Björn Walse

CEO of SARomics Biostructures


SARomics Biostructures

SARomics Biostructures was founded in 2006 by a group of researchers from academia and industry as a structural biology and drug discovery service provider. Since then the spirit of bridging academic research and industrial applications has dominated the strategy of the company. This is also reflected in the company’s slogan: Bringing Knowledge to Discovery. This strategy helped to quickly establish SARomics as the primary structural biology and drug discovery services provider in Scandinavia. Our location in close vicinity to the MAX-lab synchrotron radiation facility in Lund and our use of a high-throughput crystallization laboratory both played a crucial role in our initial success. Throughout the years we have helped many companies and academic groups with their structural biology projects, which is reflected in some joint publications (1-4). Currently SARomics Biostructures provides structural biology services to customers from several continents and has established itself as a significant player on the drug discovery CRO market.

A company is like a living organism — to survive it needs to change, to constantly evolve. Several years of experience from serving our customers, substantial changes on the global drug market and numerous other factors played an important role when we decided to formulate a new growth strategy, taking our business to the next level. In the current climate of limited access to investment capital, strategic collaborations with other companies have become an essential requirement for growth of small and medium-sized biotech enterprises (SMEs). In 2010 we started collaboration with the Danish company Kinase Detect and the British company IOTA Pharmaceuticals, together launching the KINOMED project, with backing from the EU-financed Eurostars program. The collaboration brought together expertise in the fields of kinase biochemistry and molecular biology, as well as fragment-based and structure-based drug design, with the aim to create a joint kinase drug discovery platform. The platform created a number of promising fragment complexes of two kinases, PIM1 and CK2, including dual-inhibition fragments for PIM1/CK2.

To strengthen our collaboration with MAX-lab and increase our interactions with innovative startups based around Lund University, in 2012 we brought in for the first time new strategic owners, namely LUIS, the Lund University Innovation Systems holding company, and the Swedish innovation agency Innovationsbron. Subsequently we have established a FastLane service with a library of so-called off-the-shelf structures. This type of service offers crystal structures (often in complex with a ligand) of a protein within a very short time frame, typically 8-12 weeks, but often shorter. Currently our FastLane library contains more than 100 proteins, including kinases, epigenetic targets, phosphatases and many others. Most excitingly, we have initiated in-house drug discovery projects in the field of epigenetic disorders in close collaboration with Red Glead Discovery, a company founded by former AstraZeneca employees after the closure of the AstraZeneca site in Lund.

Through KINOMED and the Eurostars program we gained valuable experience in EU project coordination, which served us well when we recently entered as a coordinator of the nearly 1.5 million € TAKTIC project within the FP7 program “Research for the Benefit of SMEs”. TAKTIC is a drug discovery project aimed at producing inhibitors of three different kinase cancer targets. Apart from SARomics Biostructures, it includes two other SMEs - ProQinase, based in Freiburg, and Prestwick Chemical, based in Strasbourg. On the academic side the project includes two groups headed by Dr Marco Lolli and Marco Piccinini from the University of Turin, and the Israel Structural Proteomic Center (ISPC, Weizmann Institute of Science), headed by Professor Joel Sussman. The academic groups bring in their expertise in medicinal chemistry, cell biology and high-throughput X-ray crystallography, while the partnering SMEs contribute their skills in protein kinase assay and profiling, medicinal chemistry and structure-based drug design. In other words a perfect match! TAKTIC is probably the most exciting project we have been engaged in since SARomics Biostructures was founded. It gives us the opportunity to apply all the experience we gained within the areas of structure-based drug design, computational chemistry and fragment library screening. The truly translational character of the project, that brings knowledge from academia into industrial application, also fits perfectly within the general strategy of the company.

We can confidently say that SARomics Biostructures benefits from having among its founders both those who are active in academic research and those who have long-term experience from industry. Cutting edge research methods originating in academia naturally feed into the company. Vice versa, the experience of running streamlined high-throughput platforms within the company proves valuable in academia. Thus we are convinced that SARomics Biostructures has found a winning combination!


Publications from SARomics Biostructures

  1. Diehl C, Engström O, Delaine T, Håkansson M, Genheden S, Modig K, Leffler H, Ryde U, Nilsson UJ & Akke M (2010) Protein flexibility and conformational entropy in ligand design targeting the carbohydrate recognition domain of galectin-3. J Am Chem Soc 132, 14577-89.
  2. Saraboji K, Håkansson M, Genheden S, Diehl C, Qvist J, Weininger U, Nilsson UJ, Leffler H, Ryde U, Akke M & Logan DT (2012) The carbohydrate-binding site in galectin-3 is pre-organized to recognize a sugar-like framework of oxygens: ultra-high resolution structures and water dynamics. Biochemistry 51, 296–306.
  3. Svedendahl Humble M, Engelmark Cassimjee K, Håkansson M, Kimbung YR, Walse B, Abedi V, Federsel HJ, Berglund P & Logan DT (2012) Crystal structures of the Chromobacterium violaceum ω-transaminase reveal major structural rearrangements upon binding of coenzyme PLP. FEBS279, 779–792.
  4. von Schantz L, Håkansson M, Logan DT, Walse B, Österlin J, Nordberg Karlsson E & Ohlin M (2012) Structural basis for carbohydrate binding specificity - a comparative assessment of two engineered carbohydrate binding modules. Glycobiology 22, 948-61.


Gabriele Costantino
Univ. of Parma, IT

Editorial Committee

Erden Banoglu
Gazi Univ., TR

Lucija Peterlin Masic
Univ. of Ljubljana, SLO

Leonardo Scapozza
Univ. of Geneve, CH

Wolfgang Sippl
Univ. Halle-Wittenberg, DE

Sarah Skerratt
Pfizer, Sandwich, UK

Executive Committee

Uli Stilz President
Gerhard F. Ecker Past Pres.
Koen Augustyns Secretary
Hein Coolen Treasurer
Gabriele Costantino Member
Phil Jones Member
Jordi Gracia Member

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