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‘I met my ‘unsung heroes’ at GE Healthcare in Umeå’

'I met my 'unsung heroes' at GE Healthcare in Umeå'
Swedish Institute (SI) scholar Olga Yakimenko reflects on her trip to Umeå Biotech Incubator and GE Healthcare and explains why the people she met are science's 'unsung heroes'.

Thanks to the support of Swedish Institute, NFGL members who have a keen interest in health innovation and technology had the incredible chance to visit Umeå Biotech Incubator and GE Healthcare in Umeå, the capital of Västerbotten County, on 20th April 2018. As one of the lucky participants, I wanted to share my reflections on this day with you.

To start with, I’d like to say that progression of science and technology has always fascinated me and generated my interest in innovative ways to solve modern problems. What is important, I believe, is health research and technologies that represent rapidly emerging fields with growing importance on an ageing population as the cost of therapies increase. That’s why attending this event was an obvious choice for me from the day SI shared the calendar of events with us.

My morning on 20th April started with an incredible feeling of something inexplicable and promising. And this is not for no reason, because today we will visit Umeå Biotech Incubator and GE Healthcare as a part of NFGL event: Health and Innovation.

Umeå Biotech Incubator

Our adventure started with visiting Umeå Biotech Incubator (UBI), which is one of the best known and successful incubators in Sweden and Europe. We had a guided tour over lab spaces and facilities equipped for research in molecular biology, chemistry and other related disciplines. On our way, we were told about how UBI embraces leadership in biotech which I found the most important when it comes to business and innovation.  

For me, leadership is a lot about being a good teacher. And a good teacher is not someone who gives you all the answers, but one who provides you with options and gives you an opportunity to learn from your own experience and sometimes mistakes.

Let me tell you one story of the lesson I learned from my supervisor as an undergrad in biotechnology and in the wet lab settings, but I can see how well it applies to all other environments.

I was new to the lab, where we were studying Parkinson's disease, and I needed to learn a complex animal surgery that was part of the research project. After showing me all the steps and giving me a detailed explanation, my supervisor allowed me to do the surgery myself.

And while he was providing guidance he was very careful and never interrupted or stopped me when I didn't perform steps perfectly. He let me find my own way around the procedure while making sure I didn't make any crucial mistakes.

After several trials, I was confident about how to perform the surgery. And I also came up with some suggestions, how we can improve certain steps to do them faster. This principle is used in UBI to help promising projects through sharing, education and support. By letting people learn through their own experience is a way to help them get creative and innovate.

GE Healthcare Bio-Sciences

After having lunch accompanied by an inspirational chat with UBI stuff we were on our way to GE Healthcare Bio-Sciences factory.

Being known all over the world, GE Healthcare’s broad expertise in medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies, performance improvement and performance solutions services helps their customers to deliver better care to more people around the world at a lower cost. In addition, they collaborate with healthcare leaders, striving to leverage the global policy change necessary to implement a successful shift to sustainable healthcare systems.

GE’s factory in Umeå specializes in bioprocess solutions and provides tools for biopharma manufacturing. During our visit, we had guided tour of several lines of manufacturing processes.

Once I happened to work in Bioprocess Engineering lab in Luleå University of Technology and was really surprised to see all the equipment I used being produced here. I realized I met my 'unsung heroes' who helped me and thousands of scientists all over the world by creating better solutions for industrial technologies. It's not surprising that scientists and manufacturers all over the world trust GE’s products resulting in 90 percent of global insulin produced with their equipment.

The experiences I obtained that day made me realize how important the need of nothing less than game-changing breakthroughs to improve health, reduce costs and change the way healthcare is delivered and performed.

Through participation in the Health and Innovation event in Umeå, I was lucky to challenge my background cooperating with highly qualified global professionals and enrich knowledge that will act as a stepping-stone to my future studies through which I aim to contribute in revolutionizing the field.