The annual National Molecular Medicine Program (NMMP) event took place in Stockholm between 26-28 April. The event’s main focus was collaboration, bringing fellows from medical, biological, and data sciences together to form new friendships and potential future partnerships. New for 2023 was the inclusion of Data-Driven Life Science (DDLS) fellows, adding another layer to the networking nature of the event, which will be called Program for Academic Leaders (PALS) in 2024. The main day opened with a presentation from SciLifeLab Director Olli Kallioniemi and was followed by multiple inspiring keynotes from leading figures in the life science field.
In his opening talk, Olli Kallioniemi spoke on how to optimize the collaborative process, which set the stage for the event. “Naturally, everyone here is very competitive, but I urge you to put that mindset aside and focus on how you can best work with each other,” says SciLifeLab Director Olli Kallioniemi.
Next up was a keynote by Professor Sir David Klenerman, giving a fascinating and inspiring talk about how he and his colleagues at Cambridge, through both success and failure, researched DNA sequencing during the 90s and massively improved the process. “To do something significant, you need to work as a team, and you need different disciplines. You need to interact with each other socially, and talk with people to come up with a breakthrough,” says David Klenerman.
This journey would eventually lead to David and Professor Shankar Balasubramanian starting a company called Solexa which later got acquired by Illumina, reducing the cost of sequencing by a factor of a million using sequencing-by-synthesis technology. “It just shows you that it is possible to go from a piece of paper to something widely applied worldwide in ten years,” Klenerman says.
The day continued with highly appreciated SciLifeLab Infrastructure flash talks by ten different SciLifeLab platform coordinators who briefly presented their platform and explained how to collaborate with them.
During the afternoon, it was time for industry-based keynotes, with Ilya Pharma and Astra Zeneca presenting their organizations, commercial research and developments. Ilya Pharma CEO Evelina Vågesjö provided insights into their drug candidates and how they became one of the first companies to get the FDA to support a pivotal trial with a genetically modified bacteria as a pharmaceutical. “While pursuing my PhD, I was engaged to enhance the skills and collaboration between PhD students at my department, with a strong emphasis on equal opportunities. I observed that students from other countries often did not have access to information about opportunities, which further underscores the important role events and communities like NMMP/PALS play in addressing such disparities,” remarks Evelina Vågesjö.
Elisabeth Björk, vice-president of Astra Zeneca and the Director of the AZ’s Gothenburg site, gave the day’s final keynote, presenting an overview of global trends within life science and how they impact the healthcare sector. The main takeaway was that the best science is made when all aspects of society collaborate, including academia, industry, and government. “This type of event is essential. I’m a very busy person with practically no gaps in my calendar, but I made sure to be able to come here and give this talk because I truly believe collaboration is the key to success,” says Elisabeth Björk.
In summary, the event was a massive success and appreciated by all the attending fellows and keynote speakers. Some seeds of collaboration can already be seen just days after the event ended.
Read our PALS news article from last December