Uhlén hands over the reins to younger talents

Thursday 21 Jan 21
During the next five years former Scientific Director at DTU Biosustain, Mathias Uhlén, expects to see new inventions and scientific research that can push the society in a more sustainable direction.

If you only look at Mathias Uhlén’s impressive stats, he is probably the closest thing you have to Swedish biotech’s answer to Zlatan Ibrahimović. He is the founder of 25 biotech companies, where four of them are currently on the stock market; he has accumulated more than €135M in research funding during his career; he has more than 600 peer-reviewed publications, has filed over 80 patent applications and he has led the efforts in building a Human Protein Atlas mapping all the human proteins in cells, tissues and organs.


Besides all those achievements, as a Scientific Director at The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, he has been an important part in bringing the research center to the level where it currently is. But, all good things must come to an end, and by the end of the year, the 66-year-old Swede will hand over the reins as Scientific Director to younger talents.


However, just because Uhlén will no longer be affiliated with the Center when the clock strikes on New Year’s Eve, it does not mean that he will hide his thoughts on what he expects from his former colleagues in the next five years.


“I would be very disappointed if the Center doesn’t generate innovations and products that can help us to move into a more sustainable society in the future. At the same time, I also hope to see that the Center excels in the use of big data to improve life science.”


A step ahead of time

The increasing digitization of biotech, which is also anchored into the new strategy of The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability, has for a long time been on Uhlén’s scientific radar. Already back in 2010, he was the Founding Director of a new national infrastructure SciLifeLab in Stockholm, which was based on the notion that life science would one day be data-driven.


But, for a longer period during the 2010’s, the data-driven approaches had difficulties getting a real foothold in the biotech community. Since this development seems to have taken a turn in the right direction during recent years, one might argue that Uhlén exits just before he is able to harvest the fruits of his work.


However, that way of thinking is not right down Uhlén’s alley, and it does not take many seconds for the Swedish professor to reject the claim.


“I’m a great believer in data-driven science, and luckily this is an era that is starting to get a foothold, and thanks to the funding from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, but also in Sweden from the Wallenberg Foundation, there is now massive investments into this area. It will be very exciting to see what comes out of it, both at CFB and in biotech in general,” says Uhlén.

Looking into the future

While the former Scientific Director will curiously follow from the sidelines in the future, he is far from done working with life science and biotechnology. He will continue as a Professor at KTH in Stockholm and he will remain working with the Human Protein Atlas project, which he has been the Program Director for since 2003. From the sound of it, it seems there is plenty to do, as they recently launched a new version and have more than 300,000 visitors every month.


But, while remaining busy, there also comes calm moments in which there is definitely one thing he will miss from being a Scientific Director at The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability – The Scientific Director’s meetings.


“I would even have paid to attend those meetings. The Scientific Directors that Bernhard Palsson gathered are leading scientists in the world, and it was a rather unusual set-up with every one of us located all around the globe. It has always been a great pleasure to be at those meetings where we could both challenge and criticize each other on a very high scientific level, “says Mathias Uhlén.


While Uhlén will not take a seat at the table next time there is a call for a Scientific Director’s Meeting, we would like to take the occasion to thank Mathias Uhlén for his tremendous work and collaboration, and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

News and filters

Get updated on news that match your filter.