A café to advance T cell research

We want to accelerate cancer research in T cell immunotherapy!

In order to promote research collaboration, spread knowledge and exchange ideas, Oslo Cancer Cluster arranged a seminar together with Nature Research this week. The topic was T Cell Immunotherapy: Advances, Challenges and Future Directions.

What is T cell immunotherapy?

T cell immunotherapy is a rapidly growing area of research in cancer treatment. The research focuses on finding new ways to trigger the immune system to kill cancer cells.

The treatment method involves collecting T cells (a type of immune system cell) from a patient’s blood sample. The T cells are then modified in the laboratory so they will bind to cancer cells and destroy them.

One way to do this is called CAR T therapy. This involves adding a gene for a special receptor that binds to a specific protein (also called an antigen) on the patient’s cancer cells. The special receptor is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). These cells are grown in large numbers in the laboratory and then infused in the patient to create an immune response.

Read more about CAR T cell therapies in this article from The National Cancer Institute

Many researchers attended the Nature Café for the opportunity to learn more about recent advances in T cell immunotherapy. Photo: Christian Tandberg

Why is cell therapy important?

Research into T cell immunotherapy is important, because it has the potential to treat and cure cancer. T cell immunotherapy can help cancer patients live longer and potentially has fewer side effects than traditional treatment methods, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

However, more research is needed to make T cell immunotherapy work on all kinds of cancer. For example, some patients with haematologic cancer, cancers that develop in the blood-forming tissue, relapse into disease after treatment. Moreover, T cell immunotherapy does not work on all patients with solid cancer tumours yet.

Researchers wish to know why some cancers are resistant to T cell immunotherapy and why some patients acquire resistance to the treatment over time. Some patients also experience toxic side effects to T cell immunotherapy. Moreover, researchers are continually searching for possible new antigens (proteins) to target.

There are still many unanswered questions and that is why we need to accelerate the research.

Members of the audience were eager to find out more about this rapidly growing area of research. Photo: Christian Tandberg

Why did we arrange this event?

The Norwegian research environment in cancer immunotherapy is world-class. But Norway is a small country and researchers need access to international partners and expertise to develop their findings.

The purpose of the event was to highlight recent findings in T cell immunotherapy. There was also the opportunity to discuss ongoing challenges and opportunities in the development of these types of treatments.

Among the guests were several prominent Norwegian cancer researchers, the pharma industry, hospital clinicians, biotech start-ups, and more. During the seminar, many of the participants in the audience asked follow-up questions and the café breaks were buzzing with conversations between researchers.

The event was an opportunity to discuss with and learn from prominent researchers in the cell therapy field. Photo: Christian Tandberg

Watch the video below to see a few of the participants’ reactions:

Meet the speakers

The moderator for the event was Saheli Sadanand, Associate Editor, Research Manuscripts at Nature Medicine. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

The first speaker was Sara Ghorashian from the University College London. Dr. Ghorashian is a consultant Paediatric Haematologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, and the co-investigator or lead UK investigator for six different CAR T cell clinical trials. She talked about her research to improve outcomes of CAR T cell therapy in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This is a type of cancer in the blood. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

The second speaker was Attilio Bondanza, who is a physician-scientist and the CAR T cell program leader at Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland. Before joining Novartis, Dr. Bondanza was a professor at the San Raffeale University Hospital, where he led the Innovative Immunotherapies Unit. Dr. Bondanza talked about his work to model CAR T cell efficacy and CAR T cell-induced toxicities pre-clinically. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

The third speaker was Sara Mastaglio, who is a physician scientist specialising in haematology at San Raffaele Scientific Institute, in Milan. She has been actively involved in the development and clinical application of CAR T cell therapies. Dr. Mastaglio discussed her research on genome-edited T cells for the treatment of haematological malignancies. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

The last speaker was Aude Chapuis, who is an assistant member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. In addition to running a lab, she sees patients as an attending physician at the Fred Hutch Bone Marrow Transplant Program at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Dr. Chapuis discussed mechanisms of response and resistance to instruct next generations of T cell receptor gene therapy. Photo: Christian Tandberg

 

Want to find out more?

In February 2020, the journal Nature Research will publish an article with a more detailed overview of the speakers, their presentations and the research. We will provide a link here when it is available!

If you enjoyed this event, please subscribe to our newsletter to receive invitations to our upcoming events and a digest of our latest news.

 

We want to thank our sponsors for helping us make this event happen.

PCI Biotech works with Astra Zeneca

PCI Biotech reveals they have been collaborating with Astra Zeneca since 2015.

Our member PCI Biotech grabbed the opportunity during their third quarter report this week to announce who their mystery collaboration partner since 2015 has been. The “top-ten pharma company in the world”, who has been helping them, is Astra Zeneca.

PCI Biotech is a company that is based on a technology called photochemical internalisation, which was invented by Professor Kristian Berg from the Norwegian Radium Hospital. The technology is a kind of drug and gene delivery method. It aims to improve the release of big molecules and chemotherapy drugs to the targeted cancer cells. The technology can also potentially be used for a wide variety of diseases and treatments.

The company currently develops three different programs:

  1. FimaCHEM: enhancing the effect of chemotherapy drugs for localised treatment of cancer
  2. FimaVACC: delivering cancer vaccines effectively to the cancer cell and kick-starting a immune response
  3. fimaNAc: delivering nucleid acid therapeutics

You can read more about the revolutionary light technology in the following article:

Astra Zeneca has said that the results from their tests of fimaNAc look very promising in the oncology area. Now, they wish to see if the same technology can work in other disease areas. The pre-clinical collaboration agreement between PCI Biotech and Astra Zeneca lasts until the end of 2019 and the following 6 months will be used to evaluate the potential for further collaboration.

Per Walday, CEO of PCI Biotech, had the following to say about the collaboration:

“Ensuring sufficient intracellular delivery of nucleic acid therapeutics is a major hurdle to realise the vast therapeutic potential of this drug class. We believe that the fimaNAc technology can play an important part in solving this delivery challenge.  PCI Biotech’s current collaborations and their progress suggest that external partners share this view.”

Listen to Per Walday and Ronny Skuggedal talk more about PCI Biotech, the “light technology”, their third quarter report and future milestones in the podcast Radium episode 103.

Kaare R. Norum has died

Kaare R. Norum died on Friday 22 November 2019, at an age of 86 years.

Kaare R. Norum was a professor of nutrition and interested in the connection between our diets and the risk of developing cancer. Norum was a driving force behind gathering the scattered cancer research environments in Oslo.

Norum initiated Oslo Cancer Cluster in 2006, together with Jónas Einarsson, CEO of RADFORSK. At the time, Norum and Einarsson realised that a natural cluster within oncology had developed around the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

The old Ullern Upper Secondary School was back then located on the premises next to the Norwegian Radium Hospital. When the old school was due to be refurbished, Norum and Einarsson had an idea. They wanted to build a new school instead, which would become more than just an ordinary school.

Norum signed the collaboration agreement with the school in 2008. During the following years, Norum, the cluster and the school worked so that the school could become part of a completely new innovation park. In this new building, cancer research would unite the school, the research environments and industry.

Making the dream a reality was at times arduous, but in the end, it was worth it. The old school was torn down in the spring of 2012 and Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park was officially opened in August 2015.

The big auditorium in Ullern Upper Secondary School today is aptly named after Kaare Norum. He will always be the man that the students – the researchers of the future – will be inspired by.

 

Kaare Norum was active in the establishment of Oslo Cancer Cluster and Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. In this image, Jónas Einarsson and Kaare R. Norum participated in the opening of the Innovation Park on 24 August 2015. Photo: Gunnar Kopperud

 

Kaare Norum will be remembered as an ambitious man, who always wished to create new opportunities for science and development. He was generous and he promoted both people and projects.

He was a source of inspiration and support in the work with developing Oslo Cancer Cluster, and he meant a lot to us. He was a part of the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster as an honorary member since the establishment in 2006. He was also, during many years, an important mentor for Jónas Einarsson.

Kaare Norum was forthright and not afraid to challenge established truths or formalities when he looked for support in his most important issues. Lucky for us, in Oslo Cancer Cluster, we were one of his important issues.

Rest in peace, Kaare Norum.

 

Memorial message by,

Jónas Einarsson (CEO of RADFORSK)

Ketil Widerberg (General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster)

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen (Chairman of the Board of Oslo Cancer Cluster)

 

 

Kaare R. Norum (24 December 1932 – 22 November 2019)

Norum was the principal of the University of Oslo from 1999 to 2001.

He wrote about 300 scientific articles and was known internationally for his research on nutrition. He also wrote several books in popular science and course books about health and nutrition.

Norum was Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav and of the Swedish Royal Order of the Pole Star.

Read more on Kaare R. Norum’s Wikipedia page

Who wants to be a doctor?

We join forces with Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo University Hospital every year to arrange theme days for students, so they can get a sense of what it is like to be a doctor.

On 18 November 2019, students from the health program with specialisation in biology and chemistry at Ullern Upper Secondary School, gathered in Kaare Norum Auditorium at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park to learn more about opportunities in medicine. The initiator is Truls Ryder, father of a former student at the school. Ryder is a surgeon at the Norwegian Radium Hospital and has this year once again planned theme days for the students together with his colleagues.

For almost five hours, the Ullern students listened to some of the best oncologists in Norway talk about how they treat cancer patients affected by different forms of cancer. The students are studying either science or health subjects in their third year.

The theme day is a part of the close collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary School and the Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital. For two days, 18 of the students who consider applying to medical or nursing school will follow the oncologists around the different departments of the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

“The students who have been chosen to job shadow are in their last year and will soon choose their next program of study,” Bente Prestegård said. She is the project manager for the school collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The purpose of the job shadowing is that students who participate will get an inside look into the opportunities that exist in medical subjects before choosing what to study next.

A fantastic initiative

Truls Ryder is the initiator behind the theme day and the following job shadowing, like he was last year. His children have gone to Ullern Upper Secondary School and he works as an attending physician at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

“Thank you to the initiator Truls Ryder and his colleagues who have dedicated two days for this. It was really successful last year and we are incredibly happy to be able to offer the students this opportunity again,” Prestegård said.

Prestegård has contributed to the planning of the theme days with her long experience from other projects between members of Oslo Cancer Cluster and the school.

You can read about last year’s theme day and job shadowing here.

A varied program

The theme day today was spent in Kaare Norums Auditorium from 11:30 am to 4:00 pm. During these hours, the students have gained an in-depth introduction to modern cancer treatments, from radiology to plastic surgery, and what it is like to be a cancer patient and receive treatment.

“I look forward to the program myself, because there are many skilled experts, who will present what they do in cancer treatment and more. The goal with such a broad program is to give the students the greatest possible understanding of all the different directions and opportunities that medical study can offer,” said Ryder.

Program (Monday 18 November 2019):

11:30-11:55 Welcome, with Attending Physician Truls Ryder

11:55-12:20 Cancer treatment with focus on colon cancer, with Professor Kjersti Flatmark

Break

12:30-12:55 “Fight HPV” with Attending Physician Ameli Trope from Kreftregisteret

12:55-13:20 What is anesthesiology? with Professor Ulf Kongsgaard

Break

13:40-14:05 Melanoma, with Attending Physician Anna Winge-Main

14:05-14:30 Plastic surgery – more than just cosmetics! with Head of Clinic and Attending Physician Kim Tønseth

Break

14:40-15:05 Radiology – More than just x-rays! with Attending Physician Marianne Fretheim

15:05-15:30 What is it like to be a patient? with Jeanett Hoel, Chairman of the Norwegian Gynaecological Cancer Society and Attending Physician Kristina Lindemann

15:30-15:45 Summary and practical information concerning clinical rotation, with Attending Physician Truls Ryder

Tre viktige temaer i helsenæring

Næringskomiteens innstilling om helsenæringsmeldingen er klar. Dette mener Oslo Cancer Cluster om tre viktige temaer i innstillingen.

Næringskomiteens innstilling om helsenæringsmeldingen trekker frem mange viktige aspekter ved norsk helsenæring. Helse- og omsorgskomiteen kommenterer også meldingen i samme innstilling.

Oslo Cancer Cluster ønsker å kommentere spesielt tre temaer som disse to komiteene tar opp i innstillingen til Stortinget.

– Nå er det viktig at alle som ønsker en sterk norsk helsenæring følger opp hva meldingen betyr i praksis, sier Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Kliniske studier

Komiteen går inn for en bedre tilrettelegging for kliniske studier og bruk av helseregistre, slik Helsenæringsmeldingen foreslår. En samlet næringskomité mener videre at forventningene til innovasjon og samarbeid med forskning og næringsliv i oppdragsdokumenter til helseforetakene må følges opp med insentiver og finansieringssystemer.

– Vi applauderer at komiteen krever finansieringssystemer for dette. Vi ønsker å understreke hvor viktig det vil være å innføre en takst for kliniske studier som gjør at leger og andre helsearbeidere får tid og insentiver til å utvikle bedre behandling for pasienter – i samarbeid med industrien, sier Ketil Widerberg.

Oslo Cancer Cluster foreslo i sitt høringsinnspill til helsenæringsmeldingen å etablere et nasjonalt senter for kliniske studier, og at senteret knyttes til en felles database for helsedata hvor både myndigheter, forskning og industri kan få tilgang til løpende pasientdata fra behandling av den enkelte pasient.

Oslo Cancer Cluster foreslo også å etablere et nordisk senter for celleterapi. Det er vel innen rekkevidde, tatt i betraktning at Norge er ledende på immunterapi og spesielt celleterapi spesielt innen kreft – og at kreft er spydspissen i kliniske studier internasjonalt.

Begge disse forslagene fra Oslo Cancer Cluster har komiteen trukket frem i sin innstilling.

Norge har blitt det minst attraktive landet i Norden for kliniske studier. Oslo Cancer Cluster understreker at Norge må tørre å være først ute på to vesentlige områder for å snu denne utviklingen:

Norge må nå ta lederrollen i utviklingen av klinisk dokumentasjon og være et foregangsland i godkjenning av ny presisjonsmedisin.

Den muntlige høringen i Næringskomiteen kan sees i sin helhet på Stortingets nettsider.

Offentlig-privat samarbeid

– Oslo Cancer Cluster har alltid prioritert arbeidet for en sterkere kultur for samarbeid og dialog mellom helsetjenesten, akademia og næringsliv. Det er et kontinuerlig arbeid og vi ser med glede at komiteen stiller seg bak dette, sier Widerberg.

Komiteen peker på at Norge i løpet av de siste årene har bygd opp verdensledende helseklynger som nettopp Oslo Cancer Cluster og Norway Health Tech. Disse klyngene har utviklet økosystemer som bidrar til å etablere nye bedrifter og øke konkurransekraften.

Komiteen ber regjeringen “vurdere tiltak som kan sikre videreføring av klyngene som en møteplass mellom det offentlige og private og som bidragsytere til internasjonal vekst.”

For Oslo Cancer Cluster er det motiverende å se at dette blir poengtert.

Helsedata

– Helsedata er et tema som Oslo Cancer Cluster har engasjert seg i siden oppstarten for over ti år siden, men som vi ser nå blir stadig mer aktuelt grunnet sammensmeltingen av biologi og teknologi, sier Widerberg.

Komiteen peker på mange muligheter med helsedata, som er en viktig del av norsk helsenæring – ikke minst for å gi pasienter best behandling.

– Vi ser imidlertid behovet for en konkretisering av hvordan vi legger opp til bruk av helsedata i utvikling av legemidler. Vi trenger også en mer konkret plan for hvordan vi kan bruke helsedata for å forstå genetisk data for å bedre helsen vår, sier Widerberg.

Næringskomiteens innstilling om helsenæringsmeldingen ble behandlet i Stortinget 26. november 2019. Møtet ble filmet og ligger i Stortingets videoarkiv.

 

Les mer

 

What’s new in Q3?

Positive results from clinical trials, revenue growth and new clinical collaborations … Read some of the third quarter developments from our members below.

BerGenBio

  • BerGenBio showed results from their clinical trial for patients with non-small cell lung cancer, who have previously been treated with chemotherapy. The results showed they met primary and secondary endpoints.
  • The company presented interim safety data from a Phase Ib/II trial. They are testing their drug bemcentinib in combination with pembrolizumab on melanoma patients. The data shows the combination is well tolerated by patients.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted bemcentinib Fast Track Designation. This means they will do an expedited review of the investigational drug. The designation is for the treatment of elderly patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), who have relapsed.

Read more in the press release from BerGenBio

Nordic Nanovector

  • Nordic Nanovector raised approximately NOK 243 million in private placement of new shares. This will provide further funds to continue the clinical development of their drug Betalutin, manufacturing and other commercial activities.
  • The company presented new results from a clinical trial, testing their drug Betalutin on patients with non-Hodgkins lymphoma (a type of blood cancer). The median duration of response was 13.6 months for all responders and 32.0 months for complete responders.
  • The company reported 3 out of 3 patient responses in the first patient cohort in one of their clinical trials. The patients were given Betalutin in combination with rituximab to treat 3rd-line relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma (also a type of blood cancer).

Read more in the press release from Nordic Nanovector

Photocure

  • Photocure reported a revenue growth of 42% in local currency for the US market.
  • The revenues in the Nordics declined 7% to NOK 9.9 million (NOK 10.6 million) in the third quarter.
  • The company entered into a licensing agreement with Asieris Meditech Co. to commercialize the product Cevira to the global market. Cevira is a non-invasive photodynamic therapy for HPV-related (cervical) diseases.

Read more in the press release from Photocure

 

Targovax

  • Targovax presented new data from the first part of the clinical trial of their oncolytic virus. The trial has shown clinical responses in three out of nine patients. This treatment targets patients with refractory advanced melanoma (skin cancer).
  • The company announced an expansion of the clinical trial of the oncolytic virus ONCOS-102 in combination with the checkpoint inhibitor Imfinzi. This trial is open for patients with advanced peritoneal malignancies (a rare cancer that develops in the tissue that lines the abdomen).
  • The company publicised that Oslo University Hospital will become a site for the clinical trial of their oncolytic virus ONCOS-102.

Read more in the press release from Targovax

 

Ultimovacs

  • Ultimovacs presented long-term results from the clinical study of their therapeutic cancer vaccine UV1. The patients have non-small cell lung cancer and the trial has shown a 4-year overall survival rate of 39% (7 of 18 patients are still alive).
  • New data from their prostate cancer trial showed a 5-year overall survival rate of 50% (11 of 22 patients are still alive).
  • A phase II clinical trial for patients with malignant melanoma (skin cancer) is projected to start in the first quarter of 2020.

Read more in the press release from Ultimovacs

 

More third quarter reports from our other members are or will be made available on their respective websites.

 

EHiN 2019 – highlights

Did you miss EHiN this year? Or simply want to catch up on the highlights relating to cancer research? Read our short summary below.

EHiN, short for e-health in Norway, is Norway’s national conference on e-health. It is a meeting place where decision-makers, the business community and the health sector gather to talk, share knowledge, learn from each other and collaborate.

This year, Oslo Cancer Cluster became a co-owner of EHiN (together with ICT Norway and Macsimum), because we believe new technologies and digital solutions are essential in the development of novel cancer treatments. This will only be possible if public and private organizations find new models of collaboration and EHiN is a great platform to create those future partnerships.

Read this interview to find out more about how new technologies can improve cancer research

 

A conversation on health data during day 1 of EHiN 2019. Photo credit: Ard Jongsma / Still Water Photography

Capturing the value of health data

An engaging dialogue on the value of health data took place at the end of the first day.

Health data will revolutionize how we understand and how we treat diseases, such as cancer. Better diagnosis and monitoring will change how we design our healthcare systems. A central question is how we capture the value of this revolution. Some fear multinationals like Google and Facebook will exploit our unique health data for profit. Others fear that Norwegians will value and protect their health data too well, resulting in innovation happening elsewhere. Is there a golden mean between giving full access to health data and charging the highest price?

Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster, led the conversation with a panel of four. Joanne Hackett, Chief Commercial Officer at Genomics England, brought an international perspective and experiences of how they have collected 100 000 genomes from patients with rare diseases. Sigrid Bratlie, award-winning cancer researcher, shared her knowledge of new cancer treatments and the opportunities they present in conjunction with health data. Heidi Beate Bentzen, Doctoral Research Fellow at University of Oslo, represented some of the legal considerations when dealing with health data. Rajji Mehdwan, General Manager at Roche, contributed with the pharma industry perspective.

 

The crowded crowded expo area during EHiN 2019. Photo credit: Ard Jongsma / Still Water Photography

Networking in the expo area

The expo area is the heart and soul of EHiN. This is where public and private organizations can meet under informal circumstances and create new partnerships. These collaborations are what lead to knowledge sharing and that digital solutions can be implemented in the health sector.

This year, a pharma company was present in the expo area for the very first time, our member Roche. Roche are investing more in genetic testing and personalized medicines than ever before. But why are genetic tests important for cancer treatments? Cancer is more than a disease, it is about the composition of DNA, RNA and proteins – and how these relate to one another. Every cancer tumor is therefore unique, but by finding out more about the genetic sequence, one can develop personalized treatments that target the tumor effectively.

In the expo area, a variety of start-ups, IT companies, health clusters, public organisations and academic institutions were also present. For two days, the area was buzzing with interactions, meetings and talks.

We hope you carry on the conversations and that we see all of you again next year!

 

Find your health mentor

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has joined a new national health mentor program to help Norwegian startups connect with the right experts.

Are you a health startup? Do you need help to get going? Eight health clusters and incubators have joined forces to provide mentors and specialist knowledge to Norwegian health startups, through the new health mentor program from Innovation Norway. One of them is Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, commented:

“Innovation Norway’s new health mentor program is a good scheme for startups that need help to establish their company. Access to a network of health mentors give the companies the opportunity to get tailor-made guidance in a very challenging development phase.”

This is the first time Innovation Norway offers a mentor program for a specific industry. The scheme is a pilot project for year 2020. Bård Stranheim, responsible for the mentor program in Innovation Norway, said:

“Good mentors are an important key to growth. This scheme will give high-quality mentors. Maybe this pilot project will be the basis of a new model to connect world-class mentors with Norwegian startups to prepare them for international growth.”

 

The health mentor program consists of:

 

Apply on Innovation Norway’s website for a health mentor

 

100 episodes of cancer research & development

From a relatively modest podcast to packed live shows at Arendalsuka, Radium has in three years grown into a leading cancer podcast in Norway.

Radium is a weekly podcast about Norwegian cutting-edge cancer research and development, produced by the evergreen investment fund Radforsk. Radforsk has 15 companies in its portfolio, of which five are on the stock market and 10 are also members of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen, Communications Manager, and Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk, bring guests on the show to discuss recent development in the oncology field and news from the portfolio companies.

“Three years ago, Elisabeth came to me and said ‘Now, we are going to do something new – we will make a podcast’. I replied ‘That’s great! But what is a podcast?’” Einarsson said.

Andersen then took the first steps and employed students from the media program at Ullern Upper Secondary School to help with sound production.

 

Interested investors

Andersen and Einarsson quickly noticed there is great interest in the podcast, especially from investors and shareholders. They want to stay updated about Norwegian cancer research, a relatively new but growing sector. They often send in questions, which Andersen and Einarsson ask the guests in the studio.

“We try to simplify things. It is easier to hear it explained by someone from a company, than to read a difficult press release,” Andersen said.

“I think the best episodes are when we get a good dialogue with the CEOs of the companies, especially when things get a little heated. I try to lure them out on the thin ice to make them tell us more,” Einarsson said.

The popular podcast format has exploded in recent years, giving people access to accessible conversations that they can listen to whenever they want.

“There is no strict direction. We say that we are just going to have a conversation and then we talk for an hour or more,“ Einarsson said. “We have a down-to-earth style, but Elisabeth will pull us back if the guests or I dive too deep into details.”

 

Affecting health policies

Radium has also had several events with live streaming. At Arendalsuka this year, the premises were fully packed with eager listeners at both of their live shows.

“At Arendal, we try to have podcasts with others in the cancer field and aim to be more political. We think it has worked very well, because we can reach out to even more people when we stream the event,” Elisabeth said.

“I think the podcast will interest people working in the health industry and health politics too,” Einarsson said. “For example, the health minister was a guest for an entire hour, talking about current challenges.”

 

Best of Norwegian research

Radium regularly invites famous names from the Norwegian research community too. Steinar Aamdal, a prominent researcher in cancer immunotherapies has been a guest. Another cancer expert, Håvard Danielsen, who works on the DoMore project at Oslo University Hospital, has also talked on the podcast.

Øyvind Bruland and Roy Larsen, the serial entrepreneurs who started Algeta, Nordic Nanovector and OncoInvent, also visited the show.

Soon, Radium will host Kristian Berg, the researcher behind PCI Biotech’s technology: photochemical internalisation technology.

“I believe people think it is very interesting to, through the podcast, meet the people who actually have researched and developed the treatments,” Einarsson said.

 

For the patients

Einarsson and Andersen have also noticed that cancer patients or their family members listen to the podcast to hear about what is happening in the field.

“It is important to communicate that we do this for the patients. An important driving force is that we wish to contribute to developing better treatments for patients,” said Andersen.

“Every time the survival rate increases, it means one patient gets to live longer – and perhaps that is because of a treatment we have helped to develop,” said Einarsson. “To be a part of the journey with immunotherapy over the last 20 years, for an old doctor like me, is absolutely fantastic.”

 

Listen and download Radium:

 

Send in your ideas for guests and topics directly to Radium.

 

Episode 100 was recorded at Kulturhuset in Oslo, with several interesting guests, a friendly atmosphere and, delicious food and beverages. Stay tuned for upcoming live events via Radforsk’s Facebook page!

 

Machine learning improves cancer research

This interview was first published on EHiN’s official website. Scroll down to read it in Norwegian.

 

EHiN is important in order to realise the opportunities that digital technologies can give patients, society and industry.

Ketil Widerberg is the General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, which is a co-owner of EHiN 2019. We asked Ketil Widerberg a few questions about why digitalization and EHiN are important for cancer research.

–Can you describe in short what Oslo Cancer Cluster is and what you do?

Oslo Cancer Cluster is a non-profit member organization that gathers public and private players. The goal is to transform cancer research into treatments that change patients’ lives. We are a National Centre of Expertise (NCE).

–You are now co-owners of EHiN. What do you wish to achieve with that?

Oslo Cancer Cluster has the last ten years developed and established well-known meeting places (such as Cancer Crosslinks) by combining different disciplines. In the future, digitalisation and precision medicine (e-health) will be a central area in cancer research.

EHiN is a perfect match in this area. EHiN will be an important platform in order to realise the opportunities that digital technologies can give patients, society and industry.

–What do you think AI will mean for cancer research?

Today’s breakthroughs in treatment will often only work on 3 out of 10 patients. Artificial intelligence will change medicine in two ways. First, how we understand cancer. In the same way as the microscope gave us the ability to see things on a cellular level, data will now help us to see patterns we never would have discovered.

Second, how we treat cancer will change. We have to be ready to give the right treatment to the right patient at the right time. One way of giving individualised treatments is to recognize patterns – patterns that show how a patient will react from a treatment.

After that, you can see in larger groups of people if this pattern is repeated. Then, you select the patients that have a positive response to the treatment. This will, to begin with, not be a perfect method, but if you repeat this process, the modern machine learning systems can make it better and better.

–We know that health research takes time. How can digital solutions improve this?

Digitalisation will accelerate the development of new treatments in several areas. One area is clinical studies. Digital technology can help to adjust studies according to patient responses and enable digital control arms that shorten years off the developmental period. Digital solutions can make clinical trials more flexible and efficient, by reducing the administrative burden on companies and at the same time make it simpler for patients to enroll.

Gradually, as the volume and speed of the data increases, we have the opportunity to use new machine learning algorithms – such as deep learning. The algorithms can identify digital biomarkers that will give faster and better development of new treatments.

–Why is EHiN an important meeting place for Norway?

EHiN is relevant for Oslo Cancer Cluster because the IT revolution is about to hit the oncology field. Personalized treatments, genomics and the use of health data will soon develop into one of the most important areas of “e-health”. This is also an area that is of great interest for the IT industry, for data storing, data analysis, machine learning, pattern recognition, connecting different data sources, and so on.

At the same time, the technology will also impact the academic world and the pharmaceutical part of the health sector, and contribute to set the rules for the whole value chain in health processes in decades to come. EHiN wishes, in collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster, to build Norway as an important international hub in the area of e-health – by gathering and showcasing the different activities at the conference and in other settings.

 

–Selvlærende datasystemer gjør kreftforskning stadig bedre

EHiN er ifølge Ketil Widerberg viktig for å få realisert gevinsten digital teknologi kan tilføre pasientene, samfunnet og næringslivet. Widerberg er daglig leder for Oslo Cancer Cluster, som i høst 2018 gikk inn som medeier av EHiN.

Vi stilte Ketil Widerberg noen spørsmål om hvorfor digitalisering og EHiN er viktig for kreftforskning.

–Kan du beskrive kort hva OCC er og hva dere gjør?

OCC er en non-profit medlemsorganisasjon som samler offentlige og private aktører. Målet er å gjøre kreftforskning til produkter som endrer pasienters liv. Vi er et NCE (National Centre of Expertise).

Dere har blitt med på EHiN. Hva ønsker OCC å oppnå med det?

Oslo Cancer Cluster har de siste 10 årene utviklet og etablert anerkjente møteplasser (som Cancer Crosslinks) ved å kombinere forskjellige fag-grener. Fremover vil digitalisering sammen med presisjonsmedisin (e-Helse) være et sentralt område innenfor kreft.

EHiN er en perfekt match for dette området. I tråd med OCC sin strategi vil EHiN være viktig for å få realisert gevinsten digital teknologi kan tilføre pasientene, samfunnet og næringslivet.

–Hva tror du AI kan bety for forskning rundt kreft?

Dagens behandlingsgjennombrudd vil ofte bare virke på 3 av 10 pasienter. Kunstig intelligens vil endre medisin på to måter. Hvordan vi forstår kreft. På samme måte som mikroskopet ga oss evnen til å se helt ned på cellenivå, vil data nå hjelpe oss til å se mønster vi aldri ellers ville oppdaget.

Hvordan vi behandler kreft vil forandre seg. Vi må derfor klare å gi den rette behandlingen til den rette pasienten til rett tid. En måte å kunne gi individbasert behandling er å gjenkjenne mønster. Mønster som viser hvordan en pasient vil reagere på en behandling.

Deretter se i større grupper mennesker om dette mønsteret gjentar seg. Da kan man plukke ut de pasientene med positivt utbytte av behandlingen. Dette vil i begynnelsen ikke være en perfekt metode, men hvis man gjentar denne prosessen, kan moderne selvlærende datasystemer gjøre den stadig bedre.

–Vi vet at helseforskning tar lang tid. Hvordan kan digitale løsninger bidra på dette?

Digitalisering vil akselerere utviklingen av ny behandling på flere områder. Ett område er kliniske studier. Digital teknologi kan gjøre at studier justeres etter respons og muliggjøre digitale kontrollarmer som korter år av utviklingstiden. Kliniske forsøk kan bli fleksible og effektive ved å redusere administrative byrder på firmaer, og samtidig gjøre det enklere for pasientene.

Etter hvert som volumet og hastigheten på data øker, har vi mulighet til å bruke nye maskinlæringsalgoritmer – som dyplæring. Det kan identifisere digitale biomarkører som vil kunne gi raskere og bedre utvikling av ny pasientbehandling.

–Hvorfor er EHiN en viktig møteplass for Norge?

EHiN er faglig relevant for OCC fordi IT-revolusjonen er i ferd med å slå inn på onkologi feltet. Persontilpasset medisin/behandling, genetikk og bruk av helsedata vil snart utvikle seg til et av de viktigste områdene innen “e-helse”. Dette er også et område som er av stor interesse for IT-bransjen (datalagring, analyse, machine learning, mønstergjenkjenning, kobling av ulike datakilder osv.).

Samtidig vil teknologien også få konsekvenser for den akademiske verden, samt den farmasøytiske delen av helsesektoren, og bidra med å legge rammene for hele verdikjeden i helseprosessene i tiårene fremover. EHiN ønsker, i samarbeid med OCC, å bygge Norge som en viktig internasjonal hub på området e-Helse ved å samle og vise frem ulike aktiviteter på konferansen og også i andre sammenhenger.

 

Meet the mentors

Read the questions and answers from when the students at Ullern Upper Secondary School met their mentors for the very first time.

In the middle of October, 32 students at the researcher program at Ullern Upper Secondary School got to meet their four mentors for the next year. After a short introduction, there were many questions from the students to the mentors. It took an hour and a half before their curiosity settled down and it was time for pizza.

Simone Mester: “I am a former student of Ullern Upper Secondary School and now I am doing a PhD in molecular biology. In the long term, I could imagine working in the private sector developing pharmaceuticals.”

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen: “I am a doctor and worked many years in Lofoten. After that, I worked some years as a surgeon in an emergency room, before I began working for a large German pharmaceutical company called Boehringer Ingelheim. Eight years ago, I became CEO for Ultimovacs. Ultimovacs are trying to develop the worlds first cancer vaccine.”

Jónas Einarsson: “I am a doctor, and did the first part of my medical degree on Iceland, because my grades weren’t the best. Then, I worked many years as a general practitioner in Lardal, before moving to Oslo and becoming the manager of the first private hospital in Norway. In parallel with this, I did a degree in economy and management at BI. Finally, I became the CEO of Radforsk, who among other things, initiated the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and this school collaboration.”

Bjørn Klem: Bjørn is the fourth mentor, but he was unfortunately ill during the first meeting. Janne Nestvold, Laboratory Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, came in his place. Nestvold has a PhD and has worked as a researcher for many years.

 

After the introductions, the teachers at the researcher program, Ragni Fet and Monica Flydal Jenstad held a short presentation of the upcoming work with the mentors.

Then, there were several questions from the audience.  We were really impressed by the amount and quality of the questions, that concerned both education, job opportunities and, research and development, which both Kongstun and Mester are a part of. The questions rained down and the answers came in a session that continued for over an hour and a half. You can read some of them below. Then it was time for some pizza and mingle.

The next time the students and the mentors will meet will be in the beginning of December. The students will meet in the mentors’ workplaces and see with their own eyes what they do on an everyday basis.

 

Questions and answers:

What kind of medical specialisation does Jónas and Øyvind have?

“We are both general practitioners and have not specialised. You do not have to.”

 

What kinds of jobs can you do after you are finished, Simone?

Simone: “I can do a postdoc to become a researcher in academia. I am still a student while I am doing my PhD, but I receive a salary. It is normal to do two postdocs, then you can become group leader or professor. I don’t think I will follow that route, I would much rather work in a private company or start something myself. I think that seems more exciting.”

Jónas: “Simone will get a job immediately in one of our companies if she wants it.”

 

Are there many developments every day to find a cancer vaccine?

Jónas: “It takes time, so the short answer is no.”

 

What is the greatest challenge with the cancer vaccine that Ultimovacs are developing?

Øyvind: “To make it work? A good and difficult question.”

Øyvind explained further about the development and testing of the vaccine at Ultimovacs.

 

What is your PhD about, Simone?

Simone: “I develop technology that prolongs the half-life of medicines. It is a patient-focused PhD, since it is a big inconvenience for the patient to take medicines often, but I hope we can succeed in prolonging the half-life so that patients can take the medicine once a week or once a month.”

 

What should one study if one wants to work with medical development or pharmaceutical development?

Jónas: “Molecular biology, physiology, IT, physics, chemistry, biology, statistics  – there are many opportunities.”

Øyvind: “In our company, we have physiologists, doctors, protein chemists, dentists and pharmacists working right now.”

 

When you went to upper secondary school, did you know that you would be doing what you do today?

Jónas: “I chose the natural science, but did not know anything else.”

Øyvind: “I only knew I wanted to study natural science.”

Simone: “I was thinking about studying a medical degree, but I am happy that I chose molecular biology.”

Janne: “I thought about becoming a researcher and thought it seemed exciting. You should absolutely think widely and not just the easiest solution when you are still in upper secondary school. You will benefit from that when you begin to study at university.”

 

Have you always been interested in biology, or was there something special you saw that made you excited about it? 

Jónas: “Yes, always.”

Øyvind: “Biology in itself is very fascinating. There is so much we do not know, like where memories are stored in the brain, for example. We know very little about how the body works, so that is very fascinating.”

 

The cancer vaccine you are developing, will it work against all cancers or only specific types of cancer?

Øyvind: “It will work to treat and protect against most cancer types.”

 

What did Bjørn do in PhotoCure, the company he worked for before becoming manager for Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator?

Jónas: “He was Head of Research. He is a very smart guy, and he has also worked a lot with the regulatory side.”

 

New report: Cancer in Norway 2018

Cancer Registry of Norway has released the report Cancer in Norway. These are the main points. 

Since the 1950s, Cancer Registry of Norway has published statistical reports of the cancer incidence in Norway almost annually. The past 14 editions of these reports can be found online on the Cancer Registry’s official report page.

In 2018, 34 190 new cancer cases were reported. In order to understand how cancer changes over time in the population, the Cancer Registry examines rates over five-year periods.

Differences between men and women

18 321 men were diagnosed with cancer in 2018.

These are the most common cancer types among men:

  • Prostate cancer, 27,9%
  • Lung cancer, 9,3%
  • Colon cancer, 7,9%
  • Cancer in the urinary tract, 6,9%
  • Skin cancer, non-melanoma, 6,1%

In men, the rates for all cancers combined have been stable. Rates for prostate and lung cancer are decreasing, and so are the rates for rectum cancer, while the trend for colon cancer points slightly upwards.

15 869 women were diagnosed with cancer in 2018.

These are the most common cancer types among women:

  • Breast cancer, 22,3%
  • Colon cancer, 10,1%
  • Lung cancer, 10,0%
  • Melanoma, 6,8%
  • Skin cancer, non-melanoma, 6,4%

There has been a 5,6% increase in the rates among women from the previous five-year period to the most recent one. This reflects increased rates of breast, colon, lung and skin cancer.

Cancer rates by immigrant group

This year the report Cancer in Norway presents cancer rates by immigrant group for the first time.

At the beginning of 2019 immigrants represented 14,3% of the Norwegian population. According to Statistics Norway, about 48% of the immigrants are from Europe, 14% from Africa and 34% from Asia, leaving another 4% from the rest of the world.

Immigrants from outside Europe tend to have lower cancer rates than people born in Norway, the report shows.

In the report foreword Giske Ursin, Director of Cancer Registry of Norway, writes:

“Cancer is predominantly a disease caused by western lifestyle and environment, and many immigrants bring with them a healthier lifestyle associated with lower cancer rates. We may all profit from learning and adapting to a healthier lifestyle.”

Although long-term trends among immigrants tend to be favourable, there are some noteworthy exceptions, according to the report. Immigrants from countries with high smoking prevalence, such as a number of the Eastern European countries, have higher rates of lung cancer.

Socioeconomic factors also matter

The special issue of the report goes in depth on rates among immigrants and also by socioeconomic factors. These factors also matter, according to Giske Ursin:

“We know that socioeconomic status plays a role for several cancers, and a key question is whether there are independent effects linked to income, education and immigrant status. We therefore examine all three factors. We found that a number of cancers are more common among those who have short education or low income. However, we found that the differences between immigrant groups remain after adjustment for socioeconomic factors.”

This information can be used to reduce cancer risk, according to the Cancer Registry – but one size does not fit all in terms of prevention. Ursin writes:

“We need a more targeted approach if we are to prevent cancer in all population subgroups at higher risk of cancer.”

Read the report

  • Cancer in Norway 2018 – Cancer incidence, mortality, survival and prevalence in Norway is available in a printed version. The report is free of charge, and can be ordered by sending an email to kreftregisteret@kreftregisteret.no
  • Or download the report, in English and Norwegian, from the website of the Cancer Registry of Norway
  • The special issue part about immigrants and socioeconomic factors is only available in Norwegian for the time being

 

Among Europe’s finest 

OCC Incubator was recently rated among the top 20 European biotech incubators. Here’s why!

Every year, the biotech website Labiotech makes a top 20 list of the best biotech incubators in Europe. Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Incubator is the only Norwegian incubator on the list this year, together with well established incubators in Belgium, Switzerland, Great Britain, Germany, Sweden and other European countries.

Labiotech.eu is the leading digital media covering the European biotech industry, with over 150,000 visitors every month.

Size and relevance matters

We asked Clara Rodríguez Fernández, Senior Reporter in Labiotech, about the selection criteria. She replied:

“We aim to include the most relevant incubators across different European countries. We selected those based on their size and relevance within their country’s biotech ecosystem and also based on feedback from the industry contacts we sent our preliminary list to.”

See the full top 20 list on labiotech.eu.  

Means a lot in Norway

In Norway, the list has attracted attention.

“This means a lot. We have a strong and attractive ecosystem around Oslo Cancer Cluster on research and commercialization of pharmaceuticals. The latest success story is the tech company OncoImmunity that was bought by the tech giant NEC this summer.” Håkon Haugli, CEO Innovation Norway

Read more about NEC OncoImmunity in this news story.

Håkon Haugli continues:

“We also recognize that Norway, through Oslo Cancer Cluster, is positioned very well for the European Union’s next big endeavour, ‘Missions’, which will be launched next year. Cancer is one of five focus areas, which the European Union will channel considerable project resources into, to resolve one of our time’s big societal problems.”

The European Union has defined five research and innovation mission areas, inspired by the Apollo 11 mission to put a man on the moon. The missions aim to deliver solutions to some of the greatest challenges facing our world, such as cancer, climate change, healthy oceans, climate-neutral cities and healthy soil and food.

You can read more about the European research and innovation missions on this official website.

A boost of motivation

For OCC Incubator, being on the top 20 list is a nice boost of motivation. Bjørn Klem, General Manager OCC Incubator, puts it this way: 

“We are excited about being rated among the best biotech incubators in Europe. It motivates us to become the most attractive space for innovations in the field of cancer!” 

 

Want to read more about biotech incubators and start-up opportunities? 

 

ThermoFisher Scientific Norway lectures students at Ullern

A peak into the cancer research world

Ullern Upper Secondary School is unique, because it shares its building with world-class cancer researchers. Last month, all new Ullern students got to experience this first-hand.

This year’s School Collaboration Days in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park were held right before the autumn holiday. All the first-year classes at Ullern Upper Secondary School were given a guided tour around the Innovation Park to get to know the companies that they share their everyday lives with.

The purpose of the School Collaboration Days is to give the first-year students at Ullern Upper Secondary School an understanding of what the different companies in the Innovation Park and departments of Oslo University Hospital do.

The common denominator for all of them is cancer and many are developing new cancer treatments. While the Cancer Registry of Norway are collecting statistics and doing cancer research, Sykehusapotekene (Southern and Eastern Norway Pharmaceutical Trust) produce chemotherapy and antibodies for patients that are admitted to The Norwegian Radium Hospital and the Department of Pathology (Oslo University Hospital) gives the cancer patients their diagnoses.

 

IN PICTURES

The student guided tours of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

Jonas Einarsson lecturing to students at Ullern

True to tradition, Jónas Einarsson, CEO of the evergreen fund Radforsk, opened the School Collaboration Days in Kaare Norum auditorium with a common lecture. In this image, Einarsson is talking about the development of the Montebello area, which Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park is a part of. The first Radium Hospital was opened in 1932 and the following year Ullern School was moved from Bestum to the same place that houses Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park today.

 

Kreftregisteret lecturing to students at Ullern.

Elisabeth Jakobsen, Head of Communications of the Cancer Registry of Norway, tells the first year students about what they do and the risk factors for developing cancer. Also, she asked the students several questions about how to regulate the sales of tobacco, e-cigarettes and many other things.

 

Thor Audun Saga is the CEO of Syklotronsenteret (“the Norwegian medical cyclotron centre”). He told the students about what they do, what a cyclotron is and how they use cyclotrons to develop cancer diagnostics.

 

ThermoFisher Scientific Norway lectures students at Ullern

The management of Thermo Fisher Scientific Norway are also housed in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. They told the students about the Norwegian invention called “Ugelstadkulene”. This is both the starting point for million of diagnostic tests across the world and revolutionary (CAR T) cancer treatments, 45 years after they were invented.

 

Students guided through the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator Laboratory

The tour was ended with a walk through the laboratory of the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. The students were given an inside look at the work done and instruments used by the cancer researchers in the lab. This area is only one or two floors above their regular class rooms. The student could see first-hand the opportunities there are in pursuing a career in research, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Torbjörn Furuseth, Targovax

New clinical trial at Oslo University Hospital

Our member Targovax has announced a new clinical trial for skin cancer patients at Oslo University Hospital.

The second part of a clinical trial for patients with refractory advanced melanoma (a type of skin cancer) will take place at Oslo University Hospital.

“We are excited that we can offer this treatment alternative to patients in our home country, and hopefully it will help us to recruit more patients faster,” said Torbjørn Furuseth, Chief Financial Officer, Targovax.

Targovax is a Norwegian biotech company that develops oncolytic viruses called ONCOS-102 to destroy cancer cells. The treatment is targeted towards solid tumours that are especially hard to treat. The ultimate goal is to activate the patient’s immune system to fight cancer.

Promising results

“The trial is until now conducted at three top hospitals in the US, where competition for patients to clinical trials is high. Oslo University Hospital is also a great cancer center, and currently there are no trials offered to this patient population,” said Furuseth.

Three out of nine patients responded to the treatment during the first part of the clinical trial. This included one complete response and two partial responses.

Dr. Magnus Jäderberg, CMO of Targovax, said: “It is promising to see this level of clinical responses after only three ONCOS-102 injections, including a complete response, which is rare in this heavily pre-treated patient population.”

A forceful combination

The treatment involves a combination of an oncolytic virus and an anti-PD1 checkpoint inhibitor.

The oncolytic virus is a modified virus that has been developed to selectively attack and kill cancer cells. You can read more about the oncolytic viruses on Targovax’s official website.

The anti-PD1 checkpoint inhibitor disrupts the interaction between proteins on the surface of cancer cells. This stops the cancer from evading the immune system.

“Earlier this year, we decided to expand the trial to test a more intensified schedule of ONCOS-102, and it will be interesting to see whether this regimen can generate more and deeper clinical responses,” said Dr. Alexander Shoushtari, Principal Investigator, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, New York.

The second part of the clinical trial is currently enrolling new patients.

 

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Mer til e-helse og sykehus

I Statsbudsjettet 2020 foreslår regjeringen flere temaer som er relevante for Oslo Cancer Cluster, blant annet å øke investeringer i e-helseløsninger, satse mer på sykehusene og utvide opsjonsskatteordningen for små oppstartsselskap. Men det står lite konkret om kreft.

– Helse og omsorg har stor plass i budsjettet også til neste år, sa finansminister Siv Jensen i finanstalen hun leverte fra Stortingets talerstol 7. oktober 2019.

Jensen ramset deretter opp satsingsområdene som regjeringen har på helse i Statsbudsjettet 2020:

  • mer moderne sykehus med ny teknologi og nye behandlingsformer, flere fastleger og legespesialister
  • oppfylle opptrappingsplanen for rusfeltet 
  • kortere ventetid for pasienter ved sykehusene
  • bedre omsorgstjenester

Du kan lese hele finanstalen på regjeringens nettside.

Lite konkret om kreft

Statsbudsjettet 2020 nevner lite konkret om kreft, faktisk bare to punkter.

  1. Regjeringen foreslår å øke bevilgningene til nasjonalt screeningprogram for tarmkreft med 24,7 millioner kroner i 2020. Det blir en samlet bevilgning på om lag 97 millioner kroner.
  2. Radiumhospitalet skal videreutvikles som et spesialisert kreftsykehus. Dette nevnes i omtalen av den planlagte sykehusomleggingen i Oslo.

Kliniske studier nevnes ikke spesifikt i Statsbudsjettet 2020.

100 millioner til Gaustad og Aker

Regjeringen foreslår at 100 millioner kroner går til nye sykehus på Aker og Gaustad i Oslo. Samtidig foreslås en låneramme på 29,1 milliarder kroner til prosjektet. Det skal legge til rette for at Helse Sør-Øst og Oslo universitetssykehus kan gå i gang med prosjektering og bygging av et nytt, stort akuttsykehus på Aker og et samlet og komplett regionsykehus inkludert lokalsykehusfunksjoner på Gaustad.

I tillegg foreslås en lånebevilgning til universitetsarealer ved det nye sykehuset i Stavanger.

Satsing på e-helse

Regjeringen foreslår et løft for den nasjonale e-helseutviklingen, med 373 millioner kroner. Dette skal få opp tempoet på digitaliseringen i helsetjenesten og legge til rette for å utnytte norske helsedata bedre.

– Norge har omfattende og verdifulle helsedata som er bygget opp over lang tid. Regjeringen ønsker å gjøre disse lettere tilgjengelig for forskere og andre som har behov for å analysere helsedata. Helseanalyseplattformen vil kutte ned på unødvendig byråkrati og tidstyver. Regjeringen foreslår å øke bevilgningen med 131 millioner kroner, sier helseminister Bent Høie i en pressemelding om temaet.

Regjeringen vil også etablere et «standardisert språk», et kodeverk og terminologi i helse- og omsorgssektoren, for å bedre pasientsikkerhet og skape mer samhandling.

Til sist vil regjeringen øke bevilgningene til modernisering av Folkeregisteret i helse- og omsorgssektoren og til forvaltning og drift av de nasjonale e-helseløsningene kjernejournal, e-resept, helsenorge.no, grunndata og helseID.

Pressemeldingen om satsingen på e-helse kan du lese på regjeringens nettside.

Les mer om prioriteringer i budsjettforslaget for Helse og omsorgsdepartemente på side 25 i Statsbudsjettet 2020. 

Dobbelt opsjonsfordel for start-ups

Regjeringen vil utvide ordningen for gunstig skattemessig behandling av opsjoner i små oppstartsselskaper. Maksimal opsjonsfordel per ansatt dobles fra 500 000 kroner til en million kroner. Regjeringen foreslår også å utvide ordningen til å omfatte flere selskap.

I tillegg til at opsjonsfordelen dobles, økes maksimalt antall ansatte i selskap som kan være i ordningen fra 10 til 12. Det gjør at flere små selskap kan benytte ordningen.

Opsjonsskatteordningen for små oppstartsselskap ble innført fra 2018. Under denne ordningen kan ansatte få opsjoner som gir rett til å kjøpe aksjer i selskapet til en fastsatt pris. Ordningen innebærer blant annet at skatteplikten på opsjonene utsettes salg av aksjene kjøpt ved hjelp av opsjonene. Denne skatteutsettelsen er begrenset til en maksimal opsjonsfordel, som nå foreslås doblet.

Utvidelsene må godkjennes av ESA før de kan tre i kraft. Regjeringen opplyser at den jobber for at endringene vil bli godkjent før nyttår, slik at de kan gjelde fra 1. januar 2020.

Flere relevante temaer i Statsbudsjettet

  • Skattefunn: Regjeringen foreslår endringer i Skattefunn-ordningen som skal stimulere næringslivet til å investere enda mer i forskning og utvikling (FoU). Forslagene øker den årlige Skattefunn-støtten med 150 millioner kroner fra 2020. Samtidig foreslår regjeringen flere tiltak som gir bedre kontroll med ordningen. Les mer om skattefunnforslaget på regjeringens nettside.  
  • Protonsenter: 26 millioner foreslås til protonsenter i 2020.
  • Fastlegene: Regjeringen foreslår å bruke om lag 350 millioner kroner til å styrke og videreutvikle fastlegeordningen. De varsler flere tiltak for å styrke ordningen i en handlingsplan som skal komme våren 2020.
  • Legespesialisering: Regjeringen foreslår 10 millioner kroner til allmennleger i spesialisering (ALIS)-kontor i Bodø, Trondheim, Bergen, Kristiansand og Hamar. Tilskuddet gis for å bistå kommuner i regionen til å planlegge, etablere, inngå og følge opp ALIS-avtaler.
  • Statsbudsjettet 2020 er på 1 414,6 milliarder kroner. Staten forventer å tjene 245 milliarder kroner på olje– og gassvirksomheten til neste år.
  • Du kan fordype deg i Statsbudsjettet 2020 på regjeringens temaside.

Educating the cancer researchers of tomorrow

Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster are paving the way for students to become the researchers of the future.

A new program has been launched this autumn for Ullern students who wish to learn how researchers work. It will qualify students for university studies and specialise them in biomedical research, technology and innovation. It is the only researcher program for upper secondary school in Norway.

“The researcher program at Ullern will be a place where students are encouraged and guided to become independent students, with a need to explore, an understanding of methods and a desire to learn,” said Ragni Fet, teacher at Ullern Upper Secondary School. “They will learn to gather good and reliable information, they will do research in practice through varied experiments, and they will gain real insight into job opportunities in the research industry.”

The program is a joint initiative between Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School, who have been collaborating since 2009. This has offered students in the natural sciences, health, media and electricity special opportunities to learn science subjects outside a traditional classroom setting.

“The purpose of launching a researcher program at Ullern Upper Secondary School is to recruit the researchers, scientists and entrepreneurs of the future,” said Bente Prestegård, Project Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster. “We know that these jobs are needed, and we want to teach students about what it means to be a researcher or entrepreneur. With better insight into the professions, the students will be able to make a safe career choice.”

 

With a passion for science

About 30 students have already begun this unique program at Ullern Upper Secondary School. One of them is Henrikke Thrane-Steen Røkke.

“I chose the researcher program because I personally enjoy studying the natural sciences and innovation, and I wanted more of those subjects. I had entrepreneurship as an elective at secondary school and thought it was a lot of fun. I think it seemed very exciting and wanted to learn more,” Henrikke explained. “I hope I can gain insight into what it is like to work as a researcher. I hope we can see and experience a lot of it in practice and to work in depth with some subjects in certain areas.”

The program is especially well suited for students with an interest in the natural sciences, such as Peder Nerland Hellesylt, who also recently begun the program.

“I applied to this program because I have always had an interest for the natural sciences and mathematics,” Peder said. ”I think this program is very interesting because we aren’t just sitting and writing, but get practical tasks too, for example experiments.”

 

Mixing theory with practice

Ullern Upper Secondary School is located right next to The Norwegian Radium Hospital, The Institute for Cancer Research, The Norwegian Cancer Registry and the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, with its over 30 big and small companies. The students are therefore never far from world class researchers. This offers the unique opportunity to take advantage of the co-localisation and use mentors from the research milieu in the teaching.

“Through the collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster, we will obtain external lecturers to the class rooms; bring the students to multiple, exciting innovation companies and laboratories; and the students will attempt real research experiments themselves. We are raising the level and are ambitious for the sake of the students,” Ragni Fet said.

 

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Forward-looking session on cancer precision medicine

Emerging therapies, digital solutions and AI were central topics when international experts met during the oncology session at the Nordic Life Science Days 2019.

Oslo Cancer Cluster hosted the session on oncology titled “Cancer precision medicine: State-of-the-art and future directions” at the Nordic Life Science Days this year. The session covered recent advances in cancer immunotherapy and cell- and gene therapies. International experts met to discuss how big data, artificial intelligence and digital solutions are changing drug development, diagnostics and patient care.

 

AI revolutionizing cancer research

Dr. Mark Swindells on artificial intelligence and drug discovery.

Mark Swindells on artificial intelligence and drug discovery.

Mark Swindells, PhD, COO Exscientia, presented how artificial intelligence is changing and driving drug discovery now.

“On average 2 500 compounds need to be synthesized and tested to develop a candidate molecule for clinical trials. We want to apply AI to this artisan area of drug discovery. By reducing the amount of compounds synthesized and tested, we will reduce the overall cost and time to get drugs to market,” Swindells said.

This is a fast moving area and one of the examples of technical innovation Swindells gave was Exscientia’s Active Learning algorithms, which have been benchmarked to work as well as – and in some cases better than – the most successful humans.

In the area of precision oncology, Swindells said: “We are particularly interested in the acquisition of resistance in oncology as an area where our technology could be applied.”

 

Kaisa Helminen, CEO Aiforia, focussed on how the use of artificial intelligence can make image analysis more accurate and efficient.

Dr. Kaisa Helminen on artificial intelligence and image analysis.

Kaisa Helminen on artificial intelligence and image analysis.

“Due to the ageing population, more samples need to be analysed and many countries suffer from serious shortage of pathologists. Many patients are left waiting for their diagnosis and treatment. Manual, visual image analysis is slow and highly subjective. There is a risk for misdiagnosis, which can be dramatic for the patient and costly for the healthcare system.”

Aiforia has built an AI platform that supports medical experts in diagnostics.

“For the first time we are bringing AI tools for doctors’ use, so they can easily create their own AI algorithms,” Helminen explained. “Instead of visually estimating something from samples, we bring accurate, numerical information. AI algorithms are consistent from day to day, week to week, removing the human error component,”

We are bringing AI tools for doctors’ use.

 

Marko Kuisma, Chief Commercial Officer at Kaiku Health, then presented a new digital platform for better patient monitoring, using machine learning tools.

Marko Kuisma on digital tools for better patient monitoring.

Scientific evidence demonstrates that patients who use a digital symptom monitoring solution have an overall survival benefit, experience improved quality of life and go through less visits to the emergency room and hospitalisations.

“The traditional interventions that clinicians make are reactive and come with a delay,” Kuisma explained. “With digital symptom monitoring, interventions are still reactive, but more timely, because you can detect the symptoms early on. When applying machine learning, we make that monitoring proactive and predictive, taking action before symptoms and adverse effects develop.”

“… taking action before symptoms and adverse effects develop.”

 

Identifying gene mutations

Jørn Skibsted Jakobsen Md. Ph.D.,Vice president Science and Medicine TA Urology/Uro-Oncology, Global Clinical Research and Development, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, introduced emerging gene therapies to treat non muscle invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) bladder cancer.

Jørn Skibsted Jakobsen on a radical new gene therapy.

Jørn Skibsted Jakobsen on a radical new gene therapy.

If a NMIBIC patient doesn’t respond to BCG (a type of immunotherapy drug), a cystectomy is still considered the gold standard treatment. This involves surgically removing all or parts of the urinary bladder, creation of a urinary diversion using a piece of the small intestine and leads to a significantly decreased quality of life for the patient.

Jakobsen introduced a new gene therapy to treat NMIBC patients that are unresponsive to BCG treatment.

“Early research suggests mutations in the surrounding tissue of the tumour potentially predict the subsequent recurrence of the disease,” Jakobsen said. “What if we were able to identify those mutations? And then create a personalised gene-based antibody directed at identified mutations. You could potentially treat patients before the recurring disease.”

“You could potentially treat patients before the recurring disease …”

 

Novel targets and pathways

Carl Borrebaeck, Professor, Lund University, and Kristian Pietras, Professor of Molecular Medicine, Lund University presented L2CancerBridge, a collaboration between the Swiss Centre of Lausanne and Lund University. They are exploring a new model for translational research in breast cancer and tumour immunology.

Carl Borrebaeck introduced L2CancerBridge.

Carl Borrebaeck introduced L2CancerBridge.

The tumor immunology team in Lausanne is focused on identifying novel targets on immunoregulatory cells as T cells and dendritic cells, with the goal of identifying new targets for CAR-T cells. The breast cancer team is focused on studies of tumour cells and their microenvironment with the goal to identify signalling pathways.

“We have been able to find signalling pathways between malignant cells and connective tissue,” Pietras said.

These pathways are crucial for basal-like breast cancer, the most aggressive breast cancer subtype, and block the development of resistance to endocrine therapy. Blocking them allows the use of effective endocrine therapies in cancers that previously did not have any targeted treatment options.

 

Gaspar Taroncher-Oldenburg, PhD; Editor-at-Large, Nature Publishing Group, moderated the session for the second year in a row.

“I have been impressed by how much thought both co-hosts of the event—Jutta Heix from the Oslo Cancer Cluster and Carl Borrebaeck from Lund University—put into weaving together a compelling story that is timely and relevant, both locally and globally.” Taroncher-Oldenburg said.

“Of course, much of the credit for the session being successful goes to the panelists, who again this year captured the audience’s attention through a combination of intriguing presentations and a dynamic roundtable discussion that broadly illustrated different aspects–present and future—of precision medicine in oncology.”

“A compelling story that is timely and relevant, both locally and globally.”

Norway for life science

The biggest key players from the life science industry in Norway came together in Malmö with a common goal: to promote Norwegian life science and build Nordic collaboration.

The life science industry in Norway is booming and collaboration across Nordic borders is of increasing importance. That is why Oslo Cancer Cluster arranged the stand “Norway for Life Science” this year at the Nordic Life Science Days in Malmö.

Among the participants of the stand were governmental institutions, cluster organisations, private companies and academic institutions.

 

Promoting collaboration

On Wednesday, a delegation from the Norwegian Embassy in Sweden attended for an informal meet and greet with the Norwegian life science milieu. This was an excellent opportunity to share knowledge about Nordic cooperation and to strengthen joint activities within the life sciences.

See the video with Kirsten Hammelbo, Minister / Deputy Head of Mission, Norwegian Embassy below.

 

Standing together

The participants of the stand were altogether positive about the initiative and agreed it was a constructive platform to build new relationships. We asked some of the participants the same question: Why is it important for you to be here at NLS days?

“Our main focus here at NLS Days is Nordic collaboration, both public and private, to promote the life science industry.”
Catherine Capdeville, Senior Adviser, Innovation Norway

“It is important to follow what is happening in the industry and in other innovation environments. We are here to nurture our existing contacts and find new partners.”
Morten Egeberg, Administrative leader, UiO Life Science

“Firstly, it is important to show that Norway stands together. This is a significant meeting place. We consider the Nordic countries to be our home market, so we try to present what we do here. It is important for one actor to take responsibility, like Oslo Cancer Cluster does, so that we can collectively gather here.”
Anita Moe Larsen, Head of Communication, Norway Health Tech

“In the long term, we have research projects where we are looking for contacts in the life science industry – both partners of collaboration and potential clients. We are here to promote the centre and let everyone know that we exist.”
Alexandra Patriksson, Senior Adviser, Centre for Digital Life

“We are here to strengthen our collaboration with the best research environments in neuroscience. We want to show that the health industry in Norway is growing and what we can do when we stand together.”
Bjarte Reve, CEO, Nansen Neuroscience Network

“We are happy to contribute to make Norwegian life sciences visible and to show what Norway can offer as a host country, and attract potential investors and collaborating partners in research and innovation. And especially to make visible and be a part of the Norwegian community in this field. It is unusual in Norway that so many different players, both public and private, stand together in one stand – with one common goal.”
Espen Snipstad, Communications Manager, LMI

 

Full list of partners:

 

Smartfish with clinical study results

A new clinical study indicates that medical nutrition can improve overall survival in lung cancer patients. 

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Smartfish AS presented the results from a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial in the beginning of September. It evaluated one of the company’s medical nutrition products in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer (the most common type of lung cancer) suffering from cachexia.


Cachexia is a complex wasting syndrome, known to have a negative impact on clinical outcomes in patients with cancer and several other chronic diseases.


It is characterised by an ongoing loss of muscle and weight, that eventually can kill the patient.


The results show that the nutrition has a favorable safety profile and indicate a number of positive effects on clinical outcome, for instance that the patients who received the nutrition experienced numerically fewer adverse events from their chemotherapy treatments than the comparator group.

The clinical study

In the pilot study, lung cancer patients who received the nutrition while being pre-cachectic had a statistically significant higher survival after 12 months from baseline compared to the comparator group. 56 patients from 16 clinical sites in Sweden, Italy, Slovakia and Croatia were randomized to receive either Smartfish’s medical nutrition product or a milk-based isocaloric drink.

“This study shows the potential of Remune as an important enhancer of standard cancer care and clinical data like this helps to build awareness of what targeted medical nutrition can do for patients. We are encouraged to continue our research and development to ensure that the best possible nutrition is delivered to the patients who need it.” Geir Harstad, CEO of Smartfish

The medical nutrition product that was tested is called Remune, and is a juice-based drink produced with a proprietary emulsion technology containing unique high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D and whey protein.

The study was recently published online in the journal Nutrition and Cancer and can be read following this link: “Safety and Tolerability of Targeted Medical Nutrition for Cachexia in Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Pilot Trial” .

About Smartfish AS

Smartfish AS is active in the research, development, production and marketing of advanced and clinically documented nutritional drinks within medical nutrition and sports nutrition. All Smartfish products are produced on its proprietary juice-based emulsion technology platform with the marine DHA and EPA fatty acids as important ingredients. Smartfish has a number of ongoing clinical development projects and studies in close collaboration with researchers and institutions both in Norway and internationally. The company was founded in 2001 and is located in Oslo, Norway and Lund, Sweden. Smartfish’s main shareholders are Investinor (Norway) and Industrifonden (Sweden). For more information, visit SmartFish official website.

For more information about the study and the company, please contact Jens Nordahl, VP Sales & Marketing, tel +47 996 299 99.

The company’s press release can be read as a PDF in this link.

 

Debate from Arendalsuka

Together for precision medicine

During Arendalsuka 2019, we arranged a breakfast meeting on the development of cancer treatments of the future, together with LMI and Kreftforeningen.

Arendalsuka has become an important arena for those who want to improve aspects of Norwegian society. We were there this year to meet key players to accelerate the development of cancer treatments.

Our main event of the week was a collaboration with Legemiddelindustrien (LMI) and The Norwegian Cancer Society (Kreftforeningen). We wanted to highlight the cancer treatments of the future and whether Norway is equipped to keep up with the rapid developments in precision medicine. (Read a summary of the event in Norwegian on LMI’s website)

First speaker, Line Walen (LMI), presented the problems with the traditional system for approving new treatments in face of precision medicine.

The second presenter, Kjetil Taskén (Oslo University Hospital), introduced their new plan at Oslo University Hospital to implement precision medicine.

Then, Steinar Aamdal (University of Oslo) talked about what we can learn from Denmark when implementing precision medicine.

Lastly, Ole Aleksander Opdalshei (Norwegian Cancer Society) highlighted a new proposal for legislation from the government.

The exciting program was followed by a lively discussion between both politicians and cancer experts.

There was general agreement in the panel that developments are not happening fast enough and that the Norwegian health infrastructure and system for approving new treatments is not prepared to handle precision medicine, even though cancer patients need it immediately.

The panelists proposed some possible solutions:

  • Better collaboration and public-private partnerships between the health industry and the public health sector.
  • More resources to improve the infrastructure for clinical trials, with both staff, equipment and financial incentives.
  • Better use of the Norwegian health data registries.

After the debate, we interviewed a few of the participants and attendees. We asked: which concrete measures are needed for Norway to get going with precision medicine?

Watch the six-minute video below (in Norwegian) to find out what they said. (Turn up the sound)

 

Did you miss the meeting? View the whole video below on YouTube (in Norwegian).

 

Full list of participants:

  • Wenche Gerhardsen, Head of Communications, Oslo Cancer Cluster (Moderator)
  • Line Walen, Senior Adviser, LMI
  • Kjetil Taskén, director Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital
  • Steinar Aamdal, professor emeritus, University of Oslo
  • Ole Aleksander Opdalshei, assisting general secretary, The Norwegian Cancer Society
  • Marianne Synnes (H), politician
  • Geir Jørgen Bekkevold (KrF), politician
  • Tuva Moflag (Ap), politician
  • Per Morten Sandset, vice principal for Innovation, University of Oslo
  • Audun Hågå, Director Norwegian Medicines Agency

 

Thank you to all participants and attendees!

The next event in this meeting series will take place in Oslo in the beginning of next year. More information will be posted closer to the event.

We hope to see you again!

 

Organisers:

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsors:

 

 

 

 

 

Immunitrack

New tool to improve cancer vaccines receives funding

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Immunitrack has been awarded a grant from Eurostars to develop their prediction tool for cancer vaccines.

Immunitrack is a biotech company that develops software, which predicts immune responses and assesses new cancer vaccines.

Developing a new vaccine can be a lengthy and expensive process, with a high risk of failure. One key to success is being able to predict how the patient’s immune system will react, so drug developers can bring forth therapies that mobilize the immune system to fight the disease. Immunitrack’s tools can help developers predict the impact of a new drug on the patient’s immune system, before entering clinical trials.

Eurostars supports international innovative projects and is co-funded by Eureka member countries and the European Union Horizon 2020 framework programme. The funding will be used by Immunitrack over a 24-month period for the ImmuScreen Project, to develop a new prediction tool. It will both improve how cancer vaccines work and how to track patients’ immune responses.

“This Eurostar project will give additional momentum to the ongoing development of a best in class neo-epitope prediction tool, PrDx TM, by Immunitrack,” says Sune Justesen, CSO at Immunitrack.

Immunitrack will receive a total of approximately €750 000 from Eurostars, together with the Centre for Cancer Immune Therapy (CCIT), based in Herley, Denmark. CCIT aims to bridge the gap between research discovery and clinical implementation of treatments in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

“The collaboration with the Danish Cancer Center for Immune Therapy, is certainly an important step in validating and implementing PrDx, in the immune therapy treatment of cancer patients,” says Sune Justesen, CSO at Immunitrack.

Immunitrack will handle the software development, while CCIT performs the in vitro validation. The clinical validation will be carried out in melanoma patients. The results will help to characterize immune responses and help to understand why some tumours are immune to novel cancer vaccines.

 

Norwegian AI-based cancer research gets a boost

The Japanese tech giant NEC Corporation has acquired OncoImmunity AS, a Norwegian bioinformatics company that develops machine learning software to fight cancer.

This week, Oslo Cancer Cluster member OncoImmunity AS was bought by the Japanese IT and network company NEC Corporation. The company is now a subsidiary of NEC and operates under the name of NEC OncoImmunity AS. NEC has recently launched an artificial intelligence driven drug discovery business and stated in a press release that NEC OncoImmunity AS will be integral in developing NEC’s immunotherapy pipeline.

 

AI meets precision medicine

One of the great challenges when treating cancer today is to identify the right treatment for the right patient. Each cancer tumour is unique, and every patient has their own biological markers. So, how can doctors predict which therapy will work on which patient?

NEC OncoImmunity AS develops software to identify neoantigen targets for truly personalized cancer vaccines, cell therapies and optimal patient selection for cancer immunotherapy clinical trials. Neoantigen targets are parts of a protein that are unique to a patient’s specific tumor, and can be presented by the tumor to trigger the patient’s immune system to attack and potentially eradicate the tumor.

“The exciting field of personalized medicine is moving fast and becoming increasingly competitive. The synergy with NEC Corporation will allow us to make our technology even more accurate and competitive, as we can leverage NEC’s expertise in AI and software development and enable OI to deploy our technology on scale in the clinic due to their expertise in networks and cyber security,” said Dr. Trevor Clancy, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder.

“This acquisition gives us the opportunity to be a world leading player in this field and serve our Norwegian and international clients with improved and secure prediction technology in the medium to long term,” said Dr. Richard Stratford, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder.

 

The rise to success

OncoImmunity was founded in 2014 and has been a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster since the early days of the start up. The co-founders Dr. Trevor Clancy and Dr. Richard Stratford said the cluster has been instrumental to their success and thanks the team for their advice and support from the very beginning of their journey:

“It is crucial with a technology like ours that we interact with commercial companies active in drug development, research, clinical projects, investors and other partners. Oslo Cancer Cluster is the perfect ecosystem in that regard as it provides the company with the networking and partnering opportunities that in effect support our science, technological and commercial developments.”

Mr. Anders Tuv, Investment Director of Radforsk, has been responsible for managing the sales process in relation to the Japanese group NEC Corporation on behalf of the shareholders. The shareholders are happy with the transaction and the value creation that was realised through it. Mr. Tuv commented:

“It is a huge recognition that such a global player as NEC sees the value of the product and expertise that have been developed in OncoImmunity AS and buys the company to strengthen their own investments in and development of AI-driven cancer treatment. It is also a recognition of what Norway is achieving in the field of cancer research, and it shows that Radforsk has what it takes to develop early-phase companies into significant global positions within the digital/AI-driven part of the industry. We believe that NEC will be a good owner going forward, and we wish the enterprise the very best in its future development.”

 

Medicine is becoming digital

NEC OncoImmunity AS is now positioned to become a front runner in the design of personalized immunotherapy driven by artificial intelligence. Dr. Trevor Clancy said that NEC and OncoImmunity share the common vision that medicine is becoming increasingly digital and that AI will play a key role in shaping future drug development:

“Both organizations believe strongly that personalized cancer immunotherapy will bring curative power to cancer patients, and this commitment from NEC is highlighted by the recent launch of their drug discovery business. The acquisition now means that both companies can execute on their vision and be a powerful force internationally to deliver true personalized medicine driven by AI.”

 

For more information, please visit the official websites of NEC Corporations and NEC OncoImmunity AS 

 

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Cross-border courses in the Nordics

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator collaborates with partners in Sweden, Norway and Finland to help life science professionals learn from their neighbours.

“Life science is a global business and cross-border collaboration is important, in particular for small countries in the Nordics” says Bjørn Klem, manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Bjørn Klem, manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Bjørn Klem, manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Together with partners from three different professional sectors in three countries, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator recently received €75,000 in project funding over two years from the Nordplus Programme.

Digital competences

Nordplus is the Nordic Council of Ministers’ most important programme in the area of lifelong learning. On its webpage, Nordplus writes that more than 10,000 people in the Nordic and Baltic region benefit from the programme every year.

In 2019 and 2020, Nordplus welcomes applications on digital competences and computational thinking.

Innovation and competition

Bjørn Klem hopes that the project will benefit both Nordic innovation and competition.

“The outcome of this project should be to share educational resources to increase competence in the Nordic innovation environments. This will make innovation in life science more competitive in the global market.” Bjørn Klem

The Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry in Norway (LMI), one of the five partners in the project, also stresses the importance of Nordic collaboration for the life science industry. Marie Svendsen Aase, project coordinator LMI, puts it this way: 

“We see Nordic cooperation as an essential value to the medical development that is now taking place with both personalised medicine and building a life science industry across the Nordic countries.”

Learning across the region

The project will make continuous learning for life science professionals, specifically in pharmaceuticals and medical devices, easier by facilitating courses and material digitally. At the same time, the project aims to adapt national courses to a Nordic and Baltic audience.  

A course plan will be made in 2019.

The five partners in the project are:

  • Swedish Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • Swedish Pharmaceutical Industry Association
  • Pharmaceutical Information Centre in Finland
  • The Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry in Norway (LMI)
  • Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator

Meet our new members

Oslo Cancer Cluster proudly presents the new members that have joined our organisation during the second quarter of 2019.

The new members represent a valuable addition to our non-profit member organisation, which encompasses the whole oncology value chain. By being a part of Oslo Cancer Cluster, our members are connected to a global network with many relevant key players in the cancer research field. Our members contribute to this unique ecosystem and ensure the development of innovative cancer treatments to improve patients’ lives.

 

theradex logo

 

Theradex Oncology

Theradex Oncology provides global clinical development services exclusively to companies developing new cancer treatments. The company has a strong emphasis on early drug development. It provides regulatory and medical support for companies taking cancer treatments into clinical development in the US and Europe.

Theradex Oncology staff has participated in educational events at Oslo Cancer Cluster for a number of years. This is how they became familiar with the cluster.

“Oslo Cancer Cluster provides a unique opportunity to share knowledge with other professionals dedicated to developing new cancer treatments.” Meg Valnoski, President Theradex Oncology

Meg Valnoski explains how the company has been supporting the development of cancer treatments for over 30 years and experienced the advancements in cancer treatments over that time.

 “We are always working to expand our knowledge and experience in cancer drug development to support our partnerships with companies developing new therapies for cancer treatment.”

Catapult Life Science

Catapult Life Science is a centre established to bridge the gap between the lab and the industry, providing infrastructure, equipment and expertise for product development and industrialisation in Norway. It has been formed as a result of joint efforts from a range of different players with a common goal of enabling more industrialisation of life science research in Norway, truly what the Norwegians call a dugnad.

“We see Oslo Cancer Cluster as a key partner for realising our purpose, which is to create new opportunities for product development and industrialisation in Norway.” Astrid Hilde Myrset, CEO Catapult Life Science

Myrset adds:

“Our vision is ‘Bringing science to life’, which implies enabling new ideas to a be developed in Norway for new employment in the pharma industry, new growth in the Norwegian economy, and last but not least, new products to the market, enabling a longer and healthier life for patients.”

 

This post is part of a series of articles, which will introduce the new members of our organisation every three months.

  • To find out who else is involved in Oslo Cancer Cluster, view the full list of members
  • Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our newsletter to always stay up to date!

 

New board members

We are happy to welcome three new members to the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Find out what they had to say about entering their new positions.

Per Morten Sandset

Per Morten Sandset is a Senior Consultant in hematology at the Oslo University Hospital and a professor in thrombosis research at the University of Oslo. He has previously been head of the Department of Hematology and Deputy Director of the Medical Division at Ullevål University Hospital and Director of Research, Innovation and Education of the southeastern Norway Health Region. He is currently Vice-Rector at the University of Oslo with responsibilities for research and innovation including the life sciences activities of the university. Sandset has published more than 315 original publications and supervised 30 PhD students.

Why did you join the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“There are currently strong political expectations that the many scientific achievements in the life sciences can be utilized, commercialized and eventually form the basis for new industry.”

“Oslo Cancer Cluster has matured to become a major player of the research  and innovation ecosystem within the life science area in Oslo and also on a national level. This is why being on the board is so interesting and important.”

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

“As a OCC board member, I want to strengthen and develop the collaboration across the sectors, i.e., between the hospitals and the university – and between academia and industry. On a larger scale, it is about establishing a regional ecosystem that take achievements of the basic sciences into the development of enterprises. Oslo Cancer Cluster should maintain its role as the major player in the cancer area.”

Gunhild M. Mælandsmo

Gunhild Mari Mælandsmo

Gunhild M. Mælandsmo is the head of Department of Tumor Biology, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital where she also is heading the “Metastasis Biology and Experimental Therapeutics” research group. She is a Professor at Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø.

Why did you join the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“I think the concept of Oslo Cancer Cluster is very interesting, fostering a close collaboration between academia, health care providers and the health industry. 

“Focusing on translational research for many years, I think I can contribute in the board with valuable experience in several parts of the value chain; from basic science, from translational aspects and from my close collaboration with clinical partners as well as administrative experience.”

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

“I hope I can contribute with valuable knowledge – both from cancer research and from my administrative experience from Oslo University Hospital. I also hope to see more products from small Norwegian companies reaching clinical testing and expanding the biotech industry. Finally, I hope to see the Norwegian health care system more active in providing precision cancer medicine (and to utilise the advantages we have when it comes to registries etc).”

Cathrine M. Lofthus

Cathrine M. Lofthus is the CEO at the Norwegian South East Regional Health Authority (Helse Sør-Øst RHF). She has previously held several leading positions at Aker University Hospital and at Oslo University Hospital. Lofthus is a qualified doctor from the University of Oslo, where she also completed a PhD in endocrinology. She also holds qualifications in economy, administration and leadership, and has experience from the health sector as a clinician, researcher and leader. Lofthus also holds directorships in Norsk helsenett and KLP, in addition to being a member of the board of National e-Health.

 

We also wish to extend a special thank you to our previous board members:

  • Kirsten Haugland, Head of the Research and Prevention Department at the Norwegian Cancer Society.
  • Inger Sandlie, professor at the Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo and research group leader at the Department of Immunology, Oslo University Hospital.
  • Øyvind Bruland, professor of clinical oncology at the University of Oslo and consultant oncologist at The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital.

SINTEF to develop methods in immuno-oncology

SINTEF and Catapult Life Science are looking for new partners to develop methodology for cancer immunotherapy.

“We want to develop methods within immunotherapy, because this is currently the most successful strategy for improving cancer treatments and one of the main directions in modern medicine,” says Einar Sulheim, Research Scientist at SINTEF.

The Norwegian research organization SINTEF is an Oslo Cancer Cluster member with extensive knowledge in characterisation, analysis, drug discovery and development of conventional drugs.

The new project on methodology for cancer immunotherapy recently started in April 2019 and is a collaboration with Catapult Life Science, a new Oslo Cancer Cluster member. The aim is to help academic groups and companies develop their immunotherapy drug candidates and ideas.

Help cancer patients

Ultimately, the main aim is of course that the project will benefit cancer patients. Immunotherapy has shown to both increase life expectancy and create long term survivors in patient groups with very poor prognosis.

“We hope that this project can help streamline the development and production of immunotherapeutic drugs and help cancer patients by helping drug candidates through the stages before clinical trials.” Einar Sulheim, Research Scientist at SINTEF

 

Develop methodology

The project is a SINTEF initiative spending NOK 12,5 million from 2019 to 2023. SINTEF wants to develop methodology and adapt technology in high throughput screening to help develop products for cancer immunotherapy. This will include in vitro high throughput screening of drug effect in both primary cells and cell lines, animal models, pathology, and production of therapeutic cells and antibodies.

 

High throughput screening is the use of robotic liquid handling systems (automatic pipettes) to perform experiments. This makes it possible not only to handle small volumes and sample sizes with precision, but also to run wide screens with thousands of wells where drug combinations and concentrations can be tested in a variety of cells.

 

The Cell Lab at SINTEF. Photo: Thor Nielsen / SINTEF

The Cell Lab at SINTEF. Photo: Thor Nielsen / SINTEF

 

Bridging the gap

Catapult Life Science is a centre established to bridge the gap between the lab and the industry by providing infrastructure, equipment and expertise for product development and industrialisation in Norway. Their aim is to stimulate growth in the Norwegian economy by enabling a profitable health industry.

“In this project, our role will be to assess the industrial relevance of the new technologies developed, for instance by evaluating analytical methods used for various phases of drug development.” Astrid Hilde Myrset, CEO Catapult Life Science

A new product could for example be produced for testing in clinical studies according to regulatory requirements at Catapult, once the centre achieves its manufacturing license next year.

“If a new method is intended for use in quality control of a new regulatory drug, Catapult’s role can be to validate the method according to the regulatory requirements” Myrset adds. 

SINTEF and Catapult Life Science are now looking for partners.

Looking for new partners

Einar Sulheim sums up the ideal partners for this project:

“We are interested in partners developing cancer immunotherapies that see challenges in their experimental setups in terms of magnitude, standardization or facilities. Through this project, SINTEF can contribute with internal funding to develop methods that suit their purpose.”

 

Interested in this project?

Tor takes a mouthswab before in order to profile his DNA.

DNA profiling on the syllabus

Students learned about a Norwegian invention behind CAR T-cell therapy and DNA profiling on their latest work placement.

This article is also available in Norwegian here.

Thermo Fisher Scientific is a global company that develops the Norwegian technology, which is based on “Ugelstad-kulene” (The Ugelstad Beads). In June 2019, Einar, Tor, Olav and Philip from Ullern Upper Secondary School completed a work placement with Thermo Fisher Scientific in Oslo. They used the beads to profile their own DNA and learned how the beads can be used to find murderers, diagnose heart attacks and save children from cancer.

“What do you plan to study when you finish upper secondary school?” Marie asks.

“The natural sciences,” Einar and Tor replies.

“The natural sciences at NTNU,” Olav says.

“First, the natural sciences and then, join the Air Force,” Philip answers.

Marie Bosnes is supervising the students who are attending the work placement and has worked more than 24 years in the Norwegian section of Thermo Fisher Scientific. She conducts research and development in the former monastery located on Montebello, next to Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and Ullern Upper Secondary School.

Today, Marie and several of her co-workers have taken time out of their busy schedules to tutor the four students from Ullern: Einar Johannes Rye, Tor Haugen, Olav Bekken and Philip Horn Børge-Ask. The students have nearly finished their second year and have so far focused their studies on mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. But next year, they will also study programming, instead of biology.

“It is a good mix of subjects, especially programming is useful to learn. You should consider studying bioinformatics, because, in the future, it will be a very desirable qualification,” Marie says.

Marie has studied biology and her co-workers call her Reodor Felgen (a character from a famous Norwegian children’s comic book), since she loves to constantly explore research on new topics.

Treating cancer

An ullern student is looking at the dynabeads in a test tube.

Philip Horn Børge-Ask looks at the test tubes that contain the famous “Ugelstad-kulene”. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

While Einar, Tor, Olav and Philip are on a work placement with Marie, four other Ullern students are on another work placement with Thermo Fisher Scientific in Lillestrøm. This is where they develop and produce Dynabeads for the global market.

“Dynabeads are also kalled ‘Ugelstad-kulene’, because they are a Norwegian invention. During the ‘1970s, one of NASA’s goals was to make perfectly round and identical, tiny, plastic microbeads in outer space. No one thought it was possible to make them on Earth. John Ugelstad, a Norwegian chemical engineer, did not accept that fact. He completed several difficult calculations, which enabled him to produce these tiny beads on Earth,” Marie explains.

Thanks to the tiny beads, Thermo Fisher Scientific has experienced huge global success. Even though there are only 200 employees situated in Norway (out of 70 000 employees globally), the research and development conducted in Norway is extremely important for the whole company.

“We are proud to announce that every year Dynabeads are used in almost 5 billion diagnostic tests in the world,” Marie says.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has developed the beads further, so they can be used in CAR T-cell therapy to treat cancer. The first approved CAR T-cell therapy in the world that treats child leukaemia was approved in Norway in December 2018. The advanced technology is based on the Norwegian invention “Ugelstad-kulene”.

  • Watch the video from the Norwegian TV channel TV2 about Emily Whitehead, the first child in the world that received this CAR T-cell therapy. She visited Thermo Fisher Scientific in Oslo in March 2019.

Catching killers

Elisabeth and Mary are supervising the students in the lab

Elisabeth Breivold and Marie Bosness from Thermo Fisher Scientific supervised the students in the lab. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“The beads are used for many different purposes and you will learn about a few of them today. Simply put, the beads are like a fishing rod. Depending on which bait you fix to it, the rod can be used in different ways,” Marie says. “Before lunch, we will use Dynabeads for DNA profiling. This technology is commonly used by police to identify suspects after a crime, just like in the TV series CSI.”

During the presentation, Marie shows the students the front page of an American newspaper with a mugshot of Gary Ridgway, an American serial killer, also known as “The Green River Killer”. Ridgway has now confessed to killing 71 women. For many years, the police hunted the murderer without any luck. Finally, new technology enabled the police to retrieve damning evidence from the tiny amounts of DNA that Ridgway had left on his victims. The DNA evidence led to a successful conviction of the killer.

“The DNA evidence was established with DNA profiling, using Thermo Fisher Scientific’s products. They did not use Dynabeads back then, but today, they would have used the beads. You will learn how to do it yourselves in the lab,” Marie says.

Learning to profile DNA

Olav takes the mouth swab

Olav performs a mouth swab on himself, the first step to retrieve the DNA. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Before the students enter the laboratory, they need to put on protective glasses, lab coats and plastic shoe covers. The students will profile their own DNA, the same way the police profile the DNA from suspects or criminals.

First, the Ullern students collect the cells with a mouth swab. Then, they add the different enzymes and chemicals that will open the cell membranes into the test tube, so that the DNA is released.

Afterwards, the Ullern students add “Ugelstad-kulene”, which bind to the DNA like magnets. Then, they retrieve their DNA from the solution.

They put the DNA in a kind of “photocopier”, in order to study it with something called “gel electrophoresis”. This is a method for analysing individual parts of DNA that make up the human genome. It shows a bar code pattern, which is completely unique for every person in the world.

Tor is using the pipette in the lab.

Tor adds new chemicals to the solution with his DNA. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“DNA is incredibly stable, which means that we can retrieve it from people and animals that died a long time ago and copy their DNA so that it can be analysed,” Marie explains.

“The most fun was to retrieve our own DNA. We tried it ourselves and it was fun to learn how to do it,” Philip says.

The Ullern students were very happy with their work placement at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

“I think the placement was educational and interesting. It was very well arranged and we got to try many different things. What surprised me the most was probably the close collaboration between scientists at Thermo Fisher Scientific – it seemed like everyone knew each other!” Philips says at the end of the day.

After the students had completed the DNA profiling, they ate lunch and then they learned more about the use of “Ugelstad-kulene” in diagnostics, and CAR T-cell therapy.

Elisabeth Breivold supervised the students while they performed the DNA profiling in the laboratory at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

 

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Dr James Allison, Dr Padmanee Sharma

Nobel Prize winner joins Lytix Biopharma

The Nobel Laureate Dr James Allison and oncologist Dr Padmanee Sharma will become strategic advisors for our member Lytix BioPharma.

Oslo Cancer Cluster’s member Lytix BioPharma announced this week that the cancer researchers and married couple Dr James Allison (PhD) and Dr Padmanee Sharma (MD) will join their Scientific Advisory Board.

Dr James Allison was, together with Dr Tasuku Honjo, awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine last December. The renowned cancer researchers received the award for their ground-breaking work in immunology. It has become the basis for different immunotherapies, an area within cancer therapy that aims to activate the patient’s immune system to fight cancer.

Dr Sharma is a distinguished oncologist, who has focused her work on understanding different resistant mechanisms in the immune system. These resistant mechanisms sometimes hinder immunotherapies from working on every cancer tumour and every cancer patient.

Lytix Biopharma is a biotech company, located in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, that develops novel cancer immunotherapies. They are making an “oncolyctic peptide” – a drug with the potential to personalize every immunotherapy to fit each patient.

  • Please visit Lytix BioPharma’s official website for more information about their product

Edwin Clumper, CEO of Lytix BioPharma, expressed how thrilled he was to welcome Dr Allison and Dr Sharma:

“We are honoured that they have offered their support to further the development of our oncolytic peptides with the aim to tackle tumour heterogeneity – an unresolved challenge in cancer treatment.”

 

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Martin Bonde, CEO Vaccibody.

Dynamic networking and pitch sessions at ICCS 2019

Oslo Cancer Cluster and its international partners organised the International Cancer Cluster Showcase (ICCS) on 3 June in Philadelphia, kickstarting this year’s BIO International Convention.

The aim of this annual event is to showcase cutting edge oncology research and development activities performed in start-ups and biotechs from Oslo Cancer Cluster and its international partners from North America and Europe.

This year’s meeting offered a compact program including company presentations, engaging poster sessions and lively networking among representatives of the international oncology community.

Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs at Oslo Cancer Cluster, and main organizer of the event:

“Building on the first meeting at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge in 2012, ICCS was established as a successful format to expose and connect emerging oncology companies to executives of the global oncology community attending the BIO International Convention.

“Via collaboration with partners from North American and European innovation hubs, we gather a strong group of exciting new companies and attract more than 200 participants.”

Jan Alfheim, CEO of Oncoinvent, another member of Oslo Cancer Cluster also held a presentation.

Among this year’s presenters were our members OncoInvent and Vaccibody. The dynamic pitch session featured 20 companies from 9 countries advancing a variety of innovative oncology technologies and assets in preclinical and clinical development.

“ICCS was a great opportunity to present Vaccibody and our recent progress towards a relevant international audience. It triggered new contacts and stimulated good discussions following the presentation.”
Martin Bonde, CEO of Vaccibody

Commenting on the highlights, Heix said:

“The National Institutes of Health / National Cancer Institute (NCI) participated for the 2nd time. Michael Salgaller, Supervisory Specialist Technology Transfer Center presented the partnering opportunities and benefits the NCI offers to outside parties from academia and industry.

“Our sponsors Precision for Medicine, Takeda Oncology and Boehringer Ingelheim enriched the program by short presentations and active discussions during the humming poster and networking sessions.”

 

The event was sponsored by:

 

The event was organised by:

Ultimovacs enters stock exchange

Ultimovacs enters the Oslo Stock Exchange

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Ultimovacs, a Norwegian cancer vaccine company, has raised NOK 370 million and entered the Oslo Stock Exchange on Monday 3 June 2019.

There was a stir of interest among both national and international investors when Ultimovacs announced they will enter the Oslo Stock Exchange. Several interested parties have now become shareholders in the company, totalling approximately 1 500 shareholders.

“It is good for the Norwegian health industry and for Ultimovacs when national and international investors show the company this kind of trust. In today’s uncertain market, it is especially nice with such a large interest, from both international investors and small savers. I look forward to following the company further,” says Jonas Einarsson, Chairman of the Board in Ultimovacs and Managing Director in Radforsk.

The funds that Ultimovacs has raised will go to financing the development of their universal cancer vaccine, UV1. A large clinical study will document the effect of the vaccine. UV1 will be combined with other immunotherapies in patients with malignant melanoma (a type of skin cancer) at around 30 hospitals in Norway, Europe, USA and Australia.

Ultimovacs has already run two successful clinical trials of the vaccine on patients with lung cancer, prostate cancer and malignant melanoma.

“The cancer vaccine has shown promise in the studies we have conducted at the Norwegian Radium Hospital. Based on the results, we have established a development programme to document that our vaccine has effect on cancer patients. I am very happy that we now have entered the Oslo Stock Exchange. It means that the practical conditions are in place to put our development programme into action,” said Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, Chief Executive Officer in Ultimovacs.

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Learning about the human brain

Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School arranged a work placement for students to learn about neuroscience at the University of Oslo.

Four biology students from Ullern Upper Secondary School spent two great days on work placement with some of the world’s best neuroscientists at the University of Oslo. In Marianne Fyhn’s research group, the students tried training rats and learned how research on rats can provide valuable knowledge about the human brain.

The Ullern students, Benedicte Berggrav, Lina Babusiaux, Maren Gjerstad Høgden and Emmy Hansteen, first had to dress in green laboratory clothes, hairnets and gloves. They also had to leave their phones and notepads behind, before enterring the animal laboratory where Marianne Fyhn and her colleagues work. Finally, they had to walk through an air lock that blew the last remnants of dust and pollution off them.

On the other side was the most sacred place for researchers: the newly refurbished animal laboratory. It is in the basement of Kristine Bonnevies Hus on the University of Oslo campus. We used to call it “Bio-bygget” (“the bio-building”) when I studied here during the ‘1990s.

 

Researcher Kristian Lensjø showed the four excited biology students into the most sacred place: the animal lab.

It is the second day of the students’ work placement with Marianne. The four biology students, who normally attend the second year of Ullern Upper Secondary School, have started to get used to their new, temporary jobs. They are standing in one of the laboratories and looking at master student Dejana Mitrovic as she is operating thin electrodes onto the brain of a sedated rat. PhD student Malin Benum Røe is standing behind Dejana, watching intently, giving guidance and a helping hand if needed.

“We do this so we can study the brain cells. We will also find out if we can guide the brain cells with weak electrical impulses. This is basic scientific research. In the long term, the knowledge can help to improve how a person with an amputated arm can control an artificial prosthetic arm,” Marianne explained.

“The knowledge can help to improve how a person with an amputated arm can control an artificial prosthetic arm.”

Dejana needs to be extremely precise when she connects the electrodes onto the rat’s brain. This is precision work and every micrometre makes a difference.

 

Training rats

The previous day, Maren, Benedicte, Lina and Emmy helped to train the rat on the operating table on a running course. Today, the Ullern students will train the other rats that haven’t had electrodes surgically connected to their brains yet.

“We will train the rats to walk in figures of eight, first in one direction and then the other”, the students explained to me.

We remain standing in the rat training room for a while, talk with Dejana and train some of the rats. Dejana tells me that the rats don’t have any names. After all, they are not pets, but they are cared for and looked after in all ways imaginable.

“It is very important that they are happy and don’t get stressed. Otherwise, they won’t perform the tasks we train them to do,” says Dejana. She and the other researchers know the animals well and know to look for any signs that may indicate that the rats aren’t feeling well.

“It is very important that they are happy and don’t get stressed.”

I ask the students how they feel about using rats for science.

“I think it is completely all right. The rats are doing well and can give us important information about the human brain. It is not okay when rats are used to test make-up and cosmetics, but it is a whole different matter when it concerns important medical research,” says Emmy and the other biology students from Ullern nod in agreement.

 

Understanding the brain

Marianne is the head of the CINPLA centre at the University of Oslo, where Maren, Benedicte, Lina and Emmy are on work placement for two days. Four other Ullern students, Henrik Andreas Elde, Nils William Ormestad Lie, Hans Christian Thagaard and Thale Gartland, are at the same time on a work placement with Mariannes research colleague, Professor of Physics Anders Malthe-Sørenssen. They are learning about methods in physics, mathematics and programming that help researchers to better understand the brain.

“CINPLA is an acronym for Centre for Integrative Neuroplasticity. We try to bring together experimental biology with calculative physics and mathematics to better understand information processing in the brain and the brain’s ability to change itself,” says Marianne.

Physics, mathematics and programming are therefore important parts of the researcher’s work when analysing what is happening in the rat’s brain.

If you think that research on rats’ brain cells sounds familiar, then you are probably right. Edvard and May-Britt Moser in Trondheim received the first Norwegian Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2014. The award was given to them for their discovery of a certain type of brain cells, so called grid cells. The grid cells alert the body to its location and how to find its way from point A to point B.

Marianne did her PhD with Edvard and May-Britt, playing an essential role in the work that led to the discovery of the grid cells. Marianne was therefore very involved in Norway securing its first Nobel Prize in Medicine.

 

The dark room

Another room in the animal section is completely dark. In the middle of the room, there is an enormous box with various equipment. In the centre of the box, there is a little mouse with an implant on its head.

In this test room, there is an advanced microscope. It uses a laser beam to read the brain activity of the mouse as it alternates between running and standing still on a treadmill.

The researcher Kristian Lensjø is back from a longer study break at the renowned Harvard University and will use some of the methods he has learned.

“I will train the mouse so that it understands that for example vertical lines on a screen mean reward and that horizontal lines give no reward. Then I will look at which brain cells are responsible for this type of learning,” says Kristian.

The students stand behind Kristian and watch the mouse and the computer screen. When the testing begins, they must close the microscope off with a curtain so that the mouse is alone in the dark box. Kristian assures us that the mouse is okay and that he can see what the mouse is doing through an infra-red camera.

“This room and the equipment is so new, we are still experiencing some issues with the tech,” says Marianne. But Christian fixes the problem and suddenly we see something on the computer screen that we have never seen before. It is a look into the mouse’s brain while it runs on the treadmill. This means that the researchers can watch the nerve cells as the mouse looks at vertical and horizontal lines, and detect where the brain activity occurs.

 

Research role models

The students from Ullern know they are lucky to see how cutting-edge neuroscience is done in real life. Marianne and her colleagues are far from nobodies in the research world. Bente Prestegård from Oslo Cancer Cluster and Monica Jenstad, the biology teacher at Ullern who coordinates the work placements, made sure to tell the students beforehand.

“This is a fantastic and unique opportunity for students to get a look into science on a high international level. They can see that the people behind the research are nice and just like any normal people. When seeing good role models, it is easier to picture a future in research for oneself,” says Monica.

“This is a fantastic and unique opportunity for students to get a look into science on a high international level.”

Monica and Marianne have known each other since they were master students together at the University of Tromsø almost twenty years ago.

“I know Marianne very well, both privately and professionally. She is passionate about her research and about dissemination and recruitment. She also works hard to create a positive environment for her research group. Therefore, it was natural to ask Marianne to receive the students and it wasn’t difficult to get her to agree,” says Monica.

Back in the first operating room, Dejana and Malin are still operating on the rats. They will spend the entire day doing this. It takes time when the equipment needs to be found and sterilised, the rats need to be sedated and then operated on as precisely as possibly. It is past noon and time for lunch for Marianne, Kristian and the Ullern students on work placement.

Before I leave them outside Niels Henrik Abels Hus at the Oslo University Campus, I take a picture to remember the extra-ordinary work placement. And not least: to store a picture of the memory in my own brain.

 

Finally, time for lunch! From the left: Emmy Hansteen, Benedicte Berggrav, researcher Marianne Fyhn, Lina Babusiaux, Maren Gjerstad Høgden and researcher Kristian Lensjø. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

 

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A successful first quarter for Nordic Nanovector

Nordic Nanovector raises NOK 225 million in private placements, begins phase II clinical trials in 74 sites in 23 countries and prepares to commercialize the company. These were some of the good news presented in the first quarter 2019 report.

Oslo Cancer Cluster’s member company Nordic Nanovector develops precision medicine against haematological cancers. These are the types of cancers affecting blood, bone marrow and lymph nodes – also known as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. These cancers are notoriously difficult to treat and therefore have a highly unmet medical need.

On the morning of 23 May 2019, the CEO of Nordic Nanovector, Eduardo Bravo, presented some of the successes the company has had during the first quarter of 2019.

“As we advance the clinical development programmes with Betalutin, including PARADIGME, we are also beginning to initiate some of the other pre-commercialisation activities, such as manufacturing, that are crucial to ensure that we can submit our regulatory filing in a timely and efficient manner.”

The company’s highlights from the first quarter included raising approximately NOK 225 million in private placements.

They have also extended their clinical trials, known as the PARADIGME study, which address advanced, recurring follicular lymphoma. They now have phase II clinical trials in over 74 sites in 23 countries.

During the first quarter, Nordic Nanovector has also welcomed a new chairman to the Board of Directors – Jan H. Egberts, M.D. He is also the chairperson of the Board of Directors of Oslo Cancer Cluster member Photocure.

Lastly, Dr Mark Wright has been appointed Head of Manufacturing to lead the production of Nordic Nanovector’s therapies. This prepares Nordic Nanovector for future commercialisation and will hopefully lead to more precise treatments successfully reaching cancer patients.

 

Introducing programming to the curriculum

Programming is not only for computer hackers, it can also help teachers to engage their students in science subjects and inspire start ups to discover new cancer treatments.

 

Almost 60 teachers working in upper secondary schools in Oslo visited Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and Ullern Upper Secondary School one evening in the end of March. The topic for the event was programming and how to introduce programming to the science subjects in school.

“The government has decided that programming should be implemented in schools, but in that case the teachers first have to know how to program, how to teach programming and, not least, how to make use of programming in a relevant way in their own subjects.”

This was how Cathrine Wahlström Tellefsen opened her lecture. She is the Head of Profag at the University of Oslo, a competence centre for teaching science and technology subjects. For nearly one hour, she talked to the almost 60 teachers who teach Biology, Mathematics, Chemistry, Technology, Science Research Theory and Physics about how to use programming in their teaching.

 

What is KUR? KUR is a collaborative project between Oslo Cancer Cluster, Ullern Upper Secondary School and other schools in Oslo and Akershus. It aims to develop the skills and competence of science teachers. Every six months, KUR arranges a meeting where current topics are discussed.

 

Programming and coding

“Don’t forget that programming is much more than just coding. Computers are changing the rules of the game and we have gained a much larger mathematical toolbox, which gives us the opportunity to analyse large data sets,” Tellefsen explained.

Only a couple of years ago, she wasn’t very interested in programming herself, but after pressures from higher up in her organisation, she gave it a shot. She has since then experienced how programming can be used in her own subject.

“I have been a Physics teacher for many years in an upper secondary school in Akershus, so I know how it is,” she said to calm the audience a little. Her excitement over the opportunities programming provides seemed to rub off on some of the people in the room.

“In biology, for example, programming can be used to teach animal population growth. The students understand more of the logic behind the use of mathematical formulas and how an increase in the carrying capacity of a biological species can change the size of its population dramatically. My experience is that the students start playing around with the numbers really quickly and get a better understanding of the relationships,” said Tellefsen.

When it was time for a little break, many teachers were eager to try out the calculations and programming themselves.

 

Artificial intelligence in cancer treatments

Before the teachers tried programming, Marius Eidsaa from the start up OncoImmunity (a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster) gave a talk. He is a former physicist and uses algorithms, programming and artificial intelligence every day in his work.

“OncoImmunity has developed a method that can find new antigens that other companies can use to develop cancer vaccines,” said Eidsaa.

He quickly explained the principals of immunotherapy, a cancer treatment that activates the patient’s own immune system to recognise and kill cancer cells, which had previously remained hidden from the immune system. The neoantigens play a central role in this process.

“Our product is a computer software program called Immuneprofiler. We use patient data and artificial intelligence in order to get a ranking of the antigens that may be relevant for development of personalised cancer vaccines to the individual patient,” said Eidsaa.

Today, OncoImmunity has almost 20 employees of 10 different nationalities and have become CE-marked as the first company in the world in their field. (You can read more about OncoImmunity in this article that we published on 18 December 2018.)

The introductory talk by Eidsaa about using programming in his start up peaked the audience’s interest and the dedicated teachers eagerly asked many questions.

 

Programming in practice

After a short coffee break, the teachers were ready to try programming themselves. I tried programming in Biology, a session that was led by Monica, a teacher at Ullern Upper Secondary School. She is continuing her education in programming now and it turns out she has become very driven.

“Now you will program protein synthesis,” said Monica. We started brainstorming together about what we needed to find out, which parameters we could use in the formula to get the software Python to find proteins for us.

Since my knowledge in biology is a little rusty, it was a slow process. But when Monica showed us the correct solution, it was surprisingly logical and simple. The key is to stay focused and remember to have a cheat sheet right next to you in case you forget something.

 

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How will biobanks accelerate cancer research?

Biobanks ­– the powerful tools in cancer research you may have never heard of.

 

Biobank Norway is a national research infrastructure that comprises all public biobanks in Norway and represents one of the world’s largest existing resources within biobanking. They are also a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster, through NTNU, and represent an exciting initiative in the endeavour to develop precision medicine.

 

A biobank is a storage facility that keeps biological samples to be used for medical research. The samples come from population-based or clinical studies.

 

Christian Jonasson, seniorforsker ved NTNU.

Christian Jonasson, seniorforsker ved NTNU.

Christian Jonasson, the Industry Coordinator for Biobank Norway, connects businesses with Norwegian biobanks to accelerate medical research. He said that more biobanks now work with the health industry and benefit from added value in the process.

“It is the health industry that will ultimately bring new therapies to patients.”
Christian Jonasson

Biobank Norway has developed several strategic areas for Norwegian biobanks. They have built automated freezers for secure long-term storage, with advanced robotised systems that can retrieve barcoded biological samples. They have initiated new biobanks, established new IT systems and also developed policies for public-private collaborations. Also, they have contributed to strategic processes that promote increased utilization of Norwegian health data, including the national Health Data Program.

Ultimately, Biobank Norway aims to facilitate collaborations between the global health industry and Norwegian biobanks to accelerate innovation in the life sciences, disease prevention and treatment.

“Biobanks are one of the most important tools in precision medicine.” Christian Jonasson

 

Biosamples may be used for important, life-saving cancer research. For example, to develop new immunotherapies, such as T cell therapy. Photograph by Christopher Olssøn

 

A competitive edge

Norway has been collecting biological samples for the last 30-40 years. For example, one of the world’s largest birth cohort studies, the Mother and Child study (called MoBa) was initiated in 1999. It included 100 000 newborns with mother and father, which totalled over 285 000 participants over a ten-year period. There are numerous other Norwegian health studies, which have involved hundreds of thousands of people, such as the HUNT study and the Tromsø study.

Moreover, the Norwegian Radium Hospital have collected countless valuable samples from cancer patients over the years from both regular clinical care and from clinical research studies. Hospitals across Norway also continually collect and save diagnostic samples, which may be used for medical research at a later stage.

The number of biobanks and the rigorous collection of clinical data in health registers in Norway represent unique assets for medical researchers.

“Norway has a competitive edge on its health data infrastructure.” Christian Jonasson

 

Sharing the data

However, Jonasson also points out that the health registers in Norway are too fragmented. To combat the problem, Biobank Norway are helping the Norwegian Directorate of eHealth to develop a Health Data Program. The digital platform, called the Health Analytics Platform (HAP), will collate copies of relevant data from the various health registers, providing a single point of easy access for researchers.

Biobank Norway also has a long-term vision to collect all biobank data and health data in a common platform. This is a necessary step to unleash a larger national precision medicine initiative. First, they want to organise the data from the four largest population-based cohort studies in one place. In a couple of years, this database would hopefully include 400 000 people, which is a very attractive cohort for medical research.

“We need to attract leading actors from the international health industry and Norwegian start-ups in real collaborations with biobanks.” Christian Jonasson

Important medical research is already being conducted in biobanks across Norway. Jonasson said that there now needs to be a plan to market Norwegian health data and biobanks internationally to spur innovation further.

 

Biosamples are also used for sequencing of the human genome, to develop more precise diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

 

The hidden key

To unlock the potential of biobanks, the biological samples need to be analysed and converted into meaningful data, which can be an expensive and laborious process.

Finland, for example, has begun to collect biological samples from 500 000 individuals. One single database holds all phenotypic data, such as diagnosis and treatment, and all genotypic data, which is the mapping of the human genome.

In the UK, there is the Genomics Project, which has already sequenced the DNA (the coded parts of the human genome) of 100 000 patients. The UK Biobank are aiming to sequence the DNA of half a million brits.

Jonasson hopes that such ambitious initiatives will be imported to Norway to build the biobank infrastructure further and provide meaningful data for medical research. He adds that public-private collaborations will be key to drive and fund such large scale initiatives.

Biobank Norway is currently in the process of extending into its third phase and aims to continue to improve the biobanks, the partner institutions and global research collaborations in the future.

 

  • Do you need help with your research and innovation project using biobanks in Norway?
    E-mail Christian Jonasson.
  • For more information, please visit the official website of BioBank Norway.

 

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Kronikk: Dine helsedata kan styrke helsenæringen

This opinion piece was first published on 9 May 2019 in Dagens Medisin, by Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster, and Christian Jonasson, Senior Adviser at NTNU. Both are also members of a work group for innovation and business development for the Health Data Program for the the Norwegian Directorate of eHealth. Please scroll to the end of this page for an English summary.

 

Vi får nye forretningsmodeller innen helse som er basert på digitalisering og persontilpasset medisin. Her kan Norge virkelig lede an!

Christian Jonasson, seniorforsker ved NTNU.

Christian Jonasson, seniorforsker ved NTNU.

Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster.

HELSE BLIR digitalisert og medisin blir tilpasset den enkelte pasienten. Dette er to megatrender som vil endre forretningsmodellen for helseindustrien. Forrige uke kom Stortingsmeldingen om nettopp helsenæringen. Den åpner for store muligheter for Norge.

I bilindustrien erstatter gradvis digital mobilitet den tradisjonelle boksen på fire hjul. Et eksempel er at Tesla blir verdsatt høyere enn tradisjonelle bilprodusenter blant annet for sin evne til kontinuerlig datainnsamling fra bilene. I helsenæringen vil vi se det samme.

 

NYE MODELLER. Med digital persontilpasset medisin vil nye forretningsmodeller vokse frem. Vi ser eksemplene daglig: Roche, et globalt legemiddelselskap, har nylig kjøpt opp helsedataselskapet Flatiron. Oppkjøpet gjorde de for å kunne utvikle nye kreftbehandlinger raskere, for nettopp tid er viktig for kreftpasienter som kjemper mot klokka. Et annet legemiddelselskap, AstraZeneca, har ansatt toppleder fra NASA. Norske DNVGL, som tradisjonelt har jobbet med olje, gass og shipping, har nå helsedata som et satsingsområde.

Helsemyndigheter erkjenner også endringen mot mer datainnsamling. Legemidler blir mer målrettede og brukes på stadig mindre undergrupper av pasienter. Dette utfordrer hva som er nødvendig kunnskapsgrunnlag for å gi pasienter tilgang til ny behandling. Mens det i dag er kunnskap om gjennomsnitt for store pasientgrupper som ligger til grunn for beslutninger om nye behandlingsmetoder, er det med persontilpasset behandling nettopp viktig å ta mer hensyn til individer og små undergrupper. De amerikanske helsemyndighetene (FDA) har derfor lagt frem retningslinjer for hvordan helsedata kan brukes som beslutningsgrunnlag for nye legemidler.

 

NORSKE FORTRINN. Legemiddelverket i Norge gir uttrykk for at de også ønsker å være i front i denne utviklingen – for også de ser at helsedata gir bedre beslutningsgrunnlag.

Hvordan kan så Norge lede an? Norge har konkurransefortrinn knyttet til et sterkt offentlig helsevesen, landsdekkende person- og helseregister og biobanker som kan knyttes sammen gjennom våre unike fødselsnummer. Dette er få land forunt! Derfor kan vi utnytte dette konkurransefortrinnet for å ta en posisjon i den store omveltningen av helsesektoren og helsenæringen.

Nedenfor følger noen forslag som vi mener vil styrke Norges stilling.

 

PLATTFORM. Vi kan starte med å lage en norsk dataplattform. Selskap leter globalt etter helsedata av god kvalitet. La oss utvikle en dataplattform hvor helsedata er raskt og sikkert tilgjengelig for norske og utenlandske aktører. Et eksempel er helseanalyseplattformen. Her må data gjøres tilgjengelig for alle aktører og for alle legitime formål. Samarbeidsmodeller må utvikles som sikrer at verdiskapingen blir i Norge og pasientene får bedre behandling.

Vi kan utvikle bedre økosystemer. Verdiskapingspotensialet for helsedata ligger i skjæringspunktet mellom offentlig og privat. Dagens offentlige forvaltere av helsedata må derfor samarbeide tettere med norske oppstartsbedrifter og internasjonale aktører.

 

INNSYN. Vi kan bruke personvern som konkurransefortrinn. Hver og en av oss eier våre egne helsedata. Derfor er det viktig med digitale plattformer som gir oss innsyn i egne helsedata.

Hvordan vi kommer til å bruke helsedata om få år, er vanskelig å forutse, akkurat som det var vanskelig å forutse hva konsesjonsutlysningen for oljeutvinning i 1965 ville føre til. Historien viser imidlertid at slike avgjørelser kan ha stor betydning for fremtidens verdiskapning i Norge, og for pasienter i hele verden. La oss derfor ikke overlate til tilfeldighetene hva vi i Norge gjør med våre helsedata.

 

 

English summary:

Digitalisation and precision medicine are influencing emerging business models in the health industry. It is time for Norway to lead the way!

As precision medicine develops, data gathering becomes ever more important. Instead of relying on results from a big patient group, cancer researchers are using big data to find out how treatments can be customised for small patient groups and individual patients.

Norway has a competitive advantage on health data: thanks to its strong public health sector, national health registers and biobanks that can be connected to unique personal ID numbers.

We suggest creating a common platform for Norwegian data, where high quality data can be accessed securely by legitimate national and international companies. Through collaborative models, we can ensure that the medical breakthroughs stay in Norway and benefit the patients. We need to develop better ecosystems that inspire simple collaboration between international key players, Norwegian start ups and the public agencies that handle health data.

Data privacy can be used as an asset. If we ensure everyone has complete access and insight into their own personal health data, people can be empowered to share it for the common good.

The decisions we make today will have great ramifications for the future value creation in Norway and for cancer patients across the world. We should not leave it up to chance.

 

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Radforsk to invest NOK 4.5 million in cancer research

Radforsk, the Radium Hospital Research Foundation, a partner of Oslo Cancer Cluster, is awarding several million Norwegian kroner to new research that fights cancer with light.

Radforsk is an evergreen investor focusing on companies that develop cancer treatment. Since its inception in 1986, Radforsk has allocated NOK 200 million of its profit back into cancer research at Oslo University Hospital. This year, four researchers will be awarded a total of NOK 4.5 million. One of them is Anette Weyergang, who will receive NOK 3.75 million over a three-year period.

“I’m so happy for this grant. As researchers, we have to find funding for our own projects. I didn’t have any funding for the project I have now applied and been granted funds for,” says Anette Weyergang.

Anette Weyergang is one of the researchers who has received funding from Radforsk.

Anette Weyergang is a project group manager and senior researcher in a research group led by Kristian Berg. The group conducts research in the field of photodynamic therapy (PDT) and photochemical internalisation (PCI). Radforsk’s portfolio company and Oslo Cancer Cluster member PCI Biotech is based on this group’s research.

What is PDT / PCI? Cancer research in the field of photodynamic therapy and photochemical internalisation studies the use of light in direct cancer treatment in combination with drugs, or to deliver drugs that can treat cancer cells or organs affected by cancer.

 

Weyergang is the first researcher ever to receive several million kroner over the course of several years from Radforsk.

“We have donated a total of NOK 200 million to cancer research at Oslo University Hospital, of which NOK 25 million have gone to research in PDT/PCI. We have previously awarded smaller amounts to several researchers, but we now want to use some of our funds to focus on projects we believe in,” says Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk.

By the deadline on 15 February 2019, Radforsk received a total of eight applications, which were then assessed by external experts.

 

The new research focuses on how to use light to release the cancer drugs more efficiently inside the cancer cells.

 

New use of PCI technology

PCI is a technology for delivering drugs and other molecules into the cancer cells and then releasing them by means of light. This allows for a targeted cancer treatment with fewer side effects for patients.

Weyergang will use the funds from Radforsk to research whether PCI technology can be used to make targeted cancer treatment even more precise.

“The project aims to find a method for delivering antibodies to cancer cells using PCI technology. This has never been done before, and if we succeed, it can open up brand new possibilities for using this technology,” says Weyergang.

Initially, she will focus on glioblastoma, which is the most serious form of brain cancer. Glioblastoma is resistant to both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and has a very high mortality rate.

“This is translational research, so human trials are still a long way off. We will now use both glioblastoma cell lines and animal experimentation to test our hypothesis. We do this to establish what is called a “proof of concept”, which we need to move on to clinical testing,” says Weyergang.

 

The other researchers who have received funding for PDT/PCI research from Radforsk in 2019 are:

  • Kristian Berg and Henry Hirschberg Beckman: NOK 207,500
  • Qian Peng: NOK 300,000
  • Mpuldy Sioud: NOK 300,000

 

What is Radforsk?

  • Since its formation in 1986, Radforsk has generated NOK 600 million in fund assets and channelled NOK 200 million to cancer research, based on a loan of NOK 1 million in equity back in 1986.
  • During this period, NOK 200 million have found its way back to the researchers whose ideas Radforsk has helped to commercialise.
  • NOK 25 million have gone to research in photodynamic therapy (PDT) and photochemical internalisation (PCI). In total, NOK 40 million will be awarded to this research.

 

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The students in the picture are Jacques Li, a doctor and entrepreneur from France; Diana Murguia Barrios, an economist and political scientist from Spain; Jason Yip, a chemistry engineer from England; and Sam Chong, a lawyer and economist from Malaysia and Australia.

Should Norway implement a clinical trial league table?

We asked four MBA students from Cambridge University to evaluate how patient recruitment practices in Norway can be improved.

The number of clinical trials in Norway has been declining over the last few years. There are many reasons behind this trend, but until now there have been few concrete solutions. With the number of cancer patients on the rise, there is a growing need for access to better treatments.

Oslo Cancer Cluster asked four students from Judge Business School at Cambridge University to research how the number of clinical trials in Norway can be improved. The students were Jacques Li, a doctor and entrepreneur from France; Diana Murguia Barrios, an economist and political scientist from Spain; Jason Yip, a chemistry engineer from England; and Sam Chong, a lawyer and economist from Malaysia and Australia.

“The number of clinical trials in Norway is less than half of the number in Denmark.”

The group focused on one of three factors that influence the number of clinical trials in Norway, namely: the patient recruitment practices. After a comparative analysis with other European countries, they came up with two main recommendations on how Norway can improve patient recruitment.

 

Image och doctors and nurses walking in corridor

How do we motivate hospitals and doctors to recruit more patients to clinical trials?

 

One: Motivating hospitals

The group compared patient recruitment in Norway to France, United Kingdom and USA. Norway was the only country where hospitals don’t have any non-financial incentives to recruit patients to clinical trials. If a hospital’s reputation could be improved in a concrete way by having clinical trials, patient recruitment could also be improved.

The group proposed to create a league table for all hospitals, with cancer trial participation as one of the metrics. This would create competition between hospitals, encourage collaboration between smaller hospitals and larger ones, and make information about clinical trials accessible to patients.

If hospitals were ranked against each other based on clinical trial output, they would more actively recruit into trials due to the reputational incentive.” 

The group also uncovered a misalignment between the funding source and the implementers of the clinical trials. Funding is passed from the Norwegian Health Ministry to the regional health authorities, instead of directly to the hospitals who conduct the trials. The group recommended that the hospitals need direct financial incentives to conduct the trials.

“Regional health authorities in Norway need to ensure that funding provided to them for research is passed down to the hospitals conducting clinical trials.” 

 

How do we raise awareness among patients and doctors about clinical trial participation?

 

Two: Raising awareness

A second discovery in the report was the lack of awareness about clinical trials among both patients and doctors. Patients in Norway lack access to relevant information that would empower them to opt into clinical trials. There was similarly a lack of exposure to clinical trials among early career doctors and a lack of initiatives to collaborate on clinical trials among advanced career doctors.

“Raising awareness among stakeholders is key to improve clinical trial recruitment.” 

The students suggested working in partnership with patient organisations to raise awareness among patients. They recommended a national awareness campaign to inform where patients can find up-to-date information about clinical trials. All hospitals could keep lists of their ongoing clinical trials available on their websites.

If patients knew the benefits of clinical research, they would select a hospital that is ranked highly.” 

The group also provided recommendations to raise awareness among doctors to work on clinical trials. Rotational programs and supplementary courses on research methods and clinical trials may spark interest among medical students to pursue work in clinical trials. Seminars and workshops can help to both raise awareness and inspire collaborative efforts among doctors in their advanced careers.

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster wishes to extend a big thank you to everyone who agreed to be interviewed for this research project:

  • Ali Areffard, Medical team, Bristol Myers Squibb
  • Øyvind Arnesen, Chairman of the Board, Oslo Cancer Cluster
  • Siri Kolle, Vice President Clinical, Inven2
  • Jónas Einarsson, former Chairman of the Board of Oslo Cancer Cluster and one of the founders of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park
  • Maiken Engelstad, Deputy Director, Ministry of Health and Care Services
  • Katrine Bryne, Senior Advisor, Legemiddelindustrien (LMI)
  • Kristin Bjordal, Business Manager for Research Support and Research Manager in Oslo Hospital Service (OSS) and Chairman of the Board of NorCrin
  • Ida Kommandtvoll, Advisor, Department of Strategy and Analysis, The Norwegian Cancer Society
  • Knut Martin Torgersen and medical team, Merck
  • Steinar Aamdal, the founder of The Clinical Trial Department, Oslo University Hospital

 

View and download the following PDF of the Cambridge report to learn more.
Note: This is a short version of the report, the fuller version also includes an Appendix containing detailed information about all the underlying data and interview material. Please get in touch with Communications Adviser Sofia Lindén if you are interested in reading the full Appendix.

Download [1.27 MB]

 

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Ketil Widerberg, general manager, OCC

Hvordan gjør vi våre mest intime data til gull?

The following opinion piece was written by Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster, and published in Aftenposten on 1 May 2019. It is a response to an opinion piece written by Nikolai Astrup, the Norwegian Minister of Digitalization, which was published on 22 April 2019. The texts are only available in Norwegian, but a short summary in English is available at the bottom of this page.

 

Helsedata er en voksende gullåre, men vi kan ikke grave i den uten videre.

 

I Aftenposten 17. april svarer digitaliseringsminister Nikolai Astrup (H) på en appell om våre verdifulle data.

Astrup påpeker at data ikke kan sammenlignes med olje, for det er ikke staten, men hver og en av oss, som eier våre egne personopplysninger.

Det gjelder i høyeste grad de mest intime av våre data: helsedata.

 

En gullåre av data

Helsedata er en voksende gullåre, men vi kan ikke grave i den uten videre.

Hadde vi ikke først bygd opp beskyttelse av norske data og kompetanse, ville ikke prosjekter som DoMore blitt til.

Forskerne i DoMore bruker avansert bildeanalyse for å gi mer presise kreftprognoser. Samtidig ville ikke prosjektet eksistert uten internasjonale data og kompetanse.

For næringen som jeg jobber i, helsenæringen, er spørsmålet hvordan vi skal unngå å falle i digitaliseringsfellen. Der har mediebransjen landet.

Facebook og Google får all verdens data gratis gjennom samtykke og tar dermed livsgrunnlaget fra tradisjonelle aktører.

 

Trenger god strategi for kunstig intelligens

For norsk helsenæring blir de to strategiene som digitaliseringsministeren snart lanserer, digitalisering i offentlig sektor og kunstig intelligens, svært viktige. I en strategi for offentlige data oppfordrer jeg derfor til at fremskritt innen presisjonsmedisin tas med.

Da Kreftregisteret ble etablert på 50-tallet, forsto ingen den fulle nytteverdien av et slikt register. I dag tiltrekkes forskere og bedrifter fra hele verden for å få bruke data derfra.

Det viser hvorfor vi også i dag bør samle inn mer helsedata enn vi kan dra nytte av umiddelbart.

Hvordan finner vi balansen mellom god bruk av helsedata for å skape næring og rå utnyttelse av store firmaer? Her trenger vi en god strategi også for kunstig intelligens, som tar inn over seg denne balansegangen i helsedata.

Kunstig intelligens gjør presisjonsmedisin mulig på et helt annet nivå enn vi er på i dag, med mye høyere presisjon i behandlingen.

 

Ressurs for pasienter

For fremtidens presisjonsbehandling er helsedata ressursen vi må samle på. Vi må samle inn helsedata som gjør behandlingen bedre for neste pasient. Og vi trenger en struktur av dataene der både firmaer og myndigheter har tilgang til dem.

Jeg vil gjerne legge lista høyt og foreslå en felles database for data fra kliniske studier, hvor både firmaer og myndigheter har tilgang til helsedata umiddelbart etter at hver pasient har fått sin behandling.

Dette kan bidra til raskere tilgang til ny behandling og bedre oppfølging av pasienter med sykdommer som kreft.

Data former kreftbehandling og skaper nye tilbud til pasienter. Hvordan sikrer vi verdien av dataene? Skal vi gi dem bort for å bygge forskning og industri, skal vi ta så mye penger som vi kan for dem, eller skal vi prøve å finne på noe midt imellom?

I arbeidet med de nye strategiene bør våre mest intime data bli diskutert – med sikte på å skape verdi og næring av dem.

 

 

Short summary in English:

The question Astrup raised in his opinion piece concerned how data sharing can be improved across the public sector in Norway.

Widerberg responds by highlighting how we can make use of our health data to create added value and a successful health industry, without allowing large multinational corporations exploit the data freely.

Artificial intelligence makes precision medicine possible on a much higher level than today. We need to collect health data in order to improve treatments for future patients.

Widerberg therefore proposes a database where health data from all clinical trials is made available to both private and public bodies. This would contribute to making better treatments available sooner and provide better follow-up to patients suffering from diseases, such as cancer.

 

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Two people working on computers.

Supporting cancer research with IP rights

Why are legal services an important part of Oslo Cancer Cluster? We asked Andrew Wright from Potter Clarkson to explain why they became a member.

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster helps to connect start ups and entrepreneurs in the cancer field to the legal service providers they need. There are many reasons why a law firm specialising in intellectual property (IP) rights is an important part of a cancer cluster. IP rights play an essential role in securing protection, and developing the value, in an idea or invention.

Andrew Wright, a partner in the law firm Potter Clarkson, member of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Andrew Wright, a partner in Potter Clarkson, explained why they became a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster:

“We have, for a long time, recognised the important developments in the field of oncology being pursued by members of the Oslo Cancer Cluster.

“This is an exciting time to be involved with Oslo Cancer Cluster, and Potter Clarkson thrives on opportunities to interact, and collaborate, with scientists and innovative companies that have ground-breaking ideas and an enterprising outlook.”

 

Why IP protection?

– To build value to attract investors and support ongoing development;

– To realise value in an invention by out-licencing to a commercial partner, in order to generate a funding stream; and/or

– To create exclusivity for the next stage of your commercial plans.

Source: Potter Clarkson

 

Supporting growth

A law firm with experts in IP rights can support innovators and entrepreneurs. They can provide guidance and assistance when seeking to obtain protection for new ideas, developments and inventions.

“Strong protection through relevant IP rights can be critical to the success of any start up or developing business. We believe that there is the potential for outstanding synergy between the needs of the members of Oslo Cancer Cluster and the support that Potter Clarkson offers.” Andrew Wright, Potter Clarkson

 

Building value

Early-stage companies in the cancer field often face great challenges when commercialising their products. Their ideas may only exist on a conceptual level or their products may be at a pre-clinical stage. It can take a company many years to bring a product to market, after developing their technologies and seeking the necessary approvals. It is critical that these companies can fund the ongoing development during this period.

“The decision of whether or not to invest, and the scale of any investment, will typically be based on how well the technologies that form the core of a company have been protected by suitable IP rights.” Andrew Wright, Potter Clarkson

 

Patent protected

Patents are often the main form of IP right. The objective of a patent application is typically to obtain protection for the general concept that underlies an invention, to provide a legally-enforceable right that can prevent competitors either from copying the invention itself, or from launching a closely-related equivalent based on the same concept.

Strong patent rights can provide companies with the ability to control the future commercialisation of their inventions. An owner of patent rights can also negotiate with other companies for licensed access to their invention, whether they want to commercialise it directly or develop it towards a collaborative product.

Entrepreneurs or start ups can apply for patents themselves through the European Patent Office, but it is often a complicated process. Therefore, it may be a good idea to get some advice from a patent professional.

 “Having patent protection, or the opportunity to obtain patent protection, provides strong and commercially-relevant coverage for the core technology of the company and being able to present a plan for generating and supporting future IP, can be key to the success of a Lifescience start up.” Andrew Wright, Potter Clarkson

 

Biotech meets law

All the patent professionals at Potter Clarkson hold degrees in scientific subjects, for example in biotechnology or pharmaceuticals. Their professionals often work across disciplines, which is good as Iinovations do not always fit ‘neatly’ into only a single field of technology.  For example, computer-implemented inventions are increasingly used in the field of therapies and diagnostics, and medical devices become ever more important in the delivery of therapies. In this case, the patent professional needs the experience to work across such inter-disciplinary fields.

“We pride ourselves on being technically knowledgeable, on having the ability to quickly immerse ourselves in your specialist area of science, to rapidly understand your invention, and to ask the right questions.” Andrew Wright, Potter Clarkson

 

For more information about the members of Oslo Cancer Cluster that offer legal services or advice on IP rights, please visit their official websites:

 

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Ny rapport: Helsenæringens verdi 2019

Rapporten gir innsikt i en næring som i 2018 omsatte for 142 milliarder kroner.

Helsenæringen er en dobbel mulighet for Norge: næringen kan løse mange av våre helse- og omsorgsutfordringer de neste tiårene og samtidig bli en av våre største næringer, med eksport til et globalt marked.

Den fjerde Menon-rapporten om helsenæringens verdi går nærmere inn på tallene bak disse mulighetene.

 

Viktige funn i rapporten:

  • Omsetningen i helsenæringen var på 142 milliarder kroner i 2018.
  • Helsenæringen er global og bedriftene i industrien vender seg mot internasjonale markeder tidlig.
  • Helserelatert eksport var på over 23 milliarder kroner i 2018.
  • Næringen er avhengig av ny kapital i utviklingsløpet: fire av ti bedrifter hentet inn ny egenkapital i 2018.
  • Helseindustrien er en gründernæring: en av ti bedrifter er i gründerfasen.
  • Det er en svært FoU-intensiv næring, der spesielt kliniske studier er viktig. Likevel falt antall søkte industrifinansierte kliniske studier fra 175 i 2000 til bare 72 i 2018.

 

I rapporten defineres Helsenæringen som private aktører i hele verdikjeden innen helse i Norge.

 

Hjemmemarked og risikokapital

Mye er på plass for norsk helsenæring, men i følge Menon mangler to ting: Det ene er et stort hjemmemarked med kompetente, krevende lokomotivkunder. Det andre er langsiktig risikokapital for raskere utviklings-, kommersialiserings- og vekstprosesser.

– Det som er litt fint med de to utfordringene, er at de henger tett sammen. Lykkes man med det første, er sjansene store for å lykkes med det andre, understreket Erik W. Jakobsen, Managing Partner i Menon Economics, under lanseringen.

 

En internasjonal næring

Under lanseringsarrangementet i Næringslivets Hus i Oslo 25. april, ble enda et utspill lansert:

Innovasjon Norge med samarbeidspartnere, blant annet Oslo Cancer Cluster, lanserte en global strategi for norsk helseindustri. Den heter “Pioneering sustainable health”.

– Helse er en «born global næring», og det må vi nå utnytte. Vi må gjøre norske helseløsninger bedre kjent internasjonalt. Visjonen er å tredoble norsk helseindustri innen 2030, sa Hans Eirik Melandsø, sektoransvarlig helseindustri i Innovasjon Norge.

Næringsminister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen (H) var også med på arrangementet og presenterte hovedpunkter fra Regjeringens stortingsmelding om helsenæringen, som ble lansert 5. april. Stortingsmeldingen kan du lese på nettsidene til Regjeringen.

Hvordan kan norsk helsenæring lykkes i å ta en internasjonal posisjon? Det er et nøkkelspørsmål som går igjen i rapporten fra Menon, Stortingsmeldingen om helsenæring og posisjonen “Pioneering sustainable health”.

– Vi ligger i et helsenæringsnabolag. Sverige er store, Danmark er veldig store. Det er en stor fordel at “the Nordic region” er kjent for og har kompetanse på dette fra før. Det må vi utnytte bedre, sa Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.

Ordskifte mellom stortingsrepresentant Ingvild Kjerkol (Ap) og næringsminister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen (H). De var enige om behovet for bedre samarbeid mellom private og offentlige aktører.

 

Offentlig-privat kulturendring

En bedre kultur og insentiver for samarbeid er et annet viktig poeng når norsk helsenæring diskuteres.

– For mange private aktører møter skepsis, stengte dører og problematisering når de forsøker å samarbeide med det offentlige. Vi må ha tjenester som slipper næringen til, slik at næringen også kan forstå hva som skal til, sa Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.

– Det jeg savner i Stortingsmeldingen, er klyngene og TTO-ene. Når vi ser på Menons vekstrater for industrien, ser vi at det er noe som fungerer bra. Framover bør vi gjøre mer av det som fungerer, og ikke bare finne på nye virkemidler. I en videre strategi bør klyngenes rolle få en større plass og utvikles, sa stortingsrepresentant Ingvild Kjerkol (Ap).

 

Du kan lese hele rapporten her:

Bilde av Menon-rapporter om Helsenæingens verdi 2019

Menon-rapporten Helsenæingens verdi 2019

 

 

Lenker til Menon-rapportene om helsenæringens verdi fra tidligere år:

Rapport fra 2018

Rapport fra 2017

Rapport fra 2016

 

Menon-rapporten utgis av: 

Andre relevante saker: 

Meet our new members

Oslo Cancer Cluster proudly presents the new members that have joined our organisation during the first quarter of 2019.

 

The new members represent a valuable addition to our non-profit member organisation, which encompasses the whole oncology value chain. By being a part of Oslo Cancer Cluster, our members are connected to a global network with many relevant key players in the cancer research field. Our members contribute to this unique ecosystem and ensure the development of innovative cancer treatments to improve patients’ lives.

 

HalioDx

HalioDx is an immuno-oncology diagnostic company providing immune-based services, which guide cancer care and contribute to precision medicine. HalioDx executes biomarker studies and develop diagnostic devices, in accordance with regulations and in partnership with biopharmaceutical companies. By being a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster, HalioDx can collaborate with academia and industry to deliver clinical research and diagnostic tools that help find the right therapy for the right patient.

“Immuno-oncology and precision medicine are two main focuses of interest for Oslo Cancer Cluster and this is the reason why HalioDx decided to become a part of Oslo Cancer Cluster.” 

“We are convinced that this collaboration will be of mutual benefit and we hope that HalioDx’s comprehensive clinical research platform will represent a great tool for the academic and pharma members who would like to better understand drugs mechanisms of action and identify the right patients for the right therapy.”
Aurélie Fugon, Associate Director, HalioDx

 

 

 

MultiplexDX

MultiplexDX is a biotech corporation with the aim to eliminate misdiagnosis of cancer disease. The company’s idea is to create 100% reliable, quantitative, affordable and personalised diagnostic tests. By combining tissue visualisation and sequencing technologies, they can accurately quantify 7 or more cancer markers, generating a specific “barcode”. This unique barcode can then specify the type of cancer and suggests which personalised treatment and medicines to be used, and how long the therapy should last.

“We believe that Oslo Cancer Cluster is the best cancer cluster in the world representing the entire oncology value chain that we want to be part of.” Pavol Cekan, CEO, MultiplexDX

“We plan to create strategic partnerships with Oslo Cancer Cluster members to bring our breast cancer diagnostic test, Multiplex9+, to the market as soon as possible. In assistance with Oslo Cancer Cluster and its members, we want the breast cancer patients to benefit from our 100% accurate, reliable and diagnostic test at the earliest convenience.” 

 

Sanofi (Norway)

Sanofi is a global pharmaceutical company and one of their main areas of treatment concerns oncology. Every year, they invest 15% of their revenue into research and development. They do phase I, II and III clinical trials to get new medicines approved for treatment. They want to remain innovative, because they believe that the research they perform today will contribute to preventing and treating diseases in the future.

“Sanofi has a long legacy with R&D in oncology. In the years to come oncology and hematology will be one of the biggest therapeutic areas at Sanofi.

“By becoming a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster we believe that we are able to contribute to unlocking tomorrow’s science by supporting the latest advances in treating cancer in Norway and beyond.” Britt Moe, General Manager, Sanofi (Norway)

“This is especially interesting since in the treatment of cancer, new mechanisms of actions and developments, such as immune-oncology therapies, are very much in the focus.” 


Thommessen

Established in 1856, Thommessen is a leading commercial law firm with offices in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and London. The firm provides advice to Norwegian and international companies as well as organisations in the public and private sectors, ranging from start-ups, via small and medium size companies to large multi-national corporations. Thommessen covers all business related fields of law.

“We believe that early identification of potential legal issues before they arise is important.” Mirella Gullaksen, Head of Projects and Business Development, Thommessen

“Investing in early phase biotech/oncology companies should be about the relevant team, technology and product breakthrough. All other risks relating to the company, and investments should be reduced to a minimum”. 

 

  • This post is the first in a series of articles, which will introduce the new members of our organisation every three months.
  • Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our newsletter to always stay up to date!
  • To find out who else is involved in Oslo Cancer Cluster, view the full list of members.

 

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The first Norwegian CAR

Made in Oslo by a team of researchers from Oslo University Hospital, the first ever Norwegian CAR T cell is now a fact. A potential treatment based on this result depends on a clinical study.

A new Norwegian study shows a genetically modified cell-line with great potential as treatment for patients that are not responding to established CAR T cell therapies. This form of immuno-therapy for cancer patients has recently been approved in many countries, including Norway.

“We hope that the Norwegian authorities will be interested in transforming this research into benefits for Norwegian patients.” Hakan Köksal

 

 

What is a CAR?

Before we go into the research, let us clarify an essential question. What is a CAR? Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells are T cells that have been genetically engineered to produce an artificialreceptorwhich binds a protein on cancer cells.

How does this work? T cells naturally recognize threats to the body using their T cell receptors, but cancer cells can lock onto those receptors and deactivate them. The new CAR T cell therapies are in fact genetic manipulations used to lure a T cell to make it kill cancer cells. This is what a CAR is doing, indeed CARs replace the natural T-cell receptors in any T cells and give them the power to recognize the defined target – the cancer cell.

CAR-T cell therapy is used as cancer therapy for patients with B-cell malignancies that do not respond to other treatments.

 A severe consequence of using CAR T cell therapy is that it effectively wipes out all the B cells in the patient’s body — not only the cancerous leukemia cells or the lymphoma, but the healthy B cells as well. Since B-cells are an important part of the immune system, it goes without saying that the treatment comes with risks.

Micrograph of actin cytoskeleton of T-cells. The cell is about 10µm in diameter. Photo: Pierre Dillard

Micrograph of actin cytoskeleton of T-cells. The cell is about 10µm in diameter. Photo: Pierre Dillard

T cells: T lymphocytes (T cells) have the capacity to kill cancer cells. These T cells are a subtype of white blood cells and play a central role in cell-mediated immunity.

 

Made in Norway  

Now let us move on to the new research. This particular construct was designed from an antibody that was isolated in the 1980’s at the Radium Hospital in Oslo.

The CAR construct was designed, manufactured and validated in two laboratories in the Radium Hospital campus. One is the laboratory of Immunomonitoring and Translational Research of the Department of Cellular Therapy, OUH, located at the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. This laboratory is led by Else Marit Inderberg and Sébastien Wälchli. The other is the laboratory of the Lymphoma biology group of the Department of Cancer Immunology, Institute for Cancer Research, OUH. This laboratory is led by June Helen Myklebust and Erlend B. Smeland.

“Even the mouse was Norwegian.” Hakan Köksal

The pre-clinical work that made the Norwegian CAR was completed in March 2019.

In the research paper “Preclinical development of CD37CAR T-cell therapy for treatment of B-cell lymphoma”, published in the journal Blood Advances, the research team tests an artificially produced construct calledCD37CAR and finds that it is especially promising for patients suffering from multiple types of B-cell lymphoma. This may be treated successfully with novel cell-based therapy.

It now needs to be approved by the authorities and gain financial support to be further tested in a clinical study in order to benefit Norwegian patients.

 

The first CAR-therapy

CAR-based therapy gained full attention when the common B-cell marker CD19 was targeted and made the basis for the CAR T cell therapy known as Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) from Novartis.

It quickly became known as the first gene therapy allowed in the US when it was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just last year, in 2018, to treat certain children and young adults with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Shortly after, the European Commission also approved this CAR T cell therapy for young European patients. The Norwegian Medicines Agency soon followed and approved the treatment in Norway.

“CD19CAR was the first CAR construct ever developed, but nowadays more and more limitations to this treatment have emerged. The development of new CAR strategies targeting different antigens has become a growing need.” Dr. Pierre Dillard

 

Not effective for all

Although the CD19CAR T cell therapy has shown impressive clinical responses in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, not all patients respond to this CAR T treatment.

In fact, patients can become resistant to CD19CAR. Such relapse has been observed in roughly 30% of the studies of this treatment. Thus, alternative B-cell targets need to be discovered and evaluated. CD37 is one of them.

“You could target any antigen to get a new CAR, but it is always a matter of safety and specificity.” Hakan Köksal said.

Dr. Pierre Dillard and Hakan Köksal are part of the team behind the new study on CD37CAR T-cell therapy for treatment of B-cell lymphoma.

 

The Norwegian plan B

The novel Norwegian CAR T is the perfect option B to the CD19CAR.

 “The more ammunition we have against the tumours, the more likely we are to get better response rates in the patients.” Hakan Köksal

The CD37CAR T cells tested in mouse models in this Norwegian study, show great potential as treatment for patients that are not responding to the established CD19CAR-treatment.

“More and more labs are studying the possibility of using CAR therapy as combination, i.e. CAR treatments targeting different antigens. Such a strategy will significantly lower the probability of patients relapsing.” Dr. Pierre Dillard said.

The CD37CAR still needs to be tested clinically. The scientists at OUS underline the importance of keeping the developed CD37CAR in Norway and having it tested in a clinical trial.

It is a point to keep it here and potentially save patients here. We would like to see the first CD37CAR clinical study here in Norway.” Hakan Köksal

 

More from the Translational Research Lab of the Department of Cellular Therapy, OUH: 

 

Encouraging news from BerGenBio

A second group of patients have been added to an ongoing phase II clinical study of a drug combination to treat lung cancer.

 

The ongoing trial is a collaborative effort between two members of Oslo Cancer Cluster: Norwegian biopharmaceutical company BerGenBio and US-based pharmaceutical company Merck (known as MSD in Europe). It involves an kinase inhibitor called bemcentinib, developed by BerGenBio, in combination with an immunotherapy drug called Keytruda (also known as pembrolizumab) from MSD.

 

“Throughout 2018, we reported encouraging updates from our ongoing proof-of-concept phase II clinical trial assessing bemcentinib in combination with Keytruda in advanced lung cancer patients post chemotherapy.”
Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer, BerGenBio

 

The second group will involve patients that have been treated with immunotherapy before, but that have experienced a progression of the disease. There are various treatments available for patients with non-small cell lung cancer, but patients often acquire resistance to treatment. New treatments that can overcome these resistance mechanisms are therefore urgently needed.

 

“I am pleased that we are now extending the ongoing trial to test our hypothesis also in patients showing disease progression on checkpoint inhibitors.”
Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer, BerGenBio

 

The aim is to evaluate the anti-tumour activity of this new drug combination. Preliminary results from the second patient group of the study are expected later this year. BerGenBio is in parallel also developing diagnostic tools to see which patients are most likely to benefit from their drug.

 

The decision to extend the trial was based on new positive results from pre-clinical studies, which were presented at the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) earlier this week. The results open for the possibility to use bemcentinib both as a monotherapy and in combination with other cancer treatments on a broad spectrum of cancers.

 

 

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Giving patients a stronger voice

How can the voices of cancer patients be heard when evaluating new methods of treatment?

A breakfast seminar was held yesterday in the series called The Cancer Treatments of the Future. Over 150 people attended at Litteraturhuset in Oslo, among them were relevant key players from the healthcare sector, governmental agencies, patient organisations and the public. The aim was to identify new opportunities to improve patient involvement when evaluating new methods of treatment.

The seminar was jointly arranged by Oslo Cancer Cluster, Legemiddelindustrin (LMI) and The Norwegian Cancer Society. The sponsors of the event were Astra Zeneca, Janssen and MSD.

 

Anne Grethe Erlandsen

Anne Grethe Erlandsen, the State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services.

Anne Grethe Erlandsen, the State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services, first talked about creating a healthcare service with the patient as the starting point. She said that it is important to involve the patient in the decision-making processes to bring in new perspectives, ask questions and challenge the healthcare service.

“The patient is the most radical agent of change in the healthcare sector.”
Anne Grethe Erlandsen

 

Ellen Nilsen

Ellen Nilsen, Special Adviser at Nye Metoder.

Next, Ellen Nilsen, Special Adviser at Nye Metoder, which is the national system for managed introduction of new health technologies within the specialist health service in Norway. Nilsen gave a presentation of Nye Metoder and its processes.

 “Anyone, including patients, their relatives or patient organisations, can submit a proposal for a new method of treatment.” Ellen Nilsen

The proposal is then managed by the regional health authorities in The Commissioning Forum, which commissions a full Health Technology Assessment (HTA) from The Norwegian Medicines Agency. Anyone can submit input to The Commissioning Forum by e-mail or in a form on the website.

Decisions are then made by the regional health authorities in The Decision Forum, based upon the HTA. Patient organisations are also represented in a reference group that meets every six months. The patient representatives are only observers, but have the right to make verbal contributions.

  • Learn more about Nye Metoder by reading this presentation in English from their official website.

 

Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is the evaluation of a new method of treatment, often in comparison to existing treatments. The treatments are assessed according to a set of criteria: the severity of the disease, the utility of the treatment and its cost effectiveness.

 

Anette Grøvan, Senior Adviser at The Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Then, Anette Grøvan, Senior Adviser at The Norwegian Medicines Agency, presented how they are developing a pilot project to involve patients in their HTAs. They have sporadically received input from patients and patient organisations in the past, but they wish to implement a better system for it now.

“Satisfied patients are important to us. Everyone should have a voice, regardless of their diagnosis or disease.” Anette Grøvan

They believe the patients can contribute with their experiences of living with the disease, the quality of existing treatments and their expectations on new treatments.

 

 

A panel discussion, moderated by Markus Moe, the Editor-in-Chief of Dagens Medisin, was then held with the following participants:

  • Tove Nakken, Head of brukerutvalget* at Oslo University Hospital and Deputy Head in Lymfekreftforeningen (The Norwegian Lymphoma Society)
  • Heidi Brorson, member of brukerutvalget* at the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority and Special Adviser in the Norwegian Cancer Society
  • Anette Grøvan, Senior Adviser at The Norwegian Medicines Agency
  • Jan Frich, Chief Medical Officer at the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority and Senior Adviser in the Commissioning Forum
  • Odd Terje Brustugun, oncologist at Drammen Hospital

*”brukerutvalget” is a selected group of patient representatives that exists in each regional health authority

 

The topic of the panel discussion was how to improve patient involvement when evaluating and approving new methods of treatment.

 

Nakken first highlighted the lengthy processes in Norway: “Patients want to take part of the treatments that have been approved in our neighbouring countries. But the bureaucracy in Norway takes too long.”

Brustugun agreed that there is a gap between the treatments available in Norway and abroad, and that this is affecting an ever-growing patient population: “The patient’s perspective is important, because there is a large group of patients that can potentially become long-term survivors if given the new treatments.”

Frich said the overall cost of pharmaceuticals in Norway has actually increased over the years, mostly due to new and expensive cancer therapies. He explained they are legally obliged by Stortinget to evaluate new methods according to a specific set of criteria. The reason that a treatment isn’t approved may be that the effect of it has not been documented well enough.

Brorson called for greater transparency in the decision-making processes: “If there was more openness about the decision-making, the patients would have a greater understanding for it and become better informed.”

Grøvan added: “We are not finished developing the system for patient involvement and there are a lot of considerations to make sure that it becomes structured and fair.”

 

The engaging panel discussion inspired the audience to make their own comments and reflections.

 

The fruitful discussion led to many constructive ideas on how to improve patient involvement. Hopefully, these kinds of collaborative discussions can inform politicians to take the necessary steps forward to improve cancer patients’ lives.

Oslo Cancer Cluster wants to thank the speakers, the sponsors, the organisers and everyone who attended! This discussion will continue at Arendalsuken 2019, at our event August 15. We hope to see you there!

 

  • Here is a summary of the event, written in Norwegian, from LMI’s official website.

Chemistry with mutual benefits

Students were taught about the chemistry behind developing cancer treatments in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

In February, forty chemistry students were given a memorable specialisation day on the subject of the chemistry behind developing cancer treatments. The company Arctic Pharma in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator invited them to the lab and gave a long and detailed lecture on the chemistry behind the medication they are developing to treat cancer.

Karl J. Bonney, who is a researcher in the company, started the day with an interactive lecture in English about the chemistry of the substance Arctic Pharma hopes will be effective against cancer.

Bonney emphasised to the students that the company is in the early stages of the development, and that it will take approximately three to four years before they are potentially able to start clinical trials on humans to see whether the substance is effective.

The pupils who are studying chemistry as their specialisation in the last year of upper secondary school were obviously fascinated by what they heard. They asked many important questions both to the lecturer, Bonney, and the chemistry teacher, Karsten, who participated to explain the most difficult terms in Norwegian.

 

Sugar-hungry cancer cells

Arctic Pharma is exploiting a well-known biological fact regarding cancer cells, namely that they like sugar, which means they have a sweet tooth. This is called the Warburg effect, and, so far, nobody has used it in the treatment of cancer. Since this is such a characteristic aspect of cancer cells, it would make sense to think that this could be a viable starting point for treatment.

Arctic Pharma is one of the smaller companies in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and is co-located with Ullern Upper Secondary School. Bonney has been permitted to use the school’s chemistry lab to test the chemical substance being developed to attack the Warburg effect.

The chemistry day at the company was organised to return the favour and to inspire the young chemistry students to keep studying chemistry at a university or university college.

 

 

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Transporting patients

Student Jørgen Amdim got to experience life as an orderly on his one-week placement at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

 

Transporting patients in Norway’s biggest cancer hospital is strenuous both physically and psychologically. “But it’s really good,” said Jørgen Amdim, who is studying the program Healthcare, childhood and youth development at Ullern Upper Secondary School. His one-week placement was at the Transport Section at the Norwegian Radium Hospital. The work experience certainly gave him a taste for more.

Jørgen has previously worked in a nursing home, but he found the work a little tedious. He enjoyed being an orderly though and asked the school if there were any available placements.

An orderly is an attendant in a hospital who is responsible for, among other things, transporting patients, medical equipment and other essential materials. Jørgen spent one week as an orderly at the Radium Hospital and he loved it. He enjoyed it so much that he wants to work there again during the summer of 2019.

Knut Arve Kristiansen, the Head of the Transport Section, has worked at the Radium Hospital for 30 years and praised Jørgen:

“He was a perfect addition to our team, and we are very happy with him.”

 

80 km per week

Jørgen enjoys manual labour, which is great if you want to become an orderly. Wheeling around heavy medical equipment or patients in beds and wheel chairs is hard work. Knut Arve explained:

”As orderlies, we’re constantly on the go, and we could end up walking around 80 kilometres on hard floors during a week of work.

“It can be strenuous for the body, so we have to regularly do strength exercises to keep fit,” Knut Arve continued.

Knut Arve only had positive things to say about Jørgen and he hopes that Jørgen will want to return to the Transport Section for a summer job as an orderly.

“Jørgen is a social person and very well liked. This is important for patients when they are transported between examinations and the rooms they are staying in,” said Knut Arve.

Jørgen praises the work environment and especially the warm welcome he received from the other staff.

Jørgen has constantly been accompanied by a colleague from the section during his stay, because he is not allowed to do much on his own when on a placement. If he returns for a summer job, things will be different. Then he will have to work more independently and take responsibility if an emergency should occur while he is transporting a patient.

The orderlies are also responsible for transporting food and medication. To newcomers, the Radium Hospital can appear to be a huge labyrinth, especially outside the wards. The hospital is also currently being renovated, because a new hospital is being built. A sense of direction is therefore essential for anyone finding their way through the building.

 

A future in health

Jørgen does not necessarily want to become an orderly, but sees himself working in healthcare:

“I would really like to work in an emergency room – receiving ill and injured people at the hospital when they arrive in an ambulance. But I think working as an orderly is very exciting too, so I don’t want to exclude it as an option.”

Knut Arve says that a trade certificate is required to work as an orderly and that they currently offer placements for several apprentices in the section. Students need to study Healthcare, childhood and youth development during upper secondary school and then finish a two-year apprenticeship to obtain their trade certificate as an orderly.

”Workdays here are very varied and you meet many different people. It is really fun to talk to people and no two days are the same. I have really enjoyed it.” said Jørgen.

 

Attracting and developing the life science talents of the future is an essential goal for Oslo Cancer Cluster. One way to do that is to take students outside the traditional classroom setting and invite them to work placements and educational lectures. These collaborations between industry and academia give the students a unique insight into the specialist skills needed to become tomorrow’s researchers and entrepreneurs.

  • Find out more about Oslo Cancer Cluster’s school collaboration with Ullern Upper Secondary School.

 

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Oslo, Norway, 26.04.2017. Photographs from Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC), an oncology research and industry cluster dedicated to improving the lives of cancer patients by accelerating the development of new cancer diagnostics and medicines. Photographs by Christopher Olssøn

Natural killer cells dressed to kill cancer cells

New research: A new study may potentially enable scientists to provide cancer immunotherapy that is cheaper, faster and more manageable.

New work by researchers with laboratories at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator may help to dramatically improve a T cell-based immunotherapy approach so that it can benefit many more patients.

 

T cell assassins

T cells are the professional killers of the immune system – they have a unique capability to specifically recognize ‘foreign’ material, such as infected cells or cancer cells. This highly specific recognition is achieved through receptors on the surface of T cells, named T cell receptors (TCRs). Once its receptor recognizes foreign material, a T cell becomes activated and triggers the killing of the infected or cancerous cell.

T cell receptors (TCRs): receptors on the surface of T cells, that recognize foreign material and activate the T cell. This triggers the killing of the infected or cancerous cell by the T cell.

 

Adoptive cell therapy 

Unfortunately, many cancers have adapted fiendish ways to avoid recognition and killing by T cells. To combat this issue, an immunotherapy approach known as adoptive cell therapy (ACT) has been developed in recent years. One such ACT approach is based on the injection of modified (or ‘re-directed’) T cells into patients. The approach is further explained in the illustration below.

 

Illustration from the research paper ‘NK cells specifically TCR-dressed to kill cancer cells’.

 

The left side of the illustration shows how redirected T-cell therapy involves:

1) Harvesting T cells from a cancer patient

2) Genetic manipulation of T cells to make them express an ideal receptor for recognizing the patient’s cancer cells

3) Growing T cells in culture to produce high cell numbers

4) Treating patients with large quantities of redirected T cells, which will now recognize and kill cancer cells more effectively

 

An alternative approach 

Adoptive T cell therapy has delivered very encouraging results for some cancer patients, but its application on a larger scale has been limited by the time consuming and costly nature of this approach. In addition, the quality of T cells isolated from patients who have already been through multiple rounds of therapy can sometimes be poor.

Researchers have long searched for a more automated form of adoptive cell therapy that would facilitate faster and more cost-effective T cell-based cancer immunotherapy.

One approach that has seen some success involves the use of different immune cells called Natural Killer cells – NK cells in brief.

Despite their great potential, NK cells have unfortunately not yet been proven to provide a successful alternative to standard T cell-based cancer immunotherapy. One major reason for this may be that, because NK cells do not possess T cell receptors, they are not very effective at specifically detecting and killing cancer cells.

NK cell lines: Natural Killer cells (NK cells) have the ability to recognise and kill infected or cancerous cells. Scientists have been able to manipulate human NK cells so that they grow without restriction in the lab. This is called a cell line. It enables a continuous and unlimited source of NK cells that could be used to treat cancer patients.

 

Cells dressed to kill

The group led by Dr. Sébastien Wälchli and Dr. Else Marit Inderberg at the Department of Cellular Therapy aimed to address this issue and improve NK cell-based therapies.

They reasoned that by editing NK cells to display anti-cancer TCRs on their cell surface they could combine the practical benefits of NK cells with the potent cancer killing capabilities of T cells. This is shown in the right hand side of the illustration above.

The researchers found that by simply switching on the production of a protein complex called CD3, which associates with the TCR and is required for T cell activation, they could indeed induce NK cells to display active TCRs. These ‘TCR-NK cells’ acted just like normal T cells, including their ability to form functional connections to cancer cells and subsequently mount an appropriate T cell-like response to kill cancer cells.

This was a surprising and important finding, as it was not previously known that NK cells could accommodate TCR signaling.

This video shows TCR-NK cell-mediated killing of cancer cells in culture. The tumour cells are marked in green. Tumour cells that start dying become blue. The overlapping colours show dead tumour cells.

 

The researchers went on to show that TCR-NK cells not only targeted isolated cancer cells, but also whole tumours.

The method was proven to be effective in preclinical studies of human colorectal cancer cells in the lab and in an animal model.  This demonstrates its potential as an effective new form of cancer immunotherapy.

 

Paving the way

Lead researcher Dr. Nadia Mensali said:

“These findings pave the way to the development of a less expensive, ready-to-use universal TCR-based cell therapy. By producing an expansive ‘biobank’ of TCR-NK cells that detect common mutations found in human cancers, doctors could select suitable TCR-NK cells for each patient and apply them rapidly to treatment regimens”.

Whilst further studies are needed to confirm the suitability of TCR-NK cells for widespread treatment of cancer patients, the researchers hope that these findings will be the first step on the road towards off-the-shelf immunotherapy drugs.

 

  • Read the whole research paper at Science Direct. The paper is called “NK cells specifically TCR-dressed to kill cancer cells”.
  • The researchers behind the publication consists of Nadia Mensali, Pierre Dillard, Michael Hebeisen, Susanne Lorenz, Theodossis Theodossiou, Marit Renée Myhre, Anne Fåne, Gustav Gaudernack, Gunnar Kvalheim, June Helen Myklebust, Else Marit Inderberg, Sébastien Wälchli.
  • Read more about research from this research group in this article from January.
  • Read more about Natural Killer cells in this Wikipedia article.

 

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One of the tenants in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

The Incubator Labs are expanding

The laboratories at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator are expanding to meet increasing demand from members.

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has recently converted three offices into new laboratories to accommodate the rising demand from their members.

From the opening in 2015, the laboratories in the Incubator have been a great success. Several of the start-ups have expanded their work force and require more offices and lab space.

The new laboratory is jointly occupied by Zelluna Immunotherapy and the Department of Cellular Therapy (Oslo University Hospital). The Institute for Energy Technology and Arctic Pharma have also expanded their laboratories with an extra room each.

The laboratories are now running at full capacity, but there is some space available in the shared labs. Some of the members of the Incubator offer their services to outside companies who are in need of getting lab work done.

“Our ambition is to grow the Incubator Labs further into the new Innovation Park next door.” Bjørn Klem, General Manager

 

Office plan of the OCC Incubator

The Incubator occupies over 550 square meters. Offices have been converted into labs to meet the growing interest from the members.

 

A unique model

The Incubator Labs follow a unique model, which offers both private laboratories and fully equipped shared laboratories. The private laboratories are leased with furniture, water supply, electricity and ventilation. The companies bring their own equipment depending on their needs.

Shared laboratories, including a bacteria lab, a cell lab and wet lab, are leased including basic equipment with the opportunity for companies to bring their own if shared by all tenants. All laboratories share the common support facilities including a cold room for storage, a laundry room, and storage room including cell tanks and nitrogen gas.

“This model of a shared laboratory is very unusual,” said Janne Nestvold, Laboratory Manager at the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

The advantage of working in a shared lab is that companies can avoid the costs and limitations associated with setting up and managing a laboratory. A broad range of general equipment, including more advanced, analytical instruments, are provided by the Incubator.

”It would be too expensive for a small company to buy all this equipment themselves.” Janne Nestvold, Laboratory Manager

 

The Department of Cellular Therapy (Oslo University Hospital) are one of the members using the shared lab. Photograph by Christopher Olssøn

 

 

Open atmosphere

The laboratories have an open and light atmosphere. Large windows provide ample lighting and all spaces are kept clean and tidy. The halls are neatly lined with closets and plastic containers for extra storage.

The general mood is calm and friendly. Nestvold communicates daily with the users about changes, updates and improvements, which sets an informal tone. Thanks to monthly lab meetings, the users are also involved in the decision-making process. The companies often work side-by-side or in teams, fostering collaboration rather than competition. There is therefore a strong workplace culture based upon flexibility and mutual respect.

The companies often work side-by-side or in teams, fostering collaboration rather than competition.

Nestvold also ensures that the high demands on the infrastructure of the laboratory are met. She has put agreements in place to facilitate the members’ needs, such as the washing of lab coats, pipette service and shipping packages on dry ice. With all these services included, the Incubator Labs are attractive for researchers and companies to carry out their cancer research.

 

Over the years, Nordic Nanovector, OncoInvent, Targovax, Intersint, OncoImmunity have conducted research in the laboratories. Now, Arctic Pharma, the Department of Cellular Therapy (Oslo University Hospital), GE Healthcare, the Institute for Energy Technology, Lytix BioPharma, NorGenotech, Ultimovacs and Zelluna Immunotherapy are using the Incubator Labs to develop their cancer treatments.

 

  • For more information about the Incubator Lab, get in touch with Janne Nestvold.

 

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Attracting clinical trials to Norway

Dr. Jon Amund Kyte at Oslo University Hospital (OUH) and Oslo Cancer Cluster share the common goal of bringing more clinical trials to Norway.

 

Jon Amund Kyte is the new Head at the Department of Experimental Cancer Treatment at OUH. He also runs three separate clinical trials and is the leader of a research group at the Department of Cancer Immunology, where he develops novel CAR T cell therapy and conducts translational studies.

Kyte aims to increase the number of and improve the quality of clinical trials in Norway. He says this will contribute to more patients gaining access to novel cancer treatments and to improving the efficacy of cancer therapies.

“The only way to improve cancer treatment is to have clinical trials,” said Kyte.

Oslo Cancer Cluster also wants to bring more clinical trials to Norway to develop innovative cancer medicines. The ambition is to enable faster patient recruitment from across the Nordic region, so that many more can benefit from new treatments, such as immunotherapy.

 

CAR T cells are produced by isolating specific cells of the immune system (T cells) from a cancer patient and modifying them so that they become more effective at recognizing and killing cancer cells.

 

Promising advances

Immunotherapy represents a new type of cancer treatment, which activates the patient’s immune-system to fight off the cancer cells. It gives doctors the opportunity to help patients that previously had limited treatment options. Most types of immunotherapy also cause less side effects than traditional cancer treatments.

“The important point is that immunotherapy can have a long-term effect,” said Kyte.

“Most patients that experience a recurrence or progression of the disease cannot be cured. The traditional treatments only have a limited, short-term effect on them. But immunotherapy may have a long-term effect on the patient – and, in some cases, even cure the disease.”

 

Two big challenges

Immunotherapy may sound like a miracle drug, but researchers still have a long way to go to perfect the treatment for all cancer patients. Kyte highlights two of the biggest barriers that remain.

“One challenge is to develop immunotherapy so that it works efficiently on all types of cancer. The other challenge is to learn how to choose personalised treatment plans: to identify an individual’s biomarkers and find out which treatment will be effective for that specific patient.”

A biomarker is a biological molecule in the patient’s body and these may be used to see how well a patient will respond to a certain treatment. Kyte said that to develop immunotherapy, there needs to be more clinical trials. It is the only way for researchers to find out how to activate an immune response in the patient’s body.

“A big potential for development lies in trying different possible combinations of cancer treatments. In my clinical trials, for example, we combine immunotherapy with immunogenic chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” Kyte explained.

 

Jon Amund Kyte presenting the Clinical Trial Unit.

The Clinical Trial Unit are experts in assisting companies and researchers to conduct clinical trials in Norway.

 

Welcome, companies

OUH has a long history of conducting clinical trials and is an appealing option for both researchers, doctors and companies that wish to initiate their own trials. Kyte welcomes more companies to conduct clinical trials at OUH:

“The more clinical trials that are conducted here by companies, the stronger our clinical research environment becomes and our ability to run our own studies is also strengthened.”

The Clinical Trial Unit in Kyte’s department offers its services to companies that want to run a clinical trial at OUH. They have extensive background knowledge of how the hospital is organised and which approvals are needed to conduct a clinical trial in Norway. They can step in as project coordinator for companies that need help to get their clinical trials up and running.

“We are highly experienced in applying for approvals in Norway. When you run a clinical trial, there are regulations from the Norwegian Medicines Agency and the ethical committee and other governmental agencies. A clinical trial also involves many different parts of the hospital – the departments of pathology and radiology, the laboratories, the infusion unit, the hospital wards and out-patient clinic and the administrative offices that oversee different agreements, data management and biobanking.”

 

Nordic clinical trials

All these administrative obstacles may appear discouraging, but there are many convincing reasons to conduct a clinical trial in Norway.

“The Oslo University Hospital is a good place to run a clinical trial, because in terms of the number of cancer patients, it is one of the largest hospitals in Europe. Norwegian healthcare is also extremely well-organised. Patients are rarely lost to follow-up, because there are no private healthcare alternatives and patients rarely move out of the country,” Kyte explained.

The Clinical Trial Unit is also taking part in the development Nordic Nect, a collaboration to recruit patients from the entire Nordic region to clinical trials. The plan is to have one hospital where the clinical study is conducted and to involve patients from Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. There will then be a population of 25 million people from which to recruit patients, which opens the possibility for larger clinical trials.

“This is a good thing for the companies that want to run clinical trials in Norway. It is also good for the researchers. But most of all, it is good for the patients – who have the opportunity to take part in more novel cancer treatments,” said Kyte.

 

 

 

 

Doctor examining the birthmark of a female patient

Promising start for expansion group of Targovax clinical trial

Targovax, one of the members of Oslo Cancer Cluster, has begun an expansion patient group in the clinical trial of a drug to treat skin cancer.

The company Targovax is developing immune activators to target solid tumours that are difficult to treat. The drug in question, called ONCOS-102, is aimed at patients with malignant melanoma (skin cancer) who have either been through chemotherapy, biological therapy or surgery and experienced a recurrence or progression of the cancer.

 

How does it work?

The immune activators work by activating the patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells. The drug that is now being tested is a genetically modified oncolytic adenovirus, a type of virus that has been designed to infect in the cancer cells and then replicate.

 

Initial positive results

Targovax, a member of the Oslo Cancer Cluster, are developing a treatment for skin cancer.

In September 2018, the first six patients had been treated with 3 injections of the drug and all of them showed a strong activation of their immune systems – one patient even had a complete response. The results suggested that the patients could benefit from more injections of the drug.

“The results seen to date with only three injections of ONCOS-102 are promising, and we are confident that by increasing to twelve injections we will release the full potential of ONCOS-102 to reactivate these patients to respond to Keytruda treatment,” said Magnus Jäderberg, CMO of Targovax.

 

Expansion patient group

On 11 February 2019, the first patient in the expansion group of the phase I trial was injected with ONCOS-102. The patient will be treated in combination with pembrolizumab, also known as Keytruda, an immunotherapy drug that works as an immune checkpoint inhibitor. This means that the drug involves antibodies, which “unlock” the protective mechanisms of the cancer cells so the immune system then can destroy them.

 

For more information, read the full press release from Targovax.

Hands cradling female reproductive system

New collaboration aims to treat cervical cancer

The companies Vaccibody and Roche have started a new collaboration to investigate a drug combination to treat patients with advanced cervical cancer.

Both companies are members of Oslo Cancer Cluster and are involved in the development of novel cancer treatments.

Martin Bonde, CEO of Vaccibody, said: “We are very pleased with this collaboration. This is an important study as it explores a novel targeted treatment approach that addresses the high medical need of patients with advanced cervical cancer.”

Cervical cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer among women in developing countries and is the second most commonly occurring cancer amongst women worldwide.

Vaccibody is a vaccine company that aims to develop and discover new immunotherapies to treat difficult forms of cancer. They have developed a therapeutic DNA vaccine that treats cancers caused by HPV (the human papillomavirus).

Cervical cancer is caused by high risk HPV. HPV16 is the type that most frequently causes cancer.

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that aims to switch on a patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells.

Roche is a healthcare company that has developed an immune-checkpoint inhibitor. Now Vaccibody wants to test their vaccine in combination with the immune-checkpoint inhibitor designed by Roche.

An immune checkpoint inhibitor is a type of drug that blocks certain proteins made by some types of cancer cells. When these proteins are blocked, the “brakes” on the immune system are released and T cells are able to kill cancer cells better.

Agnete Fredriksen, President and CSO of Vaccibody, said that the combination of the two drugs build on the positive results seen when their vaccine has been used on patients with cervical cancer. Therefore they now expect to see positive results when they combine the vaccine with an immune checkpoint inhibitor.

During the second half of 2019, Vaccibody expects to begin the phase II study, which will involve 50 patients. It will assess the safety of the drug, its ability to invoke a response in the immune system, how the patients tolerate it and how efficient the drug is. The group for this new drug combination involves patients with advanced cervical cancer.

 

Raised NOK 230 million

Vaccibody also raised NOK 230 million (EUR 23.6 Million) in a private placement the same week. The sum was indeed placed all within one day, according to Agnete Fredriksen.

The proceeds from the share sales will be used to conduct the phase II clinical study of the drug combination from Vaccibody and Roche. The money will also go to the preparation of expansion patient groups in Vaccibody’s clinical trials and to generate corporate purposes.

 

For more information, read the press release from Vaccibody.

 

Three students experimenting with fruit flies in a lab.

Operation fruit flies

Fruit flies are not only annoying little insects that appear when bananas are overripe. They are also popular research tools for cancer researchers.

The four pupils Kalina Topalova Casadiego, Ida Hustad Andresen, Andreas Bernhus and Dina Düring got to experience how cancer researchers look at fruit flies during their work placement in January.

“Let’s turn on the gas, and then I’ll put some fruit flies on the pad under your microscope.” Speaking is cancer researcher Lene Malrød who, together with her colleague Nina Marie Pedersen, is responsible for four pupils from Ullern Secondary School on work placements.

“Gosh! They’re moving,” proclaims one of the pupils.

But not for long. Soon, all the fruit flies are anaesthetised and, eventually, dead; then the pupils are tasked with surgically removing the ovaries of the female flies. It is easier said than done, even with the help of microscopes to enhance the tiny flies. Especially when the operating tools are two tweezers.

Fruit flies are kept in two test tubes

The fruit flies are kept in test tubes.

 

An exciting placement

It is the third day of the pupils’ work placement at the Institute for Cancer Research, located next to the school. For four days at the end of January, they have learnt about cancer research and which methods researchers use in their daily work.

“The work placement is not like we imagined,” says Kalina and Ida.

“There’s a lot more manual work than I would have thought, and then you realise how important research is through what we do,” says Ida.

She is the only one who is specialising in biology in combination with with other science subjects, and she finds this very useful when working in the lab together with researchers. The other three have had to catch up on the reading, but they all agree that it is very exciting.

“Yesterday, we learnt a lot about CRISPR, which is a new method for cutting and splicing genes. Media gives you the impression that this is a highly precise tool, but the researchers here say that a lot can go wrong, and that it’s not at all as precise as you might think,” says Ida.

A student looks at fruit flies under a microscope

The students look at the fruit flies under a microscope.

 

From Western Blot to flies

A total of twelve pupils were picked out for this work placement. They have been chosen based on motivation and grades, and they all have a wish to study something related to medicine or science after they finish upper secondary school.

The twelve students are divided into three groups with completely different activities and get to learn a number of different research methods. The group consisting of Ida, Kalina, Andreas, and Dina, for instance, is the only group which will have a go in the fly lab.

“Am I really supposed to remove the ovaries? I don’t see how,” one of the pupils say, equally discouraged and excited.

Andreas, on the other hand, is in complete control. First, he has separated the males and the females with a paint brush. He has then used the tweezers to remove the heads from the females, punctured the bottom to remove the intestines, and finally found the ovaries in the abdomen.

Lene gathers all the different body parts for the pupils to look at through a different microscope. These fruit flies are in fact genetically manipulated to glow in the dark – they are fluorescent.

If you are wondering why researchers use fruit flies as part of their research, you can read more about it in this article from Forskning.no (the article is written in Norwegian).

“It is so much fun to be here, and we are really lucky to get this opportunity,” says Dina on her way from the fly lab to another lab to carry out another experiment.

 

The pupils on the work placement have uploaded many nice photos and videos on Ullern Secondary School’s Instagram account – visit their account to see more from the placement.

Audience at Cancer Crosslinks 2019

Top presentations from Cancer Crosslinks 2019

See them again or for the first time: videos from the Cancer Crosslinks 2019 presentations.

Cancer Crosslinks is Oslo Cancer Cluster’s annual, open conference for the Norwegian oncology community. It offers a full-day educational program featuring distinguished international and national experts presenting recent advances in precision oncology and cancer immunotherapy.

More than 300 participants joined Cancer Crosslinks on 17 January 2019 and enjoyed excellent talks and discussions presented by leading international oncologists and researchers and their Norwegian colleagues.

 

The speakers’ top topics

The speakers discussed new insights into sensitivity and resistance and features of the tumour microenvironment critical for the clinical course. They also discussed emerging tissue agnostic biomarkers, where «tissue agnostic” refers to the ability to develop therapies based upon biomarkers or other molecular targets to treat a disease. A biomarker is a measurable indicator of a biological state or condition.

Other topics were learnings from cancer molecular evolution studies, and how big data approaches are used to improve patient care. Together with an engaged audience, the presenters were really connecting the dots for improved patient care in precision oncology.


Professor Naiyer Rizvi
, Director of thoracic oncology and of immunotherapeutics for the division of haematology and oncology at Columbia University Medical Center, New York, gave the opening keynote in the form of a video presentation. He is an internationally recognized leader in the treatment of lung cancer and immunotherapy drug development.

In his presentation, titled: “Sensitivity and resistance to immuno-oncology: Biological insights and their translation into precision treatment”, Prof. Rizvi also addressed the question “What happens when the doctors expect the patient to respond to immunotherapy, but then the patient does not?”

WATCH PROF. RIZVI

Professor Rizvi

 

Dr. Aaron Goodman, MD, is a haematologist and medical oncologist specialized in treating a variety of blood cancers. He holds a position as Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, California.

During his talk, Dr. Goodman presented tumour mutational burden and other emerging tissue agnostic biomarkers for response to cancer immunotherapy and how to implement these into the clinic. He also spoke about his experience from the Rare Tumour Clinic in San Diego, where they perform a comprehensive molecular profiling for about 22-25% of cancer patients with rare tumours. The goal is to identify a matching therapy for each patient.

After his presentation, Dr. Goodman commented to Oslo Cancer Cluster:

“We started by doing data collections and help patients and learn at the same time. It is a benefit that we at least have the patient’s data and experience with that patient so that we can go forward and help the next patient.” Aaron Goodman

WATCH DR. GOODMAN

Dr Goodman

 

Dr. Randy F. Sweis is an Assistant Professor in the haematology/oncology section at the University of Chicago. He works with cancer immunology, developmental therapeutics and biomarkers, with a clinical interest in phase 1 clinical trials and genitourinary malignancies. His laboratory research involves the identification and targeting of tumour-intrinsic immunotherapy resistance pathways.

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Sweis presented his work on immunophenotypes: “The T cell-inflamed tumour microenvironment as a biomarker and its clinical implications.”

WATCH DR. SWEIS

Dr. Sweis

 

Dr. Marco Gerlinger is a clinician scientist at the Center for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research in London and a consultant Medical Oncologist in the GI Cancer Unit at Royal Marsden Hospital. He develops novel techniques to detect and track intra-tumour heterogeneity in solid tumours to define evolutionary plasticity and common evolutionary trajectories in cancers. Cancer cell plasticity is the ability of cancer cells to change their physiological characteristics.

Dr. Gerlinger shared the latest insights into cancer evolution and discussed the limits of predictability in precision cancer medicine. How can clinicians and researchers exploit important data on tumour development?

During his visit in Oslo, Dr. Gerlinger commented: “We have had fantastic discussions with an audience that is really well informed and brings up the challenges we are facing and the research we are doing.”

“This is the first time I have given a talk in Norway and obviously there is a lot going on here. I am already thinking about some collaborations, because there are some interesting advantages here through big tumour banks and cancer registries.” Dr. Marco Gerlinger

WATCH DR. GERLINGER

Dr Gerlinger

 

 

Professor Dr. med. Lars Bullinger is Professor of Hematology and Oncology and Medical Director of the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Tumor Immunology at Charité University Medicine Berlin.

He is a partner in the Innovative Medicines Initiative project HARMONY (Healthcare alliance for resourceful medicines offensive against neoplasms in haematology) aiming to use big data to deliver information that will help to improve the care of patients with haematologic cancers.

In his keynote speech he presented the “best of hematology from 2018” to the Cancer Crosslinks audience. He also addressed emerging therapeutic opportunities and the impact of big data for precision treatment in haematology.

WATCH PROF. DR. MED. LARS BULLINGER

Lars Bullinger

 

James Peach is the Precision Medicine Lead at UK Medicines Discovery Catapult, Alderly Park, UK. Prior to this role, he was the Managing Director at the main programme for Genomics England from 2013 to 2017. He presented his perspectives on the implementation of precision medicine in the UK and discussed the status, lessons learned and the way forward.

WATCH JAMES PEACH

James Peach


The expert panel
You can read more about how the Norwegian expert panel reacted to James Peach’s presentation and the state of precision medicine in Norway in the article below, also from Cancer Crosslinks 2019. The article contains a video of the panel debate.

Getting genomics into healthcare: look to the UK

 

Raphael Lømo, Foto: Fullscreen Visuals

Why a logistics company joined the cluster

Kuehne + Nagel joined Oslo Cancer Cluster last year. Why did a logistics company join a cluster dedicated to cancer treatment?

 

Kuehne + Nagel is one of the world’s leading logistics providers, and pharmaceuticals are certainly a category of product that requires special care when moved between locations.

This is an interview with Raphael Lømo, the National Manager for Pharma & Healthcare Development Logistics for Kuehne + Nagel in Norway.

 

“Why did you join a cluster dedicated to cancer treatment?”

“Being one of the leading logistics companies in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry, we realized that a membership in Oslo Cancer Cluster is beneficial for both the other members and us. The members get access to an international good distribution practice (GDP)-compliant pharmaceutical logistics network and professional support within the pharmaceutical supply chain. At the same time, Kuehne + Nagel gets linked to the currently leading and possible future players in the oncology field, which will help us to increase our understanding and to proactively try to design solutions for the members in this industry. Members can focus on their core competences which is in the R&D field while we offer to take care of the distribution challenges, which is our core competence. Kuehne + Nagel’s membership linked our industries and completed your oncology value chain.”

We are also very interested in working with start-up companies which are supported by Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. It is inspiring to be involved in interesting and innovative projects and at the same time it helps us to keep the finger on the pulse of the pharmaceutical industry. It would not be the first time that we successfully accompanied a start-up by offering pharmaceutical specific supply chain counselling and consulting services.”

Last but not least, it feels really good to contribute to improve the lives of often very sick cancer patients, which we have been doing for many years in the prostate cancer field. We can identify ourselves with your vision to help patients by accelerating the development of cancer treatments.” Raphael Lømo

 

“What does logistics innovation have to do with cancer medicine?”

“Well, based on our experience, cancer medicines are often extremely urgent, temperature sensitive and sometimes even classified as dangerous goods shipments, e.g. radioactive. This combination makes it quite challenging to design safe solutions and both visibility, risk control, and reliable handling are the most important factors to protect the integrity of cancer medicines. We constantly work on innovative solutions to improve the level of control of these factors, such as new IT systems and Internet of Things (IoT) real-time tracking devices. ”

Part of Kuehne + Nagel’s solution for safe logistics. Photo: Kuehne + Nagel

Part of Kuehne + Nagel’s solution for safe logistics. Photo: Kuehne + Nagel

 

“I understand that there are some “pharma shipment enemies” in the logistics industry: Temperature, time, handling and dangerous goods. What is your solution to these challenges in shipping pharmaceuticals?”

“Most importantly, you need a reliable logistics partner which understands the full scope of GDP and the challenges of shipping pharmaceuticals globally. Due to our close relationship to all major airlines, ground handlings agents, and trucking companies, in extreme cases we can customize solutions for very sensitive shipments. Such solutions will be complimented with state of the art tracking technology which transmits both location and other relevant data in real-time to KN Login, our data and IT solution that provides visibility and control of your shipment. There you can follow your shipments 24/7/365. Moreover, a team of trained pharmaceutical logistics specialists can monitor your shipment and provide status updates if required. In case of any deviation of the shipment plan, this global service desk can proactively take action to get your shipment back on track. Our award winning KN PharmaChain solution is the basis for every challenge in the pharmaceutical supply chain industry.”

“We have a vast database that includes the most important information and capabilities of major airlines and ground handling agents at the most important airports around the world. This is a unique database and provides very valuable information in order to plan shipments and conduct Lane Risk Assessments. As an example, with one click we know the capacity for storing pharmaceuticals at certain temperature ranges at warehouses of different airlines and airports all over the world. This tool helps us to analyses shipment processes and mitigate potential risks.”

 

“Do you have any advice to companies looking to send fragile drugs or other pharmaceuticals?” 

“Look for a reliable and experienced logistics partner with a global “owned” network which fully understands the requirements of shipping fragile pharmaceuticals but also follows the Good Distribution Practice (GDP), not only in Norway but globally. We highly recommend to conduct a GDP audit before working with a potential logistics partner. Norwegian logistics companies are not audited by the Norwegian Medicines Authorities and often do not understand and follow the full scope of the GDP guideline. Keep in mind that it is in the responsibility of the pharmaceutical company and not the logistics company that the products are transported under GDP compliant conditions.”

 

About the company

Kuehne+Nagel is listed on the Swiss stock exchange, but the majority is still owned by Mr. Klaus-Michael Kuehne.

Since 1890, when the business was founded in Bremen, Germany, by August Kuehne and Friedrich Nagel, Kuehne + Nagel has grown into one of the world’s leading logistics providers.

Today, the Kuehne + Nagel Group has some 1,300 offices in over 100 countries, with around 79,000 employees.

The company specialises in seafreight, airfreight, contract logistics and overland businesses, with a clear focus on high value-added segments such as IT-based integrated logistics solutions.

KN PharmaChain is Kuehne+Nagel’s supply chain innovation for pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments.

Discussing health care at Cancer Crosslinks 2019

Getting genomics into healthcare: look to the UK

During Cancer Crosslinks 2019, one thing was crystal clear: there is a need to include broader genomic testing into treatments for cancer patients in Norway.

“We are lacking behind here in Norway!”

Professor Ola Myklebost, from the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen, was definitely ready for action in the panel debate at Cancer Crosslinks 2019, fittingly named “Call for Action”.

The panel and the audience of about 300 people had just listened to the talk given by James Peach. He is the Precision Medicine Lead at UK Medicines Discovery Catapult, Alderly Park, and prior to this, he was the Managing Director at the main programme for Genomics England from 2013 to 2017 and led the UK’s Stratified Medicines Program.

Peach told the audience how they have been implementing precision medicine into the public health care system (NHS) in the UK, using genomic testing, during the last decade. He demonstrated how the industry is part of this public endeavour, how political support and investment contributed to industry development, and how they addressed complex issues like sharing health data and using artificial intelligence.

It started with very little.

“In 2010, we had no structure”, Peach told the audience.

 

James Peach presenting at Cancer Crosslinks 2019

Sequencing 100,000 genomes

Thanks to all the British cancer patients who consented to Genomics England using their data, and a lot of common public-private efforts, Genomics England has now reached its goal of sequencing 100,000 whole genomes from NHS patients, according to their webpage. It takes a lot to accomplish this number, but luckily there are things to learn from the UK effort.

“Circulating tumour DNA testing is absolutely necessary”, Peach said from the podium.

The Life Science Sector deal from the British government outlines this public-private effort. It shows how significant government commitment, funding and strategic actions triggered investment and initiatives from the life science industry. You can read the entire document at the official webpage of the British Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, following this link.

James Peach visited Norway earlier as a speaker at Cancer Crosslinks 2012. Returning now, he was truly surprised about the current state of precision medicine in Norway.

 

Concerned about Norway

In an interview with Oslo Cancer Cluster, James Peach shared a concern as an answer to the question “What impressions are you left with after this conference?” 

“It has left me quite concerned about the state of precision medicine in Norway. I thought you would be looking forward to the things you could do, but it turns out that there are actually some things that you should have done already.”

“Like what things?” 

“Like universal application of a cancer panel test that is commercially feasible and deals around getting your data shared appropriately.”

Do you think we can have a Genomics Norway?”

“Of course. It is probably about combining two things. One is that you got to get the basic stuff right. People need to have access to gene tests for their clinical care. Luckily the people here are a group of experts who are all connected to each other and who understand the system. It is not a massive system. I think there is a real chance to choose an area where Norway could do it exceptionally well. What that area is, is for you to choose.”

 

Concerns in Norway

Back in the panel discussion, Hege G. Russnes, Pathologist, Senior Consultant and Researcher at Oslo University Hospital, was getting involved:

“We need more information to help clinicians make therapy decisions. (…) Norway has no plan or recommendation for multi gene tests.”

Christian Kersten, Senior Consultant at the Center for Cancer Treatment at Sørlandet Hospital, agreed.

“I’m the clinician, I treat patients, patients die because of metastasis. I have been treating cancer patients for 20 years now and I feel it increasingly difficult to keep the trust of the patient.”

“If you ask the patients, they will sign the papers with consent of sharing data in 99% of the cases”, Myklebost added.

“We are only 5 million, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. Erna Solberg should invite James Peach for a cup of tea”, Christian Kersten said, finishing up the panel talk.

 

The entire panel debate is available to watch at the webcast webpage:

WATCH THE PANEL DEBATE

 

More on UK Medicines Discovery Catapult 

Did this brief article make you interested in the work that James Peach and UK Medicines Discovery Catapult does? In this short video, Peach explains the challenges with access to health data for drug discovery and how to overcome them:

 

More from Cancer Crosslinks 

We have more from Cancer Crosslinks 2019 coming up. Stay tuned and subscribe to our newsletter, and you will not miss videos of the talks and interviews with the other distinguished speakers at the conference.

Participants discussing at NOME mentor network.

Why a Nordic mentor network is a good idea 

The Nordic Mentor Network of Entrepreneurship (NOME) is the first pan-Nordic mentor network for lifescience start-ups. Why is it a good idea for start-ups working in cancer?

 

Bjørn Klem has an answer. He is the General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and point of contact for start-ups within the cancer field in Norway.

“Start-ups working in cancer need to access commercialisation expertise and investor networks. When looking for this, it is an advantage to seek in other Nordic countries where investors are experienced with cancer and biotech in general. Participating in NOME will also take you into their global network.” Bjørn Klem

 

Connecting with a mentor team

NOME is based on the mentoring principals of MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service. The fundamental principle is to connect first time entrepreneurs with a team of three to four experienced and skilled mentors to help them reach their goals and technology milestones. 

From Boston to the Nordics, this is the first mentor network within life sciences that spans across all the Nordic countries. 

In Norway, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator og the health incubator Aleap are coordinating start-ups with suitable mentors.

“Team mentorship, where mentees have a group of mentors, rather than single one-on-one mentorship, encourages more diverse thinking, cross-disciplinary approaches to ideas and problem solving, and it allows the access to professionals from different fields.”  NOME Magazine Issue 1 2018

 

Norwegian mentors and start-ups

One of the Norwegian NOME mentors is Kari Grønås. She has extensive experience in drug development and commercialisation within the pharmaceutical industry.

You can listen to her (in Norwegian) in this video that was made by Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator as the programme was just starting in Norway in 2017.

One of the Oslo Cancer Cluster members that have taken advantage of the NOME opportunity and mentors, is Nacamed.

Nacamed is a Norwegian spin-off company of Dynatec AS. The Nacamed technology is based on 10 years of research on silicon done by Dynatec engineering. According to the company webpage, this enables a production that can tailor particles with the desired physical attributes. With this, Nacamed aims to create a new generation of treatment methods.

 

Best in class-network

This video, made by Accelerate, explains the concept of NOME and the value it adds to the Nordic startup ecosystem.

The mentors are volunteering to share their knowledge and experience with new entrepreneurs within fields such as digital health, immuno-oncology and AI in healthcare. NOME mentors can give unbiased advice, provide strategic guidance, open their network and possible collaboration partners, as well as assisting in reaching key milestones.

The start-ups have to be best in class too. The local NOME partners evaluate the companies on the novelty of the science or technology, their high commercial potential as well as the strength and commitment of the founding team. Furthermore, strong IP or alternative protection strategies, market differentiation, and the impact NOME potentially can have on the company’s development are also taken into consideration.

Participation is free of charge and funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

Infographic from NOME magazine.

Source: The NOME Magazine, Issue 01, 2018

 

20 start-ups since 2016

Since 2016, 20 start-ups have joined NOME and of these two have graduated from the program. Graduation usually means the start-up has successfully raised funds for the coming few years and has engaged a formal board and therefore has less need for the NOME mentors.

The mentors either move on to work with other emerging companies or have been so excited about the potential of the company they have been working with that they have taken a seat on the board.

By the end of 2018, NOME had 50 mentors and 18 enrolled start-ups.

 

Mentors in immuno-oncology

In the NOME Magazine first edition, released in October, Carl Borrebaeck, professor at Department of Immuno-technology at Lund University in Sweden, is interviewed about his field of expertise, immuno-oncology and creating companies from his research. Borrebaeck is a founding mentor in NOME and has been part of the network for the past two years. 

“People tend to think, that innovation just happens and that it will reach patients without any commercial drive. That is simply untrue.” Prof. Carl Borrebaeck 

He continues to explain what is really needed to make health innovations happen:

“A combination of companies and academia is needed. Big pharma is always looking for the newest discoveries and ways they can collaborate in order to stay at the forefront of innovative research. The Nordics are highly innovative and they have a strong reputation globally. However, there are too few big pharma companies commercializing the science at the very early stages. This is often a major challenge for emerging companies who then have to seek funding not only in the Nordics but across Europe and the US to cover this funding gap.”

 

Mentors in artificial intelligence

NOME has mentors in several interesting life science fields. Lars Staal Wegner, the CEO of Evaxion Biotech, is another mentor. He started a company dedicated to using artificial intelligence, supercomputers, and big data to fight cancer and infectious diseases. In the NOME Magazine Wegner says: 

“It is no longer the pharma industry or the companies producing the off-the-shelf drugs. It is the ones who own the data and know how to convert it to effect, the cloud-based giants that are half life science half tech. This is maybe 30-40 years into the future, but it is important already now to know that the tech evolution is not linear. It is exponential. We have reached an inflection point in tech. The industry doesn’t have five or ten years to toe the line. It is exploding.” 

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are expected to have an unprecedented impact on how drugs are developed, their cost, and time to market, according to Wegner. 

 

Nordic partnership

NOME is operated by Accelerace and funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation. The initiative is represented in the Nordic region through partnerships in Sweden, Norway and Finland. In Norway, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator og the health incubator Aleap are coordinating start-ups with suitable mentors.

In the US, the California Life Sciences Institute (CLSI) is a new partner for NOME. In fact it is too new to have entered the overview below. CLSI is a non-profit organization which supports entrepreneurship, STEM education and workforce development for the life science industry in California. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Infographic from NOME magazine.

Source: The NOME Magazine, Issue 01, 2018

Presenter at Cancer Crosslinks 2019.

Cancer Crosslinks LIVE streaming

Today, Thursday 17 January, we broadcast LIVE from our conference Cancer Crosslinks at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park.

Please join us and hear from a distinguished panel of international and Norwegian experts as they discuss the Next Wave of Precision Oncology, share new perspectives, and address the challenges and opportunities ahead. The subtitle of this year’s 11th Cancer Crosslinks is “Next Wave Precision Oncology – Connecting the Dots for Improved Patient Care”.

The broadcast starts at 9 AM and last until the conference ends at about 4 PM. Please follow the link to watch LIVE:

LIVESTREAM HERE

 

If you would like to know more about the international speakers at Cancer Crosslinks 2019, please read this article.

Researcher testing lab sample.

New research: 3D structure tumors in immunotherapy

New work from cancer researchers at the Department of Cellular Therapy could help to streamline the development of exciting new immunotherapy approaches for treating cancer.

Cancer treatments that aim to switch on a patient’s immune system to kill tumor cells – so-called immunotherapy approaches – have received much attention and encouraging results in recent years. Now, the immunomonitoring unit of the Department of Cellular Therapy at Oslo University Hospital has devised a new experimental approach that could improve early stages of the immunotherapy development pipeline.

The unit is present in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator with a translational research lab, led by Drs. Else Marit Inderberg and Sébastien Wälchli.

 

Researchers in laboratory.

Dr. Sébastien Wälchli and colleagues in the translational research lab in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. Photo: Christopher Olssøn

 

CAR T cells drive new successes

Our immune systems are generally very good at recognizing foreign infectious agents and disposing of them appropriately. However, although our immune systems are capable of recognizing tumors as a threat, cancer cells have adapted mechanisms that enable them to evade the immune response. Immunotherapy is the name given to a range of different approaches that aim to overcome this problem by improving the immune system’s ability to target cancer cells.

One relatively new example of an immunotherapy approach comes from CAR T cells. These are produced by isolating specific cells of the immune system (T cells) from a cancer patient and modifying them so that they become more effective at recognizing and killing cancer cells. The modified T cells are then placed back into the patient so that they can ‘home in’ on the tumor and kill the cancer cells.

Read about related research: T-cells and the Nobel Price

 

Difficult for solid cancers

Current models for testing new CAR T cells aren’t always optimal. Although CAR T cells have shown encouraging results in treating some cancers, particularly the blood cancers leukemia and lymphoma, the development of CAR T cells for non-blood, or ‘solid’, cancers has been more difficult.

In part, this is due to the fact that tumor models currently used in early stages of testing involve two-dimensional monolayers of cancer cells, which do not reflect the complex three-dimensional structure and organization of solid tumors found in patients.

Consequently, CAR T cells that show encouraging results using these two-dimensional models often produce less effective results at later stages of the development pipeline, meaning time, effort and resources are wasted.

 

3D tumor spheroids

To improve the early stages of testing new CAR T cells, Dr. Wälchli’s group has developed a new approach that enables researchers to grow three-dimensional cancer cell structures, or ‘spheroids’, in the lab, and to test the effect that CAR T cells have on killing off these spheroids.

Compared to current two-dimensional methods, the spheroids are more similar in complexity and structure to tumors found in patients.

In a recent publication in the Journal of Visualized Experiments, this group demonstrated for the first time that their spheroid approach has the potential to provide a useful new tool for developing CAR T cells.

They generated spheroids using colorectal cancer cells – a type of cancer for which there is currently no effective CAR T cell therapy available. These cancer cells were modified so that they possessed a molecule on their cell surface called CD19, which is known to be recognized by certain CAR T cells. The researchers then incubated these spheroids with CD19-targeting CAR T cells and used advanced live imaging techniques to track the effect on cancer spheroids.

To help other research groups who would like to start using the spheroid technique, Dr. Wälchli’s publication is accompanied by this video which introduces the approach and provides a basic overview of how it works. The Journal of Visualized Experiments requires a subscription to see the entire video. You can also read a PDF of the article “A Spheroid Killing Assay by CAR T Cells” without a subscription.

 

Successful approach

As expected, shortly after adding CAR T cells, the researchers could detect that spheroids were shrinking due to cancer cell death, proving that their approach successfully measures CAR T cell-induced tumor clearance in a quantitative manner.

Discussing the work, Dr. Wälchli says, “We believe this method can help to answer key questions about using 3D structure tumors as a suitable alternative for testing new immunotherapy approaches.”

The approach now opens the door for testing a range of different target molecules in combination with new CAR T cells targeting those molecules.

 

Fast, affordable and straightforward

Dr. Wälchli believes many researchers could benefit from the spheroid technique. He continues,

“A major advantage to our approach is that it is fast, affordable and straightforward, meaning any research group with the right equipment can test the effect of their immunotherapy on 3D tumors before moving to animal models”.

International speakers at Cancer Crosslinks 2019

International speakers at Cancer Crosslinks

How can research help implement the next wave of precision oncology for patients? Meet the experts behind the research.

 

These leading international experts are part of the programme at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, 17 January.
Not signed up for the 11thCancer Crosslinks yet? Join in here!

 

Professor Naiyer Rizvi is an internationally recognized leader in the treatment of lung cancer and immunotherapy drug development. He is the director of both thoracic oncology and of immunotherapeutics for the division of haematology and oncology at Columbia University Medical Center, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, New York, USA.

Prior to joining Columbia University Medical Center, his clinical research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer played a significant role in the FDA approval path of a new class of immunotherapies, called immune checkpoint inhibitors, for melanoma and lung cancer.

Rizvi studies mechanisms of sensitivity and resistance to immunotherapy. Through genetic testing of tumours, he has been able to improve the understanding of why immune checkpoint inhibitors work in certain patients.

Rizvi is also studying why certain cancers do not respond to immune checkpoint inhibitors. This way we can find better ways to harness the immune system to attack cancer cells.

He oversees phase 1 immunotherapy research in solid tumours at Columbia University Medical Center and is conducting key clinical studies of novel immunotherapy drugs and immunotherapy combinations to help more patients in the fight against cancer.

Professor Naiyer Rizvi

During Cancer Crosslinks, Professor Rizvi will give the opening keynote speech titled: “Sensitivity and resistance to immuno-oncology: Biological insights and their translation into precision treatment”.

 

Dr. Aaron Goodman, MD, is a haematologist and medical oncologist specialized in treating a variety of blood cancers, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and multiple myeloma. He holds a position as Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, California.

Dr. Goodman performs stem cell transplants for cancer treatment. He also treats people with rare haematologic disorders using experimental therapeutics.

His research interests include immunotherapy and cellular therapy treatment for haematologic malignancies and identifying biomarkers for response to immunotherapy.

Dr. Aaron Goodman

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Aaron Goodman will present and discuss the clinical aspects of tumour mutational burden and other tissue agnostic biomarkers for cancer immunotherapy.

 

Dr. Randy F. Sweis is an Assistant Professor in the haematology/oncology section at the University of Chicago. He works with cancer immunology, developmental therapeutics and biomarkers, with a clinical interest in phase 1 clinical trials and genitourinary malignancies. His laboratory research involves the identification and targeting of tumour-intrinsic immunotherapy resistance pathways.

Dr. Sweis is the recipient of numerous awards. In 2017, he was elected to co-lead TimIOs, an international project aimed at tackling tumor heterogeneity to enhance immunotherapy responses supported by the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).

Dr. Randy F. Sweis

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Randy F. Sweis presents his work on immunophenotypes: The T cell-inflamed tumour microenvironment as a biomarker and its clinical implications.

 

Dr. Marco Gerlinger is a clinician scientist at the Center for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research in London. He develops novel techniques to detect and track intra-tumour heterogeneity in solid tumours to define evolutionary plasticity and common evolutionary trajectories in cancers.

Dr. Gerlinger uses genomics technologies for treatment personalization. He treats patients with gastrointestinal cancers at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

One of the key aims of his work is to develop strategies to improve predictive and prognostic biomarker performance and the efficacy of drug therapy in heterogeneous cancers.

He contributes to The Darwin Cancer Blog– on mutational evolution of cancer.

Dr. Marco Gerlinger

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Marco Gerlinger will share the latest insights into cancer evolution and discuss the limits of predictability in precision cancer medicine. 

 

Professor Dr. med. Lars Bullinger is Professor of Hematology and Oncology and Medical Director of the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Tumor Immunology at Charité University Medicine Berlin.

He is a partner in the Innovative Medicines Initiative project HARMONY (Healthcare alliance for resourceful medicines offensive against neoplasms in haematology) aiming to use big data to deliver information that will help to improve the care of patients with haematologic cancers.

In this video from June, you get a preview of the subject he will talk about at Cancer Crosslinks: 

During Cancer Crosslinks, Dr. Lars Bullinger will give an international keynote speech about haematological cancers, emerging treatment opportunities and the impact of big data. 

 

James Peach is the Precision Medicine Lead at UK Medicines Discovery Catapult, Alderly Park, UK. Prior to this role, he was the Managing Director at the main programme for Genomics England from 2013 to 2017.

Peach is a precision medicine strategist and operational leader with investment, commercial and public sector experience across cancer, rare diseases, and genetics. James Peach gave the opening keynote at Cancer Crosslinks 2012 – at that time as the Director for Stratified Medicine at Cancer Research UK, London.

In this video James Peach explains the challenges with access to health data for drug discovery and how to overcome them:

During Cancer Crosslinks, James Peach will present his perspectives on the implementation of precision medicine in the UK and discuss the status, lessons learned and the way forward. 

 

Not signed up for Cancer Crosslinks yet? Join in here!

 

 

Photo of Richard Stratford and Trevor Clancy in OncoImmunity.

Machine-learning for immunotherapy

A prestigious EU-grant will advance OncoImmunity’s machine-learning approach to develop personalized cancer immunotherapy.

The bioinformatics company OncoImmunity AS is empowering cancer immunotherapy with artificial intelligence. They use innovative software solutions to guide the discovery of neoantigen-based personalized immunotherapies and biomarkers. What does this really mean?

It means that the software they have developed helps to identify neoantigens, also known as immunogenic mutations, in a patient’s cancer cells. Cancer cells deceive the immune system by looking like healthy cells. But they still express cancer-specific markers, known as neoantigens. (See facts box for explanation.)

 

Enables personalized medicine

The interesting part about neoantigens, is that every patient’s tumor expresses a unique combination. This enables truly personalized medicine to be applied, if the correct neoantigens are selected from the thousands of possible candidates in the genome of a tumor. Researchers using this technology can now solve this “needle in the haystack” challenge by analyzing a tumor genome to figure out the right cocktail of neoantigens, for each individual patient, and design a specific vaccine or cell therapy uniquely designed just for them.

Such personalized immunotherapy can for instance boost the immune system’s response by making the immune system better able to recognize and target the patient’s unique cancer cells.

 

Faster bespoke treatment

OncoImmunity’s flagship software, the ImmuneProfiler™, is a unique machine learning solution that makes it easier to instantaneously see and accurately select which neoantigens will be responsive in each patient.

It thereby helps biotech companies design neoantigen-based personalized cancer vaccines and cell therapies and enables bespoke treatments to be developed faster. Additionally, the technology allows clinical researchers to select which patients will likely respond to the wide range of cancer immunotherapies currently under development in the field.

In that sense, the OncoImmunity-approach to cancer treatment is exactly in line with Oslo Cancer Cluster’s main goal: to speed up the development of new cancer treatments for the benefit of cancer patients.

 

Prestigious EU-grant

Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument is a grant that is tailored for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). It targets innovative businesses with international ambitions — such as OncoImmunity.

The SME Instrument has two application phases. Phase one awards the winning company 50 000 Euros based on an innovative project idea. Phase two is the actual implementation of the main project. In this phase, the applicant may receive between 1 and 2,5 million Euros.

Oncoimmunity won the phase one project last year. Then, the founders of the bioinformatics company were happy about the opportunity to refine and optimize their machine-learning framework. Their goal has always been to facilitate personalized cancer vaccine design.

 

Fantastic funding

Now, they have won a considerably larger grant of 2,2 Million Euros that they are going to use to fund a project titled Machine-learning Engine for the Design of personalized Vaccines in Cancer (MEDIVAC).

The SME Instrument grant provides OncoImmunity the opportunity to further customise their machine-learning framework, called the ImmuneProfiler™,for specific vaccine platforms, facilitating the design of safer and more efficacious personalised cancer vaccines.

— We applied for the SME instrument grant as it represents a fantastic funding vehicle for cutting edge, innovative projects with huge commercial potential. The call matched our ambition to position OncoImmunity as the leading supplier of neoantigen identification software in the personalised cancer vaccine market, says Dr. Richard Stratford, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of OncoImmunity.

— This opportunity will also help us establish the requisite quality assurance systems, certifications, and clinical validation with our partners, to get our software approved as a medical device in both the EU and US, says Dr. Trevor Clancy, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder of OncoImmunity.

 

SMEs can apply

The SME Instrument is looking for high growth- and highly innovative SMEs with global ambitions. They are developing innovative technologies that have the potential to disrupt the established value networks and existing markets.

Companies applying for the SME Instrument must meet the requirements set by the programme. Please see the SME Instrument website for more information in English or the SME Instrument webpage of Innovation Norway for more information in Norwegian.

Curious about which companies have received the SME Instrument so far? Have look at this database with an overview of all the grant receiving companies in Europe.

Want to know which Norwegian companies received grants from The European Unions research programme Horizon2020 in 2018? Read this article from Innovation Norway (in Norwegian).

Oslo Cancer Cluster  supports members via the EU Advisor Program in collaboration with Innovayt, making them aware of relevant EU- and H2020 funding opportunities and helping them to identify the right calls for their development phase and goals. Oslo Cancer Cluster also assists with partner searches using national and international networks and provides direct support during the grant writing and submission process.

 

The start-up company Kongsberg Beam Technology wants to direct the precision technology from smart missiles to hit tumours in the human body. — We want to use Norwegian spearhead technology to combat cancer, Per Håvard Kleven said during his pitch at the DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference 11 December 2018. 

Industrial precision against cancer 

Kongsberg Beam Technology wants to direct the precision technology from advanced industrial control systems to hit tumors in the human body.

— We want to use Norwegian spearhead technology to combat cancer, Per Håvard Kleven said from the stage as he pitched the idea of his start-up at the DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference 2018.

He is the founder of the start-up company Kongsberg Beam Technology AS. As he wrote the patent application for the technology behind this start-up, he was far from the only one to explore this field. Nevertheless, the patent was granted earlier this year (2018). He was ahead of companies like Siemens and other giants.

— There is a lot of research going into radiation and all of it is focusing on increased precision, but no one is attacking the problem as fundamentally as we are.

 

Precision proton radiation

The method in question is proton radiation. This kind of radiation is directed towards a tumour and radiates far more precisely than x-ray radiation, the standard radiotherapy that hospitals currently use to treat cancer.

Proton radiation requires special machines. There are currently only 85 of these machines, known as proton  therapy synchrocyclotrones, in the world. Norway awaits its first proton synchrocyclotron in a couple of years. The existence of such a machine in Norway is a precondition for the business plan of Kongsberg Beam Technology.

This is one of the few proton therapy machines in use in the world today. It is the proton therapy synchrocyclotron in the Jacobson Building at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. Photo: Jonathunder/ Wikimedia Commons

The ambition of Kleven and his new board of directors is to let proton radiation follow the movements of the tumour, meaning the smallest movements of the patient as she breathes. This does not seem like much, but there is actually a lot of movement in for instance the lungs. And with vital organs closely linked to the lungs, such as the heart and the spine, it is extremely important to have a precise beam.

There is in deed a need for more precision in radiation therapy.

— The radiation that the hospitals use to treat cancer today is not precise. Healthy tissue is always damaged with radiation and this is a problem which we are attacking.

 

Norwegian spearhead technology

The system in question is to figure out exactly where the tumour is situated in the body, how it moves and how much radioactive energy it takes to radiate it properly.

He wants to take the principals and methods currently used in precision industries such as defence, space and oil- and gas, and apply these to radiation in cancer treatments. The aim is to obtain industrial precision to avoid damaging any healthy tissue.

 

Aims to develop a solution

The mechanical part of the system makes it possible to do online tracking of the cancer and synchronise the beam so that it always hits exactly on the cancer. This might not sound like it should be too difficult, but indeed it is.

— We cannot control a beam of particles with the agility and precision that is required today, but these functions will develop. We aim to develop them!

– In five years, when our project makes proton radiation reach its potential for industrial precision, my assumption is that proton radiation will take a much higher share of radio therapy in cancer treatment and that the number of proton centres will increase steeply.

According to Kleven, the testing will start soon, followed by prototyping and further testing and qualification. The goal is to have a working system by mid 2024. Kleven assumes that the future product can be installed as an add-on to exciting proton therapy synchrocyclotrones.

— Testing and remaining R&D will start as soon as the needed capital is in place, he said.

 

Needs more funding

The financing for the start-up so far is covered by Buskerud county, Innovation Norway, Oslofjordfondet and the Research Council of Norway. Kongsberg Beam Technology needs 93 million NOK initially, to test, develop and qualify the technology. 60 million of this sum should come from investors.

Kleven shows an estimate of a one billion NOK turn-over after a few years, in a profitable company with growth possibilities.

The new business is going to be established in Kongsberg in Norway, a town that is already well established as a hub for spin offs of the Norwegian defence industry. Kleven himself has a lifetime of experience from this sector, since he started to work in Kongsberg Weapons Factory (Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk) in 1975.

Surgery, squash and anaesthesia

Hannah (18) wants to become a doctor. After two days job shadowing doctors and nurses at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, she is even more certain that this is what she wants to do.

If your dream is to become a doctor, it may be a good idea to gain some insight into what the job actually involves before embarking on a long education. But job shadowing a doctor is usually only a possibility if you’re already a medical student.

Truls Ryder is a senior consultant and surgeon at the Norwegian Radium Hospital. He decided to do something about this, and over three days, one theme day that you can read more about here and two days of job shadowing, 18 pupils had the opportunity to experience surgery, morning staff meetings and patient consultations with the best cancer specialists and nurses in Norway.

Hannah Fiksdal is one of these pupils. And I, Elisabeth the journalist, shadowed her on the first of her two days at the Norwegian Radium Hospital. It was a day that neither of us will forget. A day that left Hannah with an even stronger desire to become a doctor.

‘I am incredibly grateful for the chance to shadow two different doctors, and to Truls Ryder for taking the initiative to allow pupils from Ullern to come to the Norwegian Radium Hospital. It gives us some idea of what may interests us before we apply for higher education in the spring. Having had a taste of two different aspects of medicine, I think that surgery and anaesthesiology were probably the things that I found most exciting.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

Hannah Fiksdal starts the day early at the hospital. Photo. Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Tuesday 7 November

07:15 – the Norwegian Radium Hospital, basement level 2 – the corridor outside room AU 230
Sixteen excited pupils, 14 from the natural science and mathematics programme who will be shadowing doctors and two from the healthcare programme who will be shadowing nurses, are standing in a corridor two floors below the main entrance to the Norwegian Radium Hospital dressed in white hospital clothes.

Truls Ryder, senior consultant and prime mover behind the job shadowing scheme, is also here. He quickly reads out where each pupil will be spending the day, and sets of at a brisk pace with everyone in tow.

This is an indication of what is to come.

We go five floors up and then a couple of floors down via the back stairs. On the way, pupils peel off from the group to join other senior consultants and professors who they will be job shadowing today.

Hannah and Tristan are handed over to the anaesthetists at the anaesthesiology department. The department has nine senior consultants, one professor working 50% of a full-time position, and three specialist registrars.

07:34
The morning staff meeting has already started when Hannah and Tristan arrive. Eight doctors and nurses go through the list of patients who will need anaesthesia or pain relief today. Some will undergo surgery in the hospital’s central unit, and some require their services in other parts of the hospital, such as the radiotherapy department.

It is difficult to understand the discussions and information exchanged between the doctors and nurses. The jargon is technical, professional and precise. I wonder how much Hannah and Tristan understand? But it is clear that we have a full day ahead, and that many of the patients are seriously ill with cancer. Some are young, and some patients’ cancer has returned after treatment. Despite the difficult subject, the tone of the meeting is upbeat and friendly. It will remain so for the rest of the day.

08:00
Tristan and Hannah meet their mentors for the day. Tristan will join Senior Consultant Hege for a complicated operation that may take more than ten hours. The patient has a form of cancer that means that the surgeons have to go into the skeleton, among other things.

Hannah will be joining Senior Consultant Anne. Anne has several operations on her schedule today, and Hannah and I will be allowed to tag along and see how she works. Anne’s first patient is having an epidural and then a general anaesthetic. This is also a complicated operation.

Anne and Hege both tell us to be prepared that what we experience may make a strong impression on us and that it is natural to feel unwell. They both share stories about themselves and about medical students who have fainted both during and after visits to the operating theatre.

‘Let us know if you fell unwell,’ is their mantra, ‘and we will help you.’ I think back to the countless shifts I worked at nursing homes during my student days, and hope that they have prepared me for this. But what about young people of 18 and 19 who want to go on to work here?

08:07
Anne gives us green scrubs and a purple cap. We change in her office while she explains that her job can be compared to a pilot flying a plane. There is a lot to do when the operation starts until the patient is under anaesthesia, and then there is a calmer period of observation of the patient, often done by her colleagues, and then she goes back to full focus when the patient wakes up.

We get changed quickly.

8:10
Surgery starts early at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, and the patient arrives at the operating theatre at the same time as we do. Anne explains who Hannah and I are and why we are here. In addition to the patient, there are already five people working here.

Anne jokes and talks to the patient, who she has already met several times before. She explains that she will first be administering a local anaesthetic to the back before putting in an epidural, a form of pain relief given as an injection in the back. After that, a cannula will be inserted into a vein in the patient’s lower arm. When the patient is completely asleep, Anne will place a catheter in the neck that will be used to administer anaesthetics, pain relief, salts and anything else the body may need during an operation.

Anne involves Hannah in the work and explains what she is doing while she works, and she also explains to the patient.

‘It was also really nice to see how caring the doctors and nurses were and how they reassured the patients before surgery. They were very good at creating a pleasant atmosphere to make the patients feel safe despite the seriousness of the situation.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

08:41
Operating theatre 4 is a big, light room, and one of the long walls has big windows with a view of Mærradalsbekken stream and the surrounding forest. The river and the walking path meander side by side. But today, we can hardly see any of this through the darkness and fog.

Anne keeps an eye on the pulse and heart monitor that the patient is connected to, while the theatre nurse is preparing the instruments that the surgeons might need during the operation.

The patient is about to be put under full anaesthesia. Anne and her colleagues place a cannula in an artery in the patient’s lower arm/hand and a catheter in a vein in the neck. Anne is calm and talks to both the patient and Hannah. She explains to the patient that she will soon be asleep. She explains to Hannah what she is doing, and how you can tell the difference between a vein, which carries blood back to the heart: ‘It is darker in colour and pumps slower’ and an artery, which carries blood from the heart: ‘It is light in colour, full of oxygen, and has more force. If I had made a hole in an artery, the blood would have squirted out.’

Despite the number of people working in the operating theatre, the atmosphere is calm and pleasant.

Hannah pays close attention to Anne and asks questions while she is working. Anne is obviously impressed with the pupil: ‘Hannah, you are a tough cookie.’

09:10
The patient has been anaesthetised and is ready for surgery. At this stage, Anne and her colleagues’ responsibility is to ensure that the patient is okay during surgery.

09:40
The patient is in good hands in the operating theatre, so Anne goes to the recovery unit where the patients are taken to recover from the effects of surgery. Patients are closely monitored here. Many complications can arise following surgery, such as bleeding, breathing difficulties, a fall in blood pressure, pain and nausea.

Anne will set up a pain pump for the patient. This is a pump with morphine that Anne programs so that the patient can regulate how much pain relief she needs and wants in the days following the operation. We are allowed to use the staff’s break room while she is programming it. ‘Drink squash with sugar,’ she advises. We do as we are told, and talk a bit about what we have seen and experienced so far. Hannah is pleasantly surprised that she has been allowed into the operating theatre already, and at how open and welcoming everyone is.

‘There was some information about anaesthesia at the theme day yesterday, so I understand what is going on,’ says Hannah, and talks more about her wish to become a doctor.

Anne returns and takes the time to talk to Hannah about medical school and her many years working as an anaesthetist at Haukeland University Hospital. She took up her position at the Norwegian Radium Hospital a month ago, and there is still much that is unfamiliar.

10:01
We return to the operating theatre. There are suddenly a lot of people here, and several surgeons with different areas of specialisation discuss the surgery they are about to perform. It is a complex operation that requires cooperation.

After conferring for a while, the surgeons make a plan. Several of the Ullern pupils on job shadowing come by together with a gastrointestinal surgeon. One of the surgeons takes the time to explain the plan to Hannah and the others.

10:20
A theatre nurse goes through a checklist with the physician, surgeon and anaesthetist Anne. Everything is in order, and the operation can begin. Anne uses all her senses to check that the patient is still doing well.

Two surgeons cooperate on the operation. Hannah stands watching behind them. They talk about this and that while they are working, including the musical Book of Mormon. The actual operation is expected to take five hours. After working and discussing amongst themselves for a while, they ask for another surgeon to be called. They need what is called a ‘second opinion’, or another surgeon’s assessment.

There are suddenly a lot of people in the operating theatre, and several surgeons with different areas of specialisation discussing the case. Truls comes in with a couple of pupils who are shadowing him. Truls confers with his colleagues, and one of the surgeons explains that they are uncertain about the best way to proceed. When the surgeons opened the patient up, they found that the assumptions they had made from the outside were not correct. They have to rethink and make a new plan for the operation.

Anne lets us know that this is very unusual. There are rarely this many surgeons involved in an operation, and they do not often spend this much time discussing what to do. She suggests that we take a break and get something to eat. She has to work, though, both with more of today’s patients and planning for tomorrow, but she thinks that we should eat something.

‘Another thing that surprised me was the doctors’ willingness to show and tell me what they were doing and why. During the first day in particular I learnt a lot that I hope will be useful in my future studies. It was also very clear during the operations that good cooperation is incredibly important in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the patients. Everything from how the senior consultants’ discussed to find the best way to proceed during the first operation to how the two surgeons cooperated without needing to communicate much during the second one.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

11:07 Break room
Since we have green scrubs on, we have crispbread with cheese in one of the break rooms. Otherwise, we would have had to change, leave to eat and then change back afterwards. We also have more squash. With sugar. More pupils come in for a welcome break. Four intense hours have flown by. Two pupils have fainted and woken up again.

Ander Bayer from Oslo University Hospital’s communications department also joins us. He made this video about the job shadowing.

 

11:36 Operating theatre 2
Anne comes to get us. Hannah is going to go with her to another operation. Anne is to put another patient under anaesthesia. Again, Anne explains to the patient and theatre nurses who we are. This patient is also having an epidural in the back, and again, Anne alternates between speaking softly and reassuringly and explaining what she is doing to the patient and Hannah. Fourteen minutes after we entered the operating theatre, the patient is under. Two nurse anaesthetists help Anne by monitoring the patient. The theatre nurses wash the abdomen where the surgeons will open up the patient to remove tumours.

12:15 Operating theatre 4
Anne is needed in operating theatre 4 again, where three surgeons are operating on the first patient. They have now decided what to do.

12:23 Break
We get to take another break and have some squash with sugar, while Anne is preparing a pain pump for the second patient.

12:32
The second patient’s operation is under way. Two surgeons are standing face to face, working together. Anne gets a stool so that Hannah can stand by the patient’s head and watch the surgeons work inside the patient’s abdomen. They have made an incision that is held open by a large tool. There is a smell when the surgeon uses an electrosurgical knife to cut tissue and burn small blood vessels. The cancer they are removing is located around the vein and artery, the blood vessels running to and from the heart and legs. The surgeons show Hannah where they have to be careful. The cancer is removed, and they quickly suture the different layers of tissue before stapling the skin. The theatre nurses perform a routine equipment count. The operation is completed in 40 minutes.

The day in the operating theatre was at least as exciting as I imagined! I had not expected that they would allow us to get so close to the patients and really get a proper insight into what happens during an operation and also how the patients are anaesthetised.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

13:35
Anne returns to make sure that both the patient and Hannah are okay. Anne and her colleagues from the anaesthesiology department wake the patient up. The important thing now is for the patient to start breathing again. Everything goes as it should.

13:40
We accompany the patient to the recovery unit, where the patient will remain for a few hours. Anne’s work with this patient is now finished. We go back to her office to change out of the green sterile scrubs. Anne tells Hannah that she will probably doze off early after such a long and intense day. Anne’s shift will last until half past three, when other anaesthetists will take over for the evening shift. In the hall, Hannah thanks Anne for everything she has taught her and for taking care of her during the day.

14:00
As we leave the Norwegian Radium Hospital through the main entrance, we wonder how the first patient whose surgery we saw in the operating theatre is doing. And Hannah says that she is looking forward to another day of job shadowing tomorrow.

Epilogue
The evaluation results for the theme day and job shadowing were excellent. The pupils and teachers were highly satisfied, and it has already been decided that this will be made an annual event for pupils at Ullern upper secondary school who are considering a career in medicine.

‘Finally, I would like to say that it was very inspiring to see how committed Anne and Anna (Anna Winge-Main, who was Hannah’s mentor on the second day of job shadowing) was to their work and how much they loved their job. It was very clear that they are really dedicated to helping their patients. As Anne said, medical school can be hard and difficult, but once you start working as a doctor, nobody regrets their choice.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

READ MORE:

Days to partner up

Roche is looking for new partners in the innovative Norwegian life science scene. 

Roche is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world with about 800 ongoing clinical trials. Within cancer research and development, this translates into about 500 clinical trials for many different types of cancer. Roche is a member in Oslo Cancer Cluster. 

Read more about Roche’s cancer research

As a part of Roche’s scouting for new innovative collaborations, the company arranged two partnering days in the beginning of December together with Oslo Cancer Cluster and the health cluster Norway Health Tech. Together, we welcomed start-ups, biotechs, academic researchers, clinicians, politicians, innovation agencies, students and other interested parties to a two day open meeting.

Partnering with companies 
The first day was at the at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and the second day was at Oslo Science Park.

Growing life sciences in Norway is important to Oslo Cancer Cluster, and the larger pharmaceutical companies’ commitment to working with local stakeholders and local companies is an essential part of the innovative developments in this field.

Such collaborations have the potential to bring more investment to Norway and provide platforms for local companies to innovate, thrive and grow. 

— What we want to do is to strengthen the collaborations and to see even more companies emerge from the exciting research going on in academia in Norway, said Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs at Oslo Cancer Cluster. 

Partnering with academia
Professor Johanna Olweus from the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital was one of the speakers. She also presented the Department of Immunology and K.G. Jebsen Center for Cancer Immunotherapy for a full auditorium at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. 

Established back in 1954, the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital is certainly a well established institute and their Department of Immunology is currently involved in all the clinical trial phases.

— The scientists at the institute realise the importance of collaborating with the industry in order to get results out to the patients, Olweus said, and showed some examples of scientist-led innovations from the institute, including the Department of Cancer Immunology.  

In this story, you can read more about how science from Oslo University Hospital is turning into innovation that truly helps cancer patients.

The e-health meeting place

Oslo Cancer Cluster will co-power the conference E-health in Norway (EHiN).

– This is a natural continuation of the work we do in digitalisation, for a better understanding of cancer and better patient treatment, said Ketil Widerberg, General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, at EHiN 2018.

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services (HOD) and ICT Norway started a collaboration on creating a national meeting place for e-health. ICT Norway launched the first EHiN conference five years ago. Oslo Cancer Cluster is happy to announce that we are now one of the three stakeholders in this yearly conference, together with ICT Norway and Macsimum.

EHiN attracts a large audience from Norwegian government and business. The speaker in this picture is Christine Bergland, Director at the Norwegian Directorate of eHealth (NDE).

Norwegian e-health  
EHiN 2018 took place in Oslo Spektrum and was the biggest meeting place for actors in the public and private sector working with e-health in Norway. The conference had 150 speakers and 1300 participants. EHiN 2019 will be the 6th year of the conference.

What happened at EHiN 2018?

 — EHiN is an important meeting place for public and private actors, and for academia and business. This is a natural prolongation of the many meeting places Oslo Cancer Cluster is always working to establish and preserve, Ketil Widerberg says.

Digital technologies are part of what drives innovation to the maximum benefit of cancer patients. Widerberg is certain that e-health will change the way we understand and treat cancer in the future.

– E-health is part of the matrix for how we give the right medicine to the right patient at the right time, meaning precision medicine. One example of what we specifically do in this area, is a recent project we have been part of, called PERMIDES.

An e-health success story
From August 2016 until August 2018, Oslo Cancer Cluster together with five other European clusters in medicine and ICT, was managing a Horizon 2020 EU project called PERMIDES. It is a European e-health success story in bringing together biopharma and IT sectors.

D.B.R.K Gupta Udatha at the EHiN conference in 2018. Dr. Udatha was the project manager for PERMIDES at Oslo Cancer Cluster.

D.B.R.K Gupta Udatha is Director (Digital and EU) at Oslo Cancer Cluster. He has been instrumental in PERMIDES and explains why the project has had such a positive effect on the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) it has worked with. 

PERMIDES was a project to anchorage digital transformation across SMEs in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. We aimed to see where the biopharma companies were lacking digital infrastructure and where the ICT companies could bring digital skills to make sure that the biopharma companies were up to date, Dr. Udatha said at EHiN 2018.

The project created matchmaking opportunities between these two different categories of companies and was awarded EUR 4.8 million from the EU’s Horizon2020 programme. It addressed specific challenges for SMEs to go digital with a precision medicine product.

Read more bout the PERMIDES project here.

Let us cooperate on precise health technologies

International cooperation is key to fulfilling our vision of making cancer treatments more precise, and giving the patients new treatments more quickly.

This opinion piece is written by Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster. It was first published in the Norwegian newspaper Today’s Medicine, Dagens Medisin, 30 October 2018. 

The countries in Northern Europe have contributed to developing medical treatments that we today could not imagine living without. From the British discovery of antibiotics to the Danish development of a treatment for diabetes. Once again it is time for Northern European health innovation, this time in the field of health technology. What might the prime ministers from Northern Europe focus on when they meet in Oslo on 30 October to discuss health technology?

They might want to point out concrete and state-of-the-art initiatives from their respective countries. It could be Swedish biobanks, Finnish artificial intelligence, Danish health data, English genomics and Estonian health blockchain. These are exciting initiatives that make medicine more precise. This is particularly important when it comes to cancer because more precise treatments could save lives and limit the late effects resulting from imprecise treatment.

This opinion piece is written by Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster. It was first published in the Norwegian newspaper Today’s Medicine, Dagens Medisin, 30 October 2018.

At the same time, we see the contours of serious challenges arising with more precise medicine, such as each unit becoming more expensive. Smaller patient groups also mean that it is harder to find enough patients to understand the biological processes and the consequences of new medical treatments. As the prime ministers gather in Oslo to discuss health technology and plan the road ahead, it would not be amiss for them to look back in time and find inspiration from another technological development.

Precise through cooperation
In the 1990s, the search engine Yahoo helped us to quality-assure by categorising and being precise when we needed information on the internet. Yahoo thus contributed to the internet changing the world. However, the amount of data soon became enormous and complex, and a never-ending need for resources and experts arose. The traditional categorisation to ensure quality and structure the data became an impossible task.

This is very similar to what is happening in the health field today. We are constantly collecting more data and educating an increasing number of experts. With a few exceptions, every country is now collecting their data in their own registers and using a great deal of resources on assuring the quality of the data. The countries are rightfully proud of their initiatives. In Norway, we are proud of our biobanks and our health registers, such as the Cancer Registry of Norway. At the same time, we need to ask ourselves whether this national strategy really is the smartest way forward.

Let us go back to Yahoo. Towards the end of the 1990s, some engineers in California thought differently about the internet. How about using cooperation as a quality indicator? Instead of categorising, the links between the websites could ensure data quality. This is how Google was born, and we got precision, quality and insight into data that changed the world.

There are different challenges in the health field than on the internet. Data are more sensitive and the consequences for individuals can often be more dire. At the same time, health technology, in many ways, has reached the same point as the internet faced in the 1990s.  We do not have the quantity, the methods for analysis, or the quality to fully exploit the data to gather insight, or for treatment or innovation – yet.

From Yahoo to Google level
One way in which we could tackle the health technology challenges the data present us with is through international cooperation. It is about two things: to gather enough data, and to analyse the data to provide better and more precise treatment. The initiatives so far are promising, but they lack the potential to make the leap from Yahoo to Google.

The Northern European prime ministers can probably acknowledge this. The question is: what can they do? Should they encourage smart young engineers to analyse health data instead of developing the next app? Or should they change the way the hospitals buy technology?

A step in the right direction could be to look at what works best in the other countries. At the same time, we need to avoid new initiatives merely becoming a better horse-drawn carriage. Are there initiatives in existence that are scalable internationally so that we can bring health data up to the next level together? The answer is yes, but it requires visionary initiatives that have not been done anywhere else.

Common clinical studies
An area that the prime ministers will be able to highlight is a Northern European initiative for clinical studies. Together, the countries have a large number of patients, which gives researchers and doctors a better basis in their studies to understand more and provide better treatment. Such an initiative could also use health data from the national health services collected on a daily basis in several countries, known as real world data, instead of eventual clinical studies with patients over several years. This would be both quicker and much cheaper.

The prime ministers might also agree on cooperating on Northern European genetics. For 13 years, we collaborated on mapping our genes in the international  Human Genome Project. Now we need to get together to understand genes and treat the patients. With prioritised funding, genetics will soon be a part of the everyday clinical life in England. We can learn a lot from their experience.

Artificial intelligence
Lastly, the Northern European prime ministers may wish to collaborate on artificial intelligence in the health field. Today, cancer treatment, for instance, often only works on three out of ten patients. Artificial intelligence will change how we understand diseases such as cancer and how we treat the patients. The experiences from Finland of introducing artificial intelligence will help other countries to understand where the barriers are and where help might be needed first.

Oslo Cancer Cluster’s vision is to make cancer treatment more precise and provide new treatments more quickly to the patients. We see that international cooperation is key to obtaining this goal. As a result, we could also discover diseases more quickly and reduce the costs of the national health services. We hope the Northern European prime ministers will delve into these issues when they meet to discuss the health technologies of the future here with us.

By Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster.

– An idea needs to attract investors

Meet Thomas Andersson, our new Senior Advisor Business Development. How could he be of help to your startup company? 

— The most important thing I do is to get the startup companies rolling.

Thomas Andersson, the new Senior Advisor for Business Development at Oslo Cancer Cluster and Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, looks dead serious as he makes this statement, but immediately after he lets out a smile and elaborates:

— A company needs to be investible. An idea needs to attract investors.

A lifetime of experience
Thomas holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Lund University in Sweden and has more than 30 years of experience from establishing, operating and funding start-ups in the life science field. He has a long background in business development in health tech startups, all the way back to the early 1980s.

— I’m that old! I went straight from my Ph.D. in biophysics into the problem-solving of business development.

In his career he has also taken on issues with patents and sales and he even bought a company that produced monoclonal antibodies with some friends and remodelled and sold it. 

— What did you learn from this journey? 

— I learned quite a lot, including the production business and the cell cultivation biotech business from the floor. I also learned how to lay out the production manufacturing facility.

See it like an investor
Thomas Andersson knows the biotech startup-scene from the investors’ point of view. He started to work at the tech transfer office of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. It was called Karolinska Innovations back then, now it is known as KI Innovations.

— We raised a lot of money there, formed 45 companies as a group and we had a fantastic time! 

After 8 years he was recruited to Lund and worked in Lund University Bio Science and tried to vacuum clean the whole university for life science innovation.

— And we did find a lot! In the end there were about 20 investment proposals and those ended up in 9 investments, of which we turned down 5 or 6. Two of them are now at the stock market. 

In total, Thomas Andersson has been involved in starting about 20 companies, of which 5 survived and are now on the stock market.

Normally, it is said that only 1 in 30 biotech startups make it. 

 

Thomas Andersson, Senior Advisor Business Development. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

Here for you
— How did you end up here at Oslo Cancer Cluster?  

— I have had my eyes on Oslo Cancer Cluster for a while. I have liked the ideas that the cluster stands for. And I wanted to do something new in the end of my career. That is why I am here as a senior advisor now. I like it here! I am working on very interesting projects and ideas.

Our new Senior Advisor Business Development is present in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator nearly every week although he still lives in Lund, Sweden, on a farm in the woods where he can be practical and hands-on with hardwood and fly fishing.

— My door is open to people in the cluster and incubator with projects and ideas. I have a network that can help them and I have the experience of how investors, scientists and other actors can value a company. And being a Swede in the Norwegian system; I am basically here also to encourage you to think differently.

 

Interested in more funding opportunities for your company?

Check out our Access to Capital-page. 

 

T-cells and the Nobel Price

What does the Nobel Prize have to do with cancer research in Oslo Cancer Cluster?

This year the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer. This was a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options.

A statement from the Nobel committee hailed the accomplishments of Allison and Honjo as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.”

This principle, the idea behind much of the immunotherapy we see developing today, is shared by several of our Oslo Cancer Cluster members, including Oslo University Hospital and the biotech start-up Zelluna.

– This year’s Nobel Price winners have contributed to giving new forms of immunotherapy treatments to patients, resulting in improved treatments to cancer types that previously had poor treatment alternatives, especially in combination with other cancer therapies, said doctor Else Marit Inderberg as a comment to the price.

She leads the immunomonitoring unit of the Department of Cellular Therapy at Oslo University Hospital. The unit is present in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator with a translational research lab.

Inderberg has been studying and working with T-cells since 1999, first within allergies and astma, before she was drawn to cancer research and new cancer therapies in 2001.

So, what is a T-cell?
T-cells have the capacity to kill cancer cells. These T-cells are a subtype of white blood cells and play a central role in cell-mediated immunity. They are deployed to fight infections and cancer, but malignant cells can elude them by taking advantage of a switch – a molecule – on the T-cell called an immune checkpoint. Cancer cells can lock onto those checkpoints, crippling the T-cells and preventing them from fighting the disease.

The drugs based on the work of Nobel Prize winners Allison and Honjo belong to a class called checkpoint inhibitors – the same immune checkpoint that we find on T-cells. Drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors can physically block the checkpoint, which frees the immune system to attack the cancer.

Group leaders Else Marit Inderberg and Sébastien Wälchli often work in one of the cell labs in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. Photo: Christopher Olssøn

 

– We work on other ways of activating the immune system, but in several clinical trials we combine cancer vaccines or other therapies with the immune-modulating antibody, the checkpoint inhibitors, which the Nobel Price winners developed, Inderberg explained.

Inderberg and her team of researchers in the translational research lab in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator use the results from the Nobel Price winners’ research in their own research in order to develop their own therapy and learn more about the mechanisms behind the immune cells’ attack on the cancer cells and the cancer cells’ defence against the immune system.

– This Nobel Prize is very inspiring for the entire field and it contributes to making this kind of research more visible, Else Marit Inderberg added.

– Our challenge now is to make new forms of cancer therapies available for a large number of patients and find ways to identify patient groups who can truly benefit from new therapies – and not patients who will not benefit. Immunotherapy also has some side effects, and it is important that we keep working on these aspects of the therapy as well.

From research to company
Most of the activity of the translational research lab in Oslo relies on the use of a database of patient samples called the biobank. This specific biobank represents an inestimable source of information about the patients’ response to immunological treatments over the years. Furthermore, the patient material can be reanalysed and therapeutic molecules isolated. This is the basis of the Oslo Cancer Cluster member start-up company Zelluna.

 

Want to know more about Zelluna and the research they are spun out of?

This is a story about their beginning.

Curious about new research from the Department of Cellular Therapy in Oslo?

More on their webpage.

 

Prestigious partnership for Vaccibody

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody is entering into a clinical collaboration with the American biopharmaceutical company Nektar Therapeutics.

The aim of the collaboration is to explore positive effects from the combination of Vaccibody’s personalized cancer vaccine VB10.NEO and Nektar Therapeutics cancer drug NKTR-214. Pre-clinical results of the combination are very positive and the collaboration will mark the start of a clinical trial stage.

The clinical trials will include patients with head and neck cancer and initially involve 10 patients.

What is Nektar?
Nektar Therapeutics is not just any company when it comes to immunotherapy. At Nasdaq their market value is set as high as 10 billion dollars.

– For a year now, Nektar might be the most talked about company within immunotherapy and this winter they landed the largest deal of its kind with Bristol Meyers-Squibb (BMS), says Agnete Fredriksen, President and Chief Scientific Officer, in an interview with Norwegian newspaper Finansavisen.

Help more patients
BMS and Nektar started collaborating on the development of the immunotherapy drug NKTR-214, the same drug that is part of the collaboration with Vaccibody, with a potential worth of 3.6 billion dollars.

– That they want to work with us is a nice validation of Vaccibody and makes us able to help even more cancer patients. We hope the combination of our products will lead to even better treatments, Agnete Fredriksen says to Finansavisen.

More about Vaccibody’s cancer vaccine

Nektar and Vaccibody each will maintain ownership of their own compounds in the clinical collaboration, and the two companies will jointly own clinical data that relate to the combination of their respective technologies. Under the terms of the agreement and following the completion of the pilot study, the two companies will evaluate if they will take the partnership to the next stage.

American tech and Norwegian health data

Combining country scale population data with world class computer systems and algorithms will push the boundaries of precision medicine.

This is a story about the unique American-Norwegian collaboration that combines the best health data with the most powerful computers in a pioneer project run by Cancer Registry of Norway and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Data to screen cancer 
The ongoing project was initiated after a talk on tech between the General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster and a Senior Scientist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Some months later, in San Francisco, a meeting room was filled with some of the world’s best minds on cancer and technology. The Norwegians knew cancer and the Americans knew computing. The outcome was unknown. 

They identified a concrete challenge. Can we see patterns in data to screen cancer more precisely?

The quest resulted in a successful cooperation between Lawrence Livermore and the Cancer Registry in January 2016 where a team from the Cancer Registry started the first project on cervical cancer. If successful, they would potentially identify and screen high risk patients earlier and leave the low risk patients unburdened. 

Now there are two ongoing projects, one on cervical cancer and one on multitask learning for cancer. The goal is to make predictions more accurate and improve precision medicine. 

– If successful we can potentially identify and screen high risk earlier and leave the low risk unburdened. The individual and social impact of such a strategy is significant. This may be the reason why Joe Biden mentioned details from this project at a UN Assembly last year, Widerberg said.

Former Vice President Joe Biden led the American cancer initiative known as the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel. Two years ago, when the collaborative project between Norway and the USA had just started, the Blue Ribbon Panel released a report describing ten transformative research recommendations for achieving the Cancer Moonshot’s ambitious goal of making a decade’s worth of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in just 5 years.

One of the ten recommendations was to expand use of proven cancer prevention and early detection strategies.

The major research questions
– One of the major research questions right now is How do we design the optimal screening programs? Another is how to actually take advantage of the registry data that we have, said Giske Ursin, Director of the Cancer Registry of Norway.

In Norway, and similarly in the other Nordic countries, we have registries on various diseases, pregnancy/births, vaccinations, work history/unemployment, income and much more. We have data sets dating from the 1950s. That is unique in the world. 

– If you look at enough data, you can find interesting links that can be explored in the clinical world or elsewhere. For instance; how do other diseases affect cancer diseases? We need international expertise to cover areas we are not experts on ourselves, she said, showing a picture of one of the super computers at Lawrence Livermore.

Cancer and national security
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory and part of the U.S Department of Energy. The laboratory has over 5000 employees, of which at least half are engineers and researchers.

– We have the mandate from the government to push the forefront on subjects like bio security. Precision medicine is alined with the bio security mission, but it is even more relevant to the super computing research mandate. What are the next types of problems that will move this forward? Biomedical data complexity. That is why we are in this, Ana Paula de Oliveira Sales from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said in her presentation. 

Some ingredients of the project on cervical cancer is to improve cancer outcome prediction by combining disparate cancer types. The preliminary results are encouraging.

 

Break down barriers
John-Arne Røttingen, CEO of the Research Council of Norway, gave a talk on how collaborations between the Nordic countries and other countries are important for population based clinical research and health research.

– Personalized medicine is full of promise and we want to contribute to this progress, but we cannot do this only with our data. We have to collaborate with other countries and with different fields of research, he said.

One important country in that respect is of course the USA.

Kenneth J. Braithwaite, U.S Ambassador to Norway, talked about the opportunities with the Norwegian databases in a meeting in the Oslo Cancer Cluster innovation park 20 September 2018.

— I have learned the past few years that data is king, and we need to wrap our arms around this. I think there is a responsibility from the governments to begin to break down the barriers and truly find a cure to cancer. That’s what we are up against, said U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth J. Braithwaite, who is Rear Admiral of United States Navy (Retired).

— As we say in the Navy, full speed ahead!

Norwegian life science on exhibition

The strong life science actors in Norway joined forces during the conference Nordic Life Science Days 2018.

Oslo Cancer Cluster aims to enhance the visibility of oncology innovation made in Norway by being a significant partner for international clusters, global biopharma companies and academic centres. We used the conference Nordic Life Science Days 2018 in Stockholm this September week to show the growing Norwegian life science environment.

The Norwegian stand
From 2015 onward, we have had a Norwegian stand promoting Norwegian healthcare and life science industry together with other life science actors in Norway. Our partners this year were Norway Health TechAleapUniversity of Oslo: Life ScienceThe Life Science ClusterInvent2NORINNansen Neuroscience NetworkLMI, Centre for Digital Life NorwayInnovation Norway and The Norwegian Research Council. Together we represent the essence of Norwegian Life Science.

 

The Norwegian delegation with Ambassador Christian Syse visited the stand in 2018. From the left: Jutta Heix, International Advisor at Oslo Cancer Cluster, Christian Syse, the Norwegian Ambassador to Sweden, Tina Norlander, Senior Advisor in Innovation Norway and Jeppe Bucher, Intern at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm.

 

A European meeting place
There are several important meeting places for life science actors in Europe, such as BIO-Europe, BIO-Europe Spring and Nordic Life Science Days at the top of the list. Oslo Cancer Cluster is the oncology partner at the Nordic Life Science Days.

Are you interested in what the big oncology session during the Nordic Life Science Days 2018 was all about? The topic was cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology.

This article gives you the highlights of the session.

More Nordic collaboration
As a region, the Nordic countries are of international importance in the field of cancer research and innovation, especially in precision medicine, and Oslo Cancer Cluster participates in advancing Nordic collaboration. Oslo Cancer Cluster also engages in more cancer specific European events. One example is the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy Meeting (CIMT), which is the largest European meeting in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Read more about our international work

The next wave in cancer immunotherapy

What is driving the next wave of innovation in cancer immunotherapy?

This was the question the experts tried to answer in the oncology session of the conference Nordic Life Science Days in Stockholm 12 September.

International experts from pharma, biotech, academia and the investment community discussed how different approaches to innovative cancer treatments could address challenges and shape the next wave of innovation in cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology.

They touched upon approaches such as big data, personalized medicine, new targets and lessons from neuroscience.

Over the past few years, the rapid development of novel cancer immunotherapy approaches has fundamentally disrupted the oncology space. Cancer immunotherapy has not only become a key component of cancer therapy, but it has also reshaped priorities in oncology research and development (R&D) across the industry, with unprecedented clinical success in certain cancer types continuing to fuel record investment and partnering activity.

As of today, more than 2.000 immuno-oncology agents, including checkpoint-inhibitors, vaccines, oncolytic viruses and cellular therapies are in preclinical or clinical development.

Read more about the cellular therapy research of Oslo Cancer Cluster members Oslo University Hospital and Zelluna.

Why so little effect? 
Despite all of this promising research, only a minority of patients benefits from effective and durable immuno-oncology treatments. Why is this happening?

Part of the answer is found in resistance or unexplained lack of response. This could be addressed through a better understanding of optimal timing of therapy, better combination therapy design, or improved patient selection. Another part of the answer lies in a lack of novel targets and of an overall better understanding of specific immune mechanisms. This lack of understanding is becoming a roadblock to further advance in this research space.

What can the experts do about this? It turns out they have several approaches. Two of the main ones include big data and turning so-called cold tumours hot.

Big data will expand
“We believe that this can be changed by adding deep and broad data from multiple sources”, said Richa Wilson, Associate Director, Digital and Personalized Healthcare in Roche Partnering.

“We use the words meaningful data at scale, that means high quality data with a purpose: to answer key scientific questions”, she said at the session.

These data will continue to evolve from clinical trials and aggregated trials and registries and in the future from real time and linked data. There was about 150 exabytes health data in 2015 and in 2020 it is expected to grow into 2300 exabytes, mainly from digital health apps and scans from the hospitals, Oslo Cancer Cluster member Roche presented.

Hot and cold tumours 
Emilio Erazo-Fischer, Associate Director of Global Oncology Business Development at Boehringer Ingelheim explained the cold and hot tumours and how the cold tumours can be turned hot and thus open for cancer immunology treatment. It is well explained in this short film by Oslo Cancer Cluster member Boehringer Ingelheim

Martin Bonde, CEO of Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody also presented how they try to turn the cold tumours hot.

The Norwegian company Vaccibody is a leader in the field of cancer vaccines and they are very ambitious. They currently have a trial for melanoma, lung, bladder, renal, head and neck cancer.

The impact of stress
Erica Sloan is the group leader of the Cancer & Neural-Immune Research Laboratory in Monash University in Australia. She gave a talk on how neural signalling stops immunotherapy working. The researchers at Monash University have led mouse studies where the nervous system is stressed. They show that immunotherapies fail unless peripheral neural stresses are excluded.

The threat of a cancer diagnosis is stressful, as are most certainly cancer and cancer treatments. The tumour micro environment inside the cells can hear the stress signal, that is adrenalin.

“So what can we do about it?” Erica Sloan asked, before she answered:

“Treating with beta blockers. Blocking neural signalling prevents cancer progression. It also has an effect on immunotherapies.”

Erica Sloan is the group leader for the Cancer & Neural-Immune Research Laboratory in Monash University, Australia. She gave an introduction to the effect of neural signalling on tumour cells during the NLSDays in Stockholm 2018.

“Could stress be responsible for non responders?”, the moderator Gaspar Taroncher-Oldenburg from Nature Publishing Group asked her in the panel. 

“Absolutely, neural signalling can be responsible for this. And the exciting thing with data sharing here is that it can allow us to see and understand the rest of the patients’ biology. We need to look more at the patients’ physiology and not just the tumour biology” she said. 

Ultimovacs acquires Immuneed

The Norwegian biotech company Ultimovacs acquires the immunotherapy technology business of the Swedish company Immuneed AB. 

The complementary technologies of the two companies provide a unique platform for development of novel vaccine solutions for treatment and possibly prevention of cancer.

The acquired business has been named Ultimovacs AB and is now a fully-owned Swedish subsidiary of  Oslo Cancer Cluster member Ultimovacs AS. The business is located in Uppsala and has two employees.

— In Ultimovacs, we have been looking for an adjuvant technology that can further improve cancer vaccines. Simultaneously, Immuneed has been searching for a peptide based vaccine platform for further testing of their technology. This is a perfect match, says Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, CEO of Ultimovacs, in a press release.

Bought for NOK 50.4 million
The purchase price of the technology business of Immuneed AB was NOK 50.4 million, corresponding to SEK 54.5 million, which was paid partly in cash and partly in shares in Ultimovacs AS. Following the transaction, Immuneed AB holds 5.4% of the shares in Ultimovacs AS.

Ultimovacs is a Norwegian pharmaceutical company developing novel immunotherapies against cancer. The lead product candidate is a peptide-based vaccine inducing a specific T cell response against the universal cancer antigen telomerase. This vaccine is called UV1 and is currently in clinical testing in the US.

Read more about the technology of Ultimovacs.

Immuneed has developed technology named the TET-platform™ that can complement the cancer vaccine under development by Ultimovacs. The TET-platform™ addresses the general challenge of so called “adjuvants” that enhance the desired response of the immune system to a vaccine. It makes it possible to incorporate adjuvant and the vaccine itself into one molecule.

When using the technology from Immuneed, the antibodies formed by a previous vaccine can function as adjuvant for a new vaccine. This principle is general and can be applied as an adjuvant for many different vaccines. The principle and the technology have been successfully validated in different pre-clinical models.

Read more about the merger in the press release issued by Ultimovacs.

PCI Biotech with new research collaboration

PCI Biotech is initiating a scientific collaboration with Bavarian Nordic to boost their cancer treatment technology.

Oslo Cancer Cluster member PCI Biotech has announced that it is initiating a preclinical research collaboration with Bavarian Nordic, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical corporation focused on developing state-of-the-art cancer immunotherapies and vaccines for infectious diseases.

The two collaborators will be exploring synergies between their two technologies to further enhance the effect of treatments of cancer and infectious diseases.

Exploring possibilities
In brief, the collaborators will evaluate technology compatibility and synergy based on in vivo studies. The companies will evaluate results achieved from this research collaboration and then explore the potential for a further partnership.

CEO of PCI Biotech Per Walday says this regarding this fresh collaboration:

— I’m very pleased to announce another research agreement with a key player within the field of immunotherapies, which is the second collaboration initiated this year. We believe that the PCI technology has the potential to play a role in the realization of several new therapeutic treatments, and we look forward to exploring synergies with Bavarian Nordic’s unique and innovative technologies

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.

 

 

 

In need of start-up funding?

Are you and your cluster company in need of early stage funding? Apply for Innovasjonsrammen by the 10th of September and compete for important start-up money.

Early financing for establishing companies is often limited, but can be absolutely crucial to get important projects off the ground. Therefore, Innovation Norway has created the special funding program Innovasjonsrammen (English: Innovation Frame) to support cluster start-ups at an early stage.

All our start-up members are invited to apply for money and note that you have the possibility to collaborate with partners outside the cluster.

NOK 10 million in funds are available for the calender year 2018. Two of our cluster members – Seald and NorGenoTech  – received funding earlier this year through the program, NOK 300 000 each.

 

For more information contact Bjørn Klem, General manager Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator HERE.

The following criteria follow the application:

  1. The project must be a collaboration consisting of at least two companies and were one needs to be a member of the cluster.
  2. Innovation Norway offer a maximum of 50 percent funding for each project
  3. The project must comply with the guidelines set for research and development projects by the EEC regulations.
  4. The financing must have a substantial impact on the project.
  5. The project must comply with Innovation Norway’s demands for sustainability. All applicants must explain how they take care of their social responsibility through responsible business ethics, and describe possible positive environmental and social effects of the project. Read more on Innovation Norway’s guidelines here.
  6. The use of the funds must be reported by January 2020, possibly based on a milestone plan.

Can Norway compete internationally on health?

Can Norway take a leading international position within the health industry? This was the main question for one of our discussions at Arendalsuka last week.

A report released in April this year shows a Norwegian health industry on the rise. However internationally, Norway is still comparatively small even compared to our Nordic neighbors.

SEE VIDEO FROM THE MEETING (Facebook, in Norwegian)

See our other events during Arendaluka:

  1. Fremtidens kreftbehandling i Arendal (In Norwegian)
  2. Tim: Pasienten som kommer hjem (In Norwegian)

Feasibility study
Oslo Cancer Cluster, Norway Health Tech, LMI, Innovation Norway and the The Research Council of Norway have, based on the ambition of creating a profitable health industry in Norway, conducted a feasibility study regarding the strategical positioning of the Norwegian health industry. 30 key position holders within the industry have contributed to the report, giving their views on how Norway can build a stronger health industry.

READ THE REPORT

The event in Arendal featured a a debate panel consisting of Ketil Widerberg from Oslo Cancer Cluster, Kathrine Myhre from Norway Health Tech, Monica Larsen from Legemiddelindustriforeningen, Hans Eirik Melandsø from Innovasjon Norge and Anne Kjersti Fahlvik from The Research Council of Norway.

Collaboration key
Collaboration between public institutions and the innovative private sector is important to create a health industry of some size, both according to the report published in April and the participants in the Arendal-panel. Oslo Cancer Cluster facilitates this kind of innovative public-private collaboration.

– We represent the whole value chain when it comes to cancer treatment and innovation. Research institutions, hospitals, as well as both small and large companies, Ketil Widerberg explained.

One example of how Oslo Cancer Cluster contributes to a functioning health industry is the new Car-T cancer treatment developed by Novartis. Important research and treatment conducted by the department of cell therapy at the Radium hospital is funded for clinical studies by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the production is made possible by Norwegian innovations from Thermo Fischer, while the Norwegian Medicines Agency works hard securing international treatment approval.

– This type of collaboration saves lives while creating employment and income, said Widerberg.

Three ways to recreate success
The question is how do we recreate these type of success stories, and Widerberg emphasized three different aspects: More clinical studies, releasing the shackles on our health data and cultivating high-end research.

– Today, a successful Norwegian Centre of Excellence loses it’s funding after 10 years. If the research is a success, it should be doubled, he said.

Tim: Pasienten som kommer hjem

Kan digitale løsninger lette hverdagen for pasienter som kommer hjem etter endt behandling?

Det ville Oslo Cancer Cluster, sammen med Kreftforeningen og IKT Norge finne ut av på ettermiddagsprogrammet under Arendalsuka onsdag.

Arrangement: PASIENTEN KOMMER HJEM – PAKKEFORLØP OG DIGITAL OPPFØLGING

Kreftpasienten Tim
Daglig leder for Oslo Cancer Cluster og konferansier Ketil Widerberg begynte med å presentere oss for «Tim».  Tim er hovedpersonen i en rekke animasjonsfilmer fra Oslo kommune, der de ser for seg hvordan de skal møte innbyggerne i kommunen i framtida.

Hvorfor henger helsesektoren etter resten av utviklinga? (Ketil Widerberg)

Vi fikk se pasienten Tim og hvordan, i et drømmescenario, Tim blir tatt vare på etter endt kreftbehandling.

Dette er viktig fordi: «Vi vil stadig få flere og flere mennesker som får en kreftdiagnose», ifølge Ketil Widerberg.

I filmen ser vi Tim ta i bruk app-er og duppeditter for lette sin hverdag som pasient. Teknologi vi «alle» allerede bruker i hverdagen.

— Så hvorfor er dette et drømmescenario, spurte Widerberg etter å ha sett filmen.

— Er ikke dette teknologi vi har allerede i dag? Hvorfor henger helsesektoren etter resten av utviklinga?

Transportplan for data
Finansbyråd Robert Steen, som har jobbet i 15 år med digitalisering for Schibsted, mener vi mangler samhandling innen digitalisering.

— Vi må lage en nasjonal transportplan for data. Først da kan vi få en verden der pasienten får all mulig hjelp digitalisering faktisk kan tilby, sa Steen.

“Vi har teknologien. Vi må bare ta den i bruk!” (Anne Lise Ryel)

Anne Lise Ryel, generalsekretær for Kreftforeningen, understreket hvor viktig digitalisering er for hverdagen til dem som kommer hjem etter kreftbehandling, og at det finnes et stort potensial for både pasient og sykehus når det kommer til digitalisering.

— Jeg husker når man gikk i banken for å betale regninger. Det er veldig lenge siden nå, men det virker som helsesektoren ikke har beveget seg videre som resten av samfunnet, poengterte Ryel og sa senere:

— Vi har teknologien. Vi må bare ta den i bruk!

— Vi må kunne ta prøver i hjemmet slik diabetikere tar insulin. Det sparer pasienten for tid og energi, og gir flere ledige sykesenger, var ett av innspillene til Andreas Stensvold ved Sykehuset Østfold, der de prøver å ta i bruk mer moderne teknologi.

— Vi må bruk IT i kreftbehandlingen fordi vi trenger alle mulige hjelpemidler når stadig flere får kreft, poengterte Stensvold.

Må bestille smartere
Et sted å begynne for å gjøre digitale hjelpemidler tilgjengelig for pasienter, er å bestille smartere. Dette snakket Wenche Dehli, Helse- og sosialdirektør i Kristiansand kommune, om.

— Vi må samle bestillingene våre slik at lettere kan få de til å snakke sammen, sa hun, og videre:

— Pasienten skal ikke merke hvem de får tjenesten fra. Alt må koordineres på forhånd av kommune og sykehus.

Møtet avsluttet med en debatt med flere av deltakerne ledet av Nard Schreurs, avd. direktør for e-helse og smart-tech, IKT Norge.

Picture of group discussing during Arendalsuka.

Fremtidens kreftbehandling i Arendal

Gikk du glipp av frokostmøtet vårt i Arendal? Her kan du få det med deg likevel!

Fremtidens kreftbehandling handler om helsedata, persontilpasset medisin, kreftvaksiner og ambisiøse forskere og pådrivere. 

Noen av disse pådriverne kunne du se og høre under vårt frokostmøte i Arendal 15. August 2018. Møteserien “Fremtidens kreftbehandling” er et samarbeid mellom Kreftforeningen, MSD (Norge), Legemiddelindustrien, AstraZeneca, Janssen og Oslo Cancer Cluster. 

 

 

De ambisiøse forskerne kommer fra MetAction, det eneste studiet gjennomført i Norge som bruker en bredspektret prøve av arvematerialet i kreftsvulsten for å avgjøre hva slags behandling hver pasient bør få. Det er virkelig persontilpasset behandling.

— Vi har behandlet pasienter med spredningssvulst. Vi har tatt en prøve og sekvensert DNA i kreftsvulsten. Vi har sett på alle genene som vi i dag vet at er viktig for kreftutvikling, sier Gunhild M. Mælandsmo, biolog ved Oslo Universitetssykehus.

Det er en komplisert infrastruktur i denne behandlingen, og mange eksperter er involvert, før onkologer kan komme fram til hva slag persontilpasset behandling pasienten skal få. MetAction har rett og slett bygget opp en infrastruktur for ekspertene der de kan bruke hverandres kompetanse for å gjøre et tilpasset behandlingsvalg.

Pasientene har hatt nytte av dette. 6 av 26 pasienter hadde effekt av behandlingen og 2 hadde langvarig effekt og er nå tilbake i jobb. Dette er pasienter som var i et stadium av kreft der de var helt uten andre alternativer.

Etter 26 pasienter tok pengene i forskningsprosjektet slutt.

Forskerne og kreftlegene vet fortsatt ikke om de får penger til å fortsette.

— Dette er teknologi som finnes i dag. Vi har vist at vi kan gjøre dette i dag på sykehuset. Helsepolitikerne må ta beslutningen om at dette skal bli tilgjengelig for vanlige kreftpasienter, presiserer kreftkirurg Kjersti Flatmark.

Du kan lese mer om Metaction og se dem in action under Cancer Crosslinks i januar 2018 i denne saken (på engelsk)

Du kan høre hva helsepolitikerne Sveinung Stensland fra Høyre og Ruth Grung fra Arbeiderpartiet har å si til dette i videoen over, i samtale med Karita Bekkemellem fra Legemiddelindustrien og Kirsten Haugland fra Kreftforeningen.

Der vil du også kunne lytte til Giske Ursin fra Kreftregisteret og Jonas Einarsson fra Radforsk i samtale om verdiene i norske helsedata og helseregistre, og norske firmaer som utvikler fremtidens kreftbehandling.

Promising treatment for late stage cancer

MetAction has used targeted gene therapy to give patients with metastatic cancer a treatment method. The future of this work is now in danger.

Late stage cancer is still a real challenge for modern medicine. The gene mutations multiply and are difficult to control. However, the research group MetAction, based at the Oslo University Hospital, has used targeted gene therapy to give patients with metastatic cancer a treatment method.

The results have been very promising, but all the good work could go to waste.

Targeted Gene Theraphy has been described as one of the new important weapons in the fight against cancer for two decades now. Norwegian hospitals still lack an infrastructure to facilitate this type of treatment.

Meet MetAction
MetAction started as a research project in 2014 to explore the possibilities of targeted gene therapy, but ended in 2017 because of a lack of funding. The project made use of modern genetic tools, combined with knowledge across the cancer treatment spectrum, to help patients with late stage cancer.

Cancer Specialist Anne Hansen Ree explained how it all started at this year’s Cancer Crosslinks in January.

– We had this idea to use targeted gene therapy for people who suffered from late stage cancer to deal with the types of mutations common for this group, she said.

With this idea as a backdrop they started developing a research project.

– To do this we had to put together quite a large project with a lot of new diagnostic tools, as well as specialists with the knowledge to interpret the data and find patients that were willing to join the study, she explained.

During the project, MetAction found that they could give at least half of the patients in their study a treatment based on the genetical data collected.

A patient group previously labelled “terminally ill” could actually receive effective treatment.

You can read about the cancer patient Grete and how she was successfully treated with late stage stomach cancer by MetAction in this article in the Norwegian newspaper VG (in Norwegian).

Knowledge in danger
All the knowledge and competence the MetAction group has established in this field is now in danger of disappearing.

– It’s sad to see that all the good work from this project could vanish and that a patient group loses out on a possible treatment method, said molecular pathologist and doctor Hege Russnes.

Both Russnes and Ree emphasized that the research group both want to and should continue.

Join the debate
Last year at the yearly political get-together event “Arendalsuka” Oslo Cancer Cluster and meeting-co-hosts posted the question: “Why can’t we have a second-opinion board for patients that have run out of options, like in Denmark?” Now that a Norwegian Expert Panel is about to come to fruition–as promised by the Norwegian Minister of Health, Bent Høie–it presents an excellent possibility to include personalized gene treatment as a viable treatment option for patients with late stage cancer. We will discuss this possibility during our meeting in Arendal next week.

8 AM Wednesday 15 August, MetAction will present their project and we will discuss possibilities for future cancer treatment as part of this year’s Arendalsuka. Come and join our event there.

Or simply follow our live stream on Facebook!

New report on Norwegian health industry

Will the Norwegian health industry become a so-called growth industry? What kind of position can a Norwegian health industry claim internationally? 

These questions are at the core of a new report on the Norwegian health industry, published by Innovation Norway. According to Innovation Norway, health is one of six areas of opportunity for Norwegian export growth.

The Norwegian health industry is already increasing. It had a 57 billion NOK turnover last year, of which 23,6 billion in exports, mostly from companies producing in Norway.

New report out
Oslo Cancer Cluster, Norway Health Tech, Legemiddelindustriforeningen, Innovation Norway and the Norwegian Research Council have recently finished a feasibility study on the strategic position of a Norwegian health industry. 30 key position holders within the industry have contributed to the report, giving their views on how Norway can build a stronger health industry.

READ THE REPORT (in Norwegian)

Questions to be answered
How should we approach an expansion of the industry? What will become increasingly more important for this industry in the years to come? How should the public system contribute?

These questions will also appear in our meeting about the Norwegian health industry in Arendal, 16 August. Please join us in Arendal!

Previous reports
Menon Economics has previously published reports about the Norwegian health industry, commissioned by Oslo Cancer Cluster, Norway Health Tech, Legemiddelindustriforeningen, Innovation Norway and the Norwegian Research Council. Their latest report was published in April 2018. That report is available here (in Norwegian).

Meet Us at Arendalsuka

In mid-August Oslo Cancer Cluster travel to Arendal to put focus on cancer treatment and innovation.

Arendalsuka is a week of political discourse and interaction, and Oslo Cancer Cluster want to highlight several cancer related topics we find important. In total, we are hosting or co-hosting three different events!

On Wednesday August the 15th we are involved in two events. We start off early at Clarion Arendal by looking in to the glass bowl and predicting the future of cancer treatment. In the afternoon we discuss if digital technology can aid patients recovering from cancer treatment. Finally, on Thursday we ask: How can we promote the Norwegian Health Industry? What should we do and what should we avoid?

Browse our event in Norwegian.

Or better: Come and join us at Arendal!

Ullern Student With a Career in Medicine

Aksel Stien graduated from Ullern Secondary School in 2011. Today he is a physician working on his specialty subjects at Oslo University Hospital. Aksel has always wanted to become a physician and the foundation was already in place at Ullern. He learned things from his deployment at The Norwegian Radium Hospital during his upper secondary days that he has yet to learn from his medicine studies.

A warm summer afternoon Aksel is at an Adamstuen café. It’s four a clock and his workday at Ullevaal is done. Aksel is currently working at the department of Gastrointestinal Surgery at Ullevaal Hospital, a part of his specialization and continuing education as a doctor.

— Recently I worked at the emergency services at Grünerløkka for three months, a time I experienced as both exiting and hectic. However, I think it is interesting working at Gastrointestinal Surgery as well.

At Ullern he specialized in natural sciences and he has only good things to say about the teachers.

— I didn’t have one inadequate teacher in all my years at Ullern. Quite amazing really and that contributed to my good grades. Of course, I also worked hard to be able to enroll as a medicine student in Bergen right after graduation.

Very Interesting Deployment
Aksel finished his studies in 2017 and can now call himself doctor. However, a doctor is never fully educated. He is currently undergoing part one of his continuing education. And when he looks back, he remembers well his years at Ullern were he participated in two work deployments at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

— The deployments motivated me. I learned things I haven’t experienced later, like laboratory work and advanced cell biology. The best thing is that my passion for natural science was rewarded and encouraged. It felt fun doing stuff that was outside of the straight forward curriculum, says Aksel

Aksel was both deployed at a group led by Kristian Berg working on photochemical internalization and how it can be used to kill cancer cells, and additionally at dep. of Radiation Biology were the students learned about skin cancers and the danger of tanning booths.

Uncertain on Future
After finishing the first part of his continuing medical education, he will start the second part that decides the type of doctor he will become at the end, what field of expertiese he will delve deeper into. However, exactly what type of doctor he wants to become he hasn’t decided yet.

— Many of the different types of specializations are fun. Right now, gastrointestinal surgery is very exciting, but I don’t know. It will be a difficult choice, says Aksel.

Aksel has wanted to become a doctor for a long time and thinks it is an exciting profession combining knowledge of the natural sciences, medicine and the body with human contact skills.

— The life of a physician is very diverse, and it is very rewarding often seeing the results of your hard work immediately, says Aksel.

Aksel is tempted to go into research or maybe combining patient treatment with research. Treating patients and doing research is a quite common combination and Aksel has already participated in several research projects.

Do What You Find Fun!
Aksel is a believer in personal motivation. It is important that each graduate student go on to study what they are interested in and excites them.

— If you chose something that motivates you it’s much easier working hard because doing that extra work comes so naturally, says Aksel.

He thinks it is very understandable that natural sciences lover choose the medical profession after upper secondary.

— It’s a natural choice because of the job security and the exciting diversity of the profession. You can work with people, do research or work with patients. As a career it has it all and offers you a choice whatever you do, says Aksel.

— Personally, I have wanted to work with medicine since I was a toddler and I’m very happy about the career path I have chosen.

Cancer Innovation Pitched to Investors

A full house presented itself when Inven2 pitched 8 of their most promising cancer research projects at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator June 12th.

In total approximately 60 people gathered inside Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, and among the participants several experienced investors from other cancer projects.

— I’m positively surprised that so many potential and experienced investors found their way here today, commented Ole Kristian Hjelstuen, CEO at Inven2.

The event was the second in line of Inven2’s new pitching strategy, were they open up their projects at an early stage for potential investors and entrepreneurs with the will to transform the research into working companies.

— This shows that pitching is a good way to spread the word on the potential of our portfolio. The event today strengthens my belief that financing for our projects will be easier in the future, said Hjelstuen.

Eight Potential Treatments and Companies
Norway is among the very best when it comes to cancer research. Norwegian research has created top notch companies like Algeta, Nordic Nanovector, Ultimovacs and Zelluna Immunotherapy. Tuesdays  pitch proves that many more are on the horizon.

The eight-project presented at OCC Incubator are all exciting innovations that need financial backing and entrepreneurship to commercialize. The common denominator is a focus on modern treatments like immunology or precision medicine that are emerging as a result of what has been labelled “a breakthrough in cancer treatment” in later years.

Presentations of all eight projects available here.

The projects presented:

  • Tankyrase inhibition in cancer therapy
  • A new drug against Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
  • Autologous anti-CD20 TCR-engineered T-cell therapy for recurrent Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte Booster – Lymphocyte boosting growth medium for Adoptive Cell Therapy
  • CD37 CAR for cancer immunotherapy
  • IL-15 Immunotherapy – Fusion protein for immunotherapy of solid tumors
  • Backscatter: A communication technology enabling colon-cancer screening

New Chairman at OCC

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen is appointed new chairman at Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC).

On a recent General Assembly, Oslo Cancer Cluster elected Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen as new chairman after a unanimous vote. He takes over after Henrik Lund who opted not to stand for re-election after four years in the position.

Øyvind is currently CEO at Ultimovacs, a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster with its own cancer vaccine technology. Read more about Ultimovacs here.

— We look forward to having Øyvind as our chairman. He is very knowledgeable and enthusiastically committed to oncology research and development. His medical background combined with biotech entrepreneurship and years in the pharmaceutical industry, will help elevate Oslo Cancer Cluster to the next level, says General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Ketil Widerberg.

Thank You Henrik
Oslo Cancer Cluster thanks Henrik Lund for his four years chairman and many years on the board. Oslo Cancer Cluster has during his years as chairman grown both at home and internationally. Widerberg thanked Henrik for his commitment to OCC during his tenure:

— Thank you for your commitment to Oslo Cancer Cluster all these years. During your time as chairman we have undergone important changes, and now have a solid foundation to build upon. The goal is to be the leading European center of cancer innovation.

AI Speeds Up Pharmaceutical Testing

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Immunitrack has landed investments worth millions. The money will be used to develop a computer program that can predict how the immune system will react to different substances.

Already Immunitrack, co-founded by Stephan Thorgrimsen and Sune Justesen, is offering contracted research to the pharmaceutical industry predicting how the immune system react to different pharmaceuticals, by producing reagents that can be used to examine the immune systems reaction.

New AI in The Making
When scientists discover promising substances they think can be developed into medicine for future treatments, only a small percentage will prove to have an effect after testing. The testing process is important, but at the same time expensive, time and resource consuming. What if a lot of this testing could be done virtually by a computer program? This is what Immunitrack want to offer with their new AI- technology.

The new investment will take this further and enable the company to boost its production and analytical capabilities. The investment will enable increased efforts in the development of a new best in class Prediction Software using artificial intelligence (AI). The software is seen as a vital cornerstone for applying the technology from Immunitrack in large scale projects within cancer treatment and precision medicine.

The applications of the new AI platform are multiple: The technology increases vaccine potency, speeds up the development of personalized cancer vaccines and remove negative immunological effects. Additionally, it enhances precision medicine efforts by improving patient profiling and treatment selection.

And everything is really moving fast for Immunitrack.

— Until September last year it was only the two of us that stood for everything. Production, marketing, you name it. Then things started happening for real and now we have employed 4 new colleagues, says Stephan Thorgrimsen.

The Investor
The new investment is from Blenheim Capital Limited. They are a diversified investment company focusing on geographically, commercially and technologically frontier companies and projects.

The investment in Immunitrack ApS with its emphasis on transforming market proven immunology-based skill set into a commercially viable AI solution matches Blenheim’s investment profile.

About Immunitrack
Immunitrack aims at becoming a world leader within prediction and assessment of biotherapeutic impact on patient immune response. The company has until now provided services and reagents to more than 70 biotech companies worldwide, including 6 of the top 10 Pharma companies.

Immunitrack was founded in 2013 by Sune Justesen and Stephan Thorgrimsen. Sune Justesen brings in experience from more than a decade of working in one of the world leading research groups at the University of Copenhagen. The company started commercialization of its products in 2016, and has grown its staff from 2 to 6 within the last 8 months.

Event invitation for INVEN2Pitch

Inven2-Pitch: Morgendagens kreftselskaper

Er du investor eller gründerspire? Vi trenger deg!

Norge har en sterk tradisjon innen kreftforskning i verdensklasse. Basert på denne fremragende forskningen har selskaper som Algeta, Nordic Nanovector, Ultimovacs og Zelluna Immunotherapy blitt spunnet ut. Og det kommer mer.

Inven2 inviterer investorer, gründerspirer og andre interesserte til en presentasjon av de mest lovende nye prosjektene innen kreft i Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark den 12. juni kl. 14.

Dette er alle spennende innovasjonsprosjekter som når de går over i kommersiell fase om kort tid vil trenge finansiering og gründere. Er du gründer, investor eller helseinteressert, er dette en unik sjanse.

Bli med å skape morgendagens helsenæring!

12. juni kl. 14-16 | Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator (OCCI)

Meld deg på her!

Prosjektene som skal pitches:
  1. Tankyrase inhibition in cancer therapy
  2. A new drug against Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
  3. Autologous anti-CD20 TCR-engineered T-cell therapy for recurrent Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  4. Lymphocyte Booster – Lymphocyte boosting growth medium for Adoptive Cell Therapy
  5. CD37 CAR for cancer immunotherapy
  6. IL-15 Immunotherapy – Fusion protein for immunotherapy of solid tumors
  7. Backscatter: A communication technology enabling colon-cancer screening.

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