Antibodies attacking flu virus.

50 years of excellence – it all started with a collaboration between academia and industry!

In 1966, a Japanese team in USA published their findings on a previously undescribed immunoglobulin named IgE, and almost simultaneously a team here in Uppsala comprising Hans Bennich, Gunnar Johansson, and Leif Wide, did the same. The great potential presented by this discovery found an industrial partner in Pharmacia through a particle patented by this company; Sephadex. Using this particle, Leif Wide developed a method to diagnose allergy called RAST (RadioAllergoSorbent Test), and In November 1967, exactly 50 years ago, the description of IgE measurement for clinical use was published for the first time (Wide L, Bennich H & Johansson SGO, Lancet ii, 1105, 1967). The rest is, as they say, history. Pharmacia has since then partnered and separated from Upjohn, been bought by Pfizer, subdivided into Pharmacia Diagnostics, changed their name to Phadia and finally been bought by Thermo Fisher in 2011 which is the current state of affairs. Phadia, under Thermo Fisher, has been world leading in the field of allergy diagnostics for almost 40 years now. The RAST-method has been improved upon and updated during that time, currently the available methods share the name “ImmunoCAP” and hold one of the largest global market shares.

Clinical need for more personalized diagnostics is a growing issue as well as the rising prevalence of allergies and asthma. In the UK, as an example, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is set to include biomarker FeNO (fraction of exhaled nitric oxide, marker of local inflammation and predictor of clinical response to inhaled corticosteroids) in the upcoming guidelines on Asthma Diagnosis and Monitoring to push for a development towards more effective treatment based on individual needs. This is something we should not wait to follow in Sweden, personalized diagnosis and care will reduce the suffering of patients and societal cost from long-term effects such as pulmonary obstructive disorder. Professor Kjell Alving of Uppsala University, expert and entrepreneur in the field, suggests further steps to improve outcomes for asthma patients;

“The step taken in the upcoming NICE guidelines to include biomarker measurements in patients with suspected asthma is a global first and to be commended”

Read more from Kjell in Lancet Respiratory Medicine!

A key to the success of the RAST appears to have been the close association between academia and industry and how quickly an academic discovery was translated into industrial success. Uppsala’s life science cluster is still known for being close-knit and communicative but there is perhaps less collaboration between the separate backbones of the triple-helix today. This is where the innovation system comes in; to strive towards bringing everyone together, enable communication and collaborations. At Uppsala BIO we are addressing this particular issue by celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the RAST together with UU Innovation and Professor Kjell Alving; on the 22nd of November we will gather experts of industry and academia in an AIM-day to discuss the future of asthma and allergy diagnosis followed by an evening at Thermo Fisher in Uppsala Business Park. Speaking at this event is the original inventor of the RAST; Professor emeritus Leif Wide, Uppsala University, Jon-Sverre Schanche, Head of R & D Thermo Fisher Scientific, Uppsala, and Professor Christer Janson, expert in respiratory disease from Uppsala University, will join him on stage.

Register for the event here!

Lovisa Case, Phd, Project manager, Uppsala BIO

Lovisa Case. M.Sc., Ph.D., Project Manager. “I work on creating exciting programmes for our events so that our networks will get as much out of them as possible. Got any good ideas?”

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