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Oslo Cancer Cluster`s start-ups highlighted in investor report

A recent analysis from the audit and advisory company EY is cautiously optimistic on behalf of startup companies in the Nordic Life Science industry – and points to possibilities within Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The analysis, which was commissioned by Norwegian Investinor and Swedish Industrifonden, points to four segments in the Nordic life science market that has the most mature startup companies, and thus are believed to be most attractive for investments: oncology (cancer treatment), inflammation treatment, niche products and imaging. From these segments, several startup companies have already appeared. They have also raised substantial capital.

Some Norwegian examples are Nordic Nanovector, BerGenBio and Targovax, which has raised a total of NOK 485 million in 2014 .These companies are all members of Oslo Cancer Cluster, developing cancer treatments using different technologies.

Excellent quality of research
The strength of the Nordic life science industry is the quality of the research performed, especially in some selected clusters, such as the Oslo Cancer Cluster. Scientific development is a key driver for innovation in the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry.

The biggest concern among life science industry players interviewed in the survey is however, the attention from investors, especially from professional investors with industry insights, which can handle the risks of investing in the earliest stages of company development.

─ The early phase of life science involves great risk, but can also give great returns, so investors should pay close attention to what is now happening in Oslo Cancer Cluster and corresponding clusters, says Ann- Tove Kongsnes, Investment Director of Investinor.

Investinor actively works to attract more foreign investors to Norwegian life science industry, and has also made ​​two investments together with Swedish Industrifonden in Oslo Cancer Cluster members Smartfish and Pharmalink.

 

 

 

 

Bergen Bio Raises MNOK 75

BerGenBio AS, an oncology biopharmaceutical company, announces that it has raised NOK75 million (c.$12.5 million) from a syndicate of new and existing investors through a private placement. This follows a $6.0 million round in May 2013.

Proceeds from the financing will be used to support the development of the Company’s innovative portfolio of innovative cancer therapeutics.This includes the on-going clinical development of its lead drug candidate, BGB324, a first-in-class selective AXL kinase inhibitor, which is currently in Phase Ib clinical studies to evaluate its safety and initial signs of efficacy to treat different cancers as a single agent and in combination with other drugs.

Fund pipeline advancement
The funds raised will be used to complete these studies, data from which is anticipated in 2015. BGB324 is the only selective Axl receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor in clinical development to target tumour epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and has a potential application as a novel treatment for drug-resistant solid and hematological cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer and acute myeloid leukemia.

Richard Godfrey, CEO of BerGenBio commented: “I would like to thank our new and existing investors for their support. This important funding will enable us to advance our pipeline to key value inflection points. We believe that targeting Axl is a promising new approach to treating drug resistant cancers. We look forward to using this investment to continue exploring the clinical opportunity for our lead Axl inhibitor, BGB324, and our other candidate compounds.”

Huge market potential
Sveinung Hole, Managing Partner Sarsia Seed commented “At the seed stage we recognised the huge addressable market potential for BerGenBio`s EMT inhibitors and have continued to support the Company throughout its development. I am delighted the Company continues to attract funding and is able to progress its promising pipeline of novel targeted cancer therapies through further clinical development and realising significant value gain.

Ann-Tove Kongsnes, Investment Director, Investinor AS added, `we are excited by the Company’s prospects and are confident in the management team’s ability to drive these programs forward.”


About the Axl kinase receptor

The Axl tyrosine kinase receptor is regarded as one of the most promising new therapeutic targets for cancer drug  development It is upregulated in tumours residing in a hostile micro-environment and plays a crucial role in the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which in turn is a key driver of metastasis (cancer spread) and a mechanisms of acquired drug-resistance.

About BerGenBio AS
BerGenBio AS is a biopharmaceutical company located in Bergen, Norway. The company is committed to developing first in class therapeutics that inhibit tumor EMT, preventing the formation of cancer stem cells and disrupting the important mechanisms of acquired cancer drug resistance. The company is founded on proprietary platform technology called CellSelect™, which uses information from RNAi screening studies to identify and validate novel drug targets and biomarkers. BGB324 is the first compound in BerGenBio’s pipeline to enter clinical trials, with additional compounds and drug targets at different stages of preclinical development. www.bergenbio.com

 

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5 Oslo Cancer Cluster SMEs granted BIA-funding

The Norwegian Research Council recently granted BerGenBio, PCI Biotech, Lytix Biopharma, Oncoinvent and Ultimovacs –  all Oslo Cancer Cluster member companies – funding  through the Programme for User-Driven Research Based Innovation (BIA).

In total, the Research Council will grant a record amount of 444 million to 58 Norwegian companies over four years, of which 10 are biotech companies – which is also a new record.

BerGenBio, Lytix Biopharma, PCI Biotech, Oncoinvent and Ultimovacs will receive around 10 million NOK each over 4 years, depending on the outcome of the contract negotiations between the council and the company. Funding from the  BIA programme is a quality stamp since the companies compete in “open class” where all sectors are represented. The funding may also in turn trigger interest  from private investors.

On the Research Council`s website you may find the total list of all the 58 companies (in Norwegian) and read more about the funding from the BIA-programme.

Two Oslo Cancer Cluster Board members receive K.G. Jebsen funding

Despite keen competition from other outstanding medical research groups, Oslo Cancer Cluster Board members Professor Ragnhild A. Lothe and Professor Rolf Bjerkvig have won the competition for funds for new K.G. Jebsen centres in the field of medicine – a long side John-Bjarne Hansen. 


By giving NOK 16 million to each of the three new centres, the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation wants to give a real boost to research and, not least, to contribute to excellent medical research benefiting patients sooner. In addition to the grants from the Foundation, each centre will also be allocated a substantial sum by its own institutions.

Focus on cancer research
It is worth noting that two of the new centres this year are cancer research centres. The centre at the University of Bergen led by Rolf Bjerkvig works on cancer of the brain, with particular focus on translating research results from laboratories into patient treatment. The centre is a collaboration between several research groups and hospital departments, and it is part of an international research network based in Luxembourg.

Ragnhild Lothe’s centre at Oslo University Hospital aims to develop better diagnostic and treatment methods for rectal cancer, and to help to improve hospital efficiency and benefit patients. Lothe believes that the establishment of a dedicated centre could encourage more young doctors and researchers to take an interest in this serious form of cancer, which is actually the second most common form of cancer in Europe and is currently only survived by around half the patients.

Of the 14 K.G. Jebsen Centres for Medical Research that will have been established in 2014, five work on cancer-related research. In a competition in which the primary criterion is quality, this is an indication that Norwegian cancer research is already at the forefront of the field, also in the international context

The new centre for medical research that is led by John-Bjarne Hansen will work on venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is a generic term for cardiovascular problems that affect almost 10,000 Norwegians every year.

Two of five focused research areas at Oslo University Hospital to cancer
As well as the K.G. Jebsen Centre – Professor Ragnhild Lothe also received one of five “Focused Research Areas at Oslo University Hospital 2014 – 2018”  for the colorectal SMART project.

Her research colleague Arne Kolstad, also received this appointment for his project within Cancer Immunotherapy, where both the Section for Cell Therapy and The Section for Immunology are major partners.

This clearly shows the strength of the cancer research performed at the Oslo University Hospital, when two of five focused research areas that will run in the next four years, goes to cancer.

Read more on this here (only in Norwegian).


Read more:

Ragnhild Lothes group.

Rolf Bjerkvigs group.

Arne Kolstads group.

Facts about the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation:
The Foundation was established in order to honor the memory of shipping magnate Kristian Gerhard Jebsen and his contribution to Norwegian and international shipping and business. The Foundation was established by Jebsen’s wife Aud Jebsen and the family in 2009.  At the turn of the year 2012/2013, the Foundation’s equity was NOK 916.6 million. Since the Foundation was established, it has awarded a total of NOK 324 million, NOK 274 million of which to Norwegian research. Further information about the foundation is available at the web site: www.stiftkgj.no

 

Helsemyggordning – financial instrument for health innovation

December 11th 2013, Oslo Cancer Cluster, Oslo Medtech and Nansen Neuroscience Network launched a proposal for a new financing mechanism to stimulate innovation from the health- and biotech industry.

The proposal was very well received among the politicians, industry, public organisations and investors at the debate meeting in conjunction to the launch. Conservative Member of Parliament Kristin Vinje viewed the scheme as an exciting proposition that it is worthwhile to investigate further.

The three health clusters have named the scheme “Helsemyggordning”, building on a similar financial instrument from the oil and gas industry that was established to encourage exploration and development activity among young and small petroleum companies.

To stimulate increased health innovation, the scheme “Helsemyggordning” would involve cash payments of tax deduction related to the cost of development and testing of health products and health technologies innovators who are not liable to tax. When the company gets profits and are liable to tax, they must repay the tax paid for the development and testing costs. The system thus acts as an interest-free capital loans from state to the health innovations.

Acting CEO in Oslo Cancer Cluster, Jónas Einarsson, says the scheme may  trigger the huge potential within Norwegian health R&D. “We are at a critical stage now, as the biotech projects coming out are more mature and in a need for early funding,” says Einarsson.

Menon Business Economics have analysed “Helsemyggordningen”. They conclude that it is easy to administrate, predictable, and targeted.

Please find more in debth information here:

Report on “Helsemyggordningen”

Presentation of Helsemyggordningen, by Erik Jacobsen, Menon Business Economics.

Horizon 2020: Major possibilities

Horizon 2020 is the new European Framework Program for Research and Innovation. Oslo Cancer Cluster encourage our members to take a closer look at the possibilities Horizon 2020 represents for funding R&D oncology projects and also taking part in international networks.
Norwegian participation in the EU framework programs has been of critical importance to Norwegian research, enabling Norwegian researchers, research institutions and companies to take part in larger international networks.

The Norwegian Research Council has recently been touring most of Norway hosting information meetings on Horizon 2020. The program will take effect from January 2014 and the budget is of around 70 billion Euros over a seven year period. This is a large increase from the last framework program.


Horizon 2020 incorporates three overall areas of funding – and there is a specific focus on SMEs and also on academic-industry collaboration within the program:

  • Funding for basic research to support curiosity-driven, innovative research and large-scale cooperation on research infrastructure
  • Funding to strengthen industrial leadership and competitiveness with the help of effective industry-oriented funding instruments
  • Funding for research and innovation activities to solve shared societal challenges

Under the topic “Health, demographic change and wellbeing”, there are seven focus areas:
1. Understanding health, ageing & disease
2. Effective health promotion, disease prevention, preparedness and screening
3. Improving diagnosis
4. Innovative treatments and technologies
5. Advancing active and healthy ageing
6. Integrated, sustainable, citizen-centred care
7. Improving health information, data exploitation and providing an evidence base for health policies and regulation

More information may be found here:
The Norwegian Research Council webpage
Draft Work Programs 2014-2015
Newsletter – Program for Health, demographic change and wellbeing

Important deadlines:

  • Horizon 2020 national launch events: October 2013 to January 2014
  • Adoption of work programme and publication of first calls for proposals: December 11 2013
  • Expression of interest: Medio January 2014

 Background material presented by the Research Council on the information meeting in Oslo in November 2013:

Norwegian Cancer Society grant MNOK 160

The 2013 year’s grant to cancer research in Norway, 160 million NOK (EUR 20 M) is the largest grant the Norwegian Cancer Society has ever given.

“It is fantastic that we are able to provide such a large amount to our top cancer researchers in Norway”, says Secretary-General Anne Lise Ryel, Norwegian Cancer Society. “This is made possible thanks to our big and small, but always generous donors and members”.

The money will be divided among 121 projects at 12 research institutions across the country. The three institutions that will receive the most are: Oslo University Hospital (MNOK 73), the University of Oslo (MNOK 35) and the University of Bergen (MNOK 24). Download a full overview over the projects here (in Norwegian).

Enables quality boost
For Oslo Cancer Cluster member NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the grants constitute a significant contribution to the university’s cancer research: “The money enables us to boost the quality of our research”, says Dean Stig Slørdahl from the Faculty of Medicine. “It was a great joy to receive this funding, especially when we know that only the best projects receives funding.”

One of the cancer researchers at NTNU that got funding for here project is Bodil Merete Kavli, whom you can read more about in the Cancer Society’s blog. She’s trying to find out which mechanisms inside the cells causes the development of lymphoma cancer. Thanks to the award from the Cancer Society, Kavli is now able to finance a four year research position.

About The Norwegian Cancer Society
The society is the largest non-government sponsor of independent cancer research in Norway. Over the last 10 years the Norwegian Cancer society  has granted 1.6 billion NOK (EUR 2bn) to cancer research. This represents over 25 prosent of total resources Norwegian researchers have at their disposal for their research. Read more here: www.kreftforeningen.no

Pucture: Cancer researcher Bodil Merete Kavli at NTNU, surprised by the Cancer Society and Norwegian Television. Photo: Arild Domaas, NCS

Investinor and Industrifonden invest in Pharmalink

Oslo Cancer Cluster was the proud host of a press conference in early October, where two of the Nordic region’s largest governmental venture investors Investinor and Industrifonden announced their NOK million 90 investment in Swedish biotech Pharmalink. Pharmalink is a specialty pharma company focused on orphan and niche products within cancer and renal disease.

The press conference was hosted by Oslo Cancer Cluster due to Pharmalinks future plans of joining the cluster and becoming a part of the strong oncology environment in Oslo.

Jónas Einarsson, acting director of Oslo Cancer Cluster states “I am very glad to hear that Pharmalink would like to join Oslo Cancer Cluster and I welcome them to be a part of our strong member organization. I am also very happy for the collaboration between Investionor and Industrifonden within biotech, and hope for more co-investments in the close future.”

This is the second co-investment Investionor and Industrifonden have made in collaboration, the first one was also in biothech: Norwegian company Smartfish that produce nutraceuticals for cancer patients among others.

In the picture from the press conference you see from the left Investment director from Investinor og member of the board of Pharmalink Ann-Tove Kongsnes, CEO of Investinor Geir Ove Kjesbu, CEO of Industrifonden Claes De Neergaard and CEO of Pharmalink Johan Häggblad. Photo: Anne-Elisabeth Næss.

Below the facts you may read the press releases from both Investionor (In Norwegian) and Pharmalink (In English) on the investment:

Facts:

About Pharmalink
Pharmalink is a Swedish specialty pharma company developing high value products for niche indications. Pharmalink draws on its extensive experience of pharmaceutical development and marketing to identify and progress products that address significant unmet medical needs. With a successful history in pharmaceutical sales and marketing, and highly experienced, dynamic management team, Pharmalink is focused on the development and commercialization of valuable, de-risked projects. It has two late-stage clinical phase products under development, Nefecon® and Busulipo™. Pharmalink is actively seeking opportunities to acquire or in-licence product opportunities in niche and hospital care indications. Visit www.pharmalink.se for further information.

About Industrifonden
Industrifonden is one of Sweden’s largest and most experienced investors at early stage and in growth companies and manages an evergreen fund of approximately 3.5 billion (EUR420m). It has for the last 30 years had a leading role in the development of Swedish life science companies. Founded by the Swedish government in 1979, Industrifonden is an independent venture capital fund that operates on a strictly commercial basis and receives no further government funding. Revenues are returned to the business for new investments. See more info at: www.industrifonden.se

About Investinor
Investinor is Norway’s largest investor in venture and expansion capital, and manages a NOK4.2 billion (EUR525m) evergreen fund. Investinor was founded in 2008 and is funded by the Norwegian government. It invests directly in promising unlisted companies and on the same terms and conditions as private investors, with a clear exit strategy for all investments.
Find more info on: www.investinor.no

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