Pharmacist and entrepreneur with a nose for science
Bengt Åstrand is the pharmacist who became an entrepreneur. More than anyone else he has been instrumental in making Alertix come true. However, he hasn’t got pets of his own. A fact which might surprise some people.
The reason is that Bengt is allergic to furred animals. Therefore, he himself will hardly benefit from Alertix’ products.
– It was rather my scientific interest combined with the commercial potential I saw in a veterinary application of this incredible discovery that caught my attention.
Bengt is a licensed pharmacist and has had a successful career in his line of business.
– I held positions within pharmacies for 30 years – as a hospital pharmacist and also as a Pharmacy Manager and Pharmacy Director.
In the nineties Bengt was responsible for the development of e-Health Services at Apoteket AB, and in 2010 he was co-founder of the pharmacy chain Vårdapoteket. Vårdapoteket consisted of 24 pharmacies adjacent to hospitals and health care facilities, pharmacies which were acquired from Apoteket AB at the time of the Pharmaceutical Reform of 2009. Bengt launched the new company and coordinated procurement towards the health and care sector.
With an ear to the market
Since 2013 Bengt has operated as a freelancing consultant in his own company PCC Pharma Care Consulting. And as such he always has an ear to the market.
– I have a strong entrepreneurial driving force. I like to make things happen. It’s fantastic to be able to initiate a business and to see it develop.
How did you get in touch with Staffan Eriksson and his team of researchers?
– With my background I have a natural interest in science. I continuously monitor a number of biotech companies which I find interesting. Amongst those is Arocell which develops assays for measuring tumor growth. I began to think about whether there might be a veterinary application for the underlying research. So, I contacted Staffan, who is Head of Research at AroCell, and in the spring of 2016 we met to discuss the matter, says Bengt.
It turned out that Staffan had had similar thoughts and six months later the two decided to start Alertix. They tied up with Anne-Charlotte Aronsson, who, up to 2014, had been CEO of AroCell and was well acquainted with the research and its potential applications.
Why did you find this so interesting?
– Cancer, obviously, is the major public health disorder. So everything connected to cancer or oncology is interesting. In veterinary care the inclination to treat cancer is increasing. Reasonably, this would mean that there is a need for an accurate tool for diagnosing cancer.
The discussions turned out well. Staffan and Anne-Charlotte decided to jump on the train. Staffan and his team took the task to adapt the assay to animals. Dogs in the first stage, cats and horses are planned to follow. In the beginning of 2017 Alertix was founded. Bengt was appointed CEO, Staffan Director of Research and Anne-Charlotte Director of Marketing.
Financiers stand in line
Parallel to the research process Bengt started to attract funding. This has gone completely according to plan.
– We’ve received tremendous response. Finding financiers has not been a problem. The researchers behind this method are highly esteemed. It is, for fact, a well renowned team of world-class scientists. It’s also very easy for anyone to realize the potential of the business concept. Almost everyone has a personal relation to a pet.
How would you describe the potential?
– In the EU and the US there are almost 350 million dogs, cats and horses. That number tells a lot. And the number increases as the growth of wealth allows people to spend more and more money on their animals. Prognoses show that the market for veterinary diagnostics increases by 8,6 percent a year.
– We know that many veterinarians take a great interest in oncology and cancer treatment. Our challenge is to reach major veterinary labs which supplies veterinarians with ELISA assays.
Could you describe Alertix’ plans for the next five years?
– The assay for dogs is basically ready to be manufactured. Initially we will aim our marketing towards veterinarians in Scandinavia and analyze the tests in our own lab in Uppsala. Alertix should be profitable in three years, and in five years we should have three different assays in the market – for dog, for cat and for horse. By then we also should have launched our tests in a few other European countries and hopefully in the US.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
– I enjoy being active. I play tennis a couple of times every week, for the fun of it as well as for the exercise. Not to mention that it’s a nice way to meet friends.