With each of our innovator stories, we get a chance to meet the people behind EU-funded ideas, which have the potential to change our future for the better.

With that in mind, we spoke with Dealflow.eu’s Health E-pitching participant Anna Erkstam. She is the COO of BioReperia, a company that uses technology to accelerate anti-cancer drug discovery and test individual treatments on various oncology patients. BioReperia assists its clients with selecting the best new drug candidates more efficiently and rapidly moving them from pre-clinical to early-stage clinical development. Anna is responsible for the coordination of clinical operations and quality assurance, as well as for BioReperia’s ongoing strategic partnerships.

Tell us more about yourself and your work?

My name is Anna. I am from Sweden, and I live in Linköping. I am a researcher who did my PhD at Linköping University in neuroscience. I joined the company in 2016, after graduating. I was recruited by one of the founders, Anna Fahlgren, whom I have been working with previously in my research. I joined her and Lasse (Jensen) as the first employee in BioReperia. Together, we built the company as you know it.

I’ve had almost all company roles you can imagine. I worked in a lab, with our automation process, in our sales, with our quality system and much more. Today I work as the COO and am in charge of the daily operative work here at BioReperia. Within the next few days, I will take over as the CEO of the company.

Both Anna (Fahlgren) and Lasse (Jensen), were group leaders at the university, who were developing systems within their academic research, that they saw, could be used commercially. They got together, founded the company, and started selling our services to pharma enterprises. After a while, they realised that not only could this be used for pre-clinical research to help pharma companies develop new anti-cancer therapies to screen in a timely and cost-efficient way, but it could also be used for personalised medicine. We have been collaborating with clinicians to get patient samples and comparing the result from our model to the clinical data since 2017, and this week we signed the Declaration of Conformity.

What problem is your product solving and what makes its solution unique?

We work in the oncology field and see that finding the right treatment for every specific cancer case poses a large challenge for doctors. Today, all patients are treated with a generic treatment plan where the individual difference is not considered. Of course, there are other models on the market, for example, genetic markers, mutation analysis biomarkers and more, and these are highly efficient for a minority of the patients. But for the whole population of patients, these models are not suitable for broad use. 

This is where BioReperia comes in. Using our ZTX platform, we can screen all the different treatments available for a selected cancer patient in highly translational in-vivo system within only five days. How does it work? A doctor takes the biopsy from the patient and sends it to our lab. The cancer cells are then injected into zebrafish larvae. Afterwards, we treat the larvae with various treatment options for three days and analyse the efficiency of those treatments. Finally, we send a report to the requesting oncologist.  

BioReperia stands out from the market because we do not only test treatment efficacy specifically on the cancer patients’ tumours, but we can also assess the progression of the disease to tell if the patient is prone to developing metastasis, which is not what other models can do. Today, we are the only ones on the market who can provide such data in a clinical setting. 


Have you already tested your product with clients? What was it like? 

Yes, we have. BioReperia has been on the market since 2015 for pre-clinical research, and we have a large network within the pharma industry. We have many customers testing our system for their pre-clinical research and it’s very interesting to be a part of these companies’ development process. We learn so much from it; how they think, how they develop, and what challenges they face. We make sure to incorporate this knowledge into the clinical product we have developed in very close collaboration with clinicians both in Sweden and Greece.  

It is very rewarding work because, throughout the way, we can see the ways our products help both the oncologists and the patients. 

How did you start your journey and where are you now on the road to achieving your ambition? 

We have just released our first CE-marked product. It was a big goal for us and everything we worked on for the last couple of years was condensed into this product. Now, we can start its distribution and ensure that both clinics and pharma companies get access to it. We are also about to start our first big clinical trial. We performed several pilot studies before in collaborations with clinicians, but now we will be entirely responsible for our first clinical trial with a bigger patient population involved. Our first (IVD-R) product on the market will be for urinary bladder cancer. 

We are currently doing an investment round and seeking money to sponsor this study. We aim to finalise it in 2024, have the treatment on the market according to the new IVDR regulations and will be able to target our products to specific diagnoses. 

Our sales with the pre-clinical model are expanding all the time. They expand by 50% each year, which is a big help with the development of new products. For example, we recently released a product for immune oncology. We constantly automate our processes to be able to scale up the company and be able to help even more patients.   


What is BioReperia’s greatest achievement so far? 

All the work that has led us to secure our CE-marked product is one of the biggest milestones in the company so far. And, if we look in the past with the pandemic hitting, we all thought that it was over for us, but we got ourselves to focus, do what we do best and even tried to increase our sales during the lockdown. Overcoming this period was also a great achievement for BioReperia. 


How do you see BioReperia making a difference in the future? 

Cancer affects so many people. Everybody in the world knows someone who has had cancer themselves or knows someone who was affected. Our grand wish would be to help everyone, to help patients survive this horrible disease and come out on the other side; faster and more efficient.  



Why is participation in Dealflow’s e-pitching event and receiving their coaching important to you? 

We have received so much good help so far. We are entrepreneurs and innovators, but the bottom line is, most of us are researchers and we know our technology. It is, however, very important to be able to communicate this from a business perspective and to see the milestones ahead. Business and tech go hand in hand. 

Receiving coaching from Dealflow.eu highlighted the right things; to be better at communicating while developing the company. It has been a real growth process for me and BioReperia. And to be able to pitch in front of all those great innovators was an amazing opportunity for a small company such as ours. 


How would you define success and what keeps you going in the pursuit of it? 

Well, it is a big ambition to try and save all cancer patients, but to try and make a difference for people is worth a shot. I think that with BioReperia’s goals and with my own goals as well, we can achieve this. It is so rewarding and fun going to work every day, seeing our progress and achievements, because it is clear that we are moving in the right direction and our work matters.   

About Innovator Spotlight Stories 

The aim of innovator stories is to highlight and share with investors and relevant stakeholders in the industry, insights and unique stories from some of the most innovative EU-funded project that Dealflow.eu is proud to support. 

If you are an investor who wants to connect with Bioreperia, please feel free to reach out at [email protected]