Fighting the pandemic of antimicrobial resistance

This is the first article in the new series the Start-up Spotlight, which features the most promising start-ups from the Norwegian health clusters.

AdjuTec Pharma is preparing the company’s First-in-Human phase I clinical trial.

The Norwegian start-up company AdjuTec Pharma has developed a new antibiotic product in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is now ready to be tested in humans. The final product will be administered intravenously to severely ill patients infected with bacteria resistant to existing treatments.

AMR is a global challenge, where increasing number of pathogenic bacteria become resistant to existing antibiotics. Despite the relatively low number of AMR cases in Norway compared to other countries, there is a rise in AMR-affected individuals, according to a 2023 report from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

“Antimicrobial resistance is threatening modern healthcare. Physicians are running out of last-resort antibiotics for treatment of high-risk infections and as prophylaxis in for example cancer therapy and major surgical procedures” commented Bjørn Klem, CEO of AdjuTec Pharma.

Eliminating the bacteria’s defense

AdjuTec Pharma has developed APC148, an enzyme inhibitor that works on gram negative bacteria. Gram negative bacteria are resistant to multiple antibiotics and listed by the World Health Organisation as the leading cause of deadly bacterial infections in the world.

“Bacteria defend themselves by producing enzymes that destroy antibiotics. APC148 inhibits these enzymes and thereby protects the antibiotic. This restores the activity of the antibiotic – saving patients’ lives,” explained Bjørn Klem.

Based on cutting-edge Norwegian research

The unique technology was developed by Professor Pål Rongved’s research group at the University of Oslo. Rongved is the founder of AdjuTec Pharma and was supported by Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator to negotiate a licensing agreement with the University of Oslo and for obtaining the initial private funding.

The product has already been tested and validated in animal models. Now the phase IA trial will determine how APC148 behaves in the human body (pharmacokinetics) and evaluate the safety of the compound. The trial will involve groups of healthy volunteers who will receive single escalating doses. The first results are expected already early 2025. The phase IB trial starting in 2025 will then investigate how the APC148 works in combination with a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

Adjutec Pharma is a part of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and currently located at Rebel in Oslo. Photo: Fartein Rudjord

A one-of-a-kind invention

Bacteria produce two kinds of enzymes, serine-ß-lactamases (SBLs) and metallo-ß-lactamases (MBLs). There are SBL-inhibitor products on the market, however no MBL-inhibitor products.

“APC148 has a unique mechanism-of-action versus other MBL-inhibitor products in pipeline making this a first-in-class product candidate,” said Bjørn Klem.

AdjuTec Pharma has ambitious plans for the enzyme inhibitor, aiming to combine it with various antibiotics.

“APC148 can be combined with different broad-spectrum antibiotics, including carbapenems and cephalosporins. After intravenous administration, APC148 should preferably have comparable pharmacokinetics, meaning plasma profile, distribution and route of elimination from the human body as the antibiotic. There should be no interactions between the compounds,” explained Bjørn Klem.

Commercial opportunity

AMR is growing at an alarming rate and MBL-producing bacteria will be a big challenge to the health care system for years. There is therefore a high unmet medical need targeting the class of bacteria enzymes called MBLs.

“Hardly any modern antibiotics on the market work against MBL-producing bacteria and we now have a technology at hand that can become a game-changer,” commented Bjørn Klem.

The series The Start-up Spotlight and The Scale-up Spotlight are produced in collaboration between the Norwegian health clusters: Norway Health Tech, Oslo Cancer Cluster, The Norwegian Smart Care Cluster, The Life Science Cluster and Biotech North. The initiative was funded by Viken fylkeskommune. Please contact us, if you wish to have your company to be featured.

ECHOS gathers Europe against cancer

An international cancer collaboration is paving the way to improve the lives of 3 million people.

For one year, ECHOS members have been working together to establish cancer mission hub structures across Europe. The project, which has received €6 million in funding from Horizon Europe, brings together 57 organisations in 28 countries and covers the entire cancer ecosystem. They will ensure that the EU’s efforts in the cancer field have an impact. The project is holding its General Assembly at The Oncology Institute “Prof. Dr I. Chiricuta” in Cluj-Napoca in Romania this week.

We spoke to two key contributors to the project, Anabela Isidro, coordinator from AICIB, an organisation for clinical research and biomedical innovation in Portugal, and Bettina Ryll, strategist for Vision Zero Cancer, a cross-sectional innovation environment against cancer in Sweden.

“Now we’re planting the seeds, developing models for the national hub structures and starting to understand how to involve stakeholders and citizens.”

“Now we’re planting the seeds, developing models for the national hub structures and starting to understand how to involve stakeholders and citizens,” says Anabela. “We’re working on spreading the word about the social mission on cancer and what we can do to improve the lives of 3 million people. We’ve been to several countries and had dialogues with stakeholders at regional and local levels about how they can be involved in the work. Citizens are also important here, as is the exchange of experiences between countries. We are now sharing the good examples and learning from each other.”

ECHOS is now in its second year, and the contours of what the project can develop into are beginning to emerge. The partners have spent time getting to know and understand the concept of the social mission. They have learned where they have advantages and where there are shortcomings. There are big differences between the countries and there is a lot to learn from each other. The hope is that the hubs will become even bigger and reach even more people.

“There is now an international community working together, building consortia and collaborating on ideas that we didn’t have before.”

“Everyone is impatient, and we want to see direct results for patients right away. We forget that today we have momentum for the cancer cause in Europe that we haven’t had before. There is now an international community working together, building consortia and collaborating on ideas that we didn’t have before. Without Cancer Mission, we wouldn’t have this,” says Bettina Ryll, who has a research background and is a committed advocate for cancer patients and their families.

ECHOS also focuses on establishing lasting structures that ensure that the various communities can unite in the fight against cancer, even if the political attention disappears. Those involved recognize that there are many disease groups that deserve increased attention, and the progress on cancer can pave the way for these. Oslo Cancer Cluster, The Research Council of Norway and the Norwegian Cancer society among others are actively contributing to the project from Norway.

57 organizations from 28 countries are participating in the project ECHoS – Establishing of Cancer Mission Hubs: Networks and Synergies. The group in the photo were present at the General Assembly that took place in Cluj-Napoce, Romania, June 17-19 this year. Photo: Astrid Bjerke



About ECHoS

ECHoS is a European project, funded by Horizon Europe Programme. It aims at supporting the implementation of the Cancer Mission activities in all Member State and Associated Country (MS/AC) through the establishment and development of National Cancer Mission Hubs (NCMHs) operating at national, regional, and local levels.

Read more on the ECHoS website.

Harnessing AI for cancer prevention and treatment

A new project proposes to use the power of artificial intelligence to improve cancer prevention and treatment in Norway.

NEXTMAP is a state-of-the-art project aimed at revolutionising cancer care through advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems. The project proposal was recently submitted to the Norwegian Research Council by Oslo Cancer Cluster and a wide network of national and international partners.

“NEXTMAP aims to transform cancer care by integrating innovative AI methodologies to predict and manage complex medical events. This endeavor is rooted in the promise of AI to offer more precise and timely interventions, improving patient outcomes while optimising healthcare resources,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The multidisciplinary collaboration gathers leading researchers from across Norway, including NTNU, the University of Bergen, Vestre Viken, the Arctic University of Norway, the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital, uniting expertise from various fields to foster innovation in cancer research and AI development. International partners include University of Oxford and University of Cambridge.

Predicting the future

The core team consists of Ole Christian Lingjærde, Professor and Head of Scientific Computing and Machine Learning group at University of Oslo, and Tarjei Hveem, PhD, Interim Head of Institute for Cancer Genetics and Informatics, along with Widerberg.

The project will make use of cutting-edge AI techniques, such as advanced multimodal models for integration of different types of content, transfer learning, multi-agent systems that enable complex problem solving through collaboration of multiple AI agents, and generative AI for content creation. Using AI we will be able to transform a sequence of past health-related events for a patient into a unified representation,” commented Lingjærde.

The primary focus is on enhancing cancer prevention, diagnostics, and treatment, with potential applications extending across various sectors and industries.

“To optimise treatment and follow-up for the individual patients in the future we have to ‘learn from every patient’. In a situation with more and more complex and detailed data from several sources, artificial intelligence will be the answer to that challenge,” commented Sigbjørn Smeland, Head of the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

Using Norwegian data

NEXTMAP involves developing a foundation model for cancer medicine, leveraging extensive hospital records, national cancer registries, public databases, and scientific publications. This foundation model will be capable of considering the impact of medical actions on patients, the healthcare system, and society, even when data is incomplete or multimodal.

“AI by deep learning is a game changer in most fields, including cancer pathology. The new algorithms can automate manual tasks in pathology. They can guide the pathologist in their work. Furthermore, they can perform tasks exceeding pathologists’ routine capacities, such as the prediction of patient survival directly from the routine HE-section. With the digitalisation of pathology in Norwegian hospitals, the potential in AI-supported pathology can finally be realised,” commented Hveem.

According to the proposal, the project will ensure that ethical considerations, data privacy, fairness, and explainability are integral to the AI systems. The project team is committed to adhering to stringent ethical guidelines and regulations.

Full list of project partners with representatives:

  • Arctic University of Norway: Therese H. Nøst, Tonje Braathen, Torkjel Sandanger
  • Cancer Registry of Norway: Jan F. Nygård, Solveig Hofvind
  • Oslo Cancer Cluster: Ketil Widerberg
  • Vestre Viken Hospital Trust: Kristine Sahlberg
  • NTNU: Mette Langaas, Thea Bjørnland, Pål Sætrom, Åsmund Flobak
  • University of Bergen: Leif Oltedal
  • University of Magdeburg: Alexander Binder
  • University of Oslo: Arnoldo Frigessi, Jim Tørresen, John-Michael Gran, Kai Ellefsen, Kjetil Røysland, Magne Thoresen, Manuela Zucknick, Ole Christian Lingjærde, Valeria Vitelli
  • University of Oxford: David Kerr
  • University of Cambridge: Sylvia Richardson
  • Norwegian Cancer Society
  • Oslo University Hospital: Andreas Kleppe, Eivind Hovig, Gunhild Mælandsmo, Inger Nina Farstad, Karsten Eilertsen, Kjetil Taskén, Mads Haugen, Ole-Johan Skrede, Olivier Boissou, Sigbjørn Smeland, Tarjei Hveem, Tero Aittokallio, Torje Vegar Pedersen, Vessela Kristensen, Åslaug Helland

Summer vibes in our house

Colleagues in the cancer field celebrated the start of summer at Oslo Cancer Cluster yesterday.

The annual summer gathering at Oslo Cancer Cluster brought together researchers, clinicians, innovators, industry representatives, politicians, and more, for a festive event on 13 June.

“Cancer affects us all. It does not discriminate by age, gender or nationality. This shared challenge calls for a united front, bringing together researchers, practicioners, industry leaders, and policymakers nationally and from around the world. Oslo Cancer Cluster has successfully created a vibrant eco-system where such multidisciplinary collaborations can flourish, driving forward the frontiers of cancer research and treatment. Your work and efforts are important both today and for future generations,” said State Secretary Ivar Bühring Prestbakmo, Ministry of Education & Research, in his opening remarks.

State Secretary Ivar Bühring Prestbakmo, Ministry of Education & Research, gave the opening remarks. Photo: Margit Selsjord

The first part of the event included short presentations from new members and a variety of older members. There was also an overview of upcoming events and an outlook on Oslo Cancer Cluster’s future activities.

The second part was dedicated to delicious afternoon coffee and networking among friendly colleagues. The attendees made new connections, exchanged knowledge with one another, and got a well-deserved break during this hectic summer month.

New members

Levanger Hospital and Cody AS were presented as the most recent additions to the cluster.

The Levanger Hospital has extensive research activity, with 117 peer-reviewed papers last year and many PhDs every year. The cancer department has six doctors and ten nurses. They see 600 patients and perform 6000 consultations every year. They have 13 ongoing trials and participate in many national trials as well.

Oluf D. Røe, MD, PhD, Professor, Department of Oncology, Levanger Hospital, presented the hospitals cancer research activities. Photo: Margit Selsjord

“It has been a pleasure to work with Oslo Cancer Cluster for several years on the Cancer Biomarker Symposium. Biomarkers has been one of the important areas I focus on, especially for early diagnosis and prediction of treatment. We have support from the Norwegian Cancer Society for the E-Lung Project, in which we have developed models to pick the right persons for screening. Instead of treating people in the last stage, we can cure people in the early stage. We are also developing an app for general practicioners to help motivate patients to stop smoking,” commented Oluf D. Røe, MD, PhD, Professor, Department of Oncology, Levanger Hospital.

Cody AS is an engineering firm that develops, designs, and constructs customized production equipment. The company is a primary supplier of specially designed solutions for pharmaceutical production and the radiopharmaceutical industry in Norway.

Magnus S. Larsen, Head of Sales, Cody, gave insights in Cody’s contributions to radiopharmaceutical production. Photo: Margit Selsjord

Cody has been closely involved with the pharmaceutical and radiopharmaceutical industry for many years, contributing to most stages of development and production. This includes research on manufacturing processes, to custom hot cell and lab equipment, as well as full-scale GMP production and packaging machinery. For the best possible results for our customers, it is instrumental for us to be involved as early as possible. We find that getting to know the core technology is essential to developing simple and robust solutions,” said Magnus S. Larsen, Head of Sales, Cody.

NorTrials update

Signe Ø. Fretland,  Head of NorTrials Coordinating Unit, Oslo University Hospital, also gave an update. NorTrials is one of several initiatives in the National Action Plan on Clinical Trials launched in 2021, and is a private-public partnership to strengthen the collaboration between the healthcare industry and the Norwegian healthcare system.

“The global competition to attract clinical trials to Europe from pharma and medtech companies, and the challenge for Norway to stand out as a preferred country, has been increasing over the past decade,” commented Fretland.

Signe Ø. Fretland,  Head of NorTrials Coordinating Unit, Oslo University Hospital provided a look into the status on clinical trials in Norway. Photo: Margit Selsjord

“One key to succeed is collaboration; a close partnership between healthcare and industry, but also with academia and patients, is fundamental to create an attractive environment for clinical trials. I am sure that Oslo Cancer Cluster has been and will be playing an important role in this aspect,” added Fretland.

Radforsk website launched

The day also marked the launch of the new Radforsk website and logo. Radforsk is an early-stage evergreen investment fund dedicated to oncology, and one of the most successful pre-seed investment firms in Europe.

Please click the fresh logo below to access the brand-new website.


We hope to see you again as our activities pick up again in the autumn – with Arendalsuka, Nordic Life  Science Days, the Intelligent Health Conference, Lung Cancer Symposium, BIO-Europe, EHiN and many more exciting events to come. Please visit our Event calendar to get more information.