Genergy at CombiGene
This is an article from Ingenious number four 2019.
There is no energy shortage at CombiGene. That conclusion can be easily drawn after speaking with Annika Ericsson, Senior Project Manager at CombiGene. Annika not only holds a PhD in gene therapy from Karolinska Institutet, she is also one of the world’s top-ranked swimrun competitors, having won the prestigious ÖtillÖ (Island to Island) race outside Stockholm four years running.
When Ingeneious meets Annika she has just returned from a World Cup competition in swimrun in Malta, where she placed third in the mixed category together with her temporary team mate, Stefano Prestinoni.
Let’s start with your academic merits. Can you tell us about them?
“Absolutely. I did my PhD studies at Karolinska Institutet (KI) in a project on acute intermittent porphyria (AIP). Porphyrias are a group of rare heme synthesis disorders. Heme is a component of haemoglobin. In Sweden, about one person in 10,000 suffers from the disorder. The symptoms vary, but include, among other things, abdominal pain, various symptoms of the nervous system and psychiatric symptoms. The research at KI gave me indepth knowledge of gene therapy, even though it didn’t lead to an effective treatment for the disease. After completing my PhD studies I did a postdoc at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York. Subsequently, for the past fourteen years I have been working in the biotech sector.”
What is a typical day for you?
“I guess you could say I live a rather disciplined life. My day begins and ends with training. Each morning I swim, and then I cycle to work. My days at CombiGene are devoted to the exciting lipodystrophy project that we inlicensed earlier this autumn, as well as a lot of work with CG01. When I arrive home after work, my family is my priority. My husband works at Ericsson and we have two daughters, both of whom are football enthusiasts. The youngest still swims competitively. I usually round off the day with a run.”
That sounds like a very hectic schedule.
“Well, in a way it is. But, at the same time, it gives me energy. Mostly from my family, of course, but my work and training also fill my energy reserves. I don’t see it as making sacrifices. On the contrary; I derive a lot of joy from everything I do.”
Interest in sports is big in Sweden. Can you describe your career as a swimrunner?
“Gladly. Swimrun is a competitive sport that originated in Stockholm and is now spreading quickly throughout the world. The original competition, ÖtillÖ in Stockholm, involves 65 kilometres of running and ten kilometres of swimming. Last year, when I won the competition for the fourth consecutive time, my partner Kristin Larsson and I were the first women’s team to complete the race in less than nine hours. We still hold that record. That may not mean much to the uninitiated, but it can probably be compared to the dream mile, i.e., running a mile in under four minutes, something that eluded the world’s elite runners until Englishman Roger Bannister did it in 1954.”
You began work at CombiGene approximately a year ago, December 12th 2018, to be exact. Now that you’ve had time to settle in, how would you describe the company?
“CombiGene is a tremendously exciting company in a very exciting sector. If you’re interested in biotech, gene therapy is among the most fascinating fields, not least because what we do has the potential to improve life for so many people. The lipodystrophy project, which is what I am now focussing on, may provide an effective treatment for patients for whom there is currently no treatment at all. I know that is what drives everyone who works at CombiGene. We really want to be a part of healthcare development and make a contribution, so that patients all over the world can live life to the full.”
CombiGene’s lead project CG01 has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 823282”
CombiGene’s vision is to provide patients affected by severe life-altering diseases with the prospect of a better life through novel gene therapies. CombiGene’s business concept is to develop effective gene therapies for severe life-altering diseases where adequate treatment is currently lacking. Development assets are sourced from an external research network and developed to achieve clinical proof of concept. Drug candidates for common diseases will be co-developed and commercialized through strategic partnerships, while the company may manage this process on its own for drugs targeting niched patient populations. The company is public and listed on the Swedish marketplace Nasdaq First North Growth Market and the company’s Certified Advisor is FNCA Sweden AB, +46 (0)852 80 03 99 email@example.com.