PJ Anders Linder writes an interesting editorial today in Svenska Dagbladet concerning the dismantling of Astra Zeneca’s activity in Stockholm. He cites Martin Ingvar who claims it is unrealistic to expect that international pharmaceutical companies would build from scratch research in Sweden. They would want to come to a flourishing environment and join that. The question then is how do you create that?
I spent ten years at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. It was built up from scratch as a private research unit on the campus of a private University, The University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League University, by Dr. Hilary Koprowski from 1955 to a modern facility that was the second after Stanford University to create patents from medical research in the US. The Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology was an old anatomical museum that was turned into a modern research institute in Virology and Cancer. How about some Schumpeterian “creative destruction” in Stockholm that takes the strongest ten percent of the scientists at the dismantled unit of Astra Zeneca and set up a private research unit on the campus of Karolinska Institute?
The question arises if this would only be possible in a five times larger city in a private/private setting or if it would be possible to do in a private/public setting in Stockholm? Is it time to start up private universities in Sweden? The Wistar Institute had a staff of about 120 scientists and 500 in total and was supported by Federal grants to 75% and by companies to 25%. Stockholm lost 2.5 Wistar Institutes. Can one new one emerge?
One problem arises in that Astra Zeneca does not want their research necessarily to reappear in a competitive setting. Just like GM and Saab there might be analogous problems. It is therefore only realistic to think that some ten percent of the scientist would have significantly unique ideas to build on from scratch to not infringe too much on work already performed elsewhere. It would be hard to compete head on with such strong resources.
In this context I would also like to raise the question if the Anglo-American research unit is dismantled because of safety concerns. To prevent leakage to Russia, China, and Germany. One of the reasons for Sweden to decide on which side they want to be on is the long term security interest of Sweden. Who do you trust in this world? Where can you do front-line neuro research these days?