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Harvard professor chooses the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm for stem cell research

Sweden steps up life science funding
Swedish biotech projects in clinical phase double
More life sciences talent attracted to Stockholm

When Harvard professor Kenneth Chien, an internationally recognised leader in cardiovascular science, realised that the best place for his research was at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, he left his position at the famous university in Boston and moved to the Swedish capital.

"[The Karolinska Institute] is an incredibly exciting environment for unlocking the potential of cutting-edge studies in fundamental stem cell biology towards new paradigms for regenerative therapeutics", Professor Chien said when the news of his position was announced. 

Today, he is directing a team of physicians and scientists on the pathways for human cardiogenesis, with a goal of finding novel pathways and principles for regenerative medicine, and repairing damaged cardiac muscle cells. He is described as a pioneer in developing new therapeutic strategies to prevent the onset and progression of heart failure.

In an interview with monthly magazine Life Science Sweden, he explained that working at Karolinska has made one key part of his research possible – to use human model organisms. "We had the technology at Harvard, but the possibility of making clinical trials of new biological treatments are much better here in Sweden and Europe than in the United States", he said. "Besides, it's much harder to get financing for clinical studies and research in the US today if you're not connected to a company".

So when he was offered a professorship at the Karolinska Institute, he decided to move to the Swedish capital and explore the possibilities. "I was pleasantly surprised", he said. "The regulatory framework is much more interactive and supportive here. Sometimes, you hear how complicated Swedish regulations can be, but it's nothing compared to the US". He was also impressed by the support and guidance given by regulatory authorities in how to put his research into practice.

Professor Chien's move to Karolinska is one example of Stockholm's many efforts in how to make the city an attractive place for international studies and advanced research. For example, most postgraduate teaching has been switched to English. There are also special income tax breaks for foreign nationals with “expert knowledge”.

In order to create successful research based companies, collaboration between universities, the state and the commercial sector is crucial, he pointed out. Businesses should not just be based on interesting research, but actual products and services that can be sold and bought. He highlighted the collaboration between the Karolinska Institute and Astra Zeneca as a positive example of research exchange, where researchers actually stand side by side in the same lab.
"This is very unusual, and the kind of collaboration I would like to see more of", he told Life Science Sweden.

62-year-old Professor Chien was born in New Jersey, US. He took on the position as Professor at the Karolinska Institute on 1 January 2013. His laboratory is located at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, Solna Campus.

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This article was sponsored by Stockholm Business Region.

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Last Updated (Friday, 14 February 2014 02:34)


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