US dollars on reducing our carbon footprint.
For us, sustainability is also about ethics and transparency. In order to be a sustainable business based on research results, people need to believe these research results. Conducting our business in an ethic way and being completely transparent with our data and research, is top priority. Its only in that way the society can believe in our results and hence our medicines can make a difference. Another prioritized part of our sustainability work is access to health care. We need to contribute to resilient and sustainable healthcare sector where people across the globe have appropriate access to health care.
Finally, what can the attendees at Park Annual look forward to?
– People coming to Park Annual can look forward to seeing initiatives being more and more joint up. Overall, the life science sector in the Gothenburg area is really on an amazing trajectory and we are starting to see initiatives really starting to fertilize each other.