Olof Eriksson is ready to advance Uppsala's position on the PET map

2024-02-19

Thirty years after father Lasse sparked Olof Eriksson's fascination with science, he is leading a project with the potential to revolutionise diagnostics of immune diseases. "This is exactly everything I dreamed of when I was young," he states on site at Uppsala's internationally leading PET Center.

Olof Eriksson

In Uppsala Science Park, the intersection between the city's University, Academic hospital and thriving biotech industry, we find the PET Center: A cutting-edge facility in one of the fastest growing disciplines of the biomedical sciences. With advanced technology and effective collaboration with both basic research and healthcare, it is also the site of a project with the potential to revolutionize diagnostics of immune diseases. At the wheel is Olof Eriksson, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Pharmacy and just back from a trip along the American east coast.

“We move in an expansive field where it is essential to stay updated on what is going on at the front. Today, a lot is happening in Positron Emission Tomography in the USA, and visiting their conferences and laboratories often generates exciting ideas and contacts for future collaborations. Last week, for example, I met Scott L. Friedman, one of the world's foremost researchers in liver diseases, at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine, which was incredibly inspiring.”

On site in Uppsala's PET Center
On site in Uppsala's PET Center

Olof Eriksson was recruited to SciLifeLab and Uppsala University in 2017, where he joined a well-established environment to say the least. Already in the 1970s, Professor Bengt Långström laid the foundation for today's PET Center, a pioneering effort that undoubtedly contributed to the technology's strong growth both in Sweden and internationally. To this day, Långström's work keeps  opening important doors across the world and bringing exciting projects to Uppsala, providing the team at Science Park space to reach for even greater heights.

“Absolutely! We recently installed a scanner that brought a range of new possibilities and aim to in the upcoming years update our machine park with world-class instruments. These are, of course, extensive investments, but we also know that they will generate great value for both academia, industry and healthcare. In addition, it will make us even more attractive in the recruitment of future excellence, where we are already competing with the foremost in our field.”

With PET technology, science studies the processes and functions in our internal organs. Via radioactive labeling of interesting substances, the camera follows how they interact in the human body and then converts the information into images. Before these studies are possible, however, the researchers must find relevant biomarkers, and in the wake of the pandemic, Olof Eriksson has succeeded in identifying a biomarker in our immune cells. A discovery that could prove extremely valuable for drug developers, healthcare providers and patients alike.

PET imaging in practice at Lab Eriksson
PET imaging in practice at Lab Eriksson

“We are currently conducting a Phase-1 study and will shortly present our results. In parallel, we are preparing an upscaling in international collaboration to, if all goes according to plan, initiate the next phase already in 2025. Our areas of use include cancer and diseases of the liver, lungs, heart and pancreas, where we hope to enable diagnostics and follow-up without invasive procedures. A unique asset that would reduce the risk of complications and provide more accurate information on how individual patients respond to treatments.”

Alongside the study, several initiatives are underway to advance Uppsala's already strong position in the fields of PET: Region Uppsala recently allocated funding for strategic investments. Uppsala University is recruiting a professor in radiochemistry. And as co-founder and scientific director of spinoff company Antaros Tracer, Olof Eriksson takes an active role in developing the increasingly strong ties between the city's academia and biotech sector.

“Uppsala is a small city with a big University, a research hospital around the corner and a rapidly expanding pharmaceutical industry. This is exactly everything I dreamed of when my father Lasse, an artist interested in popular science, opened my eyes to research and today I cannot imagine a more prolific environment. Our Science Park is at the center of action, and now we're going all in to consolidate our team for a very interesting future.”

FACTS OLOF ERIKSSON

  • Occupation Associate Professor in Translational PET Imaging.
  • Lives Just south of Uppsala.
  • On the bedside table Siddhartha, a fantastic novel by Hermann Hesse that I like to return to.
  • Likely to discuss History, especially ancient history, a subject I could devote my golden years to.
  • Something that makes me happy Is when my work is of benefits to others. Last year I received the Johnny Ludvigsson award for Young Researchers of Child Diabetes, which made me feel that we can really make a difference for all those families out there living with type 1 diabetes.
  • When the lab closes for the day I like to sit down at the piano or spend a few hours on the soccer field as two of my children play with UNIK.
  • At weekends I love cycling, preferably in the company of my family

MER INFORMATION

CONTACT

Olof Eriksson, UniversitetslektorOlof Eriksson, Associate Professor
Department of Medicinal Chemistry
Olof.Eriksson@ilk.uu.se

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text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

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Last modified: 2024-04-04