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Innovations from Lund

From ultrasound to bluetooth
Lund University is an innovative university. For several hundred years, researchers from Lund have made discoveries and created innovations that have been of great significance for wider society. Here is a sample selection of discoveries from Lund through the ages:

Detail from Max IV lab

1813 | Swedish Massage and gymnastics

Per Henrik Ling developed a system for massage and muscle stretching. Today the technique is known as Swedish or classical massage and is one of the most common forms of massage in the Western world. Ling later moved to Stockholm where he founded the Royal Central Institute for Gymnastics, now the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences.

1847 | Ice Age theory

Scientist Sven Nilsson launched the notion, epochal for its time, that Scandinavia had once been connected to the European mainland. He was also one of the first to discuss the “the great glaciation” (the Ice Age). He based the theories on studies of subfossil mammals in Skåne peat bogs.

1887 | Rydberg's constant

Physicist Janne Rydberg discovered that the wavelengths of photons in atoms can be calculated using a certain formula. One of the constants in the formula is common to all matter and is known within the international science community as the Rydberg constant. The discovery provided fundamental knowledge on the structure of atoms.

1916 | The M series and new methods of measurment

Physicist Manne Siegbahn constructed new instruments which were to be of great significance for x-ray spectroscopy. For example, Siegbahn discovered the so-called M series, a new group of spectral lines in the elements, with the help of these instruments. Manne Siegbahn received the Nobel prize in 1924, by which time he had left Lund for Uppsala.

1926 | The first respirator

Physiologist Torsten Thunberg constructed the barospirator, the first apparatus for artificial respiration. By increasing and decreasing the air pressure around the patient, the machine could force air in and out of the lungs. The barospirator led the way for several subsequent designs, which gradually became more and more successful.

Early Tetra Pak commercial with Tetrahedron (milk package)

1944 | The Tetrahedron – milk packaging for the modern era

The “tetrahedron” milk package was the first step towards one of the world’s most successful industrial enterprises. In 1944, laboratory assistant Erik Wallenberg came up with the idea of the package’s four-sided pyramid shape and entrepreneur Ruben Rausing patented it and launched Tetra Pak in 1951.

1946 | The artificial kidney

The world’s first clinically useable artificial kidney was developed by professor of medicine Nils Alwall. In 1964, together with industrialist Holger Crafoord, he founded what is now a global company, Gambro, and three years later the first artificial kidney was launched.

Ultra sound photograph

1953 | Medical ultrasound

Physicist Hellmuth Hertz and cardiologist Inge Edler were the first in the world to see a heart beating. Together, the two researchers had developed the first echocardiogram for ultrasound examination of the heart, a technology which would prove to be revolutionary for diagnostics. Edler and Hertz were nominated several times for the Nobel prize, but had to make do with the next best thing – the American Lasker award.

1956 | Human chromosome number 

Geneticist Albert Levan succeeded, together with visiting researcher Joe Hin Tjio, in identifying the 46 chromosomes that determine human hereditary characteristics.

1957 | Dopamine

Under the leadership of Arvid Carlsson, later professor in Gothenburg and Nobel Prize recipient in 2000, it was discovered that dopamine is a powerful signal substance in the brain. The discovery led to the first drug to relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which is still the main treatment in use today.

1962 | The Falk-Hillarp method

Medics Bengt Falck and Nils-Åke Hillarp developed the so-called Falck-Hillarp method to detect the presence of neurotransmitters in nerve cells. The technique came to acquire great significance for modern pharmacological treatment. 

1962 | Partial differential equations

Mathematician Lars Hörmander developed the general theory of linear partial differential equations, which are commonly used to describe physical phenomena. In 1962 Hörmander became the first, and as yet only, Swede to be awarded the Fields Medal – the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel Prize.

1963 | Lactose intolerance

Professor Arne Dahlqvist observed that people lacking the enzyme lactase in the small intestine were unable to digest lactose. In doing so, he discovered the underlying factors to lactose intolerance.

1966 | Asthma medicine

Chemists Leif Svensson, Henry Persson and Kjell Wetterlin at the medical drugs company of the time, Draco, invented the asthma drug Bricanyl. The drug widens the respiratory passages and facilitates breathing by counteracting muscle
cramps in the respiratory tract.

1967 | Nicorette

Professor Claes Lundgren and his colleague Stefan Lichtneckert discovered that chain smokers could avoid abstinence problems by chewing tobacco. The discovery convinced them that the need to smoke depended on an addiction to nicotineand both doctors invested in developing an alternative to chewing tobacco. The result was Nicorette – the world’s first nicotine medicine.

1969 | New x-ray contrast agent

Professor of radiology Torsten Almén developed new types of non-ionising x-ray contrast agents. Unlike earlier kinds of agents, which could directly harm the patient, Almén’s contrast agent was harmless and considerably less painful. Currently around 45 million people receive an injection of contrast agent every year – that is more than one injection per second.

1972 | The Inkjet printer

Physics professor Hellmuth Hertz developed continuous inkjet technology and with it one of the first inkjet printers. The new technology made it possible to produce colour images of a quality equal to that of colour photographs. In the same year, professor Erik Stemme at Chalmers University of Technology developed another variation on inkjet technology, the so-called drop on demand technology.

1987 | Inhalator for asthma medicine

Chemist Kjell Wetterlin and his colleagues at what was then Draco developed the Turbohaler – an inhalator for the dosage and inhalation of asthma medicine. The product revolutionised asthma medication and currently helps tens of millions of people the world over to control their illness.

1991 | Laser cancer treatment

Professor Karl-Göran Tranberg discovered a new method for treating so-called solid cancers in tissue such as the breast, liver and pancreas. Heating the tumour with laser beams kills it while the body’s immune response learns to attack any remaining tumours. The company Clinical Laserthermia Systems (CLS) was founded in 2006 on the basis of these research finings.

1991 | Proviva

Researchers at Lund University´s Faculty of Engineering developed the healthpromoting bacteria culture Lactobacillus. The research finding was subsequently developed into a complete consumer product and the fruit drink Proviva was launched in the early 1990s. In 2010 Proviva was sold to French dairy giant Danone for billions.

1993 | Qlik – data visualisation software

Researchers Björn Berg, Staffan Gestrelius and Håkan Wolgé developed a software programme for rapid and simple analysis of information in different databases. The software became the basis for a company, Qlick, which was listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in 2010. Today, the company’s software, QlikView, is used by over 35 000 customers around the world.

Headphones with bluetooth technology

1994 | Bluetooth

In a project initiated by Ericsson Mobile, a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances is developed thereby opening a whole new world for the electronics sector. The technology was introduced onto the market in 1998 and was called Bluetooth after Viking chief Harald Blåtand (Harold Bluetooth). Currently, millions of new Bluetooth products are shipped every day.

1997 | Precise biometrics – fingerprint reader

Entrepreneur Christer Fåhraeus came up with the idea of combining smart cards with advanced image analysis for automatic recognition of fingerprints. Together with Mårten Öbrink and Nils Bernhard, he founded Precise Biometrics, whose technology is currently licensed to over 160 million users.

1999 | Digital diagnostic support

Professor Lars Edenbrandt realised how one could improve the analysis of heart images using artificial intelligence, thereby facilitating the work of doctors. Currently, doctors all over the world use digital diagnostic support to diagnose heart attacks, bone cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

2004 | Facial recognition technology

A mathematician at Lund University’s Faculty of Engineering, Jan Erik Solem, developed a search engine with advanced image analysis and facial recognition. The search engine formed the basis of the company Polar Rose, which was sold to Apple in September 2010 for just over 20 million US dollars.

2008 | Cancer diagnostics using MR technology

Chemistry researcher Daniel Topgaard invented a new method of diagnosing cancer. Using an MR camera, the method makes it possible to distinguish healthy cells from diseased cells without having to remove tissue to examine it. In this way, the patient can get test results rapidly and avoid the worry of waiting. Chemists Karin Bryskhe and Anna Stenstam started their company Collodial Resource on the basis of the new technology.

2009 | Treatment of pre-eclampsia

Professors of Medicine Bo Åkerström and Stefan Hansson discovered that loose foetal haemoglobin is harmful if it leaks into the mother’s blood circulation. This led to the idea of how to cure pre-eclampsia – a condition that kills one woman every three minutes worldwide.

2012 | The world’s most water-efficient shower

Industrial designer Mehrdad Mahdjoubi’s degree project resulted in a shower that reduces water consumption by 90 per cent. The shower, which was originally a solution for how to conserve water during a NASA space programme, became the start of the company Orbital Systems. 

2013 | A unique new method for simpler and more accurate cancer diagnosis

Lund University researcher Charles Walther’s invention, Endodrill, is an instrument for cancer diagnosis. With it, doctors could perform both quicker and simpler examinations with more complete diagnosis results. 

2013 | Open and alternative map service

Jan Erik Solem is a researcher in image analysis and a true entrepreneur. After having sold a successful company in face recognition to Apple, he founded Mapillary – a user-generated street view service. By gathering images from the public they are constructing an open and alternative online map service. 

2014 | Proteins diagnose cancer

Lund researchers Roland Anderson, Daniel Ansari and György Marko-Varga have been working to identify unique proteins and protein fragments that can diagnose the various stages of a disease through a simple blood test. They started the company Reccan Diagnostics to develop diagnostics and targeted, tumour-specific treatments against, primarily, pancreatic cancer.

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Contact information

LU Innovation

Lotte Larsen
Communications Manager
lotte [dot] larsen [at] innovation [dot] lu [dot] se
+ 46 (0)46 222 1284
+46 (0)70 695 8848

LU Innovation website

Postal adress:
LU Innovation
Lunds universitet
Box 117
221 00 Lund

Visiting address:
Sölvegatan 16, 223 62 Lund

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Innovation outcomes 2016

New innovation ideas: 345

Projects: 103

Patent applications: 18

Companies formed: 20

*Since 1999 LU Innovation has invested in over 86 new companies that together have generated over 3 300 work years and over EUR 100 million in tax revenue.