A History of MBE (and why we are happy to be the odd one out)


The Master’s of Bioentrepreneurship is the ‘odd one out’ of the other programmes. It is not a science degree, it is not a medical degree, it is not your typical KI course. When asked I always describe my programme as ‘essentially a business administration education that focuses on life science companies’ (there is no consensus 🙂 Read about my classmates ideas here)

But the Master’s of Bioentrepreneurship at KI is also the ‘odd one out’ when compared to similar programmes. Other programmes have more science modules, less placements and different objectives.

I thought it could be interesting to understand where the MBE came from in order to understand why this programme is the way it is!

Inspiration for this blog was taken from the founders Anna Nilsson Vindefjärd and Carl Johan Sandberg. I listened to them talk at BEACON homecoming day.  If you are coming to KI in the Autumn, save September 30th in your diaries 🙂

Humble Beginnings

The Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship (SSES) was founded in 1998 to encourage entrepreneurial thinking in students. The collaboration consisted of the three main universities in Stockholm; Karolinska Institutet (KI), the Royal School of Technology and Stockholm School of Economics.

The universities were encouraged to create courses in Entrepreneurship which fell a little out of KI’s ‘medical comfort zone.’ Luckily, Anna Nilsson Vindefjärd had been recruited the same year. Anna  was to focus on increasing the understanding of biotechnology business and the interactions between academia and business.

She become the driving force behind creating the course in Entrepreneurship. With few instructions from KI, she decided create a course based on what her own Master’s in Business Education had lacked:  research-based entrepreneurship, specifically in life science!

Bioentrepreneurship is Born

Anna had come to realise that the business tools taught in many schools did not always apply to biotechnology companies. This meant investors lacked the means to evaluate the value of biotech and companies failed to raise funds and reach the patients they wanted to help.

Anna’s course included the theoretical base in financing, theory of innovation, intellectual property etc, but invited practitioners to every session, in order to apply the theory to the world of life science.

In addition, she included a ‘real world assignment‘ where teams would create a five-year strategy plan for a life science company. Students were able to present their plans to employees at the end of the semester and discuss how ideas could be implemented in practise. This integration with industry remains a key part of the programme to this day.

A New Partnership

During the development, Anna was teamed up with Carl Johan Sundberg, a biomedical researcher and entrepreneur who had created many courses at KI.  This proved to be a great partnership and Anna and Carl went on to develop the programme we have today.

Carl had a strong interest in the subject and was essential in making sure that this course “fitted” into the academic bureaucratic framework. He was able to take over the operational development of the course as Anna’s research took her to Stanford for longer periods of time.  They knew they were onto something important when her American colleagues expressed interest in the course. So much so that Anna was asked to set up a similar programme on campus!

The Master’s in Bioentrepreneurship

After the pilot-course in 1998, the course expanded to a 7.5-credit course that is still ongoing. In 2005, Carl founded the Unit for Bioentrepreneurship at KI and recruited  Hanna Jansson to lead and develop the unit (Hanna is the teacher for the first course ‘Entrepreneurship in the Life Sciences‘)

Then in 2008, nearly 10 years after it was first envisaged by Anna and Carl, the 2-year Master programme in Bioentrepreneurship (MBE) was introduced. The MBE accepts top international students (>60 % from outside Sweden) with a science, engineering or medical background and provides them with extensive life science business training. The  integration into industry remains a key part of the programme. Around 40% of student time is spent within a company setting and nearly half our teachers from from industry….

And that’s it……from initial concept in 1998 to realisation in 2008….the Master’s of Bioentrepreneurship might be the ‘odd one out’ but it’s still the best programme for anyone who wants to apply their scientific knowledge to the business world 🙂

As always feel free to get in touch if you have any questions x

Email: rosa.willock@stud.kie.se

Facebook: Rosa Willock

Linkdin: Rosa Willock




3 thoughts on “A History of MBE (and why we are happy to be the odd one out)

  1. […] It’s the longest course which runs from October through February. However, it’s the course where we learn the most about operations in the life science industry and all the foibles that go with it!  We cover aspects of intellectual property (IP), quality systems, product safety and efficacy as well as reimbursement. This course is naturally linked closely to the medtech and pharmaceutical industry and luckily our syllabus reflects this with lots of guest lectures from industry and study visits to life science companies. Spiros tells us about his classmates visit to Maquet and his experience when visiting Med Tech company Elekta.  The links to industry are an important part of the MBE course, which you can track back to its inception. […]

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