Meet our partner GE Healthcare

Innovation and Collaboration

GE Healthcare is Uppsala’s largest private employer. Uppsala BIO and GE Healthcare have enjoyed a long history of collaboration from strategic level to individual projects and events. Head of R&D Christel Fenge connects company history to future business strategies.

Christel Fenge, Head of R&D for BioProcess, GE Healthcare Life Sciences, is a relatively recent recruit having started in mid-2017 at the company’s site in Uppsala. With several years of experience from the bioprocess sector and a background in biotech research, it is easy to understand the appointment. Christel has extensive knowledge of the industry as well as the tools used in bioprocess development and manufacturing, including product management, process analysis and automation.

“After working the last few years at a German company focusing on product management of their bioreactor portfolio, I was eager to face new challenges and move closer to research and development again.”

A proud history of innovation

GE Healthcare Life Sciences’ site in Uppsala is in many ways exceptional; it is the company’s largest Life Sciences site globally with 1,200 employees, of which around 400 work with research and development (R&D). The site has one of the world’s largest manufacturing facilities for chromatography resins, which are so significant for biopharmaceutical production. Today, over 200 FDA-approved biopharmaceuticals rely on GE technology coming from the Uppsala factory!

Chromatography resins have a long history in Uppsala. In fact, protein separation by gel filtration, still part of GE’s product portfolio today, is based on the research of two Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry, Theodor Svedberg (1926) and Arne Tiselius (1948), both from Uppsala University. They developed techniques for separating and characterising proteins and started collaborating with industry. The first chromatography medium in the world, Sephadex (SEparation PHArmacia DEXtran), was launched in 1959. The product is still being produced by GE in Uppsala and its sales continue to grow steadily.

This is a great example of an environment that fosters both innovation and entrepreneurship, both in close collaboration with one another.

Collaboration as a strategy

GE Healthcare is always on the look out for collaboration, and innovative ideas or techniques developed by academia and start-up companies are especially interesting. One recent example is Puridify, a UK-based bioprocessing start-up that GE acquired in November. The company is developing a nanofiber-based purification technology platform for biopharmaceutical manufacture.

The recently launched Testa Center is another example of GE’s eagerness to help foster innovation. The centre, planned to open in mid-to-late 2018 in Uppsala, includes four start-to-finish bioprocessing laboratories where innovators from a broad range of enterprises can test and verify their technical and biological discoveries while retaining full ownership of their intellectual property rights.

Of course, GE doesn’t just wait for innovation to take place around it. The company performs extensive internal research and development, most recently opening a 3D-printing centre, the first in Europe for GE Healthcare. 3D printing enables designs of complex components that would be difficult or impossible to build using traditional manufacturing techniques. This in turn can help develop technologies and parts with higher performance, simplify manufacturing processes, and reduce supply chain complexity. Research and development activities are performed in close collaboration with GE’s production and supply chain organisation.

Helping clients get products to market faster

One of the challenges of biopharmaceutical development is high cost. Development is time consuming and tightly regulated by governing bodies. GE Healthcare strives to counterbalance theses costs as far as possible, often in close collaboration with biopharma manufacturers to improve their production efficiency and capacity.

GE’s factory-in-a-box KUBio is one example of this optimisationalready in use globally. KUBio offers a standardised method to build a biomanufacturing factory quickly in virtually any location in 18 months. As a comparison, traditional factory set-ups typically take up to three years to design and build.

Another recent innovation from GE is the new Protein A resin MabSelect PrismA, which will help biopharmaceutical manufacturers improve their monoclonal antibody (mAb) purification capacity by up to 40 percent. The resin is also significantly more alkaline-stable, meaning that MabSelect PrismA can be cleaned with a higher concentration of sodium hydroxide to better control cross-contamination and bioburden risks.

Christel is quite new to Uppsala’s life science network but hopes that the close collaboration with Uppsala BIO in the Testa Center and with Jonas Åström, previously GE, now at Uppsala University Innovation, will result in an even more innovative and collaborative environment.

Christel Fenge, GE

“It is often through coincidence innovators and entrepreneurs meet, we want to give coincidence a little help on the way.” Christel Fenge, Head of R&D for BioProcess, GE Healthcare Life Sciences

Erik Forsberg. Ph.D., Associate Professor, CEO. “My goal is to drive system improvements that create better conditions for life science to develop in Uppsala.”

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Margaretha Gadnell. Director, Life Science Cluster Development. “I work with companies, investors, the municipality and national players like Business Sweden to foster growth and to promote investment in the region.”

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