Congratulations to Evelina Vågesjö and Mia Phillipson: SEK 30 million to new method for treating wounds


The European Commission is granting SEK 30 million to Evelina Vågesjö, researcher at Uppsala University and CEO of Ilya Pharma, for further development of an innovative new technique for treating acute and chronic wounds. Ilya Pharma was started by Evelina Vågesjö and Professor Mia Phillipson.

Evelina Vågesjö, Uppsala University and Ilya Pharma
foto: EIT Health

With genetically modified lactic-acid bacteria, Evelina Vågesjö, researcher at Uppsala University’s Department of Medical Cell Biology, hopes to accelerate the healing process of chronic wounds by up to 80 per cent, a vision that is shared by the European Commission, which is now granting SEK 30 million to further the development of this innovative technology.

“This is wonderful news and important funding that will finance our upcoming year, in which we will verify safety and efficacy in large animals, manufacture our bio-therapeutics on an industrial scale and start the first clinical study, which is an important milestone in the process of creating a new drug,” says a very satisfied Vågesjö.

Less than five years have passed since Vågesjö, who had then just started her PhD studies, began thinking about the possibility of modifying lactic-acid bacteria to deliver biological drugs to wounds. The innovation is now receiving attention far beyond the laboratory at Uppsala Biomedical Centre. The potential to apply the technology to all acute and chronic wounds and thereby also contribute to reduced antibiotics use prompted EIT Health, the European consortium that addresses the challenges of the healthcare community, to provide early support to the project.

“Having the backing of EIT Health gives us both a stamp of quality and access to a broader European network,” says Vågesjö. “I am now working with Mia Phillipson, Professor of Physiology and my previous supervisor, to continue development in the company Ilya Pharma, which now has over ten employees. The European Commission grant is an acknowledgement that we are amassing the right expertise and doing the right things regarding our new technology.”

The grant is being provided by Horizon 2020, the EU’s largest research and innovation programme to date, which aims to ensure that Europe is producing world-leading research and helping good ideas from laboratory to market. Competition is tough and the projects that receive funding are run by companies with less than 250 employees but with an ambition to become world leaders in their field.

“We are one of the youngest companies to receive funding from the programme,” says Vågesjö, “and the grant is due to the fact that we are developing a drug that can change the way public authorities and industry think about biological drugs, and also improve the ability of healthcare providers to treat wounds. This is an amazing journey that Mia Phillipson let me embark on. Now we just have to step up the pace and deliver, something we are accustomed to doing.”

By Magnus Alsne