SWElife is a Strategic Innovation Programme focusing on widespread diseases (folksjukdomar) with the main aim of turning excellent research into innovation, which will lead to patient benefit.
Behind the general investment and engagement in Stategic Innovation Programmes in Sweden stands Vinnova together with Energimyndigheten and Formas. The aim of a Strategic Innovation Programme is to create the best conditions for developing international competiveness and sustainable solutions to global challenges. As part of this investment, SWElife was established in 2014.
Sweden is losing ground in the Life Science area and more coordination and collaboration is a crucial factor to change this declining trend. SWElife meets these needs, being a national platform. Translating Life Science discoveries into practical applications is an important societal challenge where funding agencies, academia, health care and industry have a joint responsibility.
Grand societal challenges identified by EU are:
- Increased capital for innovation development
- Non-communicable diseases (including widespread diseases, “folksjukdomar” in Swedish)
- Effective innovation structures
SWElife addresses each of these points on a national level with four key actions:
- Efficient platforms for triple helix interactions (i.e. interactions between the health care system, industry and academia) and early knowledge sharing.
- Address unmet medical needs through clinical competence, excellence and access.
- Increased competence, capacity and capital for growth.
- Health care based on individual needs.
A widespread disease is defined as a disease or a group of diseases with prevalence in the population exceeding 1 percent. Diseases of mild character and/or short duration are excluded form this term. Examples of widespread diseases are: type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancers, autoimmune disorders (e.g. type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, SLE), dementia and other age-dependent neurological diseases, mental illness, chronic pain, musculoskeletal diseases (e.g. osteoporosis), allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD; covering chronic bronchitis and emphysema).
These diseases are often chronic and hence the prevalence increases with the ageing population, leading to grand economic challenges for health care systems and societies at large.
Earlier and more accurate diagnosis and improved methods for monitoring diseases are required to better prevent, slow, halt or reverse disease progression. There is also a need for new patient-centered more effective treatments and for improved monitoring of effectiveness and safety of therapies. A so-called personalised/precision/stratified medicine approach has the potential to meet these needs. The European Alliance for Personalised Medicine defines this concept as “a targeted approach to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease based on an individual’s specific profile” – or in short “the right treatment to the right patient at the right time”, thereby helping not only patients, but also health care providers to obtain more value for taxpayers money.
Digital health (e.g. e- and mHealth, telemedicine) is another key component that is transforming current health care. Digital health tools will play a key role in assisting patients with widespread diseases to better manage their condition, and consequently reduce health care costs.