Tore Bengtsson, researcher at the Department of Molecular Biosciences, The Wenner-Gren Institute

The world health organization (WHO) estimates that 500 million people worldwide are affected by type 2 diabetes, with numbers increasing every year. The complications are many, including cardiovascular diseases, kidney failure and even death in later stages. To clear the high sugar levels in the blood stream, insulin is an important regulator. However, as insulin signaling is impaired in patients with type 2 diabetes, there is a great need to identify insulin-independent mechanisms that decrease high blood sugar levels.

Tore Bengtsson’s research group has shown that activation of the sympathetic nervous system leads to increased glucose uptake in skeletal muscle, and that this occurs independently of insulin. Furthermore, the research has shown that this endogenous system, which naturally lowers blood glucose levels, functions in type 2 diabetes models and can be targeted with novel compounds.

These findings led to the founding of Atrogi, a company aiming to develop novel oral drugs for metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes. The collaboration between Tore Bengtsson’s research group and Atrogi has been very fruitful and have generated numerous grants, novel compounds, as well as several patents and publications. One can conclude that the combination of basic science and entrepreneurship is a major driving force in modern knowledge generation in drug discovery.

“It’s very stimulating to work with science that in the end could impact human health. I believe the future of knowledge building includes entrepreneurship, which makes it possible to take a scientific finding in the lab to clinical studies and the market, a process that is nearly impossible if not made in collaboration between academia and companies within the drug discovery sector”