The new Oslo Cancer Cluster chairman, Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, posing in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Photo: Charlotte Sverdrup/ Ultimovacs

Get to know our new chairman

CEO of Ultimovacs Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen is the new chairman of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Get to know the guy!

An Oslo born family man who likes the outdoors, and took the jump from hospital work to entrepreneurship by the way of the health industry.  Remarkably, before all this he dazzled the audience at the National Theatre beside such greats as actor Per Aabel.

Tell us about your professional background!

– I started studying medicine in Oslo. Close to my graduation I got involved in a large meningococcal vaccine trial involving 170 000 people at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. It was my first involvement with clinical trials. I found the work both fun and rewarding and learned a lot from all the follow-up the trial demanded.

Internship in Lofoten
An internship as a Physician in Lofoten in the north of Norway followed. It culminated in a position as municipal medical officer in Flakstad municipality in Lofoten and at the surgery department in Lofoten (then Gravdal) Hospital.

– A position I held for six years. I now moved back to Oslo and took up a position as clinical trial manager in Astra (before Astra and Zeneca merged) were I among other things was responsible for a large clinical trial on beta blockers in heart failure. After that I decided to work as a clinician again and started at AHUS as an orthopedic surgeon and moved on to Ullevål University Hospital.

– Part of my job was to be an investigator in several clinical trials documenting efficacy and safety of new oral anticoagulants and improved procedures in orthopedic surgery. My last position as a clinician was as consultant surgeon at the Ullevål pediatric orthopedic department.

After many years as a clinician Kongstun Arnesen took the jump into the health industry.

– My first job was Medical Director in Bristol-Myers Squibb. One of my tasks was to discuss participation in one of the first trials with ipilimumab (a cancer drug with the trade name Yervoy) at the Radium Hospital. There I was also introduced to professor Gustav Gaudernack and his work with a cancer vaccine. Now, this history has made a full circle where I now am working with a combination of an improved version of this vaccine – and ipilimumab.

First employee of Ultimovacs
Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) closed their office in Oslo, and Arnesen moved to the German company Boehringer Ingelheim. First as Medical Director for Norway and later as Head of Clinical Operations Nordic.

– I stayed there until 2012 when I became the first employee of Ultimovacs.

Read more about Ultimovacs

– I also think we were the first to move into Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. I remember we had to store all the belongings in the garage because they were still finishing our office space.

How do you think your CV can be beneficial for you as chairman?

– I know Oslo Cancer Cluster very well as a member. And from different types of organizations: As a clinician, as a start-up, as part of a pharmaceutical company. I have been through collaboration with many of the other members and have a good overview of the organization.

How will you combine your work as CEO at Ultimovacs and Chairman?

– I don’t see many problems. Of course, I must be aware of who I’m representing, but I don’t see many potential conflicts. We have mutual beneficial interests. I would like to add that I was surprised when I was proposed as a candidate for the position as Chairman at OCC. It is an organization I like and respect very much.

What ambitions do you have on behalf of Oslo Cancer Cluster?

– We need to fulfill the expectations the members have for us, and I have some ideas on how OCC can expand its role of contributing to improved cancer research. But I think I will have a special focus on clinical trials. The importance of clinical trials in general and the importance of getting more of them to Norway.

The childhood actor
What do you do when not working with cancer?

– I’m an outdoors man! I go hunting and fishing when I can. I have an old cabin in Rendalen. As most surgeons I like to work with my hands, I fix and build. And of course, I have a large family. Four children that are my own, two step sons and I’m the grandfather of three soon to be five grandkids. There goes most of my spare time! But that’s a good thing.

Anything most people do not know about you?

– I was a childhood actor at our National Theatre for seven years. Among other things I played Rasmus in  “Rasmus på Loffen” by Astrid Lindgren. For all of the seven years I was there, I was acting in different plays with many of Norway’s most renowned actors, such as Per Aabel.

How did this happen?

– Back in the days they didn’t do official auditions the way they would have done today. It was my PE teacher that had some connection to the theatre and he brought the whole class in for an audition for Rasmus. I seriously considered becoming an actor before going to medical school.

 

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