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GE Healthcare to open EUR 14 million testbed for biotech in Uppsala

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The current boom in the biotech sector has been given an additional boost as Testa Center, a new multi-million-euro testbed for biological product manufacturing, opens its doors in Uppsala.

Testa Center, the new 2,500 sq m Uppsala testbed facility, will provide the means for small start-ups as well as larger, established biotech companies to put their innovations to the test in an ultra-modern laboratory environment.

The facility, slated to open in the third quarter 2018, aims to support the goal of positioning Sweden as a global leader in the life science sector. Furthermore, it is an example of accelerating cross-border collaborations in Sweden between academia, start-ups and large industrial companies.

The project is a co-investment between GE Healthcare Life Sciences (EUR 4 million), part of the General Electric group, and the Swedish government through the state-owned innovation agency Vinnova (EUR 10 million). It will be run as non-profit organisation and GE Healthcare will supply the necessary bioprocessing lab equipment.  

Lotta Ljungqvist, CEO of GE in the Nordic Region and CEO of Testa Center, says: “This is a very exciting development for Sweden’s biotech sector. It means that start-ups, academics as well as large scale industrial companies will all have access to an industrial-standard laboratory environment for testing and verifying their innovations.” 

Testa Center will be equipped with the latest technologies including GE’s reconfigurable biomanufacturing platform. This, combined with access to top bioprocess expertise, enables testbed partners to rapidly modify their production set-up. 

”Here they will be able to verify their ideas and processes in a facility that is specially designed for the production of biological material, something that many of them would not otherwise be able to afford as it is too expensive to have a facility that is used only a couple of times per year.”

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New home for bio development 

Ljungqvist explains that the testbed can be used to improve the production process for biopharmaceuticals, reagents, diagnostics and other techniques or digital solutions used to manufacture biologically originated products. 

“To make better products you have to use biological origins, which means that you have to cultivate cells in a reactor. We already provide this technology today using a bioreactor fitted with an ingenious, easily disposal plastic lining. When you have finished with a batch you just take the lining out and discard it. There are no potentially contaminating residues left in the system which means the next test can be carried out almost right away,” she says.  

At the same time as providing the means to do just that, the Uppsala facility will also train students from universities and high schools, giving them valuable, hands-on experience. 

A number of similar life science testbeds have previously been established in Europe, among them in Ireland which trains operators for the pharmaceutical industry and also runs courses on innovation. 

But according to Ljungqvist, the new Uppsala test bed is especially significant as it represents a new, more open attitude among “big pharma” companies towards entrepreneurs.  

“In Sweden, for example, we have big, global players such as Astra Zeneca, ABB and GE all opening up to the world of entrepreneurship right now. This is very positive because cooperation is beneficial for both parties.” 

Testa Center in Uppsala is scheduled to be inaugurated on August 21, 2018.

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