Researcher profile: Sara Mangsbo explores new ways to fight cancer

2020-09-22

At the forefront of one of science's most successful fields. Entrepreneur of the year and ready to give another company a flying start. Sara Mangsbo, researcher in immune-oncology at Uppsala University, follows her own advice and looks far beyond the comfort zone.

Sara Mangsbo, Faculty of Pharmacy

Immunotherapy as cancer treatment - to utilize and strengthen the body's immune system against cancer cells - is a scientific field moving fast forward. Ten years after the initial breakthroughs, new drugs have significantly increased the proportion of surviving patients with, among other forms, skin cancer. The number of researchers in the field is also growing close to exponentially. Not least after the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to pioneer James P. Allison.

“The Nobel Prize was one in a series of many fantastic news for a field that is already experiencing tremendous success. Uppsala University's research within immunotherapy early established itself among the leading players, with Thomas Tötterman and Angelica Loskog as principal investigator. Today we continue the work of developing the platform further,” says Sara Mangsbo, research leader in immune-oncology at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Sara Mangsbo, Faculty of Pharmacy
Sara Mangsbo, Faculty of Pharmacy

Sara Mangsbo returned to Uppsala University in the spring of 2016 after a very successful stay in the pharmaceutical industry. Two years before that, she founded Immuneed AB, a company providing ex vivo model systems to the industry to evaluate if candidate drugs are safe to distribute to humans. The company also developed, in co-operation with Uppsala University and Leiden University Medical Center, a vaccine platform technology. Both the vaccine platform technology and the immune profiling platformattracted the industry's attention, and when Ultimovacs AS placed a bid for the vaccine platform technology they acquired this via a daughter company of Immuneed AB and Sara also decided to take on the position as Chief development officer in the – since 2019  listed on the Oslo stock market – company). A career move that contributed to Sara Mangsbo 2019 being named both Entrepreneur of the Year and Super Talent by Veckans Affärer.

“My time in the industry has been extremely valuable. I build new networks, increase my understanding of the companies' conditions and have above all come to an understanding of how much I value entrepreneurship. The years with Immuneed have also contributed to me labeling myself an entrepreneur, and with my current research, I hope to create a basis for new innovations and companies.”

Today, Sara Mangsbo divides her time between Ultimovacs and her growing research group at Uppsala Biomedical Center. With a four year grant from the Swedish Society for Medical Research (SSMF), the team develop and evaluate biologicals and treatments that utilize the body's own T cells - a central part of the human immune system, but which can be inactivated by tumors. Here, we also find the main challenge of immune-oncology: To make the T cells remain active and furthermore, be able to identify and destroy the cancer cells. The progress is fast, but still many patients do not respond well to the treatments available today.

“In collaboration with SciLifeLab's drug development and discovery platform (DDD), my team has developed a technology with the potential to quickly and cost-effectively help the human body create new T cells and fine-tune them to attack the tumor in its microenvironment. The support from SciLifeLab DDD has been invaluable for the process, and we will now, in company form, test the technology's full capacity for individual treatments and its significance against relapses,” says Sara Mangsbo.

Confidence in the new technology’s potential to shorten the time between diagnosis and treatment already reaches far beyond the group’s laboratory. The project receives financial support from both Vinnova (SWElife) and UU Holding. When UU Innovation announced the Attractive Innovationproject 2019 prize, Sara Mangsbo was one of the recipients. In June, she received yet another prestigious accolade when Uppsala University awarded Sara the innovationprize Hjärnäpplet for her “systematic and focused work in transforming her research into innovations. Her ability to utilize research results by developing business, engaging and leading other people and sharing her knowledge”.

“The prize money that comes with the Hjärnäpplet award is a welcome boost to give our future company a flying start. The worries I once experienced when starting my first company are all gone. That time, I did it because it was a requirement for my research funding. Obviously, it was the push I needed. Today, it's not scary anymore, and the best advice I can give to you who are hesitant is to simply dare to step outside your own comfort zone.”

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Contact

sara mangsbo contact informationSara Mangsbo, Faculty of Pharmacy
Email Sara.Mangsbo@farmbio.uu.se
Phone 018-471 4279

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

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Last modified: 2021-06-22