Kåre Larsson passed away on Sunday 25 of March 2018. We lost an incredibly gifted and innovative scientist who was also a devoted friend and an inspiring mentor and teacher.
Kåre came from a humble background and grew up in a small village in the northern part of Sweden. Kåre recounted his astonishing trajectory, from early childhood in the forests and lakes close to the coast of Norrland (in northern Sweden), via Uppsala and Gothenburg to Lund University. Though by nature he was destined to transcend his circumstances and at age 11, he was already featured in the local newspaper with a prize-winning essay: “Why I want to be an inventor”. Already 14 years old, he received national attention for preparing a skin lotion, demonstrating his lifelong curiosity for science and innovation.
His academic career was started with a licentiate degree in inorganic crystallography at Uppsala University under the supervision of Prof. Gunnar Hägg. Kåre then moved to work with Prof. Einar Stenhagen at Gothenburg University where he did his pioneering work to determine crystal structures of fats. These findings are still being used today to control and optimize fat crystallization in the food industry. They also made Kåre an internationally recognized scientist. As a crystallographer in Gothenburg he became one of the pioneers in computer science and made important contributions to build up a central computer facility at Gothenburg University. The structural work in Uppsala and Gothenburg deepened his interest in the complex structures and phase transformations of lipid molecules in technology as well as biological systems. He used his methodological and mathematical skills, eye for complex structures and interest in turning science into practice to characterize and better understand a range of complex systems, including lipid liquid crystals, surfactant self-assembly, proteins and starch and other biopolymers. In 1975 he was appointed professor in Food Technology at Lund University, where he successfully applied his scientific expertise and innovation to multiple problems in the areas of foods, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals.
Kåre was always ahead of his time and his conceptual thinking on food structure was decades before molecular gastronomy made an impact on the world scene. He established strong collaborations with the industry, both nationally and internationally, working as a scientist, senior advisor or board members for many successful companies such as Berol Kemi (today part of Akzo Nobel), Procter & Gamble, and Karlshamn (today AarhusKarlshamn, AAK). Bridging the gap between fundamental research and practical applications was natural for Kåre, thanks to his scientific expertise, pedagogic skills and open-minded personality. His respectful approach paired an ability to find simple solutions to complex technical and scientific problems earned him many successes both in science and industry. Through his work on lipid liquid crystalline phases, Kåre established long-standing collaborations and close friendships with, among others, Vittorio Luzzati, Nils Krog, Krister Fontell, Sten Andersson, Stephen Hyde, Mats Almgren and Barry Ninham. His discovery of bicontinuous phases and non-euclidean geometries in lipid systems was a revolution in biology and a conceptual leap of profound importance, marked by the book The Language of Shape.
Later he realized that these structures could be dispersed into functional lipid nanoparticles, termed Cubosomes, which also became the origin of a pharmaceutical company Camurus (CAMX: Nasdaq STO) that he co-founded together with the local entrepreneur Gunnar Sandberg. The research field of lipid-based cubic phases and their nanoparticles is today booming, thanks to Kåre’s significant contributions, and this was also the basis for Kåre Larsson being awarded the first Rhodia Prize of the European Colloid and Interface Society in 2001.
Kåre’s outstanding entrepreneurial track-record also includes companies like Larodan (specialty chemicals and lipids), Probi (probiotic foods and drinks) and Bioglan (pharmaceuticals). We remember Kåre as a great and creative scientist who with his gentle and steady presence was always helpful and inspiring to students, collaborators and colleagues – immeasurably valued by all. Kåre had deep knowledge of his field and was very generous in sharing his ideas. He was a great friend with whom discussions had no subject boarders and were always interesting, stimulating and fun. We feel immensely privileged to have been part of Kåre’s network of collaborators and friends.