News 2021-10-15

Interview with ISR's CEO Ola Winqvist


In recent times, a lot has happened in ISR. Behind the progress are years of hard and curious work. ISR's CEO and founder Ola Winqvist talks about the journey that has led to four drug candidates in clinical trials, two of which are in phase 2 and one in a rush towards phase 3.

When the corona pandemic spread around the world in early 2020, global efforts to develop a vaccine began immediately. One of the companies that initiated a vaccine program was ISR.

“When Covid-19 came, we had the competence, knowledge and contacts to consider a vaccine ourselves. After our initial studies in mice, we were overwhelmed by the data we obtained that showed complete protection. With the support of that data, it was obvious for us to continue”, says Ola Winqvist.

The work with the vaccine has gone fast. A combined phase 1 and 2 study will soon be launched in collaboration with the CRO company Bangladesh Clinical Trials Ltd. and PI’s Professor Dr. ABM Abdullah and Professor Dr. Ahmedul Kabir. Both from Mugda Medical College in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and experienced in these types of clinical trials.

The vaccine, which is in powder form and meant to be inhaled, is based on a unique spike method instead of the mRNA technology. Powdered vaccines have several benefits. Among other things, it does not need to stay refrigerated when being stored and transported, which simplifies logistics in warm countries. In addition, it can be easily taken by ordinary people without the supervision of trained healthcare professionals.

In ISR's studies, it has been possible to show protection against all known covid variants.

“Our method is based on what is called the spike protein and it is the protein that defines a Coronavirus. If we can protect against one variant, we should be able to give protection against all variants”, says Ola.

Seeing that it is somewhat puzzling that people continue to get vaccinated against respiratory infections by injections in the arm, it was natural for Ola to focus on an inhaled vaccine. The logical thing to do, he says, is to vaccinate the lungs where the infection attacks the body.

This curiosity for new solutions has characterized Ola Winqvist's entire career. Just two weeks into the first semester of medical school, he responded to a lecturer's offer to do research alongside his studies. Evenings and nights were soon spent in the laboratory.

”When we had written an exam, we used to celebrate by going to the lab. After a long period of a lot of theoretical work, it was nice to do some practical work. For us, the lab was more fun than celebrating with a party”, says Ola.

Even after his education, he continued to work both as a doctor and researcher and today he is chief physician and professor of clinical immunology. In essence, ISR is a product of meticulous research, observations from Ola’s time working in hospitals and an inexhaustible interest in immunology.