Ønsker virtuelle studier til Norge

This article was originally published on our member Inven2’s website and written by Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen in Norwegian. Oslo Cancer Cluster supports this member’s initiative of introducing virtual clinical studies to Norway.

Inven2 håper at vi snart kan starte såkalte virtuelle kliniske studier på oppdrag fra industri i Norge. Virtuelle kliniske studier innebærer utstrakt bruk av digitale verktøy for å samle inn dataene som er nødvendig for at et legemiddel kan godkjennes. Oslo universitetssykehus og legemiddelfirmaet Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) er veldig positive.

–Vi har alle forutsetninger for å lykkes med virtuelle studier og det kan være et stort fortrinn for å tiltrekke flere kliniske studier til Norge, sier Siri Kolle. Hun er ansvarlig for kliniske studier i Inven2.

Virtuelle studier kalles også «Decentralised Clinical Trials», og går blant annet ut på å ta i bruk digitale verktøy og avstandsoppfølging av studiedeltakere.

Det svenske Läkemedelsverket er i gang med en kartlegging i Sverige for å finne ut hva som kreves for å  gjennomføre virtuelle kliniske studier på en sikker og effektiv måte, og hva som allerede er på plass.

Jenny Söderberg er prosjektleder for dette og påpeker i en pressemelding at nær 70% av potensielle deltagere til kliniske studier er utelukket på grunn av geografiske hensyn.

–Jeg vil tro det samme gjelder for Norge. Dette viser hvilket enormt potensiale for bedre pasientbehandling som ligger i virtuelle studier. Ikke minst kan virtuelle studier bety bedre, bredere og raskere rekruttering til en studie, noe som er det viktigste får både firmaene og pasientene, sier Kolle.

Siri Kolle, ansvarlig for kliniske studier i Inven2.

Legemiddelindustrien på ballen

Kolle synes det svenske pilotprosjektet er spennende, og følger spent med på det og andre initiativ rundt virtuelle studier. Hun og kollegaene i Inven2 har allerede gjennomført en forundersøkelse ved Oslo universitetssykehus, basert på at de i starten av 2020 fikk flere henvendelser fra legemiddelfirmaer om hva som er mulig å gjøre innen virtuelle studier i Norge i dag.

–Både videoløsninger for pasientkonsultasjon og elektronisk samtykke kan enkelt tas i bruk allerede. I tillegg har vi sendt flere store legemiddelfirmaer kravspesifikasjonene som Oslo universitetssykehus har, på bruk av informasjonssystemer, så de er informert om retningslinjene sykehuset har på dette, sier Kolle.

Det setter Susanne Hedenstedt stor pris på. Susanne er senior prosjektleder for kliniske studier i Norden i biopharma selskapet BMS, hvor hun også er med i en intern, global, arbeidsgruppe innen virtuelle kliniske studier.

–Virtuelle studier bobler i verden. Det er mange legemiddelfirmaer som ser på muligheten for å gjennomføre hele eller deler av studiene sine digitalt. BMS planlegger å starte opp en virtuell oppfølgingsstudie innen kreft i løpet av 2020, og vi håper å få med et norsk sykehus i den studien, sier Hedenstedt.

Hedenstedt er tydelig på at BMS ønsker å gå i gang med virtuelle kliniske studier, og tror dette kan være en «gamechanger» for pasientene og for utvikling av nye behandlinger, i alle fall innen noen sykdommer.

– Pasientrekruttering er en av de største utfordringene i kliniske studier. Det tar lang tid og forsinker hele prosessen med eventuelt å få godkjent en ny behandling. I tillegg skjer det ofte at en del av pasientene ikke fullfører hele studieperioden. Det kan være på grunn av sykdommen eller andre faktorer, som reisevei. Det er tøft for svært syke pasienter å reise tur-retur til et sykehus hvor studiene gjennomføres. Gjennom virtuelle studier kan vi involvere pasienten på en mer hensiktsmessig måte i deres eget hjem, sier Hedenstedt.

Koronapandemien har satt fortgang i arbeidet med virtuelle studier i BMS. Den globale unntaktstilstanden har ført til at BMS, som ett av mange legemiddelfirmaer, har satt en midlertidig pause for oppstart av nye studier og rekruttering av pasienter til kliniske studier.

– Vi har tatt disse proaktive grepene for å beskytte og ta vare på sikkerheten til både studiedeltakere, våre ansatte og de ansatte på sykehusene som jobber med kliniske studier, sier Hedenstedt.

Hun påpeker at pausen også er satt for å sikre at studiene gjennomføres i tråd med regulatoriske retningslinjer og at dataene holder høy vitenskapelig kvalitet.

–Koronapandemien kommer til å føre til en eksplosjon av virtuelle studier. Det er veldig positivt at Inven2 ønsker å bidra til å innføre dette i Norge, sier Hedenstedt.

Oslo universitetssykehus er positivt innstilt

Så hva er egentlig den største forskjellen på en vanlig klinisk studie og en virtuell, desentralisert klinisk studie?

Begrepet desentralisert er beskrivende, fordi hovedforskjellen er at studieoppfølgingen flyttes så mye som mulig fra et sykehus hjem til den enkelte pasienten. Han eller hun bruker sitt lokale legekontor for blodprøver, og ulike digitale løsninger for å rapportere inn data i studien. Mer avanserte undersøkelser som MR, PET-skan og røntgen må fremdeles gjennomføres på sykehus.

I Norge har begrepet telemedisin gjerne blitt brukt om denne typen oppfølging av pasienter

Telemedisin er et område Norge er langt framme på internasjonalt, på grunn av vår spredte befolkning som i store deler av landet bor langt unna sykehus eller fastlegekontor.

–Det norske helsevesen sin lange erfaring med telemedisin innebærer at vi har alle forutsetninger for å være et foregangsland innen virtuelle studier, sier Kolle.

Noen flere elementer må på plass for å gå fra telemedisin til virtuell gjennomføring av kliniske studier.

–Elektronisk samtykke fra pasientene til å delta i en studie er et element, videokonsultasjoner med lege eller studiepersonell er et annet, og i tillegg kommer utstrakt innsamling av pasientrapporterte data. I dette ligger det at pasienten selv rapporterer om egen fysisk og psykisk helse basert på egen erfaring og helsedata hentet fra ulike former for «wearables», det vil si en pulsklokke eller lignende som måler blodtrykk og andre vitale funksjoner, sier Kolle.

Alle disse tre elementene er i bruk i helsevesenet i dag, sier Peder Utne. Utne leder avdeling for administrativ forskningsstøtte ved Oslo universitetssykehus.

–Digitale verktøy brukes i stor grad i forskerinitierte studier, og det er ingenting i veien for å ta det i bruk i industrisponsede studier. Det som må være på plass er selvfølgelige datasikkerhet, det vil si at de digitale løsningene er trygge i bruk for deltagerne og i tråd med internasjonale retningslinjer for personvern, sier Utne.

Et eksempel på en pågående, virtuell studie i Norge, er koronastudien der Oslo universitetssykehus kartlegger risiko for å bli smittet av koronaviruset. Her bruker de både elektronisk samtykke og spørreskjema for å innhente egenrapporterte data. Så langt har studien over 100.000 deltagere.

–Vi er veldig positive til virtuelle kliniske studier. På et generelt grunnlag mener jeg det meste er på plass for å gjennomføre dette. Det vil være noen utfordringer som er avhengig av den enkelte studiens design. Dette kan gjelde de spesifikke systemene som skal tas i bruk for å hente inn data, samt utfordringer knyttet til personvern og datasikkerhet, samt hvordan endringer i en virtuell studie skal rapporteres til Regional Etisk Komite´(REK), som er ansvarlig for å godkjenne studien, sier Utne.

Han mener at koronapandemien kan være enkelthendelsen som sparker i gang et stort digitalt løft innen helsektoren som en helhet.

–Det er nok på mange måter sånn at legemiddelindustrien har vært for tradisjonell når det gjelder gjennomføringen av kliniske studier, så det blir spennende å se hva som kommer nå, sier Utne.

Les en god beskrivelse av forskjellene på en vanlig kliniske studie og en virtuell kliniske studie i denne forskningsartikkelen «Virtual clinical trials: Perspectives in Dermatology».

Korona med digitalt dytt

Koronapandemien har ført til at videkonsultasjoner har blitt tatt i bruk som aldri før ved norske sykehus. Det fortalte flere av landets fremste kreftleger på et webinar Dagens Medisin arrangerte i mars, om hvordan koronapandemien har påvirket kreftbehandlingen i Norge.

–Pandemien har tvunget oss alle til å tenke nytt og ta i bruk digitale verktøy på en annen måte en før. Se på skolesektoren hvordan lærerne fra én dag til en annen måtte ta i bruk videoverktøy for å undervise. Det samme har skjedd med de ansatte i helsesektoren, som fra en dag til en annen måtte forholde seg til pasienter som ikke ønsket å møte opp på sykehuset i frykt for å bli smittet der eller på reisen, eller pasienter som ikke burde utsette seg for risikoen. I noen tilfeller er videokonsultasjon med pasienter enklere og mer effektivt, for både pasient og behandler, sier Kolle.

Hun mener Norge bør utnytte det digitale momentumet koronapandemien har medført, til å endre praksis innen kliniske studier og utføre så mye som mulig digitalt framover.

–Koronapandemien påvirket fra midten av mars av gjennomføringen av pågående studier og særlig oppstart av nye kliniske studier i Norge, siden de store sykehusene alle var i gul beredskap. I en slik global krisesituasjon er digitale verktøy gull verdt for å gjennomføre kliniske studier som normalt på tross av unntakstilstanden, det er det beste for pasientene, sier Kolle.

Nå melder sykehusene i Norge at de er i gang igjen med både pågående studier og oppstarten av nye. Det er ikke tilfellet i verden generelt, særlig land som har blitt sterkt rammet av koronapandemien som Italia, Spania, Storbritannia og USA, melder om store forsinkelser.

–Oppsiden med å ta i bruk virtuelle studier er så mange, så dette må vi få til. I tillegg må vi ta inn over oss at ønsker vi flere kliniske studier til Norge i fremtiden, er vi helt avhengige av å være med på utviklingen og ta i bruk nye verktøy, sier Kolle.

Hun har på vegne av Inven2 spilt inn nødvendigheten av å satse på virtuelle kliniske studier til den nye handlingsplanen for kliniske studier som Helse- og omsorgsdepartementet arbeider med nå.

Pavlova, Photo by Alice Ponce from Pixabay.

May 17th Virtual Greeting

”Gratulerer med dagen” (Congratulations!) on Norway’s Constitution Day from the entire Oslo Cancer Cluster team.

As a prelude to the May 17th celebrations, Oslo Cancer Cluster hosts an annual networking breakfast for our cluster’s members, neighbours in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and the wider oncology community.

The Norwegian Constitution Day Breakfast 2020 has been adapted in the form of this virtual greeting as we observe social distancing together.

The team at Oslo Cancer Cluster and Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator would like to wish Norwegians everywhere “Gratulerer med dagen!” with best wishes on this special day for Norway.

Oslo Cancer Cluster members in Norway and around the world, thank you for your support toward collective efforts to positively impact oncology research.

 

Henrik and Tia receive homeschooling during the corona lockdown.

Homeschooling for researchers-to-be

This article was originally published in Norwegian on our School Collaboration website.

Even during the corona lockdown, the researcher students have received inspiring classes online, but they miss the practical work and are happy to soon return to school.

The researcher programme is an opportunity for upper secondary students who want to specialise in the natural sciences and the teaching is based on a combination of practical work and in-depth theory. So, how has home schooling been during corona lockdown? Digital classes in biology have replaced the usual work placements in professional research laboratories and performing experiments in school. We talked to the students Tia and Henrik, and their teacher Monica, to find out more.

CORONA UPDATE


This article was written before the Norwegian government released the positive news that students will return to school during week 20.


Since Ullern Upper Secondary School houses almost 1 000 students, they will return gradually to control the spread of COVID-19. The Researcher Programme starts on Wednesday 13 May and the class will be off to a flying start.


“The students will receive a lecture from an astrophysicist on their first day back. It was supposed to be delivered digitally, but now it might take place in the classroom, which will be extra special!” says Monica.


Both Monica and the students are looking forward to returning to the school. Henrik and Tia were hoping to begin school again during May and now they are getting their wish fulfilled.

“I think home schooling works. It is effective. The teachers have made great arrangements and we are learning new things,” says Henrik Corneliussen, who is in his first year of the Researcher Programme.

“I think it is going surprisingly well in many subjects, but it is difficult to stay motivated and focused on the teaching when we are doing so much on our own. Math is a bit more difficult now and biology is also challenging,” says Tia Morigaki Sauthon, who is in the same class as Henrik.

Monica Flydal Jenstad and Ragni Fet are Natural Science teachers and have both been cancer researchers. They are responsible for the new Researcher Programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School and teach biology and natural science to the class of 32 students for 10 hours every week.

Almost overnight, the teachers had to change their planned classes, because of the corona pandemic. They went from being physically present in the classroom – with all the available lab equipment and the possibility to perform experiments to exemplify different theories – to communicating with the whole class over the video-calling system Teams and teaching the students by using PowerPoint presentations and group tasks.

“Ullern Upper Secondary School is following the normal curriculum during homeschooling. When class begins, everyone checks into our Teams chatroom and says hi. Ragni or I deliver the teaching, usually through a lecture, and then the students complete tasks in a program called ‘OneNote’. We can see if the students are completing the tasks and help them if they are stuck or wondering about something,” Monica says.

Monica explains that life as a teacher has become more hectic and intense during corona lockdown, delivering classes in a digital format and being more available via messaging and calls over Teams.

Missing the practical aspects

Even though Henrik and Tia are generally happy with the digital classes, there are a few things they miss during homeschooling.

“I really miss the practical schoolwork, which we can barely do at all, because we lack access to equipment that we need to perform experiments at home. We have also missed out on many placements, which is a shame. I have luckily already participated in one placement, but it is sad for the students who haven’t had the opportunity,” Henrik says.

The Ullern students visited the Core Facility for Advanced Light Microscopy at Oslo University Hospital.

Image caption: Henrik, second person from the left, is one of the lucky students on the Researcher Programme, who has already participated in a placement. The other students in the picture are Peder, Isha and Christopher. The placement was with the research group for advanced cancer therapy in February. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“It is really sad that we have missed out on so much practical work, which was why I chose the Researcher Programme. Fortunately, we have done a few experiments at home. We have, among other things, made our own solar thermal collectors and learnt how to measure light strength in lux, which we have used to understand how to measure the distance from the Earth to the stars,” says Tia.

Monica shares the students’ feelings.

“The students were in the middle of their independent research projects when the school closed. Some had already performed experiments at home with plants that they could follow up, but other students were dependent on finishing their projects at school. The purpose was always for them to present the results of their research during a poster session, which is a presentation format that researchers use to show data and other findings from their research, but we have had to postpone this activity. Hopefully, we can complete it in June with the students’ mentors present,” Monica says.

The poster session is not the only thing the students have missed. Four placements with different research groups at Oslo University Hospital and the company Thermo Fisher Scientific, and three relevant lectures by researchers, were planned for the period they have been stuck at home.

“The students have missed out on many aspects of the Researcher Programme in this period, because it is difficult to perform the practical work, both in the regular teaching and in the form of placements. It is simply a more boring school day,” Monica says.

The corona pandemic itself can however be used in the teaching, both in mathematics to learn about exponential growth and in biology to learn about viruses.

Happy to return to school

Tia and Henrik really miss being in school together with the other students of the Researcher Programme and other friends, both at Ullern and outside of school.

“I look forward to meeting my friends again. I don’t see many of them now. I also look forward to getting started with the practical work at school, with experiments in the natural sciences and biology. It is really fun, and the teachers are good at organising interesting experiments and placements, in collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster,” says Henrik.

Tia also misses her friends a lot.

“Maybe what I look forward to the most is getting back to the normal everyday routine – going to school and being with friends. I talk to my friends over Teams and have one friend I meet a lot, but I miss being with many people at once,” says Tia.

She thinks the learning is more challenging from home.

“It is easier to ask for help in school. It is much more difficult to get a verbal explanation without being shown how everything is connected by the teacher, so I spend a lot of time trying to figure things out myself instead of asking for help,” says Tia.

The students are also sorely missed by their teachers.

“I miss them all and especially the contact with the students in a classroom setting, one-on-one. It is much more fun and better to follow the students directly, especially when they think the subject is a bit heavy,” says Monica.

Tia is still sure that even though the corona pandemic has had far-reaching consequences, not all of them are bad.

“I think it seems like everyone has made the best out of the situation. It could have gone much worse and been much worse. In many ways, I think this is a useful experience and, one way or another, something good will come of it,” says Tia.

Summary of postponed or cancelled plans for the students:

  • Poster session about their own research projects with the mentors
  • Lecture on screening of new-borns with Janne Strand, Child- and Youth Clinic, Oslo University Hospital
  • Lecture on structural biology and drug design with Bjørn Dalhus, Oslo University Hospital
  • Lecture on organising research with Barbra Noodt, Cancer Clinic, Oslo University Hospital
  • Placement with Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Placement with Harald Stenmark at the Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Oslo University Hospital
  • Placement with Hans Christian Aas at Flow Cytometry Core Facilities at Oslo University Hospital
  • Placement with Bjørn Dalhus’ research group Structural Biology and DNA repair, Oslo University Hospital.

 

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Research on gene-edited embryos allowed

Important cancer research into gene-edited human embryos will now be possible in Norway

Research on gene-edited human embryos will now be allowed in Norway, after a majority agreement has been reached among parties in the Norwegian Parliament. The news was given at a press conference on Thursday, when representatives from the three political parties Arbeiderpartiet, Fremskrittspartiet and Sosialistisk Venstre presented the amendments to the Biotechnology Act (“bioteknologiloven”). This is the act relating to the application of biotechnology in medicine.

The changes to the Biotechnology Act are good news for cancer patients and researchers, as they allow for research into gene-edited human embryos. This will give us important knowledge about how cancer arises and how to develop effective treatments against cancer.

Oslo Cancer Cluster gave input to these changes, during a hearing on 6 February 2020 at the Ministry for Health and Care Services. We emphasised that it is important that the regulations are in line with technological developments to promote research, so that we in the future have improved access to personalised cancer diagnostics and treatments.

“These are important changes to promote cancer innovation in Norway. It will help accelerate research into new cell therapies, which will benefit cancer patients both here in Norway and abroad,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Gene technology is an important area in cancer research, with many recent break-through discoveries. By gene-editing human embryos, researchers can develop personalised cancer treatments and diagnostics.

Cell division in embryos and uncontrolled cell division in cancer cells is regulated by the same genes. That is why research on gene-edited human embryos will give us valuable knowledge about genetic diseases like cancer.

Gene technology can be used to create genetic changes and give us more knowledge about cell division. For example, researchers can insert genetic markers in DNA and follow the cell’s development from stem cell to cancer cell. They can also produce mutations in an embryo and study how cancer develops at an early stage.

You can read more about cancer research and gene-editing on the Cancer Research UK Science Blog.

It is important to note that the embryos used for research and gene-editing are not allowed to be implanted in a female uterus for pregnancy. This is in line with the current Swedish regulations on gene-edited human embryos.

The fact that gene-editing human embryos will be allowed in Norway means that we can attract world-class cancer clinical studies and deliver new personalised treatments to cancer patients.

The Norwegian Parliament (“Stortinget”) will officially vote on the amendments on 26 May 2020 and we will follow any further developments closely.

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Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: Adjutec Pharma

In this article series, we will introduce the new members of our oncology cluster.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the treats for cancer patients’ survival. Meet our new member Adjutec Pharma, a company with new technology against multi-drug resistant bacteria.

Multi-drug resistant bacteria are spreading across the globe and cannot easily be treated with antibiotics. Cancer patients are an especially vulnerable group, because their immune systems may be extra susceptible to different bacteria and virus while undergoing treatment.

In Norway, new technology has been developed to combat multi-drug resistant bacteria. We asked the founder of the company Adjutec Pharma, Professor Pål Rongved, to tell us more about this new tecknologi.

Who is Adjutec Pharma and how are you involved in health and cancer?

Antibiotic resistance can render modern medicine useless, if new technology is not found. The biotech start-up AdjuTec Pharma AS was established in 2019 by the main grounder, Professor Pål Rongved, UiO, to develop their cutting edge technology (ZinChel). Their compounds have proved very effective as low-toxic adjuvants in combination with last resort antibiotics against a wide range of multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. These are increasingly spreading across the globe. These bacteria are at the top of the WHO’s list of 12 ‘priority pathogens’, representing the most dangerous bacteria in the world.

Why did Adjutec Pharma become a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“About 20 % of the cancer patients are dying from infectious diseases, making the technology highly relevant for the cancer clinic. The OCC Incubator is a unique partner for networking and a number of services that aids exchange of expertise, comprises a spectrum of companies, institutions and organizations. This gives a valuable opportunity to contribute to aiding the cancer patients with their secondary infections, and further stimulates research collaborations,” said Rongved.

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Helsenæringens Verdi 2020

Helsenæringens verdi 2020

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 norske helsenæringen hadde en samlet omsetningsvekst på 4,7 prosent i 2018. Rapporten dokumenterer at denne veksten særlig var drevet av store selskaper i den norske helseindustrien. Bedriftene i alle bransjene i helsenæringen rapporterer om ytterligere vekst 2019, noe som resulterer i et vekstestimat for næringen som helhet på 6,2 prosent for 2019 – dette er høyere enn næringens gjennomsnittlige årlige vekst for de siste ti årene.

Bedriftene rapporterer samtidig om svært sterke forventninger til treårsperioden fra 2020 til 2022. Bedriftenes egne vekstprognoser for disse årene er imidlertid hentet inn før Koronakrisen utviklet seg til en global krise. Det er av den grunn svært høy usikkerhet knyttet til disse prognosene.

Koronakrisen er en «helsekrise». Dette gjør at krisen påvirker helsenæringen med en langt større variasjon mellom bransjer og segmenter enn for andre næringer. I rapporten redegjøres det både for segmenter i helsenæringen som aldri har opplevd høyere etterspørsel og aktivitet enn nå under Koronakrisen samt for bransjer og segmenter som har tilnærmet stoppet helt opp.

Den norske helsenæringen fremstår som godt forspent for videre vekst også i etterkant av Koronakrisen. Krisen har bidratt til å rette fokus på beredskap og innenlandsk produksjonskapasitet. En trend mot dette er ventet å styrke selskaper og produksjonsland som kan levere kvalitet, profesjonalitet og trygghet for leveranser, også i krisesituasjoner. Dette er en trend som bør kunne gagne Norge og norske helsebedrifter, både produsenter av legemidler eller medisinsk teknologi så vel som leverandører av helsetjenester.

Helsenæringens verdi 2020 dokumenterer at det er særlig er to ting bedriftene etterspør for å sikre videre vekst,

  • Markedstilgang – bedriftene i helsenæringen, både industri- og behandlingsbedriftene, trekker frem tilgang til offentlige anbud og konkurranse på like vilkår som den største flaksehalsen for videre vekst. Det er særlig mindre bedrifter og selskaper med inntekter fra både inn- og utland som opplever tilgangen på offentlige anbud som dårlig.
  • Skaleringskapital – det trekkes frem av et flertall av bedrifter at de savner støtteordninger som er innrettet mot skalering og internasjonalisering

Se lanseringen av Menon-rapporten

Les rapporten Helsenæringens Verdi 2020

Aktørene som står bak Menon-rapporten:

arrangørers logo

Richard Godfrey, CEO BerGenBio

Norwegian cancer drug in COVID 19-programme

British health authorities are testing six medicines against the coronavirus and bemcentinib from the Norwegian biotech BerGenBio is the first treatment to be tested.

Bemcentinib is an AXL inhibitor that our member BerGenBio has developed to treat cancer, by boosting the patient’s immune system. Now, bemcentinib will be evaluated by the British government as a treatment option for COVID-19 patients.

On Tuesday, the British government launched the ACCORD programme (Accelerating COVID-19 Research & Development platform). It is an accelerated research and development programme for the treatment of COVID-19.

So far, no medicine has been found to treat COVID-19, but the work group behind ACCORD has selected six promising candidates, of which the drug bemcentinib from BerGenBio is the first to be trialled.

The study will include 120 patients, of which 60 are COVID-19 patients currently in hospital and the other 60 are a control group who receive standard treatment. The first data from the clinical testing may be available already in the next few months. If the results are positive, the clinical trial will continue to a larger second stage (phase 3).

The study is financed by the Department of Health and Social Care and UK Research and Innovation.

Bemcentinib is already in clinical trials as a cancer treatment and early testing has shown that the treatment has antiviral effects.

Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio, commented: “We are delighted to be part of this initiative which is a ground-breaking partnership between government, academia and industry.  We are hopeful that bemcentinib can play a significant role in the global effort to find suitable treatment options for COVID-19 patients, which has had such serious implications for so many people and thereby ease pressures on hospital intensive care units, and ultimately treat thousands of patients. We are poised to commence dosing in the coming days and will provide results as soon as is practically possible.”

Read the press release from BerGenBio

Letter from CEO Richard Godfrey on COVID-19 Clinical Trial

In the Norwegian news:

Dr. Richard Stratford and Dr. Trevor Clancy, founders of OncoImmunity

Artificial intelligence in the fight against COVID-19

Our member NEC OncoImmunity has adapted their cancer-fighting artificial intelligence technology to combat COVID-19.

Advanced cancer technologies and artificial intelligence may prove to be key in the search for a vaccine against the SARS-COV-2 virus. The Norwegian biotech company NEC OncoImmunity AS (NOI) is now accelerating efforts to create a vaccine to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This COVID-19 project represents an exciting opportunity for NOI to showcase its AI-driven epitope prediction platform the “NEC Immune Profiler” in the field of infectious disease. Whilst NOI has focused its efforts to-date on the oncology field, especially the design of personalized therapeutic cancer vaccines, its AL-platform is equally well suited to designing vaccines to address infectious diseases,” said Dr. Richard Stratford, Chief Executive Officer, at NEC OncoImmunity.

This week, NEC OncoImmunity AS announced analysis results from efforts using AI prediction platforms to design blueprints for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines that can drive potent T-cell responses in the majority of the global population.

These AI prediction platforms are based on the AI technology used by NEC and NOI in the development of personalized neoantigen cancer vaccines.

“It is encouraging that our AI and bioinformatics platform can design vaccine blueprints that have the potential to induce a broad T-cell response, that may not only be protective, but also stimulate a long-lived memory immune responses against SARS-CoV-2 and its future mutated versions”, said Dr. Trevor Clancy, Chief Scientific Officer, at NEC OncoImmunity and the lead corresponding author in the paper.

Artificial intelligence against cancer

NEC OncoImmunity is a Norwegian biotech company, founded by Dr. Richard Stratford and Dr. Trevor Clancy in 2014 and the company has been a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster since its early days.

The founders’ vision was to use innovative software solutions for the development of personalized neoantigen vaccines. The machine learning software they have developed can identify neoantigens, which are key to unlocking the immune system and combating cancer.

NEC OncoImmunity developed the technology and grew the company in the Oslo Cancer Cluster ecosystem, making use of the cluster’s advice and support, and networking and partnering opportunities.

Backed by a tech corporation

In 2019, the Japanese multinational tech corporation NEC acquired OncoImmunity AS. NEC had recently launched an artificial intelligence driven drug discovery business and stated that NEC OncoImmunity AS would be integral in developing NEC’s immunotherapy pipeline.

NEC OncoImmunity have been working hard for the last months to adapt their technologies to help in the fight against COVID-19.

“As a company that seeks to enhance the well-being of society, NEC will continue to capitalize on research and development that maximizes the strengths of our AI technology to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. In collaboration with companies and institutions around the world, we aim to enable people to live their daily lives with as much safety and security as possible,” said Motoo Nishihara, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at NEC.

NEC is now publishing this research to support scientific advancements in the field and is ready to start partnering efforts to pursue the development of an effective vaccine targeting the global population.

 

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Björn Klem and Janne Nestvold celebrate that the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has been nominated among Europe's 20 best incubators.

Accelerating cell therapies against cancer

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has received a grant from the City of Oslo, which will be used to develop the infrastructure for cancer cell therapies.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has received NOK 300 000 in 2020 from the City of Oslo for a project that will support the development of a type of cancer treatment, known as cell therapies (scroll down to the bottom of this page to read a definition for cell therapy). Different forms of cancer cellular therapies are being explored in the Incubator, including genetically modified immune cells.

Cell therapies have the potential to cure cancer and turn it into a chronic disease. More research is however needed to document the full potential of cell therapies.

Specialised cell laboratory facility

The project involves setting up a specialised facility, which will be used for pre-clinical research and development of cell-based medicinal products.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator’s laboratories are currently used for the design of therapeutic cells and to assess the effectiveness and safety of these cells in pre-clinical testing.

The funding from the City of Oslo will enable Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator to expand the laboratories with the appropriate infrastructure and equipment. The laboratories will support researchers and companies in their development of new cell-based therapies. The initiative is hopefully a first step to establish production of T cell therapies in Norway as part of building a viable health industry.

Janne Nestvold, laboratory manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, will coordinate the project.

“The specialised facility enables the Incubator to contribute in the development of cancer cell-based therapies in a preclinical setting,” said Janne Nestvold.

Several research groups in the Incubator already focus on the development of cell therapies. Now, they will have access to dedicated spaces with much needed equipment.

Supporting public-private research collaboration

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator is located next to the Norwegian Radium Hospital, one of Europe’s leading cancer hospitals and a part of Oslo University Hospital.

The Incubator’s partnership with Oslo University Hospital is one-of-a-kind in Norway. Hospital research staff work side-by-side with researchers from private companies and exchange experiences in a collaborative setting. They are also connected, through Oslo Cancer Cluster, to a global network of key players in the cancer research field.

Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, hopes the Incubator can further assist both hospital research staff and researchers from private companies to bring forward new treatments.

“The support from City of Oslo is much appreciated as it enables us to take this important field of cell therapy forward, by supporting commercialisation of the growing number of start-ups in this area. This will allow companies to grow in Norway and create jobs, supporting the vision of the Oslo Science City initiative,” said Bjørn Klem.

About the RIP funding

The regional innovation programme (RIP) for the Oslo region has funded a total of NOK 25 million for business development and innovation in 2020.

The goal of RIP is to strengthen the Oslo region’s international competitiveness in cluster- and network development, entrepreneurship, supplier development and commercialisation.

This year’s award had a special emphasis on the health sector, marked by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. More than ever, it has become important to support the local innovation clusters and the Norwegian health start-up companies.

 

DEFINITION

CAR T-cell therapy is a type of treatment in which a patient’s T cells (a type of immune system cell) are changed in the laboratory so they more effectively will attack cancer cells. T cells are a specific type of white blood cells taken from a patient’s blood. Then the gene coding for a receptor that binds to a protein on the patient’s cancer cells, is added to the T cell in the laboratory. The receptor is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and enable the patient immune system to better recognise and fight cancer cells. Large numbers of the CAR T cells are then grown in the laboratory and given to the patient by infusion. CAR T-cell therapy is approved for treatment of some cancer patients (leukaemia or lymfoma) and is studied in the treatment of many other types of cancer with promising effects.
Source: National Cancer Institute

 

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Students learning Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Neural Networks

Programming to understand artificial intelligence

This article was originally published in Norwegian on our School Collaboration website.

How can programming, artificial intelligence and machine learning help us understand the human brain?

Four students from Ullern Upper Secondary School spent two days in the beginning of March on a placement in the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo. Jakob, August, Jørgen and Magnus learned how to program the snake in the game Snake to survive. At the same time, they learned about artificial intelligence, neural networks and machine learning.

Every spring, Professors Anders Malthe-Sørenssen and Marianne Fyhn at the University of Oslo receive eight students from Ullern Upper Secondary School on a placement.

Marianne Fyhn’s research group consists of some of the leading neuroscientists in the world. The four biology students Chiara, Eline, Tora and Eilin from Ullern Upper Secondary School spent the placement training rats and learned how research on rats can provide valuable knowledge about the human brain.

Anders Malthe-Sørenssen is the Director of CCSE (the Center for Computing in Science Education), where the students Magnus Trandokken, August Natvik, Jørgen Hamsund and Jakob Weidel were on another placement.

“There are three PhD students here, who are teaching the Ullern students. At the end of the day, they will gain a better understanding of what artificial intelligence is. We wish to explain the concept to them and give them an insight into what machine learning, neural networks and programming are,” said Malthe-Sørenssen.

  • Scroll to the bottom of this page to read the definitions for machine learning, neural networks and artificial intelligence.

Malthe-Sørenssen and the PhD students tested a new teaching tool on the Ullern students. If it is successful, more students will be able to access it to learn about artificial intelligence. Malthe-Sørenssen and his research group also try to improve the teaching of advanced mathematics, physics and programming in upper secondary schools.

Students learning artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networks

Øyvind Sigmundsson Skøyen (in the middle) was one of the PhD students that taught the students from Ullern Upper Secondary School. Here, he is helping Jakob Weidel, who is in his first year. To the right is August Natvik, who is graduating this year. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Making the snake immortal

Jakob, Magnus, August and Jørgen programmed the game Snake in the programming language Python. This is a programming language that is available for free, an “open source”. You can download it here.

The point of the game Snake is to keep a snake alive for as long as possible. It lives in a square, where it eats candy so that its tail grows. The purpose of the game is to make sure the snake doesn’t crash into itself while it is growing because if it crashes, the snake dies. But it is not that easy. Try it yourself here.

“The students will program the snake so that it can learn where it is smart to move to eat the candy, while at the same time avoiding to crash into its growing tail. It is a good way to understand a little artificial intelligence and machine learning,” said Malthe-Sørenssen.

The three PhD students Sebastian Winther-Larsen, Øyvind Sigmundsson Skøyen and Even Marius Nordhagen were there to teach the Ullern students.

Øyvind had just finished showing the students how to programme the snake when it was Even’s turn to teach.

“What du you already know about machine learning?” Even asked.

“I have seen a little bit on YouTube,” Jakob replied.

“I know the theory, but I haven’t tried it myself,” Magnus said.

Even explained that he would present the theories behind machine learning and neural networks first, and then let the students create a neural network for Snake.

“Linear regression – a theory we often use in mathematics – is a simple form of machine learning. It is about producing a function that gives us the best line between two points. We use something called the method of least squares,” Even said.

Ullern students learning artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networks.

Espen Marius Nordhagen (to the right) explains to the students from Ullern that regression is a simple form of machine learning. August Natvik is following closely. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Even explained that machine learning is used in image analysis. A computer can be taught to recognise and see the difference between several objects in a picture. The objects can be cars, bikes, humans, or other things. The computer can then be taught to create the images, which are then called generative models. Voice recognition, such as the virtual assistant Siri for iPhone users, is also based on machine learning, just like self-driving cars and buses.

“In order to understand artificial intelligence, you have to know what a neural network is. The concept is inspired by biology, neuroscience, and how human beings learn and remember. A neural network is a simplification of the human brain. The brain is in reality much more complicated,” Even explained.

“What is actually the difference between machine learning and artificial intelligence?” Jørgen asked.

Even explained that regression is machine learning, but not artificial intelligence.

“If you have a neural network with several layers, a so-called ‘deep neural network’, it is artificial intelligence. Then you will observe that something is happening with the data you receive from the neural network, it will be something you do not understand and cannot model, but it is consistent with reality,” Even said.

Learned new subjects

Magnus, August and Jørgen are all in the third year and have specialised in the natural sciences, with different combinations of mathematics, physics, technology, research, programming and computer modelling.

After graduating, all three of them will go to military school. Afterwards, Jørgen and Magnus are tempted to study at NTNU.

“The Industrial Economics programme at NTNU seems really good. Maybe I will combine it with the Entrepreneurship Programme, which is also at NTNU. Then I can start my own company after I finished studying. I am also thinking about a career in the military,” said Magnus.

The Ullern students agreed that the placement at the Department of Physics had been difficult, but fun and educational too.

“They are really good at teaching here. It has been difficult, because we haven’t studied these subjects before and everything new is always difficult,” said Jørgen.

Jakob Weidel is still in his first year and is thinking about studying the same subjects as the other three Ullern students. He was asked to participate in the placement after he helped Tom Werner Halvårsrød, the IT administrator at Ullern Upper Secondary School, to programme Excel sheets, which are used in the school.

“I have made a few apps and developed a few websites and used different types of programming languages. I have never used Python before, so it has been fun to learn something new,” said Jakob.

(image caption) Anders Malthe-Sørenssen is a professor at CCSE (the Centre for Computing in Science Education) at the University of Oslo. He and his research group are active in many different areas of research, including improving how physics is taught and understanding how the brain works through advanced mathematical models. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Anders Malthe-Sørenssen is a professor at CCSE (the Centre for Computing in Science Education) at the University of Oslo. He and his research group are active in many different areas of research, including improving how physics is taught and understanding how the brain works through advanced mathematical models. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Neural networks and neuroscience

Malthe-Sørenssen’s and Fyhn’s research groups collaborate in a field of biology and physics, which is about research into how the human brain works and neural networks, in the projects DigiBrain and CINPLA. CINPLA is an acronym for Centre for Integrative Neuroplasticity.

“Here at the Department of Physics, we create computer models of neural networks. Then, we compare our models with Marianne’s discoveries about how the brain works from her studies on rats and mice. So far, we have seen that our models give a good picture of what is actually happening in the brain, but we are far from finished,” says Malthe-Sørenssen.

His popular research group receives over 1 000 job applications every year, but they want to keep prioritising student placements.

“We are dedicated to contributing to improving the programming skills in schools. One of our employees has developed the new subject and the syllabus for programming and computer modelling, which will be implemented in upper secondary schools by autumn 2020. Programming will then be used to teach several subjects, including mathematics,” Malthe-Sørenssen says.

He thinks it is good to contribute to raising the level of skills in the local schools around the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo.

What is a placement?

Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School have an active school collaboration project. The collaboration gives students at the school the opportunity to take part in work placements at different companies and research groups at Oslo University Hospital, at the University of Oslo and with members of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

On the placements, the students get to learn about different subject areas directly from experts and they get the opportunity to do practical laboratory work. The purpose of the placements is to give the students an insight into the practical everyday life of different professions and what career opportunities that different academic degrees hold.

DEFINITIONS

Neural Networks: A neural network is a group term for data structures, and their algorithms, that has been inspired by the way nerve cells in the brain are organised. Neural networks are among the key concepts in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Machine learning: Machine learning is a special area within artificial intelligence, where you use statistical models to help computers to find patterns in large data quantities. The machine “learns” instead of being programmed.

Artificial intelligence: Artificial intelligence is information technology that adapts its own activity and therefore seems intelligent. A computer that is able to solve assignments without instructions from a human on how to do it, has artificial intelligence.

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Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: Glaxo Smith Kline

In this article series, we will introduce the new members of our oncology cluster.

Find out how Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK), the latest global pharmaceutical company to enter into our ecosystem, is contributing to the oncology field.

Glaxo Smith Kline is one of the largest research-based pharmaceutical companies in the world, with over 80 employees located in Norway. The company was founded in 2001, but its history can be traced all the way back to the 1700s. Today, they have an impressive portfolio of vaccines, as well as many promising immunotherapy treatments underway.

We asked a couple of questions to Halvard Grønlien, country medical director of GSK Norway, to find out more about their plans in the oncology area.

Tell us about GSK and how the company is involved in the cancer field.

“GSK is a science-led global healthcare company with more than 100 000 employees in over 150 countries and around 80 people in GSK Norway. Our goal is to be one of the world’s most innovative, best performing and trusted healthcare companies. Our pharmaceutical and vaccines businesses have a broad portfolio of innovative and established vaccines and medicines with commercial leadership in respiratory and HIV. Our vaccines business has a portfolio of more than 30 vaccines, helping to protect people against 21 diseases. We are the biggest supplier of vaccines to the Norwegian immunization program. Our R&D approach focuses on science related to the immune system, use of genetics and advanced technologies, and our strategy is to bring differentiated, high-quality and needed healthcare products to as many people as possible.

“Within oncology, we are committed to maximizing patient survival through the development of transformational medicines. Since 2018, we have more than doubled the number of oncology assets in clinical development through our own science, the acquisition of TESARO and other alliances. We aim to deliver a sustainable flow of new treatments based on a diversified portfolio of investigational medicines utilizing modalities such as small molecules, antibodies, antibody drug conjugates and cells, either alone or in combination. Our innovative portfolio focuses on four cutting edge areas of science that we believe offer the greatest opportunities to provide meaningful solutions for patients:

  • Immuno-oncology: using the human immune system to treat cancer
  • Cell therapy: engineering human T-cells to target cancer
  • Cancer epigenetics: modulating the gene-regulatory system of the epigenome to exert anti-cancer effects
  • Synthetic lethality: targeting two mechanisms at the same time which together, but not alone, have substantial effects against cancer”

Why did GSK join Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“GSK has an increasing pipeline of new oncology assets and in the process of establishing a network within oncology. Oslo Cancer Cluster is an important part of the oncology landscape in Norway and indeed an important partner for GSK. We are looking forward to partnering with Oslo Cancer Cluster when arranging scientific meetings and dialogues, bringing investigators together for fruitful clinical research collaborations, and bridging GSK global discovery team with biotech/startup community in Norway looking for new R&D investments.”

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Our funding support: up to €60 000 per SME

Our EU project DIGI-B-CUBE offers funding support of up to €60 000 per SME, for small to medium-sized enterprises that may be struggling during the corona crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for healthcare systems and societies worldwide. There is an urgent need for novel diagnostics solutions, integrated detection systems and biosensing technologies that would, in a rapid, specific and efficient way, support the identification and tracking of infection chains and acquired immunity. Biological and biomedical imaging technologies are also essential for addressing many research questions, such as those related to SARS-CoV-2 infections, from basic research at the molecular and cellular level to medical applications and diagnostics. In addition, Biobanking processes are crucial in the race towards a COVID-19 vaccine and development of treatment options.

There is an urgent need to support Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) capable of delivering innovation projects addressing the broad range of COVID-19 related challenges.

Through DIGI-B-CUBE project, we are announcing our funding support for SMEs to fight against COVID-19 through cross-sectoral collaborative projects. DIGI-B-CUBE offers direct financial support up to €60,000 per SME from relevant sectors including healthcare, medicine, biotech, biopharma, IT, robotics, automation, electronics, and nanotech. DIGI-B-CUBE supports digital innovations and solutions for the reconfiguration of the Medical Diagnostics and related value chains (depicted in the diagram below) towards a Health Economy 4.0 with a special focus on Biobanking, Bioimaging, Biosensing and related industries.

digibcube graphics

Given below are the details of the DIGI-B-CUBE open call: 

Project Name: Digital Enterprise Innovations for Bioimaging, Biosensing and Biobanking Industries (DIGI-B-CUBE)

Open Call Title DIGI-B-CUBE Open Call for Proposals for Innovation Projects (DIGI-B-CUBE-IA-2020-2021)

Open Call Publication Date: 22 April 2020

Deadlines:

Voucher Type 1st Deadline 2nd Deadline
Prototyping Voucher 29 July 2020 at 17:00 (CET) 03 February 2021 at 17:00 (CET)
Customised Solution Innovation Voucher 29 July 2020 at 17:00 (CET) 03 February 2021 at 17:00 (CET)
Continuous Open Call
Co-working Disruption Lab Voucher From 28 October 2020 to 27 October 2021, 17:00 (CET)

Expected Duration of Participation:

Voucher Type Project Runtime
Prototyping Voucher 1 to 3 months
Customised Solution Innovation Voucher 2 to 6 months
Co-working Disruption Lab Voucher 0.5 to 2 months

Maximum Funding Request per Proposal:

Voucher Type Max. funding per SME Max. funding per project
Prototyping Voucher €20 000 €60 000
Customised Solution Innovation Voucher €50 000 €150 000
Co-working Disruption Lab Voucher €10 000 €10 000

Purpose of the Vouchers and Respective Applicant Group:

Voucher Type Purpose Applicant Group
Prototyping Voucher Support to prototype or conceptualise a solution (proof of concept, feasibility study) for a digitalization challenge in the Medical Diagnostics and related value chains. Consortium consisting of minimum 2 SMEs and maximum 3 organizations;

From at least 2 different sectors (Example: An SME from healthcare/medicine/biotech/biopharma + An SME from IT and related sectors)

Customised Solution Innovation Voucher Support to jointly develop a novel product/service based on an existing proven concept that addresses a digitalization challenge in the Medical Diagnostics and related value chains. Consortium consisting of minimum 2 SMEs;

From at least 2 different sectors (Example: An SME from healthcare/medicine/biotech/biopharma + An SME from IT and related sectors)

Co-working Disruption Lab Voucher Support to further advance a successfully completed customised solution innovation voucher project in an incubator / accelerator / co-working space of the DIGI-B-CUBE clusters’ network (or) in labs, technical and innovation facilities of other relevant SMEs. One SME from a completed Customized Solution Innovation Voucher project consortium + a host organisation (host does not receive direct funding from this voucher)

Evaluation Process:

The evaluation process takes max. 4 weeks starting from the respective cut-off date/deadline. The applicant/s will receive an e-mail about the outcome of the assessment directly after the assessment is finalised.

Target Group:

SMEs from the following sectors are eligible to apply for DIGI-B-CUBE vouchers:

  • healthcare / medicine / biotech / biopharma
  • IT and related sectors (robotics, automation, electronics, nanotech etc)

Submission Language: English

Web address for full open call informationhttps://digibcube.eu/open-calls/

Web address for proposal submissionshttps://digibcube.eu/collaborative-platform/

E-mailinfo@digibcube.eu

Indicative budget for the call: Total budget €2 700 000. The following budget planned across the deadlines may change based on the number and quality of the applications received.

Voucher Type 1st Deadline 2nd Deadline
Prototyping Voucher approx. €360 000 approx. €240 000
Customised Solution Innovation Voucher approx. €1 050 000 approx. €700 000
Continuous Open Call
Co-working Disruption Lab Voucher approx. €150 000

Contact (Coordinator):

Dr. Gupta Udatha

Director (Digital & EU)

Oslo Cancer Cluster

Oslo, Norway

Email: gupta.udatha@oslocancercluster.no

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Funding opportunities for health and IT SMEs

DIGI-B-CUBE, funded under the European Union´s Horizon 2020 Programme, aims to unlock the cross-sectoral collaborative potential of SMEs by combining e.g. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cognitive Computing Digital Technologies (CCDT) with the Bioimaging-Biosensing-Biobanking (B-CUBE) and related value chains to deliver market sensitive disruptive technologies and generating innovative solutions that enhance patient-centred diagnostic work-flows.

The project provides support to SMEs through matchmaking, coaching, digital transformation services and equity-free funds up to €60,000 per SME. The support helps SMEs design solutions and develop new products and services to accelerate innovations in personalised medicine. SMEs can access these services and apply for funding under the DIGI-B-CUBE Voucher Scheme by registering on the DIGI-B-CUBE Collaborative Platform at platform.digibcube.eu.

Use the DIGI-B-CUBE Collaborative Platform at platform.digibcube.eu to:

  • Get to know other organisations and identify collaboration partners online or during matchmaking events;
  • Register for DIGI-B-CUBE events;
  • Access services (digital maturity assessment tool, knowledge repository, training, competence network and board programme) to facilitate your digital transformation;
  • Apply for funding through the DIGI-B-CUBE Voucher Scheme;
  • Get follow-up coaching by the cluster organisations regarding further existing support measures and additional funding schemes.

Participate in the DIGI-B-CUBE Events to:

  • Identify value chains and associated challenges for SMEs for their digital innovation and collect data on existing processes and management systems;
  • Evaluate identified value chains and associated challenges for SMEs and develop customised solutions;
  • Take part in matchmaking events and face-to-face meetings to find collaboration partners from the IT and/or Health sector to apply for funding for joint digital innovation projects that address value chain issues;
  • Take part in digital transformation activities and follow-up coaching in order to successfully develop and scale-up digital innovation products and services.

Receive funding through the DIGI-B-CUBE Voucher Scheme

Benefit from four types of vouchers to tackle digitalisation challenges and:

  • Build cross-sectoral and cross-border partnerships composed of businesses that are challenge-owners and solution-providers;
  • Contribute to new Health industries, new digital Health services, effective Medical Diagnostics that will lead to Precision Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Healthcare Transformation.

Travel Voucher

Up to €2,000 per voucher
Up to €6,000 per SME

Get reimbursed for your travel costs (transportation, accommodation and event fees) incurred for attending DIGI-B-CUBE events. Applications must be submitted prior to the event.

Available from 20th September 2019 to 28th February 2022


Prototyping Voucher

Up to €20,000 per SME
Up to €60,000 per project

Receive funding to prototype or conceptualise a solution for a digitalisation challenge in the Medical Diagnostics and related value chains. Consortia consisting of minimum two SMEs and maximum three organisations from at least two different sectors will be funded.

1st Deadline: 29th July 2020
2nd Deadline: 3rd February 2021


Customised Solution Innovation Voucher

Up to €50,000 per SME
Up to €150,000 per project

Receive funding to jointly develop a novel product/service based on an existing proven concept that addresses a digitalisation challenge in the Medical Diagnostics and related value chains. Consortia consisting of minimum two SMEs from at least two different sectors will be funded.

1st Deadline: 29th July 2020
2nd Deadline: 3rd February 2021


Co-working Disruption Lab Voucher

Up to €10,000 per SME/project

Receive additional funding to further advance a successfully completed Customised Solution Innovation Voucher project in an incubator / accelerator / co-working space of the DIGI-B-CUBE clusters’ network (or) in labs, technical and innovation facilities of other relevant SMEs. Consortia can include one SME from a completed project consortium and a host organisation.

Available from 28th October 2020 to 27th October 2021

Note: An SME can apply for multiple vouchers but the overall maximum funding per SME is €60,000.


Who can apply?

SMEs that are interested in cross-sectoral collaborations, aiming to integrate innovations from IT into the B-CUBE industries and related value chains, to accelerate the goals of personalised medicine. SMEs should be established in one of the EU member states or H2020 associated countries.

Register on the DIGI-B-CUBE Collaborative Platform at: platform.digibcube.eu

 

 

EU disclaimer

Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: Vesteraalens

Our non-profit membership organisation is growing and in this article series, you will be introduced to each new member that joins our cluster.

Find out why a company specialising in seafood and marine ingredients has become a member of an oncology cluster.

Vesteraalens is one of the newest members of Oslo Cancer Cluster. The company was founded in Norway in 1912 and has been producing high-quality seafood for over a century. Among other things, the company produced the food supplies for the famous explorer Roald Amundsen’s expedition through the Northeast Passage.

The fish oil Omega-3 was not only an essential component of a famous explorer’s diet, it could also become an important supplement to cancer treatments. Vesteraalens are exploring the health benefits of Omega-3 oil to improve clinical nutrition for patients undergoing cancer treatments. We talked to Viktor B. Johnsen, CEO at Vesteraalens, to find out more about what they do in the cancer field.

Could you briefly describe Vesteraalens and the role you are taking in cancer and health?

“Vesteraalens AS is an innovative seafood- and marine ingredients company, which produces a wide variety of products, like fresh cod and haddock loin filets, fishballs, soup and ingredients like marine Omega-3 oil, proteins and minerals. Vesteraalens has a vision to become an important contributor to research and development in the marine ingredients sector with focus on nutrition, sustainability and ethical production. Much focus and research these days are on the use of Omega-3 oil in clinical nutrition. There are findings indicating that Omega-3 supplements during cancer treatments have significant positive health benefits for the patients,” said Johnsen.

Why did Vesteraalens join Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“Oslo Cancer Cluster provides a unique opportunity to get in touch with other professionals interested in clinical nutrition as a supplement to cancer treatment. Our motivation for membership in Oslo Cancer Cluster is closely related to further research concerning the effects of Omega-3 for the immune-system and especially related to cancer treatment. The data collected so far show significantly positive results and we are eager to do more research with potential collaborating Oslo Cancer Cluster’s partners to hopefully be able to document the effects scientifically. We find the network in Oslo Cancer Cluster very valuable,” said Johnsen.

 

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Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Arild Kristensen, general manager of Smart Care Cluster, and Kathrine Myhre, CEO of Norway Health Tech, look forward to developing the first Norwegian Health Catapult Centre.

Preparing for the first Health Catapult Centre

Three leading Norwegian health innovation clusters will collaborate on forming a concept for the first Norwegian Health Catapult Centre.

Siva has selected Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Norway Health Tech and Norwegian Smart Care Cluster to proceed to the next round of the Norwegian Catapult call. The three health clusters are now joining forces to apply for a Health Catapult Centre focusing on precision medicine, patient-centric innovation and health services, medical technology and digital health.

The purpose of a Catapult Centre is to support innovative small to medium-sized companies in Norway on their journey to reach the market. A Catapult Centre helps companies to develop prototypes, test, verify, visualise and simulate – so that ideas can be developed faster, better and with less risk.

By inviting the three health clusters to apply together for a Health Catapult Centre, Siva has shown that health innovation and industrialisation is a crucial part of Norwegian industry and trade. This supports the government’s White Paper on the Health Industry , which calls for the building of a strong Norwegian health industry. The current corona pandemic has also highlighted the importance of local health innovation providers and supporting Norwegian early-stage health companies that can quickly deliver solutions to big societal challenges.

The initial application was submitted last December and deemed successful in February. The main topics of precision medicine, patient-centric innovation and health services, medical technology and digital health will now be discussed further over the next six months in the planning of the final Catapult application. The managers of the three clusters look forward to the opportunity of developing a Health Catapult Centre together.

“By joining forces with two strong complementary Norwegian health clusters, we will strengthen the Catapult application by covering a broader range of services to Norwegian health start-ups and scale-ups. A successful application will enable Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator to support the growth of Norwegian healthcare start-ups together with public healthcare institutions and international industry,” said Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

“One of the future key factors for the health industry in Norway to scale in the Norwegian and global market, will be to get access to tools, solutions, data and competence to develop, simulate, test, verify and produce their health products and solutions. The aim of the Health Catapult Centre will be to provide the health industry with these services and collaborative partners for the industry to scale. With the Health Catapult Centre up and running, Norway will also be an attractive partner to international health industry, that needs testing and clinical trials for them to launch new health products and solutions on the global market,” said Kathrine Myhre, CEO of Norway Health Tech.

“Together we stand, divided we fall. The three clusters now have an unique opportunity to provide the booming health industry in Norway with tools and services that will speed their development with higher quality, thus enabling world class solutions faster,” said Arild Kristensen, general manager of Norwegian Smart Care Cluster.

The final application for the Health Catapult Centre will be submitted this autumn. If successful, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Norway Health Tech and Norwegian Smart Care Cluster will jointly become the first Norwegian Health Catapult Centre.

logos

Photo of London by Eva Dang, Unsplash

LINK Medical opens new London office

Our member Link Medical has expanded its organisation with an office in London.

LINK Medical is a full-service contract research organisation that provides product development services for the pharmaceutical and medical device industries across Europe. The company was founded in Norway in 1995 and has since then grown to employ 175 people from various specialist backgrounds, including a specialized oncology team.

Now, LINK Medical’s clinical research services have also expanded to biopharma and medtech in the UK, with an office in London.

LINK Medical CEO, Dr. Ola Gudmundsen says: “We look forward to start building on the competent team already present in the UK to further engage with this important market. We can now offer our customers enhanced service capacity in the UK, helping to drive forward their clinical projects, and thus supporting and improving healthcare for all.”

We are happy that LINK Medical is a part of our cluster organisation and that they are contributing to accelerate the development of cancer treatments.

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Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: PharmaRelations

In this series, we will be introducing the new members that have joined our oncology ecosystem in the last six months. Follow us for a new article next week!

Have you heard of PharmaRelations? One of our newest members works with recruiting talents to the Life Sciences.

A cornerstone in the development of cancer treatments is to secure talented professionals to the right jobs. That is why recruitment companies are one of the essential parts of our membership organisation. PharmaRelations is one of the latest additions.

PharmaRelations was founded in Sweden in 1997 and started their recruitment services in 2004. The Oslo office opened in 2018 and their mission is to grow people and companies in Life Science with their portfolio of Talent Services. We talked with Sverre Slaastad, Head of Recruitment and Talent Specialist at PharmaRelations, about why they are involved in Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Could you briefly describe your company and the role it is taking in cancer/health?

“With our extensive network and candidate database, we are the market leader in Life Science recruitment in the Nordic countries. The Life Sciences is our area of expertise, including pharmaceuticals, MedTech, Biotech, Labtech, Animal Health and Dental care,” said Sverre Slaastad.

Why did you join Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“We want to help Oslo Cancer Cluster by recruiting the best people for their members and thereby improving health in society overall,” said Sverre Slaastad.

Pharma relations logo

 

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Ketil Widerberg, general manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster

Health clusters to help against corona pandemic

Let the health industry contribute to the fight against COVID-19!

This week, Abelia wrote a letter to the Minister of Health and Care Services and the Minister of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, appealing that they use the Norwegian health industry against the corona pandemic.

The corona pandemic has put Norway and its health services in an extraordinary situation. The health industry will play a central role in how this pandemic is handled. There will be a need to think of new ways to deliver health services, in order to alleviate the health sector in the long and short term.

Health tech companies can meet this need by delivering innovative solutions, but we need to utilise this potential quickly and efficiently. A strategic collaboration between the public health services and the up-and-coming health tech companies can achieve this.

Abelia, Oslo Cancer Cluster and the other Norwegian health clusters are uniquely positioned to connect and mobilise members of the health industry. A fast-working advisory council could help to look at the needs the corona crisis creates, to discover innovative solutions, and to identify relevant market opportunities for Norway.

“The corona pandemic has shown the important role the health industry has. Now more than ever, it is crucial to use and understand health data, to implement novel digital solutions in our health services and to speed up drug development times,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The proposal in the letter is to assemble an advisory council consisting of representatives from the Norwegian health clusters (Oslo Cancer Cluster, Norway Health Tech, The Life Science Cluster and Norwegian Smart Care Cluster) in close collaboration with the governmental funding bodies (Innovation Norway, the Research Council of Norway and SIVA).

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NLSInvest & NLSDays: Investors’ Advice to Life Science Start-ups

Some of the leading Nordic investors offer their advice to life science start-ups regarding Nordic Life Science Days 2020 (NLSDays, 9-10 September).

NLSDays 2020 has many new things in store, including the launch of the first-ever Nordic Life Science Investment Day (NLSInvest).

NLSInvest is a new pre-event (8 September) to the annual NLSDays conference. This is an opportunity for start-up companies – ‘Rising Stars’ in our life science community – to pitch to a range of national and international investors, including pharmaceutical venture arms.

“I spent months gathering feedback from investors and companies across our ecosystem, and one thing has been consistently clear: investors want to meet start-ups at earlier stages, while these companies often struggle to afford large partnering meetings. NLSInvest was created to bridge that gap: to give investors and ‘Rising Stars’ an intimate pre-event, while offering small companies the opportunity to stay for the full NLSDays at no cost,” said Chelsea Ranger, NLSDays Program Director & NLSInvest Program Committee Chair.

We spoke with two investors from Industrifonden and Hadean Ventures to find out what start-ups should focus on when preparing to present their companies to investors:

What are you looking for when investing in life science ‘Rising Stars’?

“We invest broadly in the life science space and we have a particular focus on the Nordic region. We are looking for start-ups that develop products with high potential, both from a market and medical impact perspective. We also look for a strong team with high ambitions,” said Ingrid Teigland Akay, Managing Partner, Hadean Ventures.

“In general, I would say that there are three components: assets-plan, financing, and management. The company should have a protected asset with a plan that can provide sufficient return on investment, a trustworthy and reliable way to finance the plan, and a management team that can do it. Quality of data is of course also a key component. We need to believe that the data we invest in are true and that they belong to the company,” said Jonas Brambeck, Investment Director, Industrifonden.

What are some of the most exciting developments in Nordic life sciences?

“The life science ecosystem is maturing and, increasingly, we see start-ups with world-class science attracting both international capital and talent. We are on a very good path,” said Teigland Akay.

“When it comes to certain areas, we like therapeutics, oncology, rare diseases, and digital health, but we could also consider opportunistic cases. We also want to be actively involved with Board participation,” said Brambeck.

Why would you encourage Nordic life science companies to join NLSDays?

“NLSDays is the largest life science conference in the Nordics and a must-attend event for everyone who wants to understand the dynamics in the Nordics and meet high quality start-ups. I highly recommend it,” said Teigland Akay.

“NLSDays is the glue that binds our ecosystem. It bridges our countries, sectors, therapeutic and scientific areas, large and small companies into one place and frame-of-mind: learning, networking, and growing business ideas. It is a large industry event, yet an intimate and welcoming setting in which the Nordics collaborate to share our best,” said Ranger.

Do you believe you are a ‘Rising Star’ in the Nordic life science community – and are you looking to meet relevant investors?

Then apply now to be one of the 60+ selected companies to pitches investors during NLSInvest!

For more information, please contact Chelsea Ranger, NLSDays Program Director & NLSInvest Program Committee Chair.

FAQs

What is the different between NLSDays and NLSInvest?

NLSDays is the largest partnering and investor conference for the Nordic life science community. Last year, over 1 300 delegates attended NLSDays from over 40 countries and participated in over 3 000 partnering meetings.

Register now for NLSDays with Spring rates until 31 May 2020!

NLSInvest will launch on 8 September as a new pre-event to the annual NLSDays conference. Over 60 ‘Rising Stars’ within the Nordic life science community will be selected from a pool of applications and invited to pitch before a range of relevant, global investors.

NLSInvest is Open for Applications until 31 May 2020!

What are the selection criteria for companies wishing to apply to NLSInvest?

Please view this PDF with information about the selection criteria.

What happens if my NLSInvest application is selected?

You will receive a confirmation email from the selection committee and a complimentary registration code for NLSDays 2020. Practicalities related to your company presentation will be confirmed later by the organizers.

What if my application is not selected?

You’ll receive a notification email from the selection committee and a discount code for NLSDays 2020 registration.

How many / who attended NLSDays in 2019?

Over 1 300 delegates attended NLSDays 2019 from over 40 countries and participated in over 3 000 partnering meetings. Read more about who attended the conference.

Have any 2020 names been released for NLSInvest or NLSDays?

Read more in the NLSDays 2020 Program.

View the speakers at NLSDays 2020.

What happens if the conference has to be delayed due to COVID-19?

The same venue in Malmö is already booked for April 2021 so, in the event of delay, you will be able to choose between a full refund or 2021 participation.

NLS Invest

Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: Ledidi

In this article series, we will introduce the new members that have joined our oncology ecosystem in the last six months. Follow us for a new article next week!

One of the latest additions to our cluster organisation is Ledidi, a Norwegian technology start-up that wants to revolutionize how data is processed in clinical research.

Ledidi was founded in 2016 by three software engineers and two academic clinicians in cancer research. The company has since then developed a software solution that will help hospital personnel and medical researchers to sort, organise and analyse real-time data.

We talked to Jakob Markussen, VP Business Development and Sales at Ledidi, to learn more about how they are changing the field of cancer and why they wanted to belong to Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Could you briefly describe Ledidi and the role it is taking in cancer?

“Ledidi AS has developed and is marketing Prjcts, which is an end-to-end software solution designed for clinical research. Ledidi was founded in 2016 by three software engineers and two academic clinicians with long track-record within cancer research, cellular immunology and cancer surgery. Prjcts is a cloud-based solution that integrates data registry with statistical analyses and table and graph production in one package with a user-friendly interface. Pjrcts is an ideal cloud solution for all kinds of collaborative research projects from small internal quality registries to multicenter international studies. By integrating the complete workflow, Prjcts provide a platform that enables all project members to take part in the data analysis and presentation, and not only data acquisition,” said Markussen.

Why did Ledidi join Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“Oslo Cancer Cluster represents a unique partner for an exchange of expertise, partnership and networking. The spectrum of companies, institutions and organizations that Oslo Cancer Cluster brings together gives Ledidi a valuable opportunity to contribute to cancer research and stimulate research collaborations,” said Markussen.

 

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The Ullern students visited the Core Facility for Advanced Light Microscopy at Oslo University Hospital.

Advanced microscopy on the timetable

This article was first published in Norwegian on our School Collaboration website.

How can we learn more about cancer cells by using advanced microscopes?

A microscope is an important tool for scientists in many different branches of research. In February, four first-year students from the Researcher programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School got to test multiple different microscopes at the Core Facility for Advanced Light Microscopy, The Gaustad node, at Rikshospitalet (Oslo University Hospital).

Isha Mohal, Peder Nerland Hellesylt, Christofer Naranjo Woxholt and Henrik Eidsaae Corneliussen are sitting in a small, rectangular room, which belongs to the research group Experimental Cancer Therapy at Oslo University Hospital.

“If you sit next to me, you can see better what I am doing,” says Emma Lång to the students.

Emma Lång is a researcher at the research group Experimental Cancer Therapy. She explains to Henrik and Isha how the advanced microscope, connected to the computer behind her, can record videos of living cells. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Emma Lång is a researcher in the research group Experimental Cancer Therapy. She explains to Henrik and Isha how the advanced microscope, connected to the computer behind her, can record videos of living cells. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

It is the second day of the work placement for the Ullern students. Lång will show them how she is setting up a very special microscope with the somewhat cryptical name “ImageXpress Micro”.

The microscope is so special that it is the only one in the entire Oslo region and Eastern Norway. The unique thing about the microscope is that it creates videos of thousands of living cells over a long time period. This enables the researchers to understand more about how the cells move.

This is important knowledge in the research on cancer and wound healing, which this research group is working on.

The students sit down beside Lång and follow what she is doing closely. The microscope is entirely automatic, so all the settings are done on a computer. Later the same day, the students will use the microscope themselves to record videos of cells that they have been working on from the day before.

Learning from practical work

This is the first work placement for the students from the Research programme – and they are really enjoying it.

“It is fun to see what the researchers are doing and to try it out ourselves in practice,” says Peder.

“We have done some work with pipettes and worked in the laboratory at school, so we are already familiar with some of the practical handiwork. It is fun to try it out in a real research setting,” says Isha.

She likes that the placement gives some insight into what a career in research and cellular biology can be like.

“I am more interested to work in cellular biology after this placement, but I haven’t decided anything yet. I think we are learning things in an exciting way. It is practical learning and not as theoretical as it is usually in school,” says Peder.

“I absolutely see this as an opportunity to become a researcher. It is great to have so much science subjects as we have on the Researcher programme,” says Henrik and Isha agrees.

“I am very interested in the natural sciences. We have a lot of theory in school and it is fun to come out into the hospital and into companies to see how researchers work – and to try it out ourselves,” says Isha.

Christofer also thinks it is interesting, but he is more interested in data and other general subjects.

“That’s great, Christofer,” Lång says. “Research needs more people with good data knowledge. Do you see the computer over there? It costs NOK 100 000 and it will be used to develop machine learning and a technique called ‘deep learning’ on the data produced from our microscopes. Maybe in a few years time, computers will be analysing the microscope images and videos that we are recording now.”

Images of cells

Yesterday, Isha, Peder, Christofer and Henrik worked on cells in the laboratory. They learned a technique to fixate cells. Then, they coloured the cells with antibodies that turn blue when they bind to the core of the cell and with a protein called actin that turns green. Actin performs several functions in the cell, it is both inside the cell structure and functions as threads of communication between the cells.

Stig Ove Bøe leads the research group was visited by the four students from the Research programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School for two days. Here, he is preparing the images of skin cells that the students worked on the day before. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Stig Ove Bøe leads the research group that was visited by the four students from the Research programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School for two days. Here, he is preparing the images of skin cells that the students worked on the day before. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Now, the students are looking at the results uploaded to a computer in an advanced image editing software program that can visualise the cells as two- or three-dimensional.

“These are the skin cells you coloured yesterday. Can you see that the cells make up one close network? The reason for this is that it is skin and it is supposed to be impenetrable. Can you also see that the single cells act differently at the edge than closer inside? It is our job to explain why and how,” Bøe explains to the students.

The students look and nod with interest.

After the placement, researchers at Rikshospitalet (Oslo University Hospital) have worked more on the images and videos that the students created.

These have been delivered to the students and will be used when they make a presentation of the placement and everything they learned to the rest of the students at the Research programme.

You can see the cell image below.

A three-dimensional image of the skin cells that the students have coloured. Photo: Emma Lång

A three-dimensional image of the skin cells that the students have coloured. Photo: Emma Lång

What is cell migration?

The research group “Experimental Cancer Therapy” led by Dr Stig Ove Bøe at Rikshospitalet are researching how cells move, which is called cell migration in scientific terms.

Cell migration plays a central role in many of the body’s physiological functions, such as the immune system and wound healing. Cell migration is also essential for cancer, since cancer cells can spread from the location of the tumour to other organs of the body.

Cells use different mechanisms to migrate. They can move as single cells or they can move collectively. Thousands of cells can, for example, cooperate so they can move in the same direction.

The research group uses many different microscopy-based methods to research cell migration. They are also developing new video methods to study living cells in microscopes.

The research group is also responsibly for the daily running of the Core Facility for Advanced Light Microscopy at Oslo University Hospital. The facility gives other research groups in the Oslo region access to and guidance of the use of advanced microscopy equipment.

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Sune Justesen and Stephan Thorgrimsen from Immunitrack

Cancer vaccine technology to fight COVID-19

Our member Immunitrack has joined forces with Intavis on a project that may help the development of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The two companies are attempting to identify the viral proteins that will stimulate an immune response against the coronavirus implicated in the current outbreak, namely Covid-19.

Specifically, Immunitrack and Intavis aim to identify the viral epitopes that should be included in a vaccine. Viral epitopes are (usually) parts of viral proteins that are recognised by the host’s (i.e. human in this case) immune system as a threat. Once the epitopes are ‘seen’, an immune response is then triggered in an attempt to clear the virus. Some epitopes trigger better immune responses than others.

To elaborate on the above: when a virus infects human cells, epitopes from the virus are bound to certain receptors that exist on the surfaces of human cells. These receptors are called MHCI.

MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex) is a collection of genes that play a central role in recognising infectious agents (for example viruses) and triggering an appropriate immune response. These molecules exist on the surfaces of all living cells. MHC Class I (MHC I) molecules can specifically recognise viruses.

Immunitrack develops cancer vaccines by identifying which epitopes will stimulate an antibody-driven immune response and which epitopes will stimulate a cellular response.

The challenging task is to identify the correct epitopes i.e. the epitopes that will evoke an efficient immune response, against Covid-19 in this case. There are some software epitope prediction tools available, but most of these only work on Caucasian populations and perform less well on Asian populations. This is because the genes that determine MHC activity differ between populations.

Together with researchers at the University of Copenhagen, Immunitrack performed a computer simulation with ten of the most common MHC genetic variations (or alleles) in the Asian population. They could then identify 100 Covid-19 epitopes that might be recognised by these Asian MHC variants.

Immunitrack has developed a technology called NeoScreen ® that is used in cancer vaccine development. Using NeoScreen ®, Immunitrack was able to carry out lab studies to assess whether COVID-19 epitopes predicted to bind MHC could actually form a complex with these molecules and likely stimulate an immune response.

Immunitrack hopes this data will help vaccine developers determine which coronavirus epitopes will trigger an effective immune response against Covid-19. These epitopes can then be included in a potential Covid-19 vaccine to help control the spread of or eradicate the disease.

Several other healthcare organisations, including pharmaceutical and biotech companies, across Europe have also joined the race to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. All of them are still at a pre-clinical stage. Read this news round-up from Labiotech.eu to see which other companies are involved. The first corona clinical vaccine trial has now begun in the US, but even in the best-case scenario the vaccine will not be available to the wider public for at least one year.

 

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Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: Kaiku Health

In this series, we will be introducing one-by-one the new members that have joined our oncology ecosystem in the last six months. Follow us for a new article next week!

One of our newest members is Kaiku Health, a health data science company that will improve the quality of life for cancer patients.

Kaiku Health is a Finnish start-up founded in 2012 by five software developers that care deeply about health care. This exciting new company combines data science, technology and oncology to deliver new medical devices that will help cancer patients, by managing their symptoms digitally.

We talked to Lauri Sippola, CEO and Co-Founder of Kaiku Health, and Ann-Sofie Andersson-Ward, Clinical Partnership Manager Nordics at Kaiku Health, to find out what the company is all about and why they joined our cluster.

Kaiku Health logo

Could you briefly describe Kaiku Health and the role it is taking in cancer?

“Kaiku Health is a health data science company aiming to improve the quality of life of cancer patients. Our digital health intervention platform is based on patient-reported outcomes and classified as a medical device in cancer care. It supports clinical decision making by screening symptoms and notifying care teams. It also provides personalised support for patients. Kaiku Health has modules for over 25 cancer types across different cancer care pathways and is currently in use in over 40 European cancer clinics and hospitals,” said Ann-Sofie Andersson-Ward, Clinical Partnership Manager Nordics.

Why did Kaiku Health join Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“We consider Oslo Cancer Cluster to be a unique node for collaborations focusing on cancer in Norway. As the cluster has members from all parts of the cancer research and care spectrum, we can jointly accelerate the much-needed developments in cancer care. Vital steps forward can be taken due to the ability to secure buy-in, enabling a joint and sustainable focus thus ensuring a better future for cancer patients,” said Ann-Sofie Andersson-Ward, Clinical Partnership Manager Nordics.

“Our vision at Kaiku Health is to provide personalised digital health interventions for every cancer patient. We can only achieve it by working hard together with our partners – of which Oslo Cancer Cluster is a great example”, adds Lauri Sippola, CEO and Co-Founder of Kaiku Health.

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COVID-19 virus affecting clinical trials in Norway

This press release was sent out on NTB on 13 March 2020 by LMI and Oslo Cancer Cluster.

As a precautionary measure, in the continuous efforts to limit the spreading of the COVID-19 virus, and to shelter patients as well as healthcare staff, external personnel are given restricted access to hospitals, which consequently affects monitoring, auditing and inspections of ongoing clinical trials.

The restrictions – which also include a temporary halt in patient recruitment for new clinical trials – are implemented at all large hospitals nation-wide and include a provisional standstill in monitoring of ongoing research, as well, consequently delaying its outcomes.

It is imperative to note, that the precautionary measures taken, are in no way related to which studies that are ongoing, which treatment that is researched, or which company that is responsible for conducting it.

Ongoing Dialogue

LMI have contacted the health authorities, requesting advice as to how their members should relate to health personnel and hospital contact, but are yet to receive any information.

LMI, Oslo Cancer Cluster and their members have introduced their own precautionary restrictions for their employees, aiming to limit the risk of spreading the virus and to allow health personnel to prioritise according to the current, extraordinary needs.

LMI and Oslo Cancer Cluster will continue to monitor the situation closely and encourage both members and non-members to report any restrictions they might receive.

About

Oslo Cancer Cluster is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to accelerating the development of cancer treatments.

LMI is the pharmaceutical industry association in Norway and consists of Norwegian and international companies that develop, produce, sell or market pharmaceuticals in Norway.

Contact persons

Ketil Widerberg, general manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster

kw@oslocancercluster.no

Hege Edvardsen, senior advisor, LMI

Hege.edvardsen@lmi.no

 

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Corona virus

Corona outbreak in Norway

Due to the ongoing corona virus outbreak, we have unfortunately decided to postpone / cancel all our meetings and close our offices for the time being.

On Thursday 12 March 2020, the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced several nation-wide measures (information in Norwegian) in order to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Norway.

In adherence to these new recommendations, all our meetings will be cancelled or postponed until further notice. Please follow the event pages in our event calendar for further updates.

In addition, all Oslo Cancer Cluster employees will be working from home effective immediately and until further notice. If you need to schedule a meeting, all employees are available via telephone or e-mail. Please refer to our Team page for contact details.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator will have staff on-site according to a duty roster. We ask all tenants of the Incubator to refrain from inviting any visitors to our facilities for the time being. Please contact the Incubator Team or consult this Interim Guidance if you have any questions or special requirements.

For updates and general guidelines about the corona virus outbreak, please consult Folkehelseinstituttet (for information in Norwegian) and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (for information in English). These include washing your hands regularly, avoiding handshakes and not attending large gatherings.

Special advice for cancer patients. Cancer patients are among those at high risk of serious illness from infection. Cancer Research UK has more information (in English) for cancer patients and their caregivers. The Norwegian Cancer Society has written similar advice (in Norwegian).

Stay safe and take extra good care of each other. This is a Norwegian public health “dugnad” and we must all do what we can to contain the outbreak.

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Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: Hubro Therapeutics

In this series, we will be introducing one-by-one the new members that have joined our ecosystem in the last six months. Follow us for a new article next week!

We are proud to present one of the latest additions to our cluster – Hubro Therapeutics.

Hubro Therapeutics is a Norwegian biotech start-up from 2018 that develops immunotherapies against cancer. These treatments aim to trigger the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The company is currently situated in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, where they are using the laboratory facilities to develop their treatments.

We talked with Jon Amund Eriksen, founder and CEO of Hubro Therapeutics, to find out a little bit more about the company, their work in cancer research and the reason why they joined Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Could you briefly describe Hubro Therapeutics and the role you take in cancer?

“Hubro Therapeutics AS is a biotech company based on thirty years of R&D experience in the field of immunotherapy of cancer. The company is specialising in developing peptide vaccines targeting shared cancer specific neo-antigens, focusing on design and development of novel peptides and peptide compositions for targeting frameshift mutations in micro-satellite instable (msi) cancers.  The lead candidate vaccine targeting frameshift mutation in TGFbR2 is currently in development for clinical testing in msi-colorectal cancer and potentially msi-gastric cancer,” said Jon Amund Eriksen, founder and CEO.

Why did you join Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“For us, Oslo Cancer Cluster with its incubator and laboratory facilities provides a perfect opportunity to operate in a highly relevant and focused scientific environment as well as to generate our own experimental results without heavy investments,” said Jon Amund Eriksen, founder and CEO.

 

Hubro Therapeutics logo

 

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OCC, OUS, Jordan State Visit

State visit to Jordan

Oslo Cancer Cluster visited King Hussein Cancer Centre (KHCC) in Jordan this week to foster international collaboration on cancer.

Oslo Cancer Cluster, Oslo University Hospital and Ultimovacs took part in a state visit to Amman in Jordan this week. The reason behind our involvement was that we want to create more international collaboration on the development of better cancer medicines. We wished to introduce Oslo University Hospital and Ultimovacs to King Hussein Cancer Foundation (KHCF), with regards to a potential collaboration on for example cancer clinical studies and innovative cancer treatments.

Foto: Tom Hansen

Ketil Widerberg, General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, spoke at the industry seminar to discover future partnerships between Norway and Jordan. Photo: Tom Hansen

Ketil Widerberg, General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, spoke at the opening ceremony for the industry seminar, arranged by Innovation Norway. He emphasised that there is reason to hope in the face of cancer as a deadly disease. There are new innovative treatments, which use the immune system to treat cancer, and the use of new technology to analyze health data. If several countries cooperate with each other on data, we can discover new patterns and develop new therapies.

“We believe our countries together should bring the same urgency seen in infectious disease to cancer in the Middle East. Cancer is emerging as a major health issue in the region, and to both develop and give access to innovative treatments for cancer will be crucial in the coming years,” said Ketil Widerberg, General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry Iselin Nybø (to the right) participated in the state visit to Jordan to explore opportunities for industry collaboration. Photo: Camilla Bredde Pettersen

The audience included Harald V, King of Norway, Sonja, Queen of Norway, Abdullah II, King of Jordan, Rania, Queen of Jordan, Hussein, Crown Prince of Jordan, Ine Eriksen Søreide, Norwegian Foreign Minister, Iselin Nybø, Norwegian Minister of Trade, and industry representatives from the Norwegian and Jordanian delegations.

“We need global and internationally-oriented cooperation in cancer care in order to improve the lives of cancer patients. During this State Visit to Jordan, I am pleased to take part at the beginning of new and innovative partnerships between two highly innovative health and research institutions from Norway and Jordan. Jordan has the potential to serve as a hub for international partnerships in cancer care in the Middle East, and I look forward to the continuation of this partnership,” said Minister of Trade and Industry, Iselin Nybø.

During the visit, it was also discussed how Jordan can function as a power centre for better cancer treatments in the Middle East. It can potentially become a base for Norwegian relief to non-communicable diseases with an emphasis on cancer, which is an increasing cause of death in developing countries. Jordan is a relatively stable country with good infrastructure and could become a centre for a new type of Norwegian relief to the region.

A special thank you to Innovation Norway, The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry, and all other organising partners involved, for making the visit a success.

Gustav Vik from Killevold school and Martin Dimov from Mailand school are enjoying the gatherings arranged by Talentsenteret for realfag: “This is very interesting because we are learning things that are not part of the curriculum and we like to learn about current topics.”

Research talents learned about immunotherapy

This article was first published in Norwegian on our School Collaboration website.

A group of talented science students from Oslo and Akershus spent two days learning about immunotherapy from former cancer researchers, who are now teachers at Ullern Upper Secondary School and researchers at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Collaboration partners: Oslo Cancer Cluster, Thermo Fisher Scientific Norway, Ullern Upper Secondary School, Norsk teknisk museum (The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology) and Oslo Vitensenters Talentsenter i realfag (Talent centre for the natural sciences)

In February, 25 students from 19 different schools in Oslo, which are a part of “Talentsenteret for realfag” (Talent Centre for the Natural Sciences), arrived together to Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and Ullern Upper Secondary School.

The students were there to participate in a specially tailored two-day programme about medical research and the use of immunotherapy to treat cancer.

The days were spent partly in a classroom to learn about the theory of the immune system and partly in a laboratory to learn how to isolate a type of cells in the immune system called T cells. The method the students learned about is used in modern cell therapies against cancer, which are called CAR T therapies.

Gustav Vik from Kjellervolla School and Martin Dimov from Mailand School are enjoying the gatherings arranged by Talentsenteret for realfag: “This is very interesting because we are learning things that are not part of the ordinary school syllabus and we like to learn about current topics.”

Kaja Flote from Hellerasten school is looking in the microscope to find T cells. She thinks it is exciting to learn more about the depth of the immune system and how it can be changed to fight cancer. Photo: Bente Prestegård.

Kaja Flote from Hellerasten School is looking in the microscope to find T cells. She thinks it is exciting to learn more about the complexity of the immune system and how it can be changed to combat cancer. Photo: Bente Prestegård.

The next day, the students visited the production facilities of Thermo Fisher Scientific Norway, located in Lillestrøm. This is where the company makes Dynabeads (also known as “Ugelstadkulene” in Norwegian) to be used in five billion diagnostic tests every year and in CAR T therapies against cancer.

The Norwegian TV channel TV2 has produced this news segment about Emily Whitehead (link in Norwegian), the first child in the world who received CAR T therapy to treat her cancer, which was deemed incurable. The segment was recorded in 2019, when Emily and her family visited the Norwegian employees at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Oslo. Emily is today 13 years old and has been cancer-free for over eight years.

You can read more about the students’ experience at Thermo Fisher Scientific in this article from 2017, when another group of students from Ullern Upper Secondary School visited the same production facilities.

The researcher Morten Fure from Thermo Fisher tells the students about Dynabeads, also known as “Ugelstadkulene”, CAR T therapy, immunotherapy, and cancer. He has prepared T cell solutions that the students will look at in the microscope. Photo: Bente Prestegård.

The researcher Morten Luhr from Thermo Fisher Scientific tells the students about Dynabeads (also known as “Ugelstadkulene”), CAR T therapy, immunotherapy, and cancer. He has prepared T cell solutions that the students will look at in the microscope. Photo: Bente Prestegård.

The background to the collaboration

“Talentsenteret i realfag” (link in Norwegian) is a customised educational option for students who are especially strong academically. It is for those students who find that the standard school curriculum does not challenge them enough. Just like the school adapts the teaching for students who need extra help in subjects, they adapt the teaching for students who already know a lot and want to learn even more. This is a group of students with a high degree of motivation and a hunger for knowledge that is extraordinary.

The centre employs experts in different subjects to give the students the academic challenges they need. That is why this two-day programme in medicine and immunotherapy was held in February.

The programme was developed by employees from Thermo Fisher Scientific and two teachers from Ullern Upper Secondary School. Fet and Flydal Jenstad both have backgrounds as cancer researchers at the Institute for Cancer Research and the Institute of Cancer Genetics and Informatics respectively. Fet and Flydal Jenstad share the responsibility for the new researcher programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School. Read more about the researcher programme here (link in Norwegian).

Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School have a school collaboration project since 2009. The goal is to contribute to educating the researchers and entrepreneurs of the future.

Thermo Fisher Scientific is a global biotech company with strong Norwegian roots through the acquisition of the Norwegian biotech Dynal. Thermo Fisher Scientific is one of the members of Oslo Cancer Cluster and actively participates in the school collaboration between Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School.

Read articles about the other school collaborations Thermo Fisher Scientific have participated in:

 

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Nordplus collaboration work group at kick-off in OCC Incubator

Accelerating learning in Nordic life science milieus

A new collaborative project will make life science learning more accessible in the Nordics and give a boost to innovation and medical development.

The Nordic life science industry is booming and medical developments have never been this rapid. Nonetheless, in small countries like the Nordics, educational resources may not always be easy for the life science community to access. Now, five Nordic life science organisations from Sweden, Finland and Norway have joined forces to improve learning across borders.

“Each of us are small countries, through this collaboration we can provide more high-quality learning opportunities for Life Science professionals and for a broader Nordic-Baltic target group, instead of reinventing the wheel,” says Hanna Rickberg, Head of Education at the Swedish Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

As part of the Nordplus Horizontal programme, educational events, training workshops and practical courses directed towards the life science industry will be made available online. The life science professionals can participate via a live video stream or pre-recorded material, making learning accessible to those on-site or on remote locations and in other countries.

The five partners in the project are:

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

The project has received support from Nordplus to facilitate the sharing of educational resources across national borders in the Nordics. This will act as an innovation boost to Nordic life science environments.

“We are intrigued by the opportunity to explore how we can establish synergies across the Nordic markets when it comes to meeting educational needs within the Life Science sector. The underlying assumption is that the needs are similar. Networking for future collaboration may present as a secondary benefit,” says Dag Larsson, Senior Policy Manager, LIF – the Research Based Pharma Industry in Sweden.

Nordic cooperation will be paramount to make the most of medical advances and to make personalized medicine a reality.

“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,” says Marie Svendsen Aase, Communications Adviser, Legemiddelindustrien (LMI).

The project will run until 30 April 2021 and the five partners will share their courses via their websites and social media channels.

“Nordplus collaboration provides us with an excellent opportunity to expand our training services to the Nordic market and to share knowledge with the other partners,“ says Anja Isoaho, Training Manager at Pharmaceutical Information Centre (Finland).

 

Next upcoming activity in the Nordplus course plan 2020-2021:

The 4th Nordic RWE Conference 2020, 11 February 2020, 09:00-17:00, arranged by LMI in Kaare Norum Auditorium, Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, Ullernchausseen 64, 0379 Oslo. This event will be streamed.

 

Nordic Life Science Learning logo

 

Partner logos:

Lääketietokeskus logo

LIF logo

 

Läkemedelsakademin logo

 

LMI logo

 

OCC Incubator logo

Innovation Park and the surrounding buildings

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park: A powerhouse for the development of cancer treatments

This article was originally published in Norwegian on Altomdinhelse.no by Mediaplanet, and was written by Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk and initiator of Oslo Cancer Cluster, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. 

We wish to expand Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park with close to 50 000 square metres the next five to seven years. The goal is to develop even better cancer treatments to improve the lives of cancer patients, in close collaboration with the ecosystem around the park.

On 24 August 2015, the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg opened Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. In her speech, she said: “Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park will fulfil an important role in the development of the cancer treatments of the future.”

That moment was the starting point for a unique collaboration between cancer researchers, clinicians, teachers, students, business developers and numerous other professions that are needed to develop tomorrow’s cancer treatments.

All of us that work here share a common vision: Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and the environment around the Norwegian Radium Hospital and the Institute for Cancer Research (Oslo University Hospital) should be an international powerhouse for the development of cancer treatments.

The beginning of a success story

Five years after the opening, we are still fulfilling that vision every day. I would even go so far as to say that we have contributed to a success story:

  • Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator houses nine start-up companies today, and we are working closely with seven other companies that are located other places due to limited space.
  • The 24 private and public tenants of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park want more space, since their operations are ever growing.
  • Ullern Upper Secondary School is one of the most sought-after schools in Oslo and the number of students is ever increasing. The students are offered the opportunity to participate in the school collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster, to educate the researchers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. In the autumn of 2019, the researcher programme was initiated at Ullern, which is a unique opportunity for students in Oslo to specialise in biomedical subjects.

Many developments planned

Everything mentioned above is only what is happening inside the Innovation Park. In the nearby area, there are many unique developments that will change the treatment of cancer patients in coming years:

  • In 2023, the new clinic building of the Norwegian Radium Hospital and its specialised proton centre will open.
  • The Institute for Cancer Research is being developed further under the proficient management of Professor Kjetil Taskén. The talented researchers at the Institute are delivering internationally renowned research every day.
  • Oslo University Hospital is the only hospital in Scandinavia accredited as a “Comprehensive Cancer Center”. The accreditation demands constant development of research, infrastructure and treatments.

Still a way to go

Things are still far from perfect. Almost everyday in the news, there are discussions about whether Norwegian cancer patients are offered the best cancer treatments. I believe we still have a way to go. In order to give better cancer treatments, we must heavily invest in the development of:

  • Molecular diagnostics
  • Cell and gene therapy
  • Precision medicine
  • The treatment of antibiotic resistance

Because of the success we have had so far with the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and the need to strengthen cancer care further, we wish to expand the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park during the next five to seven years with close to 50 000 square metres. The first expansion will total 7 000 square metres. The planning scheme begins this year and the building itself will be located between the Innovation Park and the Institute for Cancer Research.

Enormous ambitions

The expansion of the Innovation Park is an important supplement to the plans on developing Oslo into Oslo Science City. We are also a living example of how public-private partnerships is the way to go in order to build a sustainable health industry, like the White Paper on the Health Industry has stated.

Norwegian cancer research is world class. The 15 companies in the Radforsk portfolio has spun out of this research. We have enormous ambitions to contribute even more to the development of the cancer treatments of tomorrow – to improve the lives of cancer patients all over the world.

As Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in her speech on 24 August 2015: “Smart minds and new ideas, students and professors, Norwegians and foreigners, founders and employees. Together for a common goal: to improve the treatment of the approximately 30 000 Norwegians that are diagnosed with cancer every year.”

That statement is still true today.

 


Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark:
Kraftsenter for utvikling av kreftbehandling

Vi ønsker å utvide Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark med nærmere 50.000 km² de neste fem til syv årene. Målet er å utvikle enda bedre kreftbehandling til det beste for kreftpasienter, i tett samarbeid med økosystemet rundt parken.

Av Jónas Einarsson, administrerende direktør i Radforsk og initiativtaker til Oslo Cancer Cluster, Oslo Cancer Cluster Inkubator og Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark.

Den 24. august 2015 åpnet Statsminister Erna Solberg Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark. I sin tale sa hun: «Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark vil fylle en viktig rolle i utforming av fremtidens kreftbehandling.»

Og med det gikk startskuddet gikk for et unikt samarbeid mellom kreftforskere, klinikere, lærere, elever, forretningsutviklere og en rekke andre profesjoner som trengs for å utvikle morgendagens kreftbehandling.

Felles for alle oss som jobber her, er at vi har én visjon: Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark og miljøet rundt med Radiumhospitalet og Institutt for Kreftforskning, skal være et internasjonalt kraftsenter for utvikling av kreftbehandling.

Fem år etter åpningen så lever vi ut denne visjonen hver dag. Jeg vil tørre å påstå at det vi har bidratt til er en suksess:

  • Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator huser i dag ni oppstartsbedrifter, og vi jobber tett med syv andre som sitter andre steder og som det ikke er plass til
  • Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark sine 24 private og offentlige leietakere ønsker mer plass da de stadig utvider sin virksomhet
  • Ullern videregående skole er en av de best søkte skolene i Oslo, og øker stadig elevtallet. Elevene på skolen får tilbud om å delta i det skolefaglige samarbeidet med Oslo Cancer Cluster, for å utdanne morgendagens forskere og entreprenører. Høsten 2019 startet Forskerlinja, et unikt tilbud til skoleelever i Oslo om fordypning i biomedisinske fag

Dette er bare inne i Innovasjonsparken. I området rundt oss skjer det unike ting som endrer måten pasienter med kreft blir behandlet på om få år:

  • I 2023 åpner det nye klinikkbygget på Radiumhospitalet med et spesialisert protonsenter
  • Institutt for Kreftforskning blir stadig videreutviklet under kyndig ledelse av professor Kjetil Taskén. De dyktige forskerne ved instituttet leverer daglig internasjonalt, anerkjent forskning
  • Oslo universitetssykehus er som eneste sykehus i Skandinavia akkreditert som et «Komplett kreftsenter», «Comprehensive Cancer Center». Akkrediteringen krever konstant utvikling av forskning, infrastruktur og behandling

Likevel er ikke tingenes tilstand rosenrød. I media kan vi nesten daglig lese diskusjoner om hvorvidt kreftbehandlingen pasienter i Norge tilbys er den beste. Min påstand er at vi har mye å gå på. For å gi bedre kreftbehandling må vi satse tungt på å utvikle:

  • Molekylær diagnostikk
  • Celle- og genterapi
  • Presisjonsmedisin
  • Behandling av antibiotikaresistens

På bakgrunn av den suksessen vi har hatt med Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark så langt, og behovet for å styrke kreftomsorgen ytterligere, ønsker vi de neste fem til syv årene å utvide Oslo Innovasjonsparken med nær 50.000 km². Den første utvidelsen vil være på 7000 km². Prosjekteringen starter i år, og selve bygget vil ligge mellom Innovasjonsparken og Institutt for Kreftforskning.

Utvidelsen av Innovasjonsparken er et viktig tilskudd til planene om å utvikle Oslo som en kunnskapshovedstad, Oslo Science City. Vi er i tillegg et levende eksempel på at privat-offentlig samarbeid er veien å gå for å bygge en bærekraftig helsenæring, slik Stortingsmeldingen om helsenæring slår fast.

Norsk kreftforskning er i verdensklasse. Våre 15 bedrifter i Radforsk-porteføljen er spunnet ut av denne forskningen. Vi har enorme ambisjoner om at vi kan bidra enda mer til utviklingen av morgendagens kreftbehandling – til det beste for kreftpasienter over hele verden.

Som Statsminister Erna Solberg sa i sin tale den 24. august 2015: «Kloke hoder og nye ideer, studenter og professorer, nordmenn og utlendinger, gründere og ansatte. Samlet med ett felles mål: å bedre behandlingen til de om lag 30.000 nordmenn som blir diagnostisert med kreft hvert år.»

Det er like sant i dag.

Moina Medbøe Tamuly (to the left) and his colleage Sondre Tagestad from NTENTION test the drone glove on Devon Island.

From Ullern to Mars

Read this article in Norwegian on our School Collaboration website.

A former Ullern student with an unusual career came to inspire current students in December.

Moina Medbøe Tamuly was in his final year at Ullern Upper Secondary School in 2014. Before Christmas in 2019, he came back to Ullern to tell today’s students about his exciting life after graduation.

Since Moina Medbøe Tamuly exited the school gates of Ullern Upper Secondary School for the very last time in June 2014, he has managed to spend two years in military service, worked in Trondheim, Oslo, Beijing, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Las Vegas, Brazil and the Arctic.

Moreover, he has an adventurous personality, combined with a passion for technology, which made him start the company NTENTION with his friend Magnus Arveng.

Magnus had the idea of a glove that could control drones, which he and Moina, together with their skilled team, has brought to life. The ground-breaking gloves can simplify the steering of everything from drones to VR interaction, music and robot arms. Their vision has been to develop a technology that is a natural and seamless extension of the human, instead of being an external instrument.

This has aroused the interest of the founder of the Mars Institute, Dr. Pascal Lee, who is collaborating with NASA on missions to the Moon and the exploration of Mars. The adventurous journey brought Moina all the way to Devon Island, a Mars-like, uninhabited island in the Arctic, together with his colleague Sondre Tagestad in NTENTION. During their stay, they tested if the glove could be used as an interactive instrument in conceptual space suits.

NTENTION’s collaboration partners at the Mars Institute/SETI Institute say in the article above that the glove “is revolutionary for future human exploration of the moon and Mars – and potential other planets”.

Right before Christmas 2019, Moina went back to his old upper secondary school, Ullern, to tell the students there today what life after graduation can be like.

Not a straightforward task

Moina tells the students the journey to Devon Island and the collaboration with astronauts has not been simple and straightforward, but has included many ups, downs and detours.

The students have brought their lunches into Kaare Norum auditorium to hear what the former Ullern student has to say about life after graduation.

Moina Medbøe Tamuly is back on his old hunting grounds, telling Ullern students about life after graduation.

Moina Medbøe Tamuly is back on his old hunting grounds, telling Ullern students about life after graduation. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

At Ullern, Moina studied physics, history, philosophy and chemistry.

“I wasn’t very good at physics. I thought it was a really demanding subject, but also very exciting,” Moina says.

“After I graduated, I was really sick and tired of school. Then I had to do military service, something I wasn’t exactly thrilled about in the beginning. I was immature and created some disorder, but eventually I started liking it so much that I stayed there for two years. I was even accepted to The Royal Norwegian Naval Academy, which would have been an adventurous opportunity that I still daydream about sometimes.”

After the military service, Moina studied Industrial Economy and Technology Leadership at NTNU. In the passionate and teeming student atmosphere at NTNU, Moina met his business partner and friend Magnus Arveng and their company NTENTION was born.

Moina says that when he was a student at Ullern, he liked the subjects, the other students, the teachers and working for the student council. The first period at NTNU was a shock after such an enjoyable period of upper secondary school and military service.

“When I moved to Trondheim to study at NTNU, everything became chaotic. I had a breakdown and became depressed. It was a big transition from the military service, where I had great co-workers and a lot of responsibility, to academic studies. Our company saved me. It was pure magic to come back to an environment where you cooperate closely with one another to reach results together – and to be able to see the results of what you do every day,” Moina says.

Moina believes this is a reality many students can recognise and that it is important to learn that things don’t always go the way you planned, no matter how hard you work.

The company the students started together now has 13 employees in different roles and functions.

Doctor Pascal Lee, Head of the Research Station on Devon Island and space researcher at the Mars Institute is trying out the glove from NTENTION. Photo: Haughton-Mars Project

Dr. Pascal Lee, Head of the Research Station on Devon Island and space researcher at the Mars Institute, is trying out the glove from NTENTION. Photo: Haughton-Mars Project

The journey is as important as the goal

“I am not here to talk about what I have achieved, but about my life and the journey to get here,” Moina says to the Ullern students.

After showing the drone glove to interested students by using presentation slides and a video, Moina asks if there are any questions from the audience. Many hands go up in the air and they wonder how on Earth NTENTION got in touch with researchers that collaborate with NASA.

“It was very random. We met Dr. Pascal Lee at a conference arranged by Energy Valley. We knew the organisers and they gave us a stand for free. The glove we had developed can be used for music and art too. DJs can use it to play their set and combine it with video. So, together with the artist duo Broslo, we had arranged a unique stand with exciting artwork and video clips. That is where we started talking with Lee.”

A friendship developed between Lee, Moina and the others in NTENTION. Moina wants to highlight that you often meet friendly professionals if you dare to get in touch with them, one of the most important lessons from his journey so far.

“Our solution was a good fit with his visions and the need to explore Mars, so we began to work together,” Moina says.

The Ullern students’ lunch break is almost over, so Moina begins to sum up.

Devon Island is where NTENTION and Moina have tested the drone glove for the Mars Institute. Photo: Moina Medbøe Tamuly.

Devon Island is where NTENTION and Moina have tested the drone glove for the Mars Institute. Photo: Moina Medbøe Tamuly.

Time will be the judge of whether the drone glove Moina has developed one day will be a part of the space suits and equipment astronauts will use when landing on the Moon and Mars.

“The world will be more complicated and difficult when you graduate from Ullern, but all the more exciting. The last years of my life have been a little chaotic. It has been about closing deals and travelling around the world to find opportunities without a regular schedule. I finally learned that all people need to have a little bit of structure and to be part of a whole to thrive. In the end, I have unique experiences. My intellect has been nourished, I feel truly inspired and I am humbled to be a part of the journey where we are working to spearhead technological developments,” says Moina.

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News from our members

There have been several exciting developments from our members over the last week. Here are three condensed news from the Norwegian biopharma sphere that we wish to highlight.

Promising combination treatment

Our member Targovax, a Norwegian immuno-oncology company, has announced some encouraging data from one of their clinical studies.

The study is directed towards patients with mesothelioma, a type of cancer that develops in the thin layer of tissue that covers many of the internal organs, for example the lining of the lungs or chest wall.

The patients are given a combination treatment consisting of Targovax’s own oncolytic virus called “ONCOS-102” and the standard of care: chemotherapy.

The preliminary data show a numerical advantage in progression-free survival for the patients that have received ONCOS-102. There has also been a robust immune activation in the experimental group. It has also been shown that the combination treatment is well tolerated by the patients.

Targovax are now in ongoing discussions with a pharmaceutical company about a prospective partnership in order to launch a checkpoint inhibitor combination study.

View the entire press release from Targovax

US patent for Norwegian cancer technology

Our member PCI Biotech, a Norwegian biopharmaceutical company, has secured a US patent for one of their cancer treatment technologies.

The treatment is called “fimaVACC” and is based on a type of light technology invented here in Norway at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

The technology helps to transport cancer medicine more effectively to the targeted cancer cells. In this case, the technology enhances the effect of other cancer vaccines.

The US patent is for the use of fimaVACC together with cytokines, a small protein that is involved in cell signalling that regulates the immune responses.

The combination treatment has shown to be effective when enhancing the immune responses in cancer patients to fight off cancer.

Per Walday, CEO of PCI Biotech, said: “There are many vaccines under development utilising cytokines to elicit immune responses. The US patent granted today is important for PCI Biotech’s development strategy, as it supplements our ability to generate an internal future vaccine pipeline, in addition to bringing value for the fimaVACC technology in partnering efforts.”

View the entire press release from PCI Biotech

New results from clinical study

Our member BerGenBio, a Norwegian biopharmaceutical company, has given an update on one of their phase II clinical trials.

The phase II trial aims to determine the clinical efficacy of one of the drugs BerGenBio has developed, namely “bemcentinib”.

Bemcentinib is an AXL inhibitor, a novel type of cancer therapeutic agent.

BerGenBio can now show that the first stage clinical efficacy endpoint has been met.

The clinical trial is evaluating a combination treatment, consisting of bemcentinib and the immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

The patients who have been treated in this trial all have non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and have previously failed checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio, said: “Reversing resistance to immune checkpoint inhibitors in patients who have relapsed on immunotherapy is a highly desirable alternative to the second-line chemotherapy standard-of-care. We are very excited with these early results in this challenging setting and look forward to expanding the study to confirm these findings and reporting comprehensive translational insight.”

View the entire press release from BerGenBio

 

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Cancer Crosslinks 2020

Engaging presentations by leading international and Norwegian oncology experts at the 12th Cancer Crosslinks “Progress in Cancer Care – A tsunami of promises or Game Changing Strategies?”.

Oslo Cancer Cluster’s annual meeting gathered more than 350 delegates from all over Norway at the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, and more than 50 participants followed the live stream. The record high participation shows the large interest in translational cancer research and the importance of the programme for the Norwegian oncology community.

Cancer Crosslinks has become one of the largest national meeting places for oncologists, haematologists, translational researchers, regulatory experts and industry representatives. The meeting offers a full day educational program.

The aim of the conference is to stimulate broader interactions between researchers and clinicians, to encourage translational and clinical research, and to inspire collaborations. Novel partnerships between industry, academia and authorities are essential to deliver new treatments and diagnostics to Norwegian cancer patients.

“At the start of 2020, cancer patients have more treatment options than ever before. Immuno-oncology is firmly established as the fourth pillar of cancer treatment and the tremendous progress in the field is reflected in increased survival rates,” said Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs, Oslo Cancer Cluster. “However, many patients do not benefit from novel treatments and we still have significant gaps in our understanding of the complex biological mechanisms. Deciphering this complexity is a task for the decade to come. The Cancer Crosslinks 2020 speakers are shedding light on emerging concepts and key challenges and discuss how they are addressing them to advance cancer care.”

The audience at Cancer Crosslinks 2020.

The audience at Cancer Crosslinks 2020. Photo: Cameo Productions UB/Oslo Cancer Cluster

An inspiring programme

Referring to a record number of new oncology drug approvals in recent years and an enormous global pipeline of drugs in late-stage development, this year’s programme addressed the question “Progress in Cancer Care – A Tsunami of Promises or Game-Changing Strategies?”. Distinguished international experts from leading centres in the US and Europe presented emerging concepts, recent progress and key questions to be addressed for both solid and haematological cancers.

Cancer researchers and clinicians from all of Norway enjoyed excellent presentations and engaging discussions with speakers and colleagues.

“Cancer Crosslinks 2020 gave me an opportunity to listen to talks by international top scientists, and discuss some of the latest developments in translational cancer research with meeting participants from academia and industry in a relaxed and inspiring setting,” said Johanna Olweus, Head of Department of Cancer Immunology at the Institute for Cancer Research.

“Cancer Crosslinks is always a meeting that makes me proud of being part of Oslo Cancer Cluster. It is inspiring to see Norwegian and international participants come together to discuss recent progress in cancer research and how to develop cancer treatments for the patients,” said Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, Chairman of the Board, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The day programme was complemented with an evening reception in the city center where speakers and delegates continued their lively discussions and listened to an inspiring talk by Ole Petter Ottersen, President of Karolinska Institute, at Hotel Continental in Oslo.

Cancer Crosslinks was established by Oslo Cancer Cluster in 2009 in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb.

“Cancer Crosslinks 2020 has been a fantastic conference, where the presenters have given an excellent description of current and near future achievements within cancer research and the importance of understanding the underlying biology of cancer to rationally give patients the correct cancer therapy. In particular within immunotherapy, there is a need to understand the dynamic complexity of tumor immunology and how to apply the best and tailored immuno-oncology based treatment strategy for cancer patients,” said Ali Areffard, Disease Area Specialist Immuno-Oncology, Bristol-Myers Squibb.

This year, the pharmaceutical company Sanofi Genzyme Norway was a proud co-sponsor of the meeting.

“It was great to be able to provide a platform for interaction between the Norwegian scientific cancer environment and top international research capacities. Therefore, it was with huge enthusiasm Sanofi Genzyme co-sponsored this important conference. New treatment options in oncology are developing fast, where new treatment modalities provide clinicians with additional and superior options. New treatments specifically targeting the malignant cells, as well as activating the host immune response towards the cancer, provides tools to significantly improve current cancer treatments. This year’s Cancer Crosslinks conference gave an excellent insight into this,” said Knut Steffensen, Medical Advisor Hematology Nordic & Baltics, Sanofi Genzyme.

Interview with Prof. Jason Luke

View the interview with Prof. Jason Luke, by HealthTalk, in the video below:

Interview with Prof. Michel Sadelain

View the interview with Prof. Michel Sadelain, by HealthTalk, in the video below:

The speakers at Cancer Crosslinks 2020

Jason J. Luke, Director of the Cancer Immunotherapeutics Center, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Hillman Cancer Center

Jason J. Luke, MD, FACP, Director of the Cancer Immunotherapeutics Center, Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Hillman Cancer Center, USA. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Stefani Spranger, Howard S. and Linda B. Stern Career Development Assistant Professor, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, Cambridge

Stefani Spranger, Howard S. and Linda B. Stern Career Development Assistant Professor, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, Cambridge, USA. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Harriet Wikman, Professor, Group Leader, Center for Experimental Medicine, Institute of Tumor Biology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf

Harriet Wikman, Professor, Group Leader, Center for Experimental Medicine, Institute of Tumor Biology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Vessela Kristensen, Professor, Department of Cancer Genetics, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital

Vessela Kristensen, Head of Research and Development and Director of Research at the Dept. of Medical Genetics, Oslo University Hospital, Norway. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Peter A. Fasching, Professor of Translational Gynecology and Obstetrics, University Hospital and Comprehensive Cancer Center Erlangen-EMN

Peter A. Fasching, Professor of Translational Gynecology and Obstetrics, University Hospital and Comprehensive Cancer Center Erlangen-EMN, Germany. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Karl Johan Malmberg, Professor, Group Leader Dept. of Cancer Immunology and Director STRAT-CELL, Oslo University Hospital, Norway.

Karl Johan Malmberg, Professor, Group Leader Dept. of Cancer Immunology and Director STRAT-CELL, Oslo University Hospital, Norway. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Michel Sadelain, Director, Center for Cell Engineering, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD, Professor, Director, Center for Cell Engineering, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Bjørn Tore Gjertsen, Consultant Hematology, Haukeland University Hospital, Norway.

Bjørn Tore Gjertsen, Professor of Hematology, Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO, Dept. of Clinical Science, University of Bergen, Norway. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Hermann Einsele, Professor, Chair, Dept. of Internal Medicine II, Head of the Clinical and Translational Research Program on Multiple Myeloma, Wuerzburg University Hospital

Hermann Einsele, Professor, Chair, Dept. of Internal Medicine II, Head of the Clinical and Translational Research Program on Multiple Myeloma, University Hospital Wuerzburg, Germany. Photo: Cameo UB Productions/Oslo Cancer Cluster

 

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Erna Solberg visits PCI Biotech

PDT/PCI application grant

Radforsk will distribute funding to photodynamic therapy and photochemical internalization (PDT/PCI) related research. Application deadline is March 1st 2020.

In 2020 a total of MNOK 1,25 will be distributed. The maximum amount given to a project is NOK 300 000. Employees at the Oslo University Hospital are welcome to apply.

Please see more details here: Guidelines for resources to PDT/PCI related research.

Applications, containing a description of the project, can be sent to:
Bente Prestegård: bp@radforsk.no

If you have received a grant for PDT/PCI projects previously, you must provide a project report with your new application.

Here you may read more on the projects funded last year.

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Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark med ny eierstruktur

Please scroll down for a version of this article in English.

Dette er endringene i eierstrukturen for Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Innovasjonspark og OCCI Holding AS i begynnelsen av 2020.

OCC Innovasjonspark har siden starten vært eid av Utstillingsplassen Eiendom AS (UPL), Industrifinans OCCI AS, Siva Eiendom, Oslo Cancer Cluster, Radiumhospitalets Legat for Kreftforskning og OBOS Eiendom.

OBOS solgte sin eierandel til øvrige eiere tidligere i 2019. I en ny transaksjon 13. januar 2020 solgte UPL og Industrifinans OCCI AS sine aksjer til en ny eier, OCCI Invest AS. I samme transaksjon har Oslo Cancer Cluster solgt en mindre prosentandel.

Et kraftsenter innen kreft

OCC Innovasjonspark ligger på Montebello i Oslo ved siden av Oslo Universitetssykehus Radiumhospitalet og Institutt for kreftforskning. Parken åpnet offisielt i august 2015.

Innovasjonsparken huser mange bedrifter som utvikler kreftbehandlinger og diagnostikk, deler av Oslo Universitetssykehus, Kreftregisteret, Radforsk, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Oslo Cancer Cluster og Ullern videregående skole.

UPL og Industrifinans OCCI AS har sammen med de øvrige eierne, gjennom sitt eierskap i OCCI Holding AS, vært med på å utvikle OCC Innovasjonspark til et kraftsenter innen kreft. UPL har også hatt prosjektansvar og ansvar for å forvalte eiendommen.

– Vi er svært takknemlig for de investorene som investerte i et risikoprosjekt, som var nytt og banebrytende før det åpnet, sier Jónas Einarsson, styremedlem i OCC Innovasjonspark og Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Innovasjonsparken er i dag utleid til viktige samfunnsfunksjoner, og har blitt en naturlig del av et viktig økosystem for kreftforskning i Norge.

Gir stafettpinnen videre

Som en del av sin strategi, gir tidligere eiere nå stafettpinnen videre til nye og langsiktige eiere i OCCI Invest AS. Selskapet er eid av solide eiere, og det er etablert og forvaltet av Pareto Securities AS.

– Konseptet til innovasjonsparken utvikler vi videre – med nye langsiktige investorer. De kan vente seg mye av framtidig utvikling her, og jeg ser fram til å utvikle prosjektet videre med nye og gamle eiere, sier Einarsson.

Tron Sanderud, administrerende direktør i UPL, er også stolt av prosjektet. UPL vil fortsette som forvalter av eiendommen inntil videre.

Nytt bygg planlagt

Innovasjonsparken består i dag av ca. 36 000 kvm kontorer, laboratorier, møterom, auditorier, undersøkelsesrom og videregående skole for over 900 elever.

– Vi har planlagt å bygge nye 7 000-8 000 kvm i andre byggetrinn. Dette bygget vil bli utviklet med nye og spennende prosjekter i samarbeid mellom akademiske institusjoner og industrien. Vi planlegger å starte prosjekteringen av det nye bygget i løpet av 2020, forteller Einarsson.

Nye eierandeler i januar 2020

OCCI Invest AS: 53.7 %
SIVA Eiendom Holding AS: 40,7 %
Radiumhospitalets legat for kreftforskning: 4.6 %
Oslo Cancer Cluster: 1,0 %

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park gains new owners

The following changes are being made to the ownership of Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Innovation Park and OCCI Holding AS as of the beginning of 2020.

OCC Innovation Park has since its opening been owned by Utstillingsplassen Eiendom AS (UPL), Industrifinans OCCI AS, Siva Eiendom, Oslo Cancer Cluster, Radiumhospitalets Legat for Kreftforskning and OBOS Eiendom.

OBOS sold their shares to the other owners earlier in 2019. In another transaction on 13 January 2020, UPL and Industrifinans OCCI AS sold their shares to a new owner, OCCI Invest AS. In the same transaction, Oslo Cancer Cluster has sold a smaller percentage of their shares.

A power centre in cancer

OCC Innovationpark is located in the Montebello area of Oslo, next to the Oslo University Hospital (Radiumhospitalet) and the Institute for Cancer Research. The park was officially opened in August 2015.

The Innovation Park houses many companies that develop cancer treatments and diagnostics, parts of Oslo University Hospital, the Cancer Registry of Norway, Radforsk, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School.

UPL and Industrifinans OCCI AS have together with the other owners, through their ownership in OCCI Holding AS, developed OCC Innovation Park to a power centre in cancer. UPL have also been responsible for projects and for managing the property.

“We are very thankful to the investors that invested in this risk project, which was new and ground-breaking before it opened,” said Jónas Einarsson, board member in OCC Innovation Park and Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The Innovation Park is today leased for important services to society and has become a natural part of an important ecosystem for cancer research in Norway.

Passing on the baton

As a part of their strategy, the former owners are now passing on the baton to new and long-term owners in OCCI Invest AS. The company is owned by solid owners and is established and managed by Pareto Securities.

“We are continuing to develop the concept of the Innovation Park – with new, long-term investors. They can expect a lot of future developments here and I look forward to develop this project further with new and current owners,” Einarsson said.

Tron Sanderud, CEO of UPL, is also proud of the project. UPL will continue as manager of the property.

New building planned

The Innovation Park today consists of approximately 36 000 square meters of offices, laboratories, meeting rooms, auditoriums, patient screening rooms and an upper secondary school with over 900 students.

“We have planned to build 7 000-8 000 square metres as part of the second construction phase. This new building will be developed with new and exciting projects in collaboration with academic institutions and the industry. We are planning to start the scheme for the new building during the course of 2020,” said Einarsson.

New shareholding as of January 2020

OCCI Invest AS: 53.7 %
SIVA Eiendom Holding AS: 40,7 %
Radiumhospitalets legat for kreftforskning: 4.6 %
Oslo Cancer Cluster: 1,0 %

 

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Simone Mester mentoring students in the lab.

Mentor meeting with Mester

A few lucky Ullern students got to learn about cancer research from the PhD student Simone Mester at Oslo University Hospital.

The science and research programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School is completely new and the 32 students in the first class have received four mentors who will share their knowledge and experience with them. Early in December, the students were divided among the four mentors and got to visit them at their workplaces to hear more about what they do.

Simone Mester is a former student of Ullern Upper Secondary School and is today a cancer researcher at Rikshospitalet (Oslo University Hospital). Along with the three other mentors from the Oslo Cancer Cluster ecosystem, she has agreed to be a mentor for the students of the science and research programme at Ullern. Earlier in December, eight students visited her at her job.

“This is where I work,” Simone said as we arrived at the Institute for Immunology, which is located right next to Rikshospitalet.

Simone began the visit by telling the students about her background and the road that led her to where she is today.

Simone Mester tells Ullern students about how she started to do cancer research.

Simone Mester (above to the left) tell the Ullern students that she is part of the SPARK programme at the University of Oslo. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“I graduated from Ullern in 2012. That is when I got to do two work placements at the Radium Hospital – in Clinical Radiation Biology and Tumour Biology. That was the first time I got an impression of what everyday life for a researcher can be like and it was exciting!” said Simone.

She says that she combined the subjects mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology so that she would be able to study medicine. But as the application date drew closer, she became more and more unsure.

“I talked with Ragni, who is your teacher too, and she recommended that I study molecular biology at the University of Oslo. At the time, I didn’t fully understand what I was getting myself into and especially why I had to study all that physics,” said Simone.

During the course of her bachelor degree, Simone was still unsure and spent a lot of time with advisers at the Institute of Biology to get guidance on the best way forward. She decided to study a master degree and was included in a research group led by professors Inger Sandlie and Jan Terje Andersen, where she remains today as she is completing her PhD.

Researching new cancer medicine

“During my master degree, I wrote about how to tailor the duration of the effect of medicines and pharmaceuticals, and that is what I am still researching in my PhD. A lot of my time here is in the laboratory, where I am planning and conducting experiments on cells and mice, to see if I can achieve what I want,” Simone said.

“Now, I will show you what I spend most of my time on. It is about making proteins, so now I will show you the principal, and afterwards you can try to do the same in the lab. Moreover, you will meet a master student, Anette Kolderup, who will tell you about CRISPR,” said Simone.

CRISPR is short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”. It is a family of DNA sequences found within the genomes of prokaryotic organisms, such as bacteria and archaea.

Quickly and pedagogical she shows the students the principals for modifying proteins through DNA modification, growing, amplifying and splitting cells.

“Now we will go to the lab, so you can try this yourselves,” said Simone.

We go one floor up, where there are offices and laboratories. The four girls go to Anette, who will show them what CRISPR is and how she uses the method in her master thesis, while the boys will start in the cell lab to make the same experiment that Simone just showed them.

Caption: Aleksander tries pipetting when he is working in the lab together with Simone. It is important to have a steady hand.

Aleksander tries to handle the pipette when he is working in the lab together with Simone. It is important to have a steady hand. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“Inside this hood, the work environment is completely sterile, so you need to wear lab coats and sanitize all the equipment and keep it inside the hood while we are working,” Simone explained.

Aleksander is the first to try and Simone shows him step by step how he can retrieve the proteins from a bottle she has prepared. Everyone soon understands that lab work is a craft that requires skillful hands. It is important to stay focused and remember which solutions that should be added and how, and when the pipettes should go on or off. Aleksander laughs when he has to change an unused pipette that he has touched, even with gloves on it is not allowed.

Then the students switch places and everyone gets to try their hands at everything. Two hours pass by quickly and a very happy group of students with their teacher Ragni leave to go home again.

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2019 written in fireworks

Our highlights 2019

Are you wondering what we have been up to during the last year?

2019 has been an eventful year for our organisation and our members. We want to put a spotlight on some of the main developments, including successful events that were held, ongoing and new projects, our political initiatives and a section on biotech news from our members. Scroll down to learn more about what we have done. Click the images or titles to access full articles.

The year in pictures

Link to article on Cancer Crosslinks 2019

Cancer Crosslinks

17 January 2019

We kicked off the year with our annual conference for the Norwegian oncology community, namely Cancer Crosslinks. We offered a full-day educational programme featuring distinguished international and national experts. They presented 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.


Link to article about Incubator Laboratory

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator expands the labs

1 March 2019

The year continued with more growth in the organisation. The Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator expanded its laboratories to meet increasing demand from members. The startups have been successful and were in need of more space to perform their research. After moving around some office spaces, and a lot of groundwork to get the infrastructure in place, the two new labs were opened in March. Later in the year, our Incubator was also named one of the Top 20 Best Incubators in Europe, by Labiotech.eu.


The White Paper on the Health Industry and our input

5 april 2019

This year a white paper on the health industry in Norway came out for the first time ever. This was an important event because the document underlined some of our key issues, such as attracting more clinical trials to Norway, making better use of Norwegian health data and opening up for more public – privat collaboration. It was first released in April and a committee hearing was held in June, whereupon the document was approved by parliament in October.


Link to DIGI-B-CUBE project's website

Launch of EU Horizon 2020 project DIGI-B-CUBE

1 May 2019

In May, we launched a new Horizon 2020 project called DIGI-B-CUBE. DIGI-B-CUBE will foster the development of customized solutions and prototypes by providing innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU and Associated Countries with access to vouchers of up to € 60,000. The voucher scheme will be launched in April 2020. Throughout the year, SMEs could engage in the project’s activities by participating in sectoral and cross-sectoral workshops as well as matchmaking sessions.


Link to article about Cambridge student's report and analysis

#InternationalClinicalTrialsDay

20 May 2019

This was also the first year that we celebrated International Clinical Trials Day on the 20 May 2019, because clinical trials are an important way for patients to gain access to new treatments. We wanted to put a spotlight on the lack of clinical trials in Norway and present some concrete suggestions on how this can be improved. So we asked for help from some of the brightest minds in the world! MBA students from Cambridge University agreed to write a report on patient recruitment to clinical trials in Norway, including incentives for how it can be improved.


Link to article on the event at Arendalsuka 2019.

Arendalsuka19 – Together for precision medicine

16 August 2019

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. 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.


Link to article about new researcher programme at Ullern.

New science and research programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School

17 August 2019

When the school year began, we were proud to announce the opening of a completely new science and research programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School. The programme is a collaboration between Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School. It is for students who wish to learn how researchers work. It will qualify students for university studies and specialise them in biomedical research, technology and innovation. Oslo Cancer Cluster will provide access to mentors, work placements and lectures.


Link to article on the Cancer Precision Medicine session at NLS days 2019.

NLS Days – Cancer Precision Medicine Session

12 September 2019

We were also present at the NLS Days in Malmö this year. We promoted the Norwegian life science industry and Nordic collaboration by standing together with other key players in one stand. This stand was visited by the Minister at the Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm. We also hosted the session on oncology titled “Cancer precision medicine: State-of-the-art and future directions”. The session covered recent advances in cancer immunotherapy and cell- and gene therapies.


 

TOP BIOTECH NEWS

The team of Vaccibody celebrating their recent successes. Click here to article about Vaccibody.

Vaccibody treats first patient with cervical cancer

23 February 2019

Our member Vaccibody has had an exciting year. From announcing that they have raised NOK 230 million in private placements, to showing proof-of-concept for their immunotherapy platform, called VB.10. Early in the year, they entered a clinical collaboration with pharma company Roche to test their treatment on patients with cervical cancer. During the summer, Vaccibody publicized that they had seen strong neo-antigen specific T cell responses in the patients of their clinical trials.


Woman in lab studying test tube samples. Click here to article about BerGenBio.

BerGenBio success with new treatment

3 April 2019

Our member BerGenBio has also had a successful year. Their immunotherapy drug bemcentinib has shown encouraging results in several clinical trials and they have received FDA Fast Track Approval. A Phase 2 combination trial for elderly patients with AML (acute myeloid leukemia) showed the treatment is well tolerated and has a promising efficacy. BerGenBio are also currently testing bemcentinib in combination with other immunotherapy drugs for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and melanoma (skin cancer).


Ultimovacs enter Oslo Stock Exchange. Click here for article about Ultimovacs.

Ultimovacs enters Oslo Stock Exchange

3 June 2019

Our member Ultimovacs, a Norwegian cancer vaccine company, raised NOK 370 million and entered the Oslo Stock Exchange. The funds will go to financing the development of their universal cancer vaccine, UV1. A large clinical study will document the effect of the vaccine. First for patients with malignant melanoma (a type of skin cancer) at around 30 hospitals in Norway, Europe, USA and Australia. Ultimovacs also announced a large randomised study for 118 patients with mesothelioma, which will be placed at six hospitals in the Nordics.


Image of Dr James Allison, Dr Padmanee Sharma. Click here for article about Lytix Biopharma.

Nobel laureate joins Lytix Biopharma board

14 June 2019

In June, our member Lytix Biopharma announced that the Nobel Laureate Dr James Allison and his wife oncologist Dr Padmanee Sharma will become strategic advisors for the company. 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. Richard Stratford and Dr. Trevor Clancy, founders of OncoImmunity. Click here for article about OncoImmunity.

OncoImmunity joins NEC corporation

2 August 2019

In the end of summer, the Japanese tech giant NEC Corporation acquired our member OncoImmunity AS, a Norwegian bioinformatics company that develops machine learning software to fight cancer. 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.


From all of us, to all of you …

A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

Olweus sitting in front of her laptop and smiling.

Olweus wins prestigious award

Professor Johanna Olweus has been awarded the ERC Consolidator Grant for her cancer research project on immunotherapy.

The Norwegian cancer researcher Johanna Olweus was awarded a prestigious grant from the European Research Council (ERC) last week, as the only Norwegian scientist within Life Sciences. Olweus is Head of Department of Cancer Immunology at the Institute for Cancer Research and Professor at the University of Oslo.

Olweus will receive 2 million euros over a 5-year-period for her research project in immunotherapy called “Outsourcing cancer immunity to healthy donors”.

“Immunotherapy has revolutionized the treatment of metastatic cancer the last few years,” said Olweus. “Still, there is no curative treatment for many patients.”

 

Donor technology to save lives

Olweus worked in transplantation immunology when she first thought of the idea behind her innovative research. She saw that organ rejection triggers powerful immune responses, which could be used in cancer treatments too.

“The mechanism behind this rejection is connected to differences in the immune systems between the donor and the recipient,” said Olweus. “We have shown that we can utilise this mechanism to reject cancer cells in the laboratory.”

The treatment she has developed evades the patient’s tolerance to his or her cancer cells by utilising the immune response of a donor.

“We are exploiting the differences in the immune systems to mimic the rejection response you see in organ rejection and we target it to a specific cell type,” Olweus explained.

Her research group takes T cells from a healthy donor. Then, they use their patent-protected technology to select T cells with anti-tumour reactivity from the repertoire of the donor’s T cells. They next identify the T cell receptors (TCRs) from the selected T cells that can efficiently recognise specific peptides (fragments of proteins) expressed by the cancer cell. Upon reinfusion into the patient, such TCRs can work like heat-seeking missiles. They will make the T cells search for the cancer cells and destroy them.

(Read more about T cell immunogene therapy further down in this article)

 

What’s next?

Olweus has already demonstrated evidence in pre-clinical experiments on human cells from cancer patients in the laboratory and in mice that the treatment can work. Now, she is in advanced planning stages for clinical trials, in which the treatment will be tested on cancer patients.

“This award means I have long-term funding to perform the project and can secure talented personnel to do the science,” Olweus said.

Olweus is also in the process of exploring the commercialization potential of the T cell receptors that her research group has generated. The group has secured a prestigious commercialisation grant from Novo Holdings to possibly start a company.

“We have developed TCRs that can work in multiple haematological cancers. First, we need to show clinical efficacy. In the long term, we hope to cure some of the patients for whom there is currently no cure,” said Olweus. “To get the science implemented in clinical trials is really crucial.”

Olweus stresses the need for manufacturing facilities in Norway for cell- and gene therapies. To achieve this, she thinks there needs to be collaboration between regulatory authorities, clinicians and researchers.

“It is important that the Nordic medicinal agencies seize the opportunity to establish these therapies in the front line to make them available to patients in the Nordic countries,” said Olweus. “The Nordic countries could have a great advantage if the regulatory authorities are working together with the clinicians, academic scientists and also with industrial partners in early testing of new cell- and gene therapies.”

The Department of Cancer Immunology and the Department of Cellular Therapy have advanced plans for establishment of infrastructure for production of cells for gene therapy at Oslo University Hospital Radiumhospitalet in Oslo.

 

What is immunogene therapy based on T cells?

Olweus’ research is in a special area of cancer treatments called immunotherapy. This involves harnessing the patient’s immune system to create a response that will destroy cancer cells.

One category of immunotherapy is immunogene therapy. The first example of immunogene therapy that was approved by the FDA in 2017 involves the use of so-called CARs (chimeric antigen receptors), targeting CD19.

The process starts with the harvesting of the patient’s white blood cells from their blood, containing T cells. Then, the T cells are genetically modified in the lab to equip the cells with immune receptors that can target a molecule specific for B cells. Upon reinfusion into the patient’s blood, these T cells can then find the cancer cells and kill them, based on recognition of the B cell molecule called CD19.

This type of therapy has been immensely successful, curing up to 40-50% of patients that were previously incurable. The treatment has worked for patients with B cell cancers, such as B cell acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and B cell lymphoma.

Image describing CAR T cell therapy.

The complete process of CAR T cell therapy to treat cancer. Illustration: National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)

Not yet a cure for all patients

In spite of the great success of immunotherapies, such as checkpoint inhibition and CAR therapies, there is still no curative treatment option for the majority of patients with metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread). Checkpoint inhibition and various vaccination strategies rely on the patient’s own immune system, which often is insufficient in the end. In CAR therapies, the patient’s T cells are equipped with a reactivity that they did not have before, which can mediate cures. However, CAR 19 therapy does not cure 50-60% of patients with B cell cancers. Moreover, in spite of year-long efforts, no CAR therapy has yet been approved for other cancers than B cell cancers.

“The main reason is that there is a lack of good targets, which are highly expressed on the cancer cells and can be safely targeted,” said Olweus. “In the case of CARs targeting CD19, the normal and malignant B cells are killed alike, as CD19 is a normal, cell-type specific protein. This is, however, tolerated by the patient as we can live without normal B cells for prolonged periods. So you need to be sure that you can live without the normal counterpart of the cancer cell.”

CARs can only recognize targets in the cell membrane of the cancer cell. In contrast, a T cell receptor (TCR) is an alternative immune receptor that can recognise targets independently of where in the cell they are. Since more than 90% of proteins are inside the cell, gene therapy utilizing therapeutic TCRs can vastly increase the number of potential targets.

“The challenge for identification of therapeutic TCRs that target cell-type specific proteins is that the T cells in our own body have been trained to not recognise them,” said Olweus. “If not, we would all have autoimmunity. The technology we have developed can solve this challenge by utilization of donor T cells, that have not been trained not to recognize cells from another individual. This is where the mechanism of transplant rejection comes to use.”

There are two main challenges researchers are faced with when improving T cell therapy. The first is to identify new targets that are abundant in the cancer cells and can be safely targeted. The second is to identify immune receptors that recognize the targets with high efficacy and precision. Olweus’ research aims to answer both of these challenges.

 

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Students at the DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference.

Students helped create podcast

Our school collaboration project inspires science and health communication.

Ullern students were thrown head first into a live work environment this week. They gave technical assistance to the making of the podcasts Radium and Utbytte at the DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference 2019.

All the students are currently studying the media and communications program at Ullern Upper Secondary School, including a class on sound design. As an extra subject, they also started their own youth companies Marconi Media UB and Audio Mind UB.

Radium held a podcast marathon together with the DNB podcast Utbytte at this year’s conference, with six different sessions, interviewing CEOs and investors. Throughout the day, the Ullern students were expected to sound check, record, and edit the podcast – all on their own.

The students attended a planning meeting one week earlier. They also arrived the evening before to rig the set: a glass studio in the middle of the conference area.

The participants in the podcast Radium and Utbytte at DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference 2019 in the glass studio.

The Ullern students helped to rig the podcast studio the night before the conference.

“It is a really nice experience, because we are thrown into the real word and do things in practice,” Andrea Asbø Dietrichson from Marconi Media UB explained. “We have to do everything ourselves, even though we are beginners, but we are learning!”

“It has been interesting to hear what they are talking about (in the studio) and learn how it is to work during such a big event,” Theo Rellsve from Audio Mind UB added. “It is the largest event we have been to, with lots of people and things happening all the time. We are happy to take part!”

Ullern students recording the podcasts Radium and Utbytte at DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference

The Ullern students had to think on their feet to solve problems while recording the podcast.

 

The aim of the school collaboration project between Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster is to inspire students to develop their talents. One aspect of the project is to give students a taste of what real working life is like.

“Personally, I would like to work in media,” Andrea said. “It is really inspiring to be here. Media and communications is a broad subject, but sound design is something not a lot of people know.”

“Audiomind has a clear vision about our future as a company. We are happy that we can get this experience and use it towards developing the company further,” Theo said. “… And create the best podcast recording company in Norway.”

Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen, Communications Specialist for Radforsk and one of the persons behind the podcast Radium, was very satisfied with the work the students had performed. She gave them a top score.

“They have everything under complete control,” she said. “It is really fun to see their learning curve. They only studied sound design for a few months, but they have already helped at two live shows and they are always calm and service-minded.”

Student helping in the glass studio.

Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen was impressed by how helpful and service-minded the students from Ullern were.

Want to find out more?

 

DNB Nordic Health Care Conference

DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference 2019

DNB are promoting start-ups in the Nordic healthcare sector!

This week, DNB is arranging the annual conference The DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference 2019 in Oslo. It is an opportunity for Norwegian health start-ups to connect with the investor environment and it is an important platform to promote the Nordic healthcare sector.

Start-up prize

One of the highlights of the event is the DNB Healthcare Prize, which is awarded every year to an early-stage healthcare company within pharmaceuticals, biotech, diagnostics, medtech and eHealth.

The companies are evaluated based on their innovation capacity, business potential and an ability to execute their strategy. They also have the opportunity to present their business cases in the semi-finals.

This year, our general manager Ketil Widerberg will be the moderator for the session with the six finalists for the fifth DNB Healthcare Prize. DNB’s Trine Loe, Head of Future and Tech Industries, will announce the winner of the prize.

Our job in Oslo Cancer Cluster is to accelerate the development of cancer treatments. By connecting investors and companies in many great projects each year, the DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference contributes to accelerating this development too.” Ketil Widerberg, General Manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster

Podcast studio

For the first time ever, there will be a glass studio recording live interviews with CEOs, analysts and opinion makers about the healthcare sector in the Nordics during the event.

This is a collaboration between the DNB podcast “Utbytte” and the Radforsk podcast “Radium”.

They will be interviewing relevant participants during the conference and receive technical assistance from Ullern Upper Secondary students.

Company presentations

We are also delighted that several of our members are attending this event.

The following of our members will be presenting in Auditorium 2: Nordic Nanovector, Photocure, Ultimovacs, Targovax and PCI Biotech.

Zelluna Immunotherapy and Vaccibody are part of a separate session in Meeting room C2 on Potential IPO candidates.

Don’t miss the presentations on their exciting cancer research!

Please visit the official DNB website to view the full agenda.

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Two of the speakers discussing with each other and laughing..

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

Image of researchers attending Nature Café on T cell immunotherapy in Oslo.

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.

Two researchers in the audience asking questions.

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.

Three researchers in the audience discussing with each other.

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 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

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

 

Attilio Bondanza, who is a physician-scientist and the CAR T cell program leader at Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research in Basel, Switzerland.

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

 

Sara Mastaglio, who is a physician scientist specialising in haematology at San Raffaele Scientific Institute, in Milan

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

 

Aude Chapuis, who is an assistant member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle

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.

Sponsor logos: Novartis Oncology, ThermoFisher Scientific and Celgene

Bjellesermoni Oslo Børs PCI Biotech

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.

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Image of Kaare Norum.

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.

 

Image of Jonas Einarsson and Kaare Norum.

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

A cancer doctor speaking to a room of students.

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

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Image of Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

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

 

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Two persons working in front a two laptops.

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 logo

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 logo

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 logo

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 logo

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 logo

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.

 

Photo of the audience at the opening of EHiN 2019.

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

 

Photo from the panel discussion on health data at EHiN 2019.

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.

 

Photo of the expo area during EHiN 2019.

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!

 

Thomas Andersson, Senior Adviser, Business Development, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator

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

 

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Jonas Einarsson and Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen, from RADFORSK, are the two people behind the podcast Radium.

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!

 

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Ketil Widerberg, general manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

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.

 

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The mentors of the student research program at Ullern Upper Secondary School meet the students for the first time.

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.”

 

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Image of the front page of the booklet "Cancer in Norway 2018"

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

 

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Björn Klem and Janne Nestvold celebrate that the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has been nominated among Europe's 20 best incubators.

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? 

 

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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, CEO of Syklotronsenteret ("the Norwegian medical cyclotron centre"), talks to Ullern students.

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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Mandag 7. oktober la finansminister Siv Jensen (til venstre) fram nasjonalbudsjettet og et forslag til Stortinget om statsbudsjett for 2020. Foto: Stortinget

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.

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Bente Prestegård from Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ragni Fet from Ullern Upper Secondary School with two of the students in the research program.

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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The panel discussion at the Precision Medicine session at NLS Days 2019.

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.

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.”

The Norway for life science stand at NLS days 2019.

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:

 

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Geir Harstad, CEO of Smartfish,

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.

 

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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:

 

 

 

 

 

Sune Justesen and Stephan Thorgrimsen from 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.

 

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Dr. Richard Stratford and Dr. Trevor Clancy, founders of OncoImmunity

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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Two women working on two laptops and smiling.

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 logo

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!

 

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Three new board members of Oslo Cancer Cluster: Per Morten Sandset, Gunhild M. Maelandsmo and Cathrine Lofthus

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

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

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

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.

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.

International Cancer Cluster Showcase 2019

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.

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:

Boehringer Ingelheim logoDNB logoeaec logo

Precision for medicine logo Takeda logo

 

The event was organised by:

Logos of the event organisers

Ultimovacs enter Oslo 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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Emmy and Benedicte learned about research into neuroscience and how to use modern medical technology, such as CRISPR, when on work placement with researcher Marianne Fyhn and her colleagues at the University of Oslo. Photo: Monica Jenstad

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.

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.

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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Lab researcher from Nordic Nanovector

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.

 

KUR programming event for teachers to learn to teach programming.

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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Image of taking tests in the lab.

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

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.

 

Image of DNA spiral.

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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Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster.