Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster

New political paper: Action Plan for Clinical Studies

The Norwegian government wants to double the number of clinical studies by 2025, but is this goal ambitious enough?

The highly anticipated political paper “Action Plan for Clinical Studies (2021-2025)” was released in Norway by the Ministry of Health and Care Services this week. The government’s vision is to make clinical studies an integrated part of patient care.

A clinical study is a type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches, such as screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatments, work in people.

The action plan is the first of its kind and has been requested by researchers, clinicians, the health industry and patient organisations for several years.

The number of clinical studies in Norway is on a negative, spiralling trend. This is especially alarming for cancer patients, who are eager to receive novel treatments.

The Norwegian Health Minister Bent Høie now sets the goal to double the number of clinical studies in Norway and include 5% of all patients in the specialist health services before 2025.

“The action plan includes many important points, we believe the bar should be raised higher,” commented Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

“Our goal should be to make clinical studies available for all cancer patients in Norway – not just a small fraction.”

The government also announced in the State Budget proposal in October 2020 that NOK 30 million will be allocated through the NorTrials scheme. The funds will be used to employ study nurses and improve competency in clinical research.

The Norwegian Health Minister also calls for a change in work culture, in order to make clinical trials an integrated part of patient treatment.

Another major obstacle is the difficulty to recruit patients quickly. The regional health authorities are now tasked with developing a best practice for patient recruitment.

Oslo Cancer Cluster contributed input to the development of this political paper in September 2019. Our major suggestions included:

  • the need for financial incentives to improve patient recruitment,
  • establishing Norway and the Nordic countries as an international testbed for innovative medicine,
  • authorities to collaborate with industry on guidelines on how to approve precision medicine treatments and the documentation requirements.

Read our entire input here (in Norwegian): Innspill Kliniske Studier til Helse- og omsorgsdepartementet (September 2019) fra Oslo Cancer Cluster

 

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Dr Deborah Owen, Partner, Dehns. Photo: Dehns

Dehns acquires Norwegian office

Our member Dehns announced this week that the company will set up a local office in Oslo.

The law firm Dehns has acquired the Norwegian Intellectual Property consultancy firm Leogriff. This means Dehns will now have an active Norwegian presence with a local office in Oslo.

Dehns is a law firm specialized in patents and trademarks. Dehns’ attorneys have insight in many different technologies in the engineering, chemistry and biotechnology sectors.

With this acquisition, Dehns gains the highly-experienced Leogriff team with all their additional competencies, skills and expertise in Intellectual Property. Leogriff’s clients include companies, investors, research institutes and universities.

What does this mean for Norwegian companies in cancer innovation and life science?

“Companies in the cancer field and life science sector face many challenges and need an excellent network of advisors to navigate these successfully.”
Dr Deborah Owen, Partner, Dehns.

“Intellectual Property (IP) issues are key to such companies at all stages, and we are delighted that the opening of the Dehns’ Norwegian office provides an expansion of the Dehns’ team to provide even greater experience and expertise in areas relating to IP management and strategy consultancy, which will be of real benefit to Norwegian companies of all sizes in these sectors,” continued Owen.

Dehns was founded in 1920 and is one of Europe’s leading firms of patent and trademark attorneys. The company has more than 230 staff across 8 offices: London, Munich, Oxford, Brighton, Manchester, Bristol, Sandwich and, now, Oslo.

Dr Adrian Samuels, Partner, Dehns. Photo: Dehns

Dr Adrian Samuels, Partner, Dehns. Photo: Dehns

“We are delighted that, having been working closely with Norwegian innovators and industry leaders for over half a century, Dehns’ ongoing success will be supported by this direct investment in Norway.”
Adrian Samuels, Partner, Dehns.

For more information, please read Dehns’ press release or visit Dehns official website.

Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs

New clinical study in ovarian cancer

Our member Ultimovacs has announced a new Phase II clinical trial for ovarian cancer patients.

DOVACC is a new clinical study from Ultimovacs that will investigate the effect of combining the cancer vaccine UV1 with a checkpoint inhibitor and a PARP inhibitor in patients with ovarian cancer.

This is the first time this type of combination treatment is tested in a clinical study. Patients with advanced ovarian cancer, who have relapsed after receiving two rounds of chemotherapy treatment are eligible for the study.

The study will be sponsored by the Nordic Society for Gynaecological Oncology – Clinical Trial Unit (NSGO-CTU). This group is a part of the European Network of Gynaecological Oncological Trial Groups (ENGOT), which is also a part of the study.

“The collaboration with the NSGO-CTU and ENGOT is exciting for us as they are very experienced with conducting clinical trials in the field of gynaecological oncology. Their expertise and network will support the recruitment of patients at multiple participating study sites across Europe,” commented Jens Bjørheim, Chief Medical Officer at Ultimovacs.

The global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, will contribute with two different cancer drugs to the study. These include the checkpoint inhibitor durvalumab and the PARP inhibitor Olaparib.

Ultimovacs is evaluating the company’s universal cancer vaccine UV1 and has also received NOK 10 million from Innovation Norway.

“A key benefit of UV1 is its safety profile, which enables a triple combination study with a PD-L1 inhibitor and now for the first time also with a PARP inhibitor, in an indication in desperate need of new treatment options,” commented Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs.

“The evaluation of UV1, durvalumab and olaparib in this Phase II triple combination study is an important next step in changing the standard of care for patients with ovarian cancer,” added Dr. Mansoor Raza Mirza, Medical Director of the NSGO-CTU and Chair of the ENGOT.

DOVACC is a randomised study, which will include 184 patients. The study is divided into three control arms, or patient groups. The first group includes 46 patients who will receive PARP inhibitor. The second group includes 46 patients who will receive both the PARP inhibitor and the checkpoint inhibitor. The third group includes 92 patients who will receive UV1 and both AstraZeneca drugs.

The multi-centre study will be held at more than 30 hospitals in about 10 countries in Europe.

The first patient will be recruited during the first half of 2021 and results are expected in 2023.

Ultimovacs currently have a broad clinical development programme, with over 500 patients enrolled in Phase II trials.

Read more in the press release from Ultimovacs

 

Landmark public-private agreement for precision cancer medicine

Scroll down to read the press release in Norwegian.

While more than 30 000 Norwegians are diagnosed with cancer every year and the incidence is still increasing, more precise treatments can save lives. CONNECT is a new initiative aiming to ensure that precision medicine reaches the patients.

“A serious cancer disease is an existential challenge for the individual. Cancer research gives hope. The pharmaceutical industry and the public health sector, clinicians and executive authorities, have to collaborate to offer new treatments, balancing the latest research with hospital operations,” says Åsmund Flobak, Oncologist at St Olav’s Hospital, Trondheim University Hospital.

The new initiative, called CONNECT (Norwegian Precision Cancer Medicine Implementation Consortium), is a direct response to Health Minister Bent Høie’s political guidance to accelerate the implementation of precision medicine for Norwegian patients. It also responds to the Health Minister’s ambition to increase research and collaboration between public and private actors, including hospitals, other public stakeholders, the Norwegian Cancer Society, and the pharmaceutical industry.

CONNECT is one of four interconnected initiatives that will ensure infrastructure and collaboration on diagnostics, clinical trials, implementation of advanced precision medicine and use of health data e.g. for health economics analysis. This could eventually affect how Nye Metoder (The National System for Managed Introduction of New Health Technologies within the Specialist Health Service in Norway) is adapted for personalized medicine and treatments for small patient groups in cancer.

See the fact boxes about the different initiatives at the bottom of this page.

Precision medicine for the future

Precision medicine, or personalised medicine, is a type of treatment tailored to the individual patient based on individual diagnostic and clinical information. In simple words, it is about giving the right treatment to the right patient at the right time.

“The research front is continuously moving forward. With modern technology, today’s clinicians can analyse specific changes in the cancer of each patient. There are individual changes in a patient’s tumour that can be treated with targeted therapies tailored to every individual patient,” says Bjørn Tore Gjertsen, Director of Research at Haukeland University Hospital, Helse Bergen Health Trust.

“Precision medicine changes healthcare. The implementation of precision medicine requires new types of interactions and partnerships among patients, clinicians, companies, regulators, and payors. CONNECT is a new public-private partnership allowing all stakeholders to jointly address key obstacles and piloting novel solutions,“ says Jutta Heix, Project Manager for CONNECT and Head of International Affairs at Oslo Cancer Cluster.

A nationwide effort towards a common goal

CONNECT is a unique national partnership where the central players join forces to accelerate the implementation of precision medicine.

All six university hospitals in Norway are partners in CONNECT. More than ten leading pharmaceutical companies have joined the initiative so far. As representative for patients, the Norwegian Cancer Society will play a central role.

“We are also having a good dialogue with the Norwegian Directorate of Health, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Medicines Agency about participating in CONNECT and contributing with their competency. The Institute of Public Health joins as an observer from the start and the Directorate of Health has expressed an intention to join as an observer as well,” says Kjetil Tasken, Head and Director of the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital.

Karen Marie Ulshagen, Area Director at the Norwegian Medicines Agency, says in a comment that the Medicines Agency supports the project and intends to engage.

“A culture for public-private collaboration is not created through strategic plans, political ambitions or celebratory speeches, but through actions and behaviours that set a new standard. CONNECT is not about money or donating pharmaceuticals. It is the combined expertise of the different players and agencies that will increase the competency essential to ensure the implementation of precision medicine. Novartis is happy to participate, and I think that is true for the other industry players too,” says Lars Petter Strand, Head of Medical, Novartis Oncology Norway. He has worked closely together with representatives from Roche, BMS and Merck in the working group for CONNECT.

CONNECT and the associated public initiatives work towards common goals: giving patients access to medicines they otherwise wouldn’t receive, increasing the precision medicine experience of clinicians and researchers nationwide, generating data and insights important for analysing the outcomes and adopting health technology assessments for these new treatment concepts. Via CONNECT a structured dialogue, information sharing and planning for national precision medicine and diagnostics will be established, with Oslo Cancer Cluster having the coordinating role.

Unique public-private partnership

CONNECT will be an arena for all partners and stakeholders to address important issues and will ensure a balanced, broad, and informed approach and debate.

“This is a concrete and important milestone for public-private collaborations in the health sector and builds on the ambitions from, among other things, HelseOmsorg21. This is a completely new way to work in Norway and I hope it paves the way for more collaborative projects and pilots between private and public players in healthcare,” says Karita Bekkemellem, CEO of Legemiddelindustrien (LMI).

 

Press release in Norwegian:

Inngåelse av historisk offentlig-privat kreftsamarbeid

Mer enn 30 000 nordmenn diagnostiseres med kreft hvert år og antall krefttilfeller øker, mer presis behandling vil kunne redde liv. CONNECT er et nytt initiativ med mål å sørge for at presisjonsmedisin når pasientene.

– Alvorlig kreftsykdom er en eksistensiell utfordring for den enkelte. Kreftforskning er håp. Privat legemiddelindustri og offentlig helsevesen, både behandlere og overordnet byråkrati, må samarbeide for å kunne tilby ny behandling i grenseflaten mellom forskningsfront og sykehusdrift, sier Åsmund Flobak, lege ved Kreftklinikken St Olavs hospital.

Det nye initiativet, som kalles CONNECT, er en direkte respons til helseminister Bent Høies ønske om å akselerere implementering av presisjonsmedisin for norske pasienter. Det svarer også helseministerens ønske om mer forskning, og aktivt samarbeid mellom offentlige og private aktører som blant annet sykehus, andre offentlige interessehavere, Kreftforeningen og legemiddelindustrien.

Avtalen er en del av flere initiativ som vil sikre en infrastruktur og samarbeid for diagnostikk, kliniske studier, implementering av avansert presisjonsmedisin og bruk av helsedata til blant annet helseøkonomiske analyser. Dette vil etter hvert kunne påvirke hvordan systemet for Nye Metoder tilpasses persontilpasset medisin og behandlinger til små pasientgrupper innen kreftområdet.

Se faktaboks om de ulike initiativene nederst i saken.

Presisjonsmedisin for fremtiden

Presisjonsmedisin, eller persontilpasset behandling, er en form for kreftbehandling som er tilpasset spesielt den enkelte pasient. Kort fortalt handler dette om å gi riktig medisin til riktig pasient og til riktig tid.

– Forskningsfronten flytter seg stadig fremover, og med moderne teknologi kan leger i dag undersøke detaljerte forandringer i kreftsvulster hos hver enkelt pasient. Det finnes individuelle forandringer i arvestoffet som kan behandles med målrettede behandlinger som er tilpasset hvert enkelt individs behov sier Bjørn Tore Gjertsen, forskningssjef, Helse Bergen

– Presisjonsmedisin forandrer hele helsetjenesten og krever nye typer samarbeid og partnerskap mellom pasienter, klinikere, selskaper, regulatoriske myndigheter og betalere. CONNECT er et helt nytt offentlig-privat samarbeid som vil gi alle parter felles muligheter for å adressere utfordringer og prøve nye løsninger, sier Jutta Heix, prosjektleder for CONNECT og leder for internasjonal kontakt i Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Samler hele Norge for felles mål

CONNECT er et unikt partnerskap der alle de sentrale aktørene er samlet for å akselerere innføringen av presisjonsmedisin.

Alle seks universitetssykehus i Norge er med som partnere. Over ti ledende legemiddelselskaper har også gått med i initiativet. Som representant for pasientperspektivet er Kreftforeningen sentral.

– Vi har også hatt en god dialog med Helsedirektoratet, Folkehelseinstituttet og Legemiddelverket om å delta i CONNECT og bidra med sin kompetanse. Folkehelseinstituttet kommer inn som observatør fra starten, Helsedirektoratet har uttrykt en intensjon om å være med som observatør i CONNECT, sier Kjetil Tasken, leder for Institutt for Kreftforskning ved Oslo Universitetssykehus.

Karen Marie Ulshagen, Områdedirektør, SLV sier i en kommentar at Legemiddelverket støtter prosjektet og har en intensjon om en nærmere tilknytning dersom det er mulig.

– Kultur for offentlig-privat samhandling skapes ikke ved strategiske planer, politiske ambisjoner eller festtaler, kun gjennom handling og adferd som setter en ny standard. CONNECT handler ikke om penger eller donasjon av legemidler, det er den faglige ekspertisen fra de ulike aktører og instanser som utgjør kompetanseløftet som er essensielt for å sikre innføring av presisjonsmedisin. Novartis er glad for å kunne ta del i dette, og det tror jeg gjelder de andre industriaktørene også, sier Lars Petter Strand, Medisinsk Direktør i Novartis. Han har arbeidet tett sammen med representantene fra firmaene Roche, BMS, Merck i arbeidsgruppen for CONNECT.

Målet er at CONNECT og de underliggende initiativene sammen kan bidra til å gi pasienter tilgang til medisiner som de ikke ellers ville fått, helsepersonell og forskere får unik erfaring med denne type medisiner og diagnostikk, og helsevesenet vil få data og erfaring fra hvordan presisjonsmedisin fungerer og påvirker måten vi i dag regner helseøkonomi. Gjennom CONNECT skal det etableres strukturert dialog, kunnskapsutveksling og planlegging for persontilpasset medisin og diagnostikk hvor Oslo Cancer Cluster vil ha den koordinerende rollen.

Unikt offentlig-privat samarbeid

Alle medlemmer og interessenter vil kunne ta opp saker som er viktige for dem, da målet er at CONNECT blir en arena som sikrer en bred, balansert og informert debatt.

Dette er et konkret og viktig løft for offentlig-privat samarbeid på helsefeltet og bygger videre på ambisjonene fra blant annet HelseOmsorg21-rådet. Det er en helt ny måte å jobbe på i Norge og jeg håper det baner vei for flere samarbeidsprosjekter og piloter mellom private og offentlige helseaktører, sier Karita Bekkemellem, Administrerende direktør i Legemiddelindustrien (LMI).

 

Fact boxes:

InPreD (Infrastructure for Precision Diagnostics) is a national infrastructure for advanced molecular diagnostics that will secure a robust, interactive structure facilitating clinical cancer trials on a national level by providing equal access for patients to advanced diagnostics, state-of-the art competence and technology.
IMPRESS-Norway (Improving public cancer care by implementing Precision medicine in Norway) is a prospective, non-randomized clinical trial evaluating efficacy of commercially available, anti-cancer drugs prescribed for patients with advanced cancer diagnosed with potentially actionable alterations as revealed by standardized molecular diagnostics. IMPRESS-Norway is a nation-wide study and all hospitals with an oncology and / or hematology department will be invited to participate in the study. As of December 2020, 17 Norwegian Hospitals have agreed to join IMPRESs. The study will use a combined umbrella and basket design and a Simon two-stage model of expanding cohorts to follow up potentially effective combinations of biomarker and drug on specific indications. Sampling of biological material will be performed at presentation, during treatment and upon progression. Additional biomarker and translational analyses including whole genome sequencing (WGS) on tumour material and liquid biopsies, identifying mechanisms underlying drug sensitivity versus resistance will be performed.
INSIGHT (Regulatory framework for implementing precision medicine into the Norwegian health care system) will develop an analytic framework for using synthetic control data for evaluating effects of small-scale one-armed clinical trials, as in IMPRESS-Norway. INSIGHT will use the developed control arms and data from IMPRESS-Norway and InPreD to evaluate cost-effectiveness of the PCM-model and suggest new reimbursement scheme that reflects the uncertainty in PCM. Concrete ethical and legal challenges when integrating clinical research as part of standard-of-care e.g. the need for informed consent, access and data sharing, storage of molecular data as part of diagnostic pipeline will also be addressed. Taken together, the project will deliver fundamental knowledge and suggest regulatory changes/models necessary for implementation of PCM.

 

CONNECT Founding Partners:

  • Akershus universitetssykehus HF
  • Helse Bergen HF
  • Helse Stavanger HF
  • Olavs hospital HF
  • Universitetssykehuset Nord-Norge HF
  • Oslo Universitetssykehus med Kreftregisteret og OUH Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Folkehelseinstituttet
  • Oslo Cancer Cluster SA
  • Kreftforeningen
  • Legemiddelindustrien
  • Roche Norge AS
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Norway Ltd NUF
  • Novartis Norge AS
  • Merck AB NUF
  • Takeda AS
  • Amgen AB Norge NUF
  • AstraZeneca AS
  • AbbVie AS
  • Bayer AS
  • PubGene AS
  • Pfizer Norge AS
  • NEC Corporation

 

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster’s highlights 2020

Networking events, political meetings, ambitious students, funding for SMEs and expansion of the laboratory… Here is a “pick and mix” of our many news from the past year.

Another year has passed and as we look back on a year filled with both challenges and successes, we are inspired with renewed energy to continue our work in 2021. It is never easy to summarise an entire year in only a few paragraphs, but here is an attempt to present a variety of the many positive experiences, fruitful meetings and engaging activities that Oslo Cancer Cluster has enjoyed.

 

Cancer Crosslinks 2020

The speakers, chairpersons, introducers and organizers of Cancer Crosslinks 2020

The speakers, chairpersons, introducers and organizers of Cancer Crosslinks 2020. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

The year began with the 12th Annual Cancer Crosslinks on 16 January. This year’s topic “Progress in Cancer Care – A tsunami of promises or Game Changing Strategies?” included engaging presentations by leading international and Norwegian experts on the latest advances in immune-oncology. These sparked stimulating discussions between colleagues in the networking breaks. Cancer Crosslinks 2020 was one of the few physical meetings this year and gathered more than 350 delegates from all of Norway and abroad at the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park.

Please visit the official Cancer Crosslinks website at https://www.cancercrosslinks.com to register for Cancer Crosslinks 2021, which will be presented digitally on 21 January.

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator developed cell therapy lab

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

Bjørn Klem, general manager, and Janne Nestvold, laboratory manager, at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Incubator invested in the laboratory’s cell therapy infrastructure, thanks to a grant from the Oslo City’s Regional Innovation Programme. Moreover, Radiumhospitalets Legater have kindly donated a valuable instrument, called a Seahorse, which was set up in the OCC Incubator in November, to boost research into cancer cells further. 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 and the OCC Incubator is happy to facilitate this.

Please visit Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator’s website to learn more about their facilities and services

 

First-year researchers held poster session

Linnéa M. Skille, May Dagny Kollandsrud Hutchings, Tonje Marie Bjørklund Hopen and Elakhiya Dushyanthan presented their research project at the school’s poster session. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersem

Oslo Cancer Cluster has collaborated with Ullern Upper Secondary School for several years to inspire students to pursue careers in science, research and entrepreneurship. In 2019, we launched the research programme in partnership with the school and this year marked the end of its first year. The grand finale was a real poster session, similar to those at large science conferences, where the students presented their research projects to their mentors. We are proud of these talented, ambitious students and delighted to follow their journey onwards.

Please visit our School Collaboration website for more information

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster joined Oslo Science City

Christine Sørbye Wergeland, CEO of Oslo Science City, was delighted to welcome Oslo Cancer Cluster as a new member in June. Photo: Oslo Science City

Oslo Cancer Cluster joined Oslo Science City, the first innovation district in Norway, in June 2020. The district already includes more than 30 000 students, 7 500 researchers, the country’s foremost universities, hospitals and world-class research institutions, as well as more than 300 companies. Now, the aim is to become a world leading innovation district that contributes to research excellence, jobs creation, the green shift and sustainable economic development. Oslo Cancer Cluster is eager to contribute to Oslo Science City to solve the hard problems of the future, such as cancer.

Please visit Oslo Science City’s official website to learn more

 

Ministers met at Oslo Cancer Cluster

Danish Foreign Minister meets with Norwegian Trade Minister at Oslo Cancer Cluster

Ministers Jeppe Kofod and Iselin Nybø met at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park in August 2020. Photo: The Embassy of Denmark in Norway

Oslo Cancer Cluster was honoured by a visit from the Foreign Minister of Denmark Jeppe Kofod and the Minister for Trade, Industry and Fisheries Iselin Nybø in August 2020. The ministers discussed current topics, such as export, international trade and foreign investments. The ministers also listened to presentations from key representatives from the health industry on the potential of Nordic collaboration on life science and cancer. A central issue was how to reduce the development time of cancer treatments from 10 to 5 years, and to make the Nordics a destination for health innovation.

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park 5-Year Milestone

Five years ago, Prime Minister Erna Solberg was welcomed by Jónas Einarsson, founder of Oslo Cancer Cluster, at the opening of the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Photo: Gunnar Kopperud

This year marked five years of innovation in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. The milestone was commemorated with a virtual event that will be live until 31 December 2020. The virtual event includes greetings from Prime Minister Erna Solberg, perspectives from members of Oslo Cancer Cluster, reflections from stakeholders in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and comments from Innovation Norway, SIVA and the Research Council of Norway.

 

Leading the way for precision medicine

Dr. Kjetil Taskén, Dr. Åslaug Helland and Dr. Hege Russnes are part of the enthusiastic team at Oslo University who are behind the national study IMPRESS. Photo: Oslo University Hospital

Dr. Kjetil Taskén, Dr. Åslaug Helland and Dr. Hege Russnes are part of the enthusiastic team at Oslo University behind the national study IMPRESS. Photo: Oslo University Hospital

IMPRESS-Norway, a national clinical study starting in 2021 working towards implementing cancer precision medicine in Norway, was officially announced in October. IMPRESS involves the active support of leading global pharmaceutical companies that will provide the study drugs and contribute with per patient fees. Public funding will help to ensure this innovative study paves the way for more cancer clinical trials in Norway. A new public-private partnership called CONNECT is also being established with Oslo Cancer Cluster as project coordinator. CONNECT will provide an arena for all stakeholders to jointly address key obstacles and to pilot novel solutions to advance the implementation of precision cancer medicine.

 

DIGI-B-CUBE funding for SMEs

The first round of voucher applications by SMEs in the DIGI-B-CUBE project was a success. On 29 August 2020, the successful applicants were announced, with funding support of more than 1,4 million euros to SMEs for fostering cross-sectoral Innovation. Of the 217 applications, 22 SMEs were granted financial support to implement their customized solution innovation ideas with an overall budget of more than 1 million euros, ranging from topics like a sleep apnea test device, to Covid-19 monitoring, to in-vitro cellular immunoassays. In addition, 21 SMEs with an overall budget of more than 400 000 euros will be financially supported by the DIGI-B-CUBE project to implement their prototypes.

Please visit DIGI-B-CUBEs official website to learn more

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster events went digital

The Organising Partners from Europe and North America opened the first virtual version of the International Cancer Cluster Showcase this year.

This year we had to think of new, creative ways to meet and deliver key events in a new format. Here is a selection of this year’s virtual events:

In May, we live-streamed a political meeting on integrating clinical studies in standard patient care in Norway from Oslo, in collaboration with Kreftforeningen, LMI, MSD, AstraZeneca and Janssen.

On 8 June 2020, the 9th International Cancer Cluster Showcase was launched as a virtual event presenting 20 early-stage oncology companies and sparking record-high participation with about 400 registrations.

During Oslo Innovation Week in September 2020, we arranged the virtual event “What does it take to impact innovation?”, with talks from stakeholders who inspire innovation, protect innovation and provide the necessary tools for innovation.

As a long-standing conference supporter of EHiN “E-health in Norway”, we participated in the first-ever fully digital EHiN in several sessions, covering current topics such as gene technology, artificial intelligence and health data.

Please visit the Oslo Cancer Cluster Event Calendar for an overview of all upcoming events.

 

New members announcement

The Oslo Cancer Cluster member wheel gives a glimpse of the membership base, which has grown this year.

During 2020, Oslo Cancer Cluster has welcomed several new members to our organization. We are happy to announce that the following companies have joined us and been introduced to the rest of the cluster: Glaxo-Smith Kline, Hubro Therapeutics, Kaiku Health, Ledidi, Hemispherian, PharmaRelations, Vesteraalens, Adjutec Pharma, K og K and Worldwide Clinical Trials.

Please visit the Oslo Cancer Cluster Member Overview to see all our members and to visit their websites.

 

 

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Top news 2020 from Oslo Cancer Cluster’s members

Despite the challenges with the corona pandemic, several of our members have distinguished themselves with good news and positive updates throughout the year.

The corona pandemic made 2020 a challenging year for many companies, but the health industry showed a remarkable ability to adapt to the new circumstances. For companies running clinical trials, two major challenges have been restricted access to hospitals, which forced a temporary stop to clinical trials in March, and disruptions to the global supply chain.

Healthcare companies have worked tirelessly despite these obstacles. For that reason, we wish to highlight ten of our Norwegian members (in alphabetical order) who caught our attention this year.

Adjutec Pharma

Pål Rongved, Adjutec Pharma.

Pål Rongved, founder of Adjutec Pharma. Photo: UiO/Terje Heiestad

Adjutec Pharma is a Norwegian start-up with a technology called ZinChel against antibiotic multi-resistance, a condition that can become life threatening, especially for cancer patients. This summer, Adjutec Pharma secured exclusive rights to the patents for the ZinChel technology and will raise more money to accelerate development of the drugs in collaboration with researchers at University of Oslo. Adjutec Pharma also received several grants, including NOK 16 million in innovation support from the Norwegian Research Council. The company will now raise 20 million dollars in investments to reach phase II clinical trials, including public and private funding.

BerGenBio

Richard Godfrey, CEO BerGenBio

Richard Godfrey, CEO of BerGenBio. Photo: BerGenBio

The Bergen-based Norwegian clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company that develops AXL kinase inhibitors (a form of cancer immunotherapy) has had a remarkable year. In April, the company was selected as the first to be included in the ACCORD trial, which will test the company’s cancer therapy as a treatment for hospitalised Covid-19 patients. In May, the company raised NOK 500 million in an oversubscribed private placement. The company has also consistently reported positive results from the ongoing phase II trial testing a combination treatment of the AXL kinase inhibitor Bencemtinib and immunotherapy Keytruda on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients.

Visit BerGenBio’s official website to learn more

Exact Therapeutics

Rafiq Hasan, CEO, EXACT Therapeutics

Rafiq Hasan, CEO of Exact Therapeutics. Photo: Exact Therapeutics

Exact Therapeutics is a clinical-stage Norwegian biotech company developing a technology platform for more targeted cancer treatments, called Acoustic Cluster Therapy. This year, the company changed its name from Phoenix Solutions to Exact Therapeutics and appointed Rafiq Hasan as new CEO. Shortly after, the company was listed on Merkur Market (Oslo Stock Exchange) and its value skyrocketed to nearly NOK 1 billion during the first day of trading. In September, Exact Therapeutics restarted its phase I ACTIVATE study, enrolling the first patient at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. The study is assessing the safety, tolerability and preliminary efficacy of Acoustic Cluster Therapy in combination with chemotherapy in patients with metastatic colorectal and pancreatic cancer.

Visit Exact Therapeutic’s official website to learn more

Kongsberg Beam Technology

Per Håvard Kleven, founder of Kongsberg Beam Technology

Per Håvard Kleven, founder of Kongsberg Beam Technology. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

Kongsberg Beam Technology has developed a technology that increases the accuracy of proton therapy, a treatment that is more precise than traditional radiotherapy against cancer. This year, the Norwegian Research Council awarded a grant of NOK 23 million in support of the development of this technology. The company has partnered with Semcon to develop the control and monitoring systems, a full-scale prototype for testing, as well as a digital twin of a patient or organ. The experienced CEO Kerstin Jakobsson has also joined Kongsberg Beam Technology during 2020.

Ledidi

Einar Martin Aandahl, founder of Ledidi. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

The Norwegian start-up Ledidi offers a cloud-based software solution that makes sharing of health data easier for researchers. This year, the software was approved for all clinical trials on Covid-19 at Oslo University Hospital. This both simplifies the workflow for medical researchers and makes it possible to share data more securely between clinical institutions and countries. It can also perform complicated statistical analyses on large data sets in a short time frame, which makes it ideal for clinical studies on cancer.

Visit Ledidi’s official website to learn more

NEC OncoImmunity

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

Richard Stratford and Trevor Clancy, founders of OncoImmunity. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

The Norwegian bioinformatics company NEC OncoImmunity AS offers innovative software based on machine learning. The artificial intelligence (AI) platform the company has developed can identify neoantigens, which are key to unlocking the immune system and combating cancer. NEC OncoImmunity made headlines this year by adapting the company’s AI platform towards the development of blueprints for a corona vaccine. In October, NEC OncoImmunity also teamed up with Oslo University Hospital to develop a diagnostic tool for Covid-19 using AI.

Visit NEC OncoImmunity’s official website to learn more

OncoInvent

OncoInvent

Photo: OncoInvent

OncoInvent is a Norwegian pharmaceutical company developing new innovative radiopharmaceutical products to treat cancer patients. The company was established ten years ago by serial entrepreneurs Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland. This year, OncoInvent initiated its first clinical studies: two phase I trials in May and June on ovarian and colorectal cancer with progression to the abdominal cavity. The studies are performed at Oslo University Hospital, which means that Norwegian cancer patients gain access to new and innovative treatments long before the treatments reach the market.

Visit OncoInvent’s official website to learn more

Photocure

Dan Schneider, CEO of Photocure.

Dan Schneider, CEO of Photocure. Photo: Photocure

Photocure is a bladder cancer company with a unique light technology, which was developed in Norway, to better detect cancer cells. In January, Photocure’s groundbreaking technology was highlighted in the LA Fox 11 news programme. The biggest news of the year was when Photocure regained worldwide rights to the product Hexvix. Photocure also secured a European patent for Cevira, a photodynamic drug device against cervical cancer. Photocure then appointed Susanne Strauss as Vice President and General Manager of Europe. Moreover, a global phase III trial of Cevira was initiated by the company’s partner Asieris.

Visit Photocure’s official website to learn more

Ultimovacs

Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs. Photo: Ultimovacs

Ultimovacs is a pharmaceutical company developing novel immunotherapies against cancer. The lead product is a universal vaccine called UV1 that has the potential to be used against most cancer types. This year, Ultimovacs appointed Carlos de Sousa as new CEO of the company. In June, the company recruited the first patients in two new phase II studies called INITIUM and NIPU, which will recruit up to 400 patients with melanoma and mesothelioma respectively. A third phase II clinical trial is in the planning with an unknown large pharmaceutical partner. The purpose of these studies is to confirm the results from the company’s completed phase I trials, which have shown promising survival data for several years now. Last week, Ultimovacs announced five-year survival data for melanoma patients who received UV1 in combination with ipilimumab – 50% of the patients were still alive.

Visit Ultimovacs’ official website to learn more

Vaccibody

Agnete B. Fredriksen, founder of Vaccibody. Photo: Vaccybody

Vaccibody is a Norwegian clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company discovering and developing novel immunotherapies. When the corona pandemic struck, the company quickly expanded its technology platform to include infectious diseases; both a strategy and preclinical results of a vaccine was released last week. In October, Vaccibody signed the largest biotech agreement ever in Norway with Genentech (Roche). The agreement is worth up to 715 million dollars in near term and milestones, in addition to low double-digit tiered royalties on sales of commercialized products. Vaccibody was shortly after listed on Merkur Market (Oslo Stock Exchange). Last but not least, co-founder and owner Agnete B. Fredriksen received the Research Council of Norway’s prestigious Innovation Award in November.

Visit Vaccibody’s official website to learn more

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster has more than 90 members, including Norwegian and international companies, research and financial institutions, university hospitals and organizations – all working in the cancer field. They represent the entire oncology value chain, doing everything from exploratory research to selling therapeutics and diagnostics to global markets.

Please visit our member overview page and click on the logos to access the website of each member.

 

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Positive results from Targovax’s skin cancer study

Our member Targovax announced an update from the company’s clinical study on melanoma patients this week.

The clinical study offers Targovax’s medicine ONCOS-102 in combination with the checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda to skin cancer patients with serious disease progression. The patients were all at Stage III and Stage IV at the beginning of the trial and had been through the standard of care. They had no other treatment options after failing anti-PD-1 treatment.

What is anti-PD1 treatment?

PD-1 is a protein that is found on T cells (a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system) that helps keep the body’s immune responses under control. When PD-1 binds to another protein called PD-L1, which can be found on normal cells and in higher amounts on some cancer cells, it keeps the T cells from destroying cells, including cancer. Some anti-cancer drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors are used to block PD-1. This releases the brakes on the immune system and increases the ability of T cells to kill cancer cells.

Checkpoint inhibitors have revolutionized the treatment of cancer in the last ten years, but they do not work on all cancer patients. Some patients do not have the right types of T cells for the treatment to work. The oncolytic virus called ONCOS-102 developed by Targovax is a combination product, which tricks the immune system to produce these T cells that can help destroy cancer cells.

3d illustration of a cancer cell and lymphocytes

Illustration of cancer cells under attack from lymphocytes (white blood cells), part of the immune system.

 

Partial or complete responses

According to the newly released data from Targovax, 7 of the 20 patients in the clinical study had partial or complete responses after receiving the combination treatment of the immune checkpoint inhibitor Keytruda and the oncolytic virus ONCOS-102. The patients had overall more than a 30 per cent reduction of their tumours. One patient had a complete response, while the overall response rate was 35 per cent.

Systemic effects

Two patients had a response in non-injected lesions. This means that a response was observed in melanoma lesions that had not been injected with the oncolytic virus. This is what is known as a systemic effect and has not been seen with oncolytic viruses before. Two non-injected lesions had completely disappeared on the patients in the study group.

“These impressive efficacy data in anti-PD1 refractory melanoma are the most important clinical results for Targovax to date,” Øystein Soug, Chief Executive Officer of Targovax, commented.

“The data clearly confirm our hypothesis that ONCOS-102 can benefit cancer patients resistant to checkpoint inhibition by triggering local and systemic immune activation,” Soug continued. “They also provide evidence of clinical efficacy and establishes ONCOS-102 as one of the most promising combination partners to checkpoint inhibitors. We will now carefully analyze the immunological data and are planning for a confirmatory melanoma trial for the ONCOS-102 and checkpoint inhibitor combination.”

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Bergenbio image of researchers in the lab

Cancer drugs being tested to treat Covid-19

Our member BerGenBio is currently testing the company’s cancer medicine as a potential treatment for Covid-19.

Another one of our members has emerged this year as an active contributor in the fight against the corona pandemic. BerGenBio, a Norwegian clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, is running a clinical trial to assess the safety of the company’s cancer drug to treat Covid-19 patients.

BerGenBio develops novel selective AXL kinase inhibitors, an advanced type of cancer treatment. In cancer, AXL suppresses the body’s immune response to tumours. In many different cancer indications, AXL can be the reason that treatments fail.

BerGenBio’s primary drug candidate is called Bemcentinib and is currently being investigated in several ongoing cancer clinical trials, against both lung cancer and leukaemia.

This year, BerGenBio announced the company will also test the drug as a treatment for hospitalised Covid-19 patients. The phase II study, which will recruit a total of 120 patients hospitalised with Covid-19 at different sites in India and South Africa, recruited its first patient in India this week.

“We are pleased to expand the BGBC020 study to patients in India, where incidences of COVID-19 remain high, following the commencement of dosing in South Africa in October,” Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio, commented. “There are still no approved therapies for patients hospitalised as a result of COVID-19 infection and we are keen to continue exploring the profile of bemcentinib as a potential treatment.”

Promising solutions from health industry

BerGenBio is one of our many members that have joined the effort against corona this year with their science, technology and knowledge.

Another example is the Norwegian biotechnology company Vaccibody, who have used the company’s cancer vaccine technology to expand their activities to do research into infectious diseases.

Similarly, our member NEC OncoImmunity has adapted the company’s artificial technology platform for improving cancer immunotherapies to design vaccine blueprints against the coronavirus.

Moreover, our member the Norwegian start-up company Ledidi has contributed with a data-sharing software that will be used to increase research collaboration in Oslo University Hospital’s clinical trials on Covid-19.

Several of the larger pharmaceutical companies in our membership base are also in the race to deliver effective vaccines against the coronavirus in 2021.

The corona pandemic has left many sectors of society across the world struggling, but the health industry has proved that it holds promising solutions to a global challenge. Medical innovations and the enthusiasm of researchers continue to shine a positive light at the end of this tunnel.

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Erna Solberg visits PCI Biotech

PDT/PCI application grant 2021

Radforsk annually distribute funding to photodynamic therapy and photochemical internalization (PDT/PCI) related research. Application deadline will for 2021 be January 15. Please note that one project will be chosen to receive a larger project grant on 1,25 MNOK per year for 3 years, in this application round.

 

Radforsk has one main call for applications for funding for research projects relating to PDT or PCI each year:

  • The maximum amount that can be applied for per project is NOK 300,000, and the total amount to be awarded for all projects is NOK 1,250,000
  • Funding for a larger project will be announced every other year, 2019, 2021 etc:
    The chosen project will be awarded a total amount of NOK 3,750,000,  NOK 1,250,000 every year for three years without sending new applications
  • All Oslo University Hospital employees can apply for funding
  • The deadline for the call for applications will be 15 January 2021
  • Please see application details here: Guidelines for resources to PDT/PCI related research (English) and Retningslinjer ved tildeling av forskningsmidler (Norwegian)

 

Applications, containing a description of the project, may 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.

 

Background:

The objective for Radforsk is to advance cancer research and contribute to better and more effective diagnoses, treatment, care, and prevention of cancer. Research funding is one of several instruments Radforsk has and uses to reach these goals.

Radforsk’s board of directors has decided that funding will be announced for research projects in the areas photodynamic therapy (PDT) or photochemical internalisation (PCI). This decision is due to a prior agreement involving Photocure from when Radforsk was technology transfer office for the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

Mentor meeting: many roads to reach your goal

The second-year class of the Researcher Programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School has been assigned new mentors for the school year 2020/2021. The first meeting with the mentors was about how the road to becoming a researcher or doctor or other occupation can be diverse and take many different routes.

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

The students in the second year of the Researcher Programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School are used to having mentors guiding them during the school year, and inspiring and challenging them. This year, all the mentors, except for Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, are new to the students. These are the mentors:

  • Henrik Sveinsson, a physics researcher at the University of Oslo,
  • Steven Ray Wilson, a chemist and professor at the University of Oslo,
  • Janne Nestvold, laboratory manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator,
  • Severin Langberg, a PhD student in machine learning and cancer at the Norwegian Cancer Registry (absent from this meeting).

The meeting included introductions of all the mentors and a Q&A session.

Henrik Sveinsson

“I was fascinated by the financial crisis in 2008 and how they used math to cover up the fraud in big banks like Lehman Brothers. I applied to Norway’s Business School in Bergen to study economy, but I learnt quickly that I should have gone to the University of Oslo to study social economics, so I did that instead. Coincidentally, I took up a physics course and became very interested in that, and ended up as a physicist.”

Henrik Sveinsson became interested in the financial crisis of 2008, and how math was used to cover up the economic situation in the big banks that led to the crisis. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Henrik Sveinsson became interested in the financial crisis of 2008 and how math was used to cover up what the big banks were doing. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

 

Steven Ray Wilson

Steven studied psychology first, but then switched to chemistry, and is today professor at the Institute for Chemistry at the University of Oslo. He and his students work with pharmaceuticals, drugs and doping, and use chemistry to measure concentration levels in the body.

“Chemistry was the core of everything I thought was cool,” he said to the students of the Researcher Programme about why he chose to study chemistry.

Steven is also a musician, has worked professionally as a musician for periods and even won the Norwegian music award “Spellemanspris”. He encourages the students to have a passion besides their jobs. In one of the research projects he leads, they are cultivating mini-organs to faster test the efficacy and side-effects of drugs, as an alternative to animal testing.

Steven Ray Wilson to the left in the image, tells the students about his experiences from a combined life as a researcher and musician. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Steven Ray Wilson (to the left) tells the students about his experiences from combining careers in research and music. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

 

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen

Øyvind is a doctor by education, has worked as a surgeon and led the cancer vaccine company Ultimovacs. He tells the students that the road to get there was not always straightforward:

“I dropped out of upper secondary school and went for a long time on unemployment activities as a youth. One of the jobs was to clean test tubes in the laboratory at the Dentist School. After a while, I got more fun assignments and even participated in research into fluor in drinking water, among other things. Then, I finished upper secondary school by picking up some courses and worked at Dikemark as an unskilled worker. That was when I decided to study medicine and retook some subjects to be accepted to the medical programme.

“After that, I worked a lot with developing a vaccine against a contagious form of meningitis at the Norwegian Institute for Public Health. I am very proud to have been a part of that because this vaccine now saves hundreds of thousands of people’s lives.”

Janne Nestvold

Janne manages the research laboratory at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and helps biotech start-ups. She has a PhD in immunology and a background as a cancer researcher at the Institute for Cancer Research, and several other places. Before her career in research, she studied social anthropology and worked with drug addicts in Oslo. That was when she became interested in the combination of drugs and psychology and began to study biology.

Image caption: Janne Nestvold today manages the laboratory in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and has a background in both social anthropology and cancer research. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Janne Nestvold today manages the laboratory in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and has a background in both social anthropology and cancer research. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

 


Questions & Answers


Steven, what kind of music do you like – besides your own band?

“To play in a band and be creative is in many ways like being a researcher. Miles Davies is my biggest musical hero. He was extremely innovative and a tough guy unafraid to make any mistakes. When the band played something wrong, the point was to use the mistake to make something completely new in the music.

“Making mistakes is more about how you handle them than anything else. It is about being able to use the imperfect creatively, which I always remember in life, both generally and in research.”

 

Øyvind, how was everyday life when you worked as a surgeon?

“When I worked shifts as a surgeon, they would go on for about 27 hours. We would start at 7:00 am in the morning with a meeting, where we would learn something new. Then, we reviewed all the patients scheduled for surgery that day and assigned the tasks and surgeries among ourselves. The shift team got the easiest surgeries, so we could help the surgeons in the emergency room at Oslo University Hospital when seriously injured patients were admitted. If you were lucky, you got to sleep a little during the night.

“Then, it was the next morning. We had another meeting to report what had happened during the shift, and then we were supposed to visit the patients. I refused to do that, because it is not acceptable for the patients that an exhausted, tired doctor comes in to talk with them.”

The students listened intently to all the advice from their new mentors: Steven, Henrik, Øyvind and Janne. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

The students listened intently to all the advice from their new mentors: Steven, Henrik, Øyvind and Janne. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

 

Janne, how do you get a reliable result when you perform research?

“Preparations make up half the work. I worked a lot with animal testing, which means you must think through everything before the experiment. For example, the accurate dosage for sick animals and healthy animals. It is very expensive to do these experiments, so it is important that everything is set up correctly. Afterwards, you analyse the results in a research group, and then you publish the results. If others cite your research, it spreads in the environment, and has an impact on other research in the same field.”

 

Question for everyone: why do you want to be our mentors?

Janne: “I want you to know that a career in science is an exciting path to take. Every day you are in the middle of everything here at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. There are a lot of opportunities here with the Incubator and the Institute for Cancer Research. I want to show you what some of those opportunities are.”

Steven: “It is fun to follow your journeys. As I told you earlier, I have been a mentor for over 40 students so far, and it is like being in a time machine. In a couple of years, you will do academic and professional things that are amazing, so it is fun to participate and observe and help a little in your lives.”

Henrik: “I am not completely sure, but I accepted the offer immediately. It feels important, when I think it through now, to give you an insight into physics and to contribute to the choices you will make.”

Øyvind: “Some of the most fun things I do are to teach, and I can’t decline when I am the Chairman of Oslo Cancer Cluster (jokingly). Honestly, it is fun for me to contribute as your mentor, so that is the reason.”

 

The mentors gathered with one metre distance apart. From left to right: Steven Ray Wilson, Henrik Sveinsson (behind), Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen (in front) and Janne Nestvold. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

The mentors gathered with one-metre distance apart. From left to right: Steven Ray Wilson, Henrik Sveinsson (behind), Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen (in front) and Janne Nestvold. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

 

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Ketil Widerberg, general manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

More precise cancer treatments with digital solutions

Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, gives his perspectives on why EHiN and digital health are important for faster development of new cancer treatments in Norway.

 

This interview was first published on EHiN’s website in Norwegian.

 

What do you think are the biggest challenges in the health sector today?

One challenge in cancer treatments is to give the right medicine to the right patient at the right time. This is called precision medicine and means that cancer treatments can to a greater extent be tailored to the individual patient. The government recently proposed more money for this in the State Budget for 2021. There are already digital tools that can identify more targeted treatments ready to be put to use. One example is our member NEC OncoImmunity, who are using artificial intelligence to develop new personalised immunotherapies against cancer.

Another big challenge is to shorten the development time for new cancer medicines. The corona pandemic has shown us that it is possible to quickly develop new treatments, initiate clinical studies and gather data. The analysis of health data will be essential for the development and approval of new treatments. It is important that national infrastructure, such as the Health Analysis Platform, is put in place. One inspiring company is our member Ledidi; their software solution was recently approved for all Covid-19-studies at Oslo University Hospital. This tool can also be used in cancer research to make quick statistical analysis and to cooperate across research groups, hospitals and countries.

A third challenge is how we involve the cancer patient in their own treatment. New technology, for example the data platform from our member Kaiku Health, enables the patients to self-report symptoms in real-time. If we can gather data on pain and side effects every day, instead of every third month, our understanding of cancer improves and the doctor can do a better job.

 

How can you contribute digitally to the health sector?

Oslo Cancer Cluster contributes to the digitalisation of the health sector by connecting pharmaceutical companies and biotech start-ups in cancer with tech companies.

Among other things, we are coordinating the Horizon 2020 EU-project “DIGI-B-CUBE”, which provides funds to collaboration projects between small to medium-sized companies in IT and health. They try to find digital solutions to challenges in the health sector.

Our cluster is also a part of the consortium «NORA EDIH – Norwegian Artificial Intelligence Research Consortium» that was recently selected as one of eight Digital Innovation Hubs that Innovation Norway will recommend to Digital Europe Programme. These innovation centres will be essential to stimulate increased use of digital solutions.

 

How has Covid-19 affected you?

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has put several measures in place to keep laboratories and offices open to ensure that important cancer research and patient treatment can continue as normal during the pandemic. Start-ups, researchers and the incubator have received more support from the financial apparatus for business development, in order to strengthen the health industry in this period of uncertainty. In addition, the Incubator has updated its IT infrastructure to facilitate the increased use of digital solutions from home offices and streaming of meetings and events.

Covid-19 has proven that the health industry is important for society – to fight pandemics, to contribute to better health and to create value. Norwegian companies in health experience great interest from investors now. One example is our member Vaccibody, who signed the largest biotechnology agreement in Norway ever this month and later was listed on Merkur Market (Oslo Stock Exchange), valued at NOK 17 billion.

Covid-19 has also created challenges for cancer patients that missed treatments because of the risk of getting infected and for those who have avoided important health checks because they don’t want to put any extra stress on the health services. Pharma companies experienced a challenge to keep clinical trials running in the beginning of the pandemic, but most hospitals have facilitated this now.

One positive side-effect of the pandemic is that social distancing has led to a rapid digitalisation of the health sector and put digital health at the top of the agenda.

 

What do you expect from EHiN?

EHiN is an arena that connects cross-sectional initiatives in digitalisation and biology across public institutions and private companies. It is a meeting place to find good digital solutions that can be implemented in the health sector and can position Norway internationally in long-term trends, which also creates great value for society.

At EHiN, you will meet different decision makers and participate in setting the political agenda for e-health. We need to continue to stress the importance of good public-private collaboration to develop, test and approve treatments for cancer patients.

 

What else would you like to communicate?

EHiN is important because collaboration is the key to create changes in health. We are working now with an application to become a health catapult centre, in collaboration with several innovation environments in health. If we succeed, we can strengthen the health industry by offering important services to small and medium-sized enterprises in digital health.

We also think it is very positive that the Norwegian Cancer Society have a good collaboration with EHiN. It shows how important e-health in Norway is for the entire cancer community.

 

Meet Ketil Widerberg as he moderates the session “Fremtidsmennesket” on 10 November 2020 at 11:00-12:00 during EHiN 2020. 

Register to EHiN here

 

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Professor Pål Rongved introduced the ZinChel technology that fights microbial resistance at Oslo Life Science Week 2017. Photo: UiO/Terje Heiestad

Norwegian invention to fight antibiotic resistance

A new Norwegian technology may help stop the increase of antibiotic multi-resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is growing, and the world is running out of treatment options. In 2020, approximately 700 000 people will die from antibiotic-resistant infections. By 2050, as many as 10 million deaths are forecast.

Increasing numbers of cancer patients also develop resistance to multiple antibiotics, which potentially leads to life-threatening conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) writes that: “Without effective antibiotics, the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised.”

A Norwegian solution for global challenge

New Norwegian technology from the start-up Adjutec Pharma may help to stop increasing antibiotic resistance. The technology, known as ZinChel, was first developed in collaboration between the University of Tromsø (UiT) and the research group SYNFAS at the University of Oslo (UiO).

ZinChel has shown promising effects against a group of multi-resistant bacteria, which are increasingly widespread in many regions of the world, including Europe.

The bacteria, known as gram-negative, are equipped with a type of enzyme called “metallo-beta-lactamase”, which renders modern carbapenem antibiotics useless. These bacteria are on the World Health Organization’s list of the 12 most dangerous bacteria in the world, causing severe and often deadly infections.

Pål Rongved is a Professor at the University of Oslo with a PhD in chemistry. He is one of the inventors behind ZinChel and the founder and CEO of the start-up company Adjutec Pharma AS.

Adjutec Pharma AS has a strong momentum to develop the technology further together with our Norwegian partners and private investors. If we do this correctly, the results of this project can provide patients with vital treatment in the future and contribute to the establishment of a health industry that provides new jobs. We have an ethical and moral responsibility to bring the technology to market and patients as quickly as possible. There is no time to lose and we are on track”.

Creating value for patients and industry

The technology is not yet available to treat patients, because it is still in pre-clinical development. This means that it will need to be further tested on animals and humans to assess its safety and efficacy.

Adjutec Pharma has recently secured exclusive rights to the patents for the ZinChel technology and will raise more money to accelerate development of the drugs in collaboration with researchers at University of Oslo.

Adjutec Pharma has received $3 million in grants, including support from the Norwegian Research Council and Novo Nordisk. The company will raise $20 million in investments to reach Phase II clinical trials, including public and private funding.

Adjutec Pharma receives start-up services from Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Incubator, who are partly financed by SIVA, a governmental enterprise facilitating a national infrastructure for innovation.

Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, has provided important help in the establishment of Adjutec Pharma. Photo: Stig Jarnes

Bjørn Klem, general manager of OCC Incubator, said:

“OCC Incubator provided help and advice to the founders when establishing Adjutec Pharma, including finding competent people for the board. The OCC Incubator has negotiated the licensing agreement with the University of Oslo, which gives the company exclusive rights to commercialise the inventors’ patents. We also help the company with the development of a business strategy and financing through public funding programmes and private investors.”

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First-year students met their mentors

This fall, 32 students have begun their first year of the Researcher Programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School. Earlier in October, they met their four mentors, who will support them throughout the school year – and the mentors include some big names in the field.

Thirty-two nervous first-year students are sitting in Jónas Einarsson Auditorium. They are all attending the Researcher Programme. This is a unique opportunity for young people in Oslo who wish to immerse themselves in science, especially in biomedicine, and gain a more practical introduction to subjects like maths, physics, chemistry, biology, and IT and programming.

First of three meetings

Ragni Fet, former cancer researcher and currently biology teacher at Ullern school, is responsible for the first-year students at the Researcher Programme.

“It is nice to see all of you here and it is my pleasure to introduce the four mentors to you,” Fet says.

The mentors are:

  • Vegard Vinje, researcher at Simula and former Ullern student
  • Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk and initiator of Oslo Cancer Cluster and Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park
  • Simone Mester, PhD student and former Ullern student
  • Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and former Head of Research at Photocure.
The mentors. From left to right: Vegard, Jónas, Simone and Bjørn. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

The mentors. From left to right: Vegard, Jónas, Simone and Bjørn. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Fet tells the students that they will meet the four mentors today and twice more during the school year. The next time the visit will take place at one of the mentor’s workplaces. Read more about what the students of the Researcher Programme (2019/2020) experienced when they visited Simone Mester at her workplace in December 2019.

The following time, the students will present their own research to the mentors and receive an evaluation from them. Read more about the type of research the students of the Researcher Programme (2019/2020) presented to their mentors.

“Today you can ask the mentors as many questions you like about their choices concerning education, focus, career, what they have learnt and experienced, and what they are doing today. Please feel free to ask your questions,” Fet says.

Question time

The students are eager to ask their questions to Vegard, Jónas, Simone and Bjørn during the next hour. It is obvious that the students have done some in-depth research on their four mentors.

When the question time was over, Jónas said:

“This was fun! You asked us good and interesting questions. This was both educational and entertaining for me too.”

You can read some of the questions and answers that occurred during the course of the hour they spent together below.

Q&As

Question: What is the most exciting thing you have experienced during your careers?

Vegard:

I was interviewed by NRK radio and they produced an article about our research. The research is about how breathing affects flows in the brain, something that can help to clear the brain from toxins.

An accumulation of toxins in the brain can be associated with an increased risk to develop Alzheimer’s disease, so NRK’s angle was: “Norwegian study: Your breathing can play a part in Alzheimers” even though our research does not say anything about causation. In the comments under the piece, the conclusion was practically “Yoga is good for the brain”, since breathing is an essential part of yoga.

It was interesting to see how our research was communicated so differently from what our work actually was.

The first-year students of the Researcher Programme listened intently to the mentors' stories. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

The first-year students of the Researcher Programme listened intently to the mentors’ stories. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Jonas:

My biggest moment was two years ago when I was sitting at a science conference on immunotherapy against cancer in New York. The same day, it was announced that the two researchers Tasuku Honjo and James Allison had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery of how checkpoint inhibitors, a form of immunotherapy, can make the body’s own immune system fight cancer.

When the conference opened, Jim – which is James Allison’s nickname – came into the auditorium to give a presentation. This had already been decided long ago and had nothing to do with the Nobel Prize. The whole room stood up and clapped. That was huge. Jim was also here last year and visited the students who are now in the second year of the Researcher Programme.

Simone:

When I was finished with my master I was accepted into SPARK, which is the University of Oslo’s innovation programme. Because of that, I was also invited to Arendalsuka to present my project to many important people, and it was a big thing for me to be able to contribute.

In addition, it is always big when I experience an Eureka! moment in the laboratory: it is fun when you get a result that proves that your theory actually works.

Bjørn:

To find solutions to different things is what I like the most. If I had to choose one individual event, it would have to be this: I had worked for a long time in Photocure as Head of Research, and developed a medical device called Cevira, which is made to treat cervical cancer. We tested it in humans and it had good results, but then it was put on hold for many different reasons.

Then, about one year ago, the news came that a Chinese company had licensed this product for billions of NOK. They are already underway with the last part of the testing of Cevira, so maybe it will enter the market and be used by women all over the world in only a few years. I knew this product would work, so it is fun it is no longer forgotten about.

Question: Where do you think your research careers will take you, Simone and Vegard?

Vegard:

I dream about finding out more about the different flows in the brain that I am doing research on, but I am not sure I will find the answers. It is a simple transition between research and private industry, so maybe I will start my own company in time.

Simone:

I really want to start my own company and it is scary to even say it, but I am already underway. To start a company and develop a pharmaceutical that can make a difference for patients would be fun. I think it is a very exciting and challenging journey, and I am lucky to have guides that help me to do this.

Question: Why are you working with what you are doing now?

Vegard:

When I think back, it seems completely random. I did not have a plan about what I wanted to become when I attended upper secondary school. I liked maths and physics, and got an education in that, which was really fun. When I completed my bachelor degree, I got a summer job at Simula. This was in 2013 and after that, they have continued to offer me work and research projects.

Jónas:

I am a doctor by education and worked for many years as a general practitioner in Western Norway. When I moved from Western Norway to Oslo because of family, I did not have any job to go to and I did not know what I wanted to do either. A friend of mine worked at the Radium Hospital’s Research Foundation and offered me a project-based position for six months so that I could have time to think about the future, and since then I have remained.

Bjørn:

I do not think it is completely random, even if Vegard and Jónas say so, but it seems like that for me too. I studied pharmacy and later I was hired into Photocure and afterwards, I ended up here in the Incubator. But it isn’t completely random. We are affected by our surroundings: just think about what you do here at Ullern and what you are exposed to in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Even if things seem random sometimes, they are not.

Bjørn Klem tells about his background as a pharmacist. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Bjørn Klem tells the students about his background as a pharmacist. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Jónas:

What you are talking about, Bjørn, is called Serendipity and is a type of unplanned discovery or a positive surprise when looking for something else.

For example, I was a rascal during upper secondary school and I wanted to study medicine, but my grades were not nearly good enough for that. So one day, my brother who was the president of ANSA, the association for Norwegian students who study abroad, called me. He told me that all Icelandic people are accepted to the first year of medical school in Iceland, and since I am an Icelandic citizen, that became my way in. That is typical serendipity.

Simone:

I studied science at Ullern Upper Secondary School and thought medicine would be a safe choice. But I wasn’t really interested of patient care, which made me very unsure. I talked a lot with Ragni, who was my biology teacher, and she encouraged me to study molecular biology at the university.

I was lost and confused the first year, because I wanted to study and work with something that has a value and is of use to others: to make a difference. Luckily, I found the research group led by Jan Terje Andersen and Inger Sandlie, where I have received a lot of support to go my own way and be innovative.

By the way, Inger Sandlie is my role model as a researcher and innovator. She has the most innovations registered with Inven2, the tech transfer office of the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital, and is behind Vaccibody, that recently entered Norway’s largest agreement in biotechnology.

Simone and Ragni. Ragni Fet, a former cancer researcher and now biology teacher at Ullern was crucial in Simone’s study choice. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Simone and Ragni. Ragni Fet, a former cancer researcher and now biology teacher at Ullern was crucial in Simone’s decision to study molecular biology. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

Articles about previous mentor meetings

 

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IMPRESS leads the way for cancer precision medicine

IMPRESS Norway is a national clinical study starting in 2021 working towards implementing cancer precision medicine in Norway.

As one of the initiators behind IMPRESS-Norway, Oslo Cancer Cluster is thrilled to see this national clinical study in cancer precision medicine become a reality.

Precision medicine is an approach to patient care that allows doctors to select treatments that are most likely to help patients based on a genetic understanding of their disease, according to the National Cancer Institute.

During 2019, Oslo Cancer Cluster hosted a series of workshops with public and private stakeholders in cancer. The joint goal was to accelerate the implementation of cancer precision medicine in Norway. The initial idea for IMPRESS emerged in one of these workshops. A dedicated team, including Kjetil Taskén, Sigbjørn Smeland, Åslaug Helland and Hege Russnes, at Oslo University Hospital quickly turned it into a national effort together with colleagues at university hospitals across Norway.

IMPRESS involves the active support of leading global pharmaceutical companies that will provide the study drugs and contribute with per patient fees. Public funding will help to ensure this innovative study paves the way for more cancer clinical trials in Norway.

National infrastructure for precision diagnostics is needed and is currently being set up at all Norwegian cancer hospitals. Cancer patients who are eligible for clinical trials can soon be tested and selected based on their specific genetic profile.

A new public-private partnership called CONNECT is also being established with Oslo Cancer Cluster as project coordinator. CONNECT will provide an arena for all stakeholders to jointly address key obstacles and to pilot novel solutions to advance the implementation of precision cancer medicine.

In the newly released Norwegian state budget, an additional NOK 30 million is allocated for personalized medicine. NOK 25 million is earmarked for the implementation of genetic precision diagnostics at the Norwegian hospitals. This demonstrates a commitment from the Norwegian government to advance the implementation of precision medicine for Norwegian cancer patients.

Learn more: Read the article (in Norwegian) at Oslo University Hospital’s website or the English translation below.

 

IMPRESS NORWAY: Large national precision medicine study in cancer

IMPRESS-Norway, a large national study on precision medicine against cancer, starts in the beginning of 2021. The study will, based on individual and expanded gene analysis give its participants the opportunity to receive so-called off-label medicines, that is medicines approved for the treatment of other diseases, to fight their specific unique cancer disease.

IMPRESS-Norway is a national clinical cancer study in precision medicine. The goal with the study is to test approved pharmaceuticals on new patient groups based on their cancer type and genetic mutations (molecular profile). The study is open for all hospitals in Norway that treat cancer patients and so far, thirteen hospitals have decided to participate in the study.

In the study, we will, in addition to data on clinical efficacy, collect comprehensive information about the molecular changes in the cancer tumour, by performing a complete DNA analysis, whole genome sequencing. This will provide us with a unique and comprehensive dataset that can be used by researchers across Norway to answer key questions in cancer treatment, such as improving the selection of patients for treatment and understanding resistance mechanisms.

For patients with advanced cancer who have received standard treatment

Patients with advanced cancer who have already received standard treatment are eligible to participate in IMPRESS-Norway, and we expect between 250 and 500 patients to be recruited every year. The patients will be included in patient groups (cohorts) based on molecular profiles, cancer diagnosis and medicine. Each cohort will first include eight patients. If one or more patients respond to the treatment, then another sixteen patients will be included. A cohort is considered positive if five or more patients of the total twenty-four patients, respond to the treatment.

The protocol for the study has been sent to The Norwegian Medicines Agency and it is expected to start in the beginning of 2021. The patients need to be referred to the study by their general practitioner or hospital clinician.

The study requires a national infrastructure

IMPRESS-Norway requires that cancer patients are offered an in-depth analysis of the cancer tumour’s genetic mutations. Therefore, the academic environments have worked, with dedicated funds from the regional health authorities, to establish a national infrastructure for precision diagnostics for cancer patients (National infrastructure for precision diagnostics called InPred).

Mapping 500 genes

The establishment of these new diagnostic services is already well underway at several hospitals. The goal is to offer expanded molecular diagnostics with mapping of 500 genes to all cancer patients who are eligible for clinical trial inclusion. The molecular results will be discussed in a national molecular tumour board, consisting of clinicians, pathologists and informaticians, and if the analysis shows that the patient has genetic mutations that can be treated with targeted therapy, the patient can be referred to the appropriate clinical trial or to IMPRESS-Norway.

Collaboration with pharmaceutical companies

IMPRESS-Norway is in dialogue with 17 pharmaceutical companies about contributing approved drugs that can be tested outside their approved indication (off-label). One goal with the study is to try out a concrete model for the implementation of personalized medicine. The clinical study will give health personnel and researchers unique experience with precision medicine and the use of molecular diagnostics in treatment, and will offer new treatments to a group of patients who have used up all other options. In addition, the collaboration partners of IMPRESS-Norway are planning to build a public – private collaboration (called CONNECT) where the experiences from IMPRESS-Norway will provide knowledge of how precision medicine affects, among other things, health economy, the health industry and the health services.

Learning from the Netherlands

IMPRESS-Norway is modelled on a precision medicine study called DRUP, which is currently ongoing in the Netherlands. Similar studies are being planned in several European countries and IMPRESS-Norway plans to collaborate on data sharing with the other Nordic countries. This is especially important since we know from experiences with the DRUP study that individual molecular profiles are so rare that it is difficult to fill the cohorts in a single country and therefore it becomes important to compile data from similar cohorts across studies.

State budget: 61,3 million to personalized medicine

Funds for personalized medicine, clinical trials, mature clusters, and digitalisation – these are some of the main points for cancer innovation in the newly released state budget.

In this week’s state budget, the Norwegian government increases the funding for personalized medicine with NOK 30 million to a total of NOK 61,3 million.

NOK 25 million will be used to establish precision diagnostics with advanced molecular profiling in the hospitals, which will give cancer patients a more precise diagnosis. This is also an important requirement for cancer patients to participate in clinical trials.

“The infrastructure for precision diagnostics will improve Norway’s ability to attract clinical studies internationally, it will give more cancer patients the opportunity to participate in clinical trials and it will provide valuable data for further research,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The remaining funds for personalized medicine will be used to build competences and begin to establish a national genome centre.

More funding for clinical trials

The Norwegian government announces NOK 75 million to health innovation and clinical studies. The establishment of NorTrials, which will be a partnership between industry and hospitals on clinical studies, will receive NOK 30 million. NorTrials will offer a one-stop-shop for small- and medium-sized enterprises in the health industry and for public institutions that want to conduct clinical trials in Norway.

“Oslo Cancer Cluster has long worked for the establishment of a partnership model for clinical studies between industry and public actors. It is great to see this important aspect addressed in the state budget,” said Widerberg.

More information about NorTrials and the infrastructure for precision diagnostics will be announced in the Action Plan for Clinical Studies, to be presented in December 2020.

As a follow-up to The White Paper on the Health Industry, the Norwegian government also proposes to establish a scheme to improve collaboration between industry and public institutions on health innovation, called Pilot Helse (Pilot Health). This scheme will receive NOK 20 million in funding.

100 million for Norwegian export

A total of NOK 100 million will be used for strategic investments in export opportunities. Most of these funds, NOK 75 million, will go directly to the new unit Business Norway. Another NOK 20 million will strengthen the Norwegian mature clusters through Innovation Norway’s cluster programme. The remaining NOK 5 million will support Norwegian cultural export.

“The mature clusters can assume a central role in creating export opportunities for Norwegian industry abroad. The aim for Oslo Cancer Cluster is to put Norwegian health industry on the agenda internationally, and develop a leading European cancer innovation centre,” said Widerberg.

Greenlight for Horizon Europe

In 2021, an impressive NOK 40,9 billion will be used for research and development, which is 1,1 per cent of Norway’s total BNP.

The government also announced that Norway will participate in the EU programme Horizon Europe. The programme will replace Horizon 2020 and covers the period 2021-2027. It has a total budget of 75,9 billion euro over the entire period.

“It is important for Norwegian industry to participate in Horizon Europe, it brings access to novel knowledge and capital, and encourages cross-disciplinary collaboration, which is essential for cancer innovation,” Widerberg commented.

A new data factory

The budget for digitalisation will be doubled next year: NOK 1,5 billion is set aside. NOK 56,2 million will be used for Norwegian participation in the Digital Europe Programme, which will give Norwegian businesses access to skills and resources in the areas of artificial intelligence, supercomputers, IT security and advanced digital competency.

Another NOK 16 million goes to the creation of a “Data Factory”, which will be set up by The Agency for Digitalisation in cooperation with Digital Norway. The Data Factory will provide services that will help small companies to develop business ideas and create value from data.

At the same time, the newly established Health Analysis Platform, which will make it easier for scientists to conduct research on health data, gains another NOK 35 million.

“There is a massive unleashed potential in Norwegian health data, to create value for both industry and patients. Important hurdles and opportunities are addressed; however, we see the need for even more efforts to understand and treat illnesses like cancer better in the future. With the help of digital tools, we can develop new cancer medicines in 5 instead of 10 years,” Widerberg commented.

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The team of Vaccibody celebrating their recent successes.

Largest biotech agreement ever made in Norway

Our member Vaccibody signs multi-million-dollar agreement one week before the company is expected on the stock exchange.

The Norwegian cancer company Vaccibody has entered a worldwide license and collaboration agreement with GenentechRoche, to develop personalized cancer vaccines.

The agreement is worth up to 715 million dollars (approximately NOK 6,7 billion) in near term and milestones, in addition to low double-digit tiered royalties on sales of commercialized products. This makes it the largest agreement ever made in the Norwegian biotechnology sector. It is also the eighth largest biotechnology agreement made in Europe this year.

Michael Engsig, CEO of Vaccibody, said:

“We are very excited to have entered into this transformative agreement that marks the start of a new era for Vaccibody.”

“Genentech is widely recognized as one of the foremost leaders in leveraging the immune system to develop therapies for cancer and is a scientific pioneer within the neoantigen cancer vaccine space. They are therefore the partner of choice for the further development and commercialization of our innovative next-generation cancer vaccine platform for generating individualized therapies.”

This news comes about a week before Vaccibody is expected to be listed on Merkur Market, a part of the Oslo Stock Exchange.

A skyrocketing story

Vaccibody is dedicated to developing and discovering novel cancer treatments in the immunotherapy area. This is a type of treatment that boosts the body’s own immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.

The company was founded 13 years ago by Agnete Fredriksen, together with her mentors Professor Bjarne Bogen and his colleague Professor Inger Sandlie – two leading researchers in the Norwegian cancer innovation environment. Fredriksen is now President and Chief Scientific Officer of Vaccibody.

Over the last year, the company’s value has more than doubled several times and the company was valued at NOK 15,3 billion when markets closed on 1 October 2020.

Anders Tuv, Investment Director, Radforsk, and Chairman of the Board, Vaccibody. Photo: Radforsk

Anders Tuv, Investment Director, Radforsk, and Chairman of the Board, Vaccibody. Photo: Radforsk

Anders Tuv, Investment Director of Radforsk and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Vaccibody, has a solid track record of helping biotech companies develop in the oncology sphere. Tuv said:

“The deal with Genentech is a very significant endorsement of Vaccibody and a validation of the Vaccibody vaccine platform. Genentech, as one of the foremost leaders in leveraging the immune system to develop therapies for cancer, is the partner of choice to develop and commercialize individualized cancer vaccines. The deal will enable Vaccibody to accelerate and broaden the Company’s vaccine pipeline which we believe will unlock Vaccibody’s huge potential for patients and shareholders.

“This is a deal that generates substantial interest globally, and will put eyes on Norway as well.”

New strategy and focus

Vaccibody also presented a new strategy with expanded focus into research and development. The company wants to accelerate the development of existing drug candidates and detect new treatment options, based on the company’s technology.

The company’s technology platform will be extended to the discovery of other therapeutic areas and therapeutic methods, besides the present focus on cancer and infectious disease.

Promising cancer therapies

Vaccibody presently has two promising drug candidates. The first is a cancer vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is currently being tested in a phase II trial on cervical cancer, in collaboration with Roche.

The second is an innovative personalized cancer vaccine, which has just been licenced to Genentech, and is specially designed for each individual cancer patient, independent of their cancer type.

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Ketil Widerberg and Bjørn Klem

The new frontier in cancer innovation

This column was originally published in the Nordic Life Science magazine (September 2020 Issue).

Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Innovation Park and Incubator plans to expand by 5o ooo m² in the coming years. The goal is to create an international innovation hub in cancer. Why? Because personalized medicine is changing cancer innovation.

The Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg had great expectations when she opened OCC Innovation Park in July 2015, including a 5 000 m² Incubator, situated next to the Oslo University Hospital. The goal was to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments.

With world-class researchers in-house, Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk, investing in cancer biotechs, and one thousand noisy high school students in the same building, what could go wrong? Possibly everything.

At the time of opening, lab inventory and equipment were missing and only a few lease agreements were signed. More importantly, would scientists, investors and students be viewed as weird outcasts or would an attrac­tive innovation platform be created?

The idea is simple; the OCC Incubator helps entrepreneurs to quality check research ideas, to recruit competent people to board and management roles, and to fund projects. One example is Ultimovacs that started working back-to-back with academics in the OCC Incubator lab to develop cancer vaccines. The company is today listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange with an estimated value of NOK 1.3 billion.

Siva, the governmental infrastruc­ture for innovation, has been essential in making this a success. Their long­term commitment as owner and their support for start-up services has helped start-ups reach the next phase. Kongs­berg Beam Technology, for example, recently attracted NOK 27 million from the Norwegian Research Council and private investors to develop real-time cancer radiation steering systems.

The OCC Incubator was awarded the Siva Innovation Prize in 2017 and is frequently listed among the top 20 innovation hubs in Europe. The start-ups in the OCC Incubator have raised more than NOK 5 bil­lion in equity and treated hundreds of patients since its opening.

The Norwegian Prime Minister’s expectations on both job creation and cancer care are certainly being fulfilled.

So why strive for more? Because precision medicine is changing the world and digital oncology is the new frontier.

From personalized vaccines to cell therapy, medicines are increasingly developed for smaller patient groups. However, government systems for approvals and sharing of data go painfully slow, while global technology companies’ efforts in health fail repeatedly. The recent corona pan­demic has proven the importance of both international collaboration and regional sustainability, from develop­ment of tests to treatments.

It is time to join forces in the Nordics!

Real-world data and artificial intelligence will shorten develop­ment times and reduce costs for new cancer treatments. The OCC Incubator will provide labs and infrastructure next to patients, clinicians and researchers to help achieve this.

Our goal is to reduce the develop­ment of new cancer treatments from 10 to 5 years.

 

Written by: Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, and Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator

 

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OncoInvent

Clinical studies – important for Norwegian companies

Together with our member Inven2, we wish to highlight the importance of facilitating clinical studies in Norway – in order to build a strong health industry and provide cancer patients with access to new, innovative treatments.

Read the original version of this article in Norwegian on Inven2’s website.

Inven2 handles agreements for clinical studies on behalf of the Cancer Clinic at Oslo University Hospital for most Norwegian companies that develop cancer treatments.

“This is an important contribution to the Norwegian health industry and shows that we are competing internationally,” said Siri Kolle, VP Clinical Trials at Inven2.

OncoInvent is one of the promising Norwegian cancer companies that run clinical studies at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, a part of Oslo University Hospital. They initiated two Phase I studies in May and June this year, on ovarian and colorectal cancer with progression to the abdominal cavity.

The disease progression to the abdominal cavity is what often kills these patients and there is no effective treatment today.

“The product we have in clinical development is called Radspherin®. Radspherin® is a radiopharmaceutical product. It emits alpha rays that effectively kill cancer cells and is gentle for the patient, since the radiation only reaches a couple of cells in diameter,” said Hélen Johansen Blanco.

Blanco is Head of Clinical Operations at OncoInvent and, as such, she is responsible for the company’s clinical studies. She has more than 20 years of experience with clinical studies from both big pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca and Celgene, and several biotech companies.

OncoInvent is the third of the four companies that serial entrepreneurs Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland have initiated. Algeta was the very first one and was sold to the global biopharmaceutical company Bayer in 2013 for the impressive sum of NOK 18 billion.

Read more about OncoInvent below FACTS at the bottom of this article.

Helen Blanco, OncoInvent

Hélen Blanco, Head of Clinical Operations, OncoInvent. Photo: OncoInvent.

 

Close private-public collaboration

The overview from Inven2 shows eight Norwegian companies that are developing cancer treatments and have clinical studies at Oslo University Hospital at the moment. These are Targovax, PCI Biotech, Nordic Nanovector, Ultimovacs, Vaccibody, OncoInvent, BerGenBio and Exact Therapeutics. These companies are also members of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

What the companies have in common is that they are based on cancer research in Norway, either from academic institutions like a university or hospital, or they have been spun out of private companies.

“Oslo University Hospital has the expertise and feasibility to perform these types of complex early phase studies and is competitive internationally. This is an important prerequisite for Norwegian start-ups to be able to test their treatments in Norway,” said Siri Kolle, VP Clinical Trials at Inven2.

Local trials are a part of building a well-functioning ecosystem for the health industry in Norway.

“This also means that Norwegian cancer patients gain access to new and innovative treatments from Norwegian biotech companies long before the treatments reach the market,” said Kolle.

Kolle thinks that giving Norwegian companies the opportunity to test treatments locally should be a significant part of the Action Plan for Clinical Studies, which will be presented by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services before the end of the year.

In addition, some of these companies and other Norwegian pre-clinical stage companies, buy services from Oslo University Hospital.

“These services are important for the companies’ research and development, both in pre-clinical and clinical stage. The services include, among other things, pre-clinical studies, production, analysis and reports,” said Kolle.

Siri Kolle, VP Clinical Trials, Inven2

Siri Kolle, VP Clinical Trials at Inven2. Photo: Inven2/Moment Studio.

 

A professional organisation

Jon Amund Kyte is the Head of the Department for Experimental Cancer Treatment at Oslo University Hospital.

“During the course of 20 years, this has developed into a professional department that can perform high-quality clinical studies on behalf of both Norwegian biotech companies and the global pharmaceutical industry. We have quick start-up and good patient recruitment. Moreover, we emphasise patient security, documentation, and data quality. These elements are essential to perform clinical studies,” said Kyte.

The department consists of three units:

  • The Clinical Cancer Research Unit at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, which is specialized in Phase I/II studies.
  • The unit for clinical study nurses, who support the running of the academic departments. In other words, they support the doctors from the different cancer groups who lead the studies, who are also called main investigators or investigators.
  • The “Clinical Trial Office”, which involves a project coordinator that performs all the administrative work for a clinical study, on behalf of the companies that require support and the investigators. This includes applications to the regional ethics committee, all internal agreements with the different hospital departments, agreements with Inven2, applications to the research council (Forskningsutvalget) at the hospital, etc.

“When we receive a request from a company who want to run a study, we contact an investigator in the relevant cancer group, to see if they can do the study. Then, the company goes to our Clinical Trial Office,” said Kyte.

Kyte said that they want to offer the companies a one-stop-shop. The system they have rigged around clinical studies is comprehensive.

“This rig saves both time and money for the company, which doesn’t need to call many different people at the hospital. At the same time, the responsible doctors, the investigators who will lead the study, are relieved from the administrative burden. It is then easier for the doctors to participate,” said Kyte.

Kyte said they are mindful of keeping their promises to the companies. They will rather decline a study if they can’t deliver all the company’s needs or they can’t recruit enough patients.

“We also offer more services to the small companies that are less experienced with clinical studies and that have less resources than the global companies,” said Kyte.

oncologist jon amund kyte

Jon Amund Kyte is the Head of the Department for Experimental Cancer Treatment at Oslo University Hospital. Photo: Sofia Linden

Norway needs to compete

The fact that OncoInvent can perform studies in Norway is important for the company. But it is not a matter of course. The biotech company is “born global” and the studies they run in Norway need to be on the same level, or better, than the clinical studies they run abroad.

“The following aspects are particularly important for us when we choose which locations to place our clinical studies: the quality of the clinical data, the implementation of the study, that the study is started quickly and that the clinical centre can recruit the number of patients they have promised,” said Blanco.

She is very pleased with the two clinical studies that OncoInvent have ongoing at Oslo University Hospital so far and is happy to place more studies there if this positive experience lasts.

“One of the studies we have on colorectal cancer with progression is at the national centre responsible for treating patients with colorectal cancer that has spread to the abdominal cavity. This is a centre with high recruitment of patients from the entire country and that performs the study at a high level. They have included four patients so far and the first dose level is confirmed safe for the patients. No patients have dropped out of the study after signing the consent forms,” says Blanco.

The last part is an important point. Blanco tells us that they thought some patients would drop out of the study after giving their consent. This is because there are very specific inclusion criteria in all clinical studies, but the patient must first give consent before any testing can be done. This shows that the centre, led by gastro surgeon Stein Larsen, knows the patient group very well, Blanco points out.

“In addition, to have a quick start up the contractual work is essential. The negotiation process with Oslo University Hospital has been relatively quick and simple,” said Blanco.

She still points out that there are some structural challenges with running studies in Norway, such as the lengthy application processes at the Norwegian State Medicinal Agency and the Regional Ethics Committee, compared to other countries, such as Singapore and USA. OncoInvent’s experience is that Norway has been the quickest country to start up studies in so far.

“Compared to my experiences from the global studies that I have been responsible for, Norway has traditionally been relatively high in terms of cost and then we expect high quality data, like they deliver in for example Belgium or Germany. However, cost is not always in proportion to quality,” says Blanco.

image of drug radspherin(r) from oncoinvent

Radspherin® is a radiopharmaceutical product. It emits alpha rays that effectively kill cancer cells and is gentle for the patients, since the radiation only reaches a diameter of a couple of cells. Photo: OncoInvent.

Good at quick recruitment

Vaccibody and OncoInvent are proof that the Department for Experimental Cancer Treatments can start studies quickly.

OncoInvent publicised in May and June 2020 that the two phase I studies had begun with their first patient and Vaccibody advertised in July 2020 that its international phase II study of the DNA-based HPV vaccine in combination with a check point inhibitor from Roche also had begun.

In an opinion piece in the Norwegian medical newspaper Dagens Medisin, Kristina Lindemann, Staff Specialist at the Department of Gynaecologic Cancer and Head of Research Group for Gynaecological Oncology, wrote:

“We think it is great that Oslo University Hospital (OUS) was the first site and began with the first patient in this international study for patients with advanced cervical cancer.”

The reason they are quick at recruiting patients is because the Department for Experimental Cancer Treatments runs all applications and approval processes in parallel.

“We have checked and prepared the staff who will perform the study in advance, so that everything is in place when the company begins the study,” said Kyte.

The department gives their employees in-depth training, besides what has already been covered in the course “Good Clinical Practice” and have internal routines to secure good data quality.

When the clinical studies at Oslo University Hospital were stopped because of the corona pandemic in March, they were quickly up and running again because of the good internal routines.

“We never promise more than we can keep. If we can’t deliver a study, we may lose all future studies from that company or in that cancer type, and we don’t want to risk that. Our good reputation is all we have,” said Kyte.

Big potential for studies

Even if many things work well at the Clinical Trials Unit that Kyte heads up, Kyte wishes that clinical studies were a part of a more streamlined system at Norwegian hospitals.

“Clinical studies should be an integrated part of ordinary patient treatment, with dedicated specialists who have time set aside to work with clinical studies. Now, we need to obtain the price and capacity from each department of the hospital for the services we need for the studies. This process is both time-consuming and risky. If one department says no, then we must decline the study and if we are one investigator short, then the study cannot be run,” Kyte explains.

Kyte thinks that the streamlining of the processes should be assigned through documentation from the Ministry of Health and Care Services to the hospitals. This means that when the button “clinical studies” is pushed, it is just as binding for the hospital to complete as any other patient treatment.

“We run about 70 clinical studies at our hospital, this includes both industry studies and academic studies, but we have a much larger potential than this. We are a part of a ‘Comprehensive Cancer Center’ and have access to many cancer patients and competent cancer researchers at the hospital. We are very motivated to drive the interaction between research, business development and patients, that clinical studies represent,” said Kyte.

FACT

OncoInvent

  • OncoInvent was established ten years ago by serial entrepreneurs Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland. They are also behind cancer companies Algeta, Nordic Nanovector and newly established Nucligen. Tina Bønsdorff, Head of Research in OncoInvent, and Thóra Jónasdottir, board member in OncoInvent, also helped to establish the company in 2010.
  • Radspherin® is the main product from OncoInvent and is a radiopharmaceutical. This means it is a radioactive pharmaceutical that can kill cancer cells. Radspherin® consists of calcium carbonate particles marked with the radioactive isotope Radium-224, which is an alpha-emitting particle.
  • OncoInvent is in clinical development, with two phase I studies in Norway for the treatment of cancer metastasis in the abdominal cavity, from ovarian and colorectal cancer.
  • The radiation that Radspherin® emits is short and can therefore kill the cancer cells in the abdominal cavity more effectively without harming other parts of the body.
  • OncoInvent has their own production facilities for Radspherin® at their headquarters in Nydalen in Oslo, which is unusual for a small biotech company.
  • The company consists of almost 30 employees as of the end of this year.

Read more at OncoInvent’s official website

 

The Department for Experimental Cancer Treatment and Research Support

  • The main duty of the department is to contribute to more and better patient-focused research by facilitating for and implementing clinical studies.
  • It is led by Jon Amund Kyte.
  • It is a part of the Department for Cancer Treatment at Oslo University Hospital.
  • It consists of about 56 people connected with the department.
  • It runs about 70 clinical studies today, both from industry and academia.
  • It has studies in medical treatments, gene therapy, cancer vaccines, palliative treatments, radiation therapy, surgery and diagnostic procedures.
  • Read more about the work in the department in this interview with Jon Amund Kyte from Pharma Boardroom.

 

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Accelerating cancer research with data sharing

A new Norwegian technology enables cancer researchers to share data across research groups, institutions and country borders in order to faster reach new discoveries.

This is the story about a group of Norwegian researchers who got tired of the difficulties when collaborating across different hospitals. They decided to develop their own digital platform where research data can simply and safely be uploaded, shared and analysed across the globe.

Oslo University Hospital has now signed on to use the solution, called PRJCTS, to conduct nationwide clinical research on patients with the coronavirus.

The unique thing about the Norwegian start-up Ledidi is that the team consists of both doctors and engineers. Einar Martin Aandahl, CEO of Ledidi, is a surgeon with many years of research experience from Norway and the USA.

“We have done research for over 25 years, including in molecular biology, oncology and cancer surgery,” Aandahl explains. “We saw how difficult it was to collaborate on data and therefore we developed the software tool we needed.”

Today, researchers often work in several computer programs and must regularly import or export data. This is both time-consuming and leads to problems concerning data security. Moreover, statistical tools are slow and require previous training.

“We have brought together all the computer programmes that the researchers need into one software solution with a simple user interface,” Aandahl said. “The bridge between medicine and technology has made this possible.”

Aandahl thinks PRJCTS will simplify workflow and improve data security. The data will be kept in a cloud solution, which means it is always accessible from wherever researchers are located.

“This program has the potential to revolutionize how clinical research is conducted,” Aandahl said.

Since the majority of clinical cancer research today is done via multicentre international studies, it requires that different institutions can work together and share data securely. Moreover, cancer researchers often depend on large data sets and there is no limit to the scale of the project when using a cloud-based solution.

“The analysis tool is perfect for cancer research. It can perform many complicated analyses in a very short time frame,” Aandahl explained. ”The user interface is designed to help researchers see the larger patterns in the data.”

With the advent of personalized medicine, it is important for cancer researchers to easily identify subgroups in large data sets to tailor treatments for individual cancer patients.

Several prominent investors from the Norwegian finance milieu have already backed Ledidi. For example, Radforsk, the evergreen investment fund dedicated to oncology, recently pledged their support for the company.

“They have developed a product that will be extremely useful for researchers, clinicians and companies. We are happy to support them!” said Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk.

The agreement with Oslo University Hospital on covid-19 studies means a lot for Ledidi, who are proud that PRJCTS was approved of the hospital’s thorough regulations on data security and data privacy. Now, other clinical research environments have expressed interest in acquiring PRJCTS and Aandahl hopes it will help many more researchers worldwide.

“Our goal is that researchers can collect, analyse and share data faster, so that research can be accelerated and new treatments can be identified quicker,” Aandahl said.

Welcome first-year students

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

The school collaboration days were a little bit different this year, but we are still incredibly happy to see all the Ullern students back at school.

The corona pandemic dampened the spirit of the school collaboration days this year. This is usually when the first-year students at Ullern Upper Secondary School get to visit the different institutions and companies that are located in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park together with the school. However, the traditional lecture with Jónas Einarsson, one of the founding fathers of the Innovation Park, was still held.

Jónas Einarsson is the CEO of Radforsk, an early stage evergreen fund that invests in and develops cancer companies. The fund is also behind Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, which houses Ullern Upper Secondary School.

“I will tell you a little about the history behind the Norwegian Radium Hospital, cancer and cancer treatments, but first I have to talk a little about Covid-19 and the pandemic that we are all in the middle of,” Einarsson began his speech for the first-year students.

He continued by explaining that a corona vaccine may be available in 2021, but that it will take time before everyone receives the vaccine and for the whole population to gain immunity so that everything can go back to normal again.

“This has a big effect on young people in particular, but you are very smart. Just make sure to stay away from rave parties in caves,” Einarsson said and the students smiled.

Then, Einarsson told the story of how modern cancer treatment came into being when Marie Curie discovered the potential of radium to destroy cancer tumours, and how the Norwegian doctors Heyerdahl and Huitfeldt worked tirelessly for almost 20 years to establish the Norwegian Radium Hospital, which opened in 1932. Right next to it, Ullern Upper Secondary had recently opened its doors, so the school and the hospital have a long history as neighbours.

“In 2015, we opened Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and the neighbourhood became even closer. The school collaboration project between the school and the members of Oslo Cancer Cluster was established already in 2009, when we knew that we would move in together,” Einarsson said.

The rest, as they say, is history, but the corona pandemic has put a damper on the collaboration. Due to the current disease prevention in place, the usual placements have been cancelled and the close collaboration between students and researchers needs to be adapted. Exactly how this will take shape during the autumn of 2020, no one knows yet, but lectures and video conferences will serve as replacements.

Read more about what the school’s first-years usually do during the Collaboration Days.

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Danish Foreign Minister meets with Norwegian Trade Minister at Oslo Cancer Cluster

Ministers meet at Oslo Cancer Cluster

The corona pandemic and international trade were on the top of the agenda when the Foreign Minister of Denmark Jeppe Kofod met with the Minister for Trade, Industry and Fisheries of Norway Iselin Nybø at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park.

Norway and Denmark are close friends and allies, and the current corona situation has made conversations between Nordic colleagues more valuable than ever.

Export, international trade and investments will be crucial to overcoming the challenges the corona pandemic has brought to Nordic economies.

These pressing issues were discussed when the two ministers from Denmark and Norway met at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park on 13 August 2020.

Ministers Nybø and Kofod

Ministers Nybø and Kofod discussed how to increase export from and attract international investments to the Nordic countries. Photo: The Embassy of Denmark in Norway

The starting point of the meeting was how many companies in the health industry need access to international markets and value chains to grow.

The Norwegian government are preparing an Export Action Plan. It will include several measures to help Norwegian industry come through the corona crisis.

“In the development of the Export Action Plan, the government is collaborating with both industry and financial organisations. We want to gain as much knowledge as possible about where the challenges lie and evaluate which measures are most effective,” Nybø said in a press release from the Department of Trade, Industry and Fisheries.

The Embassy of Denmark in Norway released the following statement after the meeting:

“It is important to attract foreign investments and there is a big potential in Nordic collaboration within the life science sector, since Denmark and Norway have complementary competencies in this field.”

Ketil Widerberg, general manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster, was happy to facilitate the visit and to give input to the ministers on how international collaboration helps the development of cancer treatments:

“Denmark and Norway collaborate on important research areas, including cancer. Our countries have national health data that attract international recognition. Our countries also collaborate on purchasing of developed drugs.

“The opportunity now is the collaboration on how to use our health data and collaborative efforts to better and faster approve new innovative treatments.

“This could reduce development time from 10 to 5 years, and make the Nordics a destination for health innovation.”

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Lytix Biopharma signs licensing agreement

Our member Lytix Biopharma has entered into a milestone agreement with Verrica Pharmaceuticals to license the company’s lead drug candidate against skin cancer.

The Norwegian start-up Lytix Biopharma from Tromsø has reached a new milestone. The company has licensed its lead drug candidate LTX-315 against skin cancer to the dermatology therapeutics company Verrica Pharmaceuticals. Verrica Pharmaceuticals will develop and commercialize LTX-315 for dermatologic oncology indications.

The drug is a first-in-class oncolytic peptide-based immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that mobilises the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Peptides are short chains of between two and fifty amino acids that can have many different sources or functions. Peptides hold great potential for both cancer therapy and diagnostics, through the development of anticancer peptides, use of peptides for drug delivery, and cancer targeting.

Clinical studies have shown that the drug LTX-315 from Lytix Biopharma has the ability to kill human cancer cells and induce a specific anti-cancer immune response when injected locally into tumours.

“We are pleased to enter into this collaboration with Verrica, which has significant expertise within the field of dermatology” said Øystein Rekdal, CEO of Lytix Biopharma. “Our lead drug candidate, LTX-315, has shown very promising efficacy and safety signals in cancer patients during Phase I/II studies and we are excited that this partnership with Verrica will expand the applications for LTX-315”

The agreement entitles Lytix Biopharma to up-front payment, contingent regulatory milestones based on achievement of specified development goals, and sales milestones, with aggregate payments of more than $110M, as well as tiered royalty payments in the double-digit teens once Verrica successfully commercializes LTX-315 in dermatologic oncology indications.

Lytix Biopharma and Oslo Cancer Cluster

Lytix Biopharma has been a part of the innovation environment in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park since the building opened in 2015, utilising both offices and laboratory for research and development.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has offered the company its services in both private and shared laboratory spaces. In addition, Lytix Biopharma has been active in the animal laboratories at The Norwegian Radium Hospital (a part of Oslo University Hospital), which is located right next to the Incubator.

The researchers in Lytix Biopharma have gained their PhDs in the Incubator, in collaboration with its innovation environment. One of the company’s former researchers is now the laboratory manager in the Incubator.

“This shows how the innovation environments enrich one another in a positive sense, by sharing access to different services and thanks to the power of our geographic location,” said Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Lytix Biopharma recently moved out of the Incubator after finishing their main project earlier this year and remains a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator is financed by SIVA, the Norwegian national infrastructure for innovation, consisting of incubators, business gardens, catapult centres, innovation enterprises, innovation centres and industrial real estate.

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Digital bootcamp for better cancer care

A digital bootcamp for better cancer care

Molecular diagnostics, clinical studies and exercise plans for cancer patients were three key topics raised in last week’s event.

We teamed up with Aktiv mot Kreft, Merck Norway and GSK Norway to put a spotlight on innovative cancer treatments in Norway.

Due to corona restrictions, we transformed this event (originally planned for Arendalsuka) into a digital bootcamp with short training intervals between each panel. This was livestreamed from Pusterommet at Akershus University Hospital on Wednesday 12 August 2020 at 5:00 pm.

The meeting consisted of three parts with different perspectives: diagnostics, treatments and exercise plans.

View the entire meeting via Facebook here or watch it via our YouTube channel below:

 

Warming-up to genetic testing

The warm-up session involved a discussion on how improved diagnostics can help doctors determine the best treatment for each individual patient.

Dr. Andreas Stensvold, Head of the Cancer Department at Sykehuset Østfold, talked about how he has used off-label treatments to help some of his patients.

One example is Kjetil Nerland who had already received the traditional treatment methods: surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but found they did not work for him over longer periods of time.

After going through genetic testing and detailed analysis of the tumour cells, Stensvold could offer Nerland an off-label treatment. The medicines had already been approved for a different cancer type.

“It’s not fun to have cancer, but it is fun to live longer and to not have to go through chemotherapy again,” Nerland said.

Jan Frich, vice administrative director for the South-Eastern Regional Health Authority, explained they are setting up the infrastructure for advanced molecular diagnostics.

“We need to build up the diagnostics – that is the basis for personalized medicine,” Frich said.

Professor Jan Helge Solbakk from The Centre for Medical Ethics at the University of Oslo was however critical of how little is being done to approve new cancer treatments and implement personalized medicine in Norway.

“Norwegian authorities are a little bit too scared of personalized medicine. When there is a big breakthrough or when we see great effect in one patient, they worry about the cost,” Solbakk said.

 

High-intensive discussions on clinical studies

The next panel discussed: How can Norway keep up with other countries on implementing precision medicine?

Professor Kjetil Taskén, Director of the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital, highlighted three things: building infrastructure for molecular cancer diagnostics, attracting more clinical studies that utilise molecular diagnostics and implementing this in regular clinical practice.

The initiative IMPRESS Norway works towards a public-private collaboration, with public financing to do a large clinical study in collaboration with several private companies. They will follow a set of guidelines to find out which cancer treatment is best for which patient.

“I think the dialogue between governmental institutions and private companies has been good so far. We are aiming to get a shift towards more public-private collaborations,” Taskén said.

The clinical study IMPRESS Norway is modelled on studies done in the USA and Netherlands. Results from the ongoing Dutch study show that if enough patients and companies are involved, it is possible to find one extra treatment option for 50% of the patients by using molecular diagnostics.

The pharmaceutical industry agrees that this is an important step towards precision medicine.

“It should be a political goal that clinical studies become part of ordinary cancer patient treatment, so that all patients who have been through treatment are offered a place in a clinical study,” Steinar Thoresen, Head of Oncology and Strategy, Merck Nordics and Netherlands, said.

Frøydis Høyem, State Secretary at the Ministry for Health and Care Services, was positive about more public-private collaboration on cancer care.

“The Norwegian government genuinely cares about cancer patients and wants to land a public-private collaboration. We need to come together, discuss this more and agree on how to take it further,” Høyem said.

 

Relaxing perspectives on exercise

How do we prepare the patient to be in the best possible shape to handle a cancer treatment? This was the key question in the last panel of the meeting.

A new initiative at Akershus University Hospital has put educating patients about coping with cancer, along with exercise and diet plans, at the forefront for all their treatments.

The results?

“We have higher patient satisfaction. They experience a higher degree of involvement, shorter waiting times and less complications,” Dr. Geir Arne Larsen, Head of Department for General and Digestive Surgery at Akershus University Hospital, said.

“It is neither high tech medicine nor resource demanding. In total, we use less resources on these patients, so the hospital’s capacity for intensive care, surgery and hospital beds can be used for other patients,” Larsen continued.

Hanne Garde is one of the patients who has been involved. She is happy she could take part in an individualised plan for diet, exercise and managing the disease, which made all the difference for her during treatment and recovery.

“It was perfect for me personally to be able to take an active role in my own treatment,” Garde said.

Yngvar Andersen, Ambassador for Aktiv mot kreft and training enthusiast, led all the exercise intervals and finished the meeting with some exercises for all the participants.

“I have seen how meaningful exercise is for many cancer patients. Life might not become longer, but it becomes a little bit better,” Andersen said.

 

Meeting participants:

  • Siri Lill Mannes, host
  • Frøydis Høyem, State Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Care Services
  • Jan Frich, vice administrative director at the Norwegian South-Eastern Regional Health Authority
  • Andreas Stensvold, oncologist and Head of the Cancer Department at Sykehuset Østfold
  • Jan Helge Solbakk, professor at the Centre for Medical Ethics at the University of Oslo
  • Kjetil Taskén, Director of the Insitute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital
  • Steinar Thoresen, Head of Oncology and Strategy, Merck Nordics and Netherlands
  • Geir Arne Larsen, Head of Department for General and Digestive Surgery at Akershus University Hospital
  • Yngvar Andersen, Ambassador for Aktiv mot kreft and training enthusiast

 

Thank you to all participants and organising partners for making this meeting possible!

 

 

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Eivind Lysheim

Studying medtech with cancer patients at heart

Former Ullern student Eivind Lysheim has been inspired to make a difference for cancer patients

Eivind Lysheim had decided to study economics at university, until a work placement at the Norwegian Radium Hospital caught his interest in 2016, during his last year at Ullern Upper Secondary School.

The placement was arranged by Oslo Cancer Cluster and took place in the Department of Medical Physics. For an entire week Eivind was mentored by Professor Taran Paulsen Hellebust and her co-workers on medical imaging and how radiotherapy is used to treat cancer patients. The Ullern student learnt how to use the machines and how to create a theoretical treatment plan for a former patient.

“I have always been interested in the natural sciences. I felt that the combination of technology and medicine was extremely interesting. It is fascinating how you can use something that is perceived as deadly – such as gamma radiation, x-rays or high energy particles – and cure someone. When I saw the high-tech machines at the hospital, I got a little bit carried away,” Eivind said with a smile.

Eivind immediately changed his application from economics to the mathematics and physics programme with specialisation in biophysics and medical technology at NTNU in Trondheim.

Four years later, Eivind has one year left of his master’s degree and is still intent on working on technology that can improve the lives of cancer patients.

“Cancer can happen to anyone and almost everyone in Norway knows someone who has been affected by it. It is important that we develop the very best treatments for the people who get ill,” Eivind said.

Eivind got in touch with Bente Prestegård, project manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster, who helped him find a summer internship with our member Kongsberg Beam Technology. The company recently acquired funding to develop control systems for proton therapy machines.

“Among medtech students in Norway, proton therapy is probably the most popular area to work in. Everyone dreams about getting a job in this field. This internship has really been like hitting the jackpot for me,” Eivind said.

Kongsberg Beam Technology is developing a system called MAMA-K, which is short for Multi‑Array Multi-Axis Cancer Combat Machine. The machine treats the tumour with a number of simultaneous proton beams and is especially adapted for more mobile tumours, and it can be added to both existing and new proton machines.

Eivind has spent the summer doing research in the offices belonging to Semcon, who is one of Kongsberg Beam Technology’s partners.

Norway is in the process of building its first two proton centres, at Oslo University Hospital and at Haukeland University Hospital. Many medtech students are eager to work at these centres to develop cancer treatments. Moreover, the technology used in proton machines is an intriguing area of research constantly in development, which makes it highly attractive for new students.

“If I can work with proton therapy, I can look forward to a very exciting and varied career, because the field is always changing and you have to continually learn new things,” Eivind said.

The IT-revolution in oncology

This article was first published in Teknisk Ukeblad in Norwegian on 23 June 2020. Scroll down for a version in Norwegian.

EHiN, E-Health in Norway, is Norway’s largest conference on the digitalization of the health sector. Save the date 10-11 November 2020!

“At EHiN you will meet the key players of the health sector, politicians and decision-makers,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

EHiN has proven to be an important arena to gather the industry, the public sector and the research environment around the digitalization of the health sector.

“During two days, we will learn from one another and share knowledge about technological solutions to benefit the health service and individual patients. This creates a basis for further collaboration,” Widerberg said.

Oslo Cancer Cluster is a non-profit member organization that connects public and private key players in cancer research and a Norwegian Centre of Expertise since 2009. Oslo Cancer Cluster is a collaboration partner in EHiN.

Artificial intelligence changes cancer treatments

Digitalisation is a central area in cancer research and the advent of precision medicine demands that different academic disciplines work closely together. Using artificial intelligence will be important to develop new treatments.

“Artificial intelligence will change how we treat cancer. It is about understanding cancer. The same way that a microscope can show us what cells look like, AI can help us to discover patterns we never would have seen otherwise.

“This makes it possible to give patients personalized treatments because we can identify how the patient will react to the treatment. Eventually, modern machine learning systems will make the treatments even better.

“The goal is to give the right treatment to the right patient at the right time,” Widerberg explained.

The IT-revolution in the oncology field is also of great interest to the tech industry. It is about handling enormous amounts of health data through storage, analysis, machine learning, pattern detection and secure connections between different data sources.

“Personalized medicine, genetics and the use of health data is quickly developing into one of the most important areas in digital health.”
Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

“EHiN wishes in collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster to build Norway as an important international hub in the area of e-health,” Widerberg said.

The programme for EHiN 2020 is currently under development. Information about the venue and ticket sales will be announced at a later date. Please visit the official EHiN website for updates on how corona affects EHiN 2020.

 


IT-REVOLUSJON PÅ ONKOLOGIFELTET

EHiN, EHelse i Norge, er Norges største konferanse om digitalisering i helsesektoren. – Merk deg datoene 10. og 11. november allerede nå.

På EHiN møter du de fremste aktørene i helsesektoren, politikere og beslutningstakere, sier Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster.
EHiN har vist seg å være en viktig arena for å samle næringsliv, offentlig sektor og forskning rundt digitalisering av helsesektoren.

– I to dager i  skal vi lære av hverandre og dele kunnskap om teknologiløsninger til det beste for helsevesen og enkeltpasienter. Det skaper grobunn for videre samarbeid, poengterer Widerberg.

Han forteller at Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) er en non-profit medlemsorganisasjon som samler offentlige og private aktører innen kreftforskning, og et Norwegian Centre of Expertise. OCC er samarbeidspartner i EHiN.

Presisjonsmedisin

Presisjonsmedisin krever ifølge Widerberg at forskjellige fag-grener jobber tett sammen, og digitalisering er et sentralt område innenfor kreft. Han trekker frem betydningen av kunstig intelligens (AI).

– AI vil endre kreftbehandlingen. Det handler om å forstå kreften. På samme måte som mikroskopet tar oss helt ned på cellenivå, vil AI hjelpe oss til å se et mønster vi aldri ellers ville oppdaget. Dette gjør det mulig å gi pasienter individbasert behandling – nettopp fordi vi kan se et mønster på hvordan pasienten reagerer på behandlingen. Etter hvert vil moderne selvlærende datasystemer gjøre behandlingsmetodene bedre.
Målet er å gi den rette behandlingen til den rette pasienten til rett tid, forklarer Widerberg.

IT-revolusjonen på onkologifeltet har også stor interesse for IT-bransjen. Det handler blant annet om å håndtere enorme mengder helsedata gjennom lagring, analyse, maskinlæring, mønstergjenkjenning og sikker kobling av forskjellige datakilder.

– Persontilpasset medisin, genetikk og bruk av helsedata utvikler seg snart til et av de viktigste områdene innen digital helse, sier Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster.

– EHiN ønsker i samarbeid med OCC å bygge Norge som en viktig internasjonal hub på området e-helse, avslutter Widerberg.

Følg med på ehin.no hvordan koronaviruset påvirker EHiN 2020.

Oslo Cancer Cluster becomes a member of Oslo Science City

How can we solve societal challenges, such as cancer, by creating a power centre for innovation in Oslo? This is the key question Oslo Science City – the first innovation district in Norway – hopes to answer.

The ambition of Oslo Science City is to become a world leading innovation district that contributes to research excellence, jobs creation, the green shift and sustainable economic development.

“We intend to develop a vibrant city area where people meet to innovate and explore what we still don’t understand,” said Christine Wergeland Sørbye, CEO of Oslo Science City.

In order to achieve this, Oslo Science City’s strategy is to facilitate cooperation between leading research groups, students, businesses and the public sector. Key actors in the district, including the City of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital and the University of Oslo, are now working together to facilitate the development of the area.

“We will develop a powerhouse for innovation, research and business, and a good place to live,” said Wergeland Sørbye.

Oslo Cancer Cluster joined Oslo Science City in June 2020 to contribute to boosting innovation in this knowledge-intensive area.

”Innovation thrives where there are hard problems that need to be solved,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

“Cancer is one of the major societal challenges we face today. For over a decade, Oslo Cancer Cluster has worked tirelessly to enable researchers and investors, private companies and public hospitals to work closer together to solve this challenge. We have succeeded in some first steps, now is the time to get to the next level. Utilizing the potential in immunology and digitalisation with Oslo Science City will be key to achieve this.”

Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder, OCC

Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, sees the potential of connecting immunology and digitalisation in the future innovation district. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster / Stig Jarnes

Wergeland Sørbye is happy to welcome Oslo Cancer Cluster as an active partner in developing Oslo Science City:

“Oslo Cancer Cluster has unique competencies and a long track record, and we are looking forward to learn from you! Together with the University of Oslo, SINTEF, Oslo University Hospital, the City of Oslo and our other members, Oslo Cancer Cluster will play an important role in realizing the potential for innovation, new jobs and value creation. It is important, and it will be fun!”

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, the Oslo University Hospital research building and Norwegian Radium Hospital are located in the new innovation district Oslo Science City.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, the Oslo University Hospital research building and Norwegian Radium Hospital are located in the new innovation district Oslo Science City. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster / Christian Tandberg

A vibrant area to live, work, play

There are many innovation districts around the world, yet there is no fixed recipe for how successful innovation districts are developed.

“Developing such an area could be described more as an art than science.” Wergeland Sørbye said.

“However, research highlights the need for certain key functions. For example, you need strong anchor institutions that attract other actors, such as a university or university hospital, and you need to facilitate the cooperation based on trust between the different organizations and stakeholders in the area. Many do this by establishing a joint membership organization, which is what we did with Oslo Science City.”

Furthermore, it is essential to develop a multifunctional area with a critical mass of knowledge-intensive businesses. The ideal innovation district is a vibrant place where people can “live, work and play”, with services and cultural functions. It must also be easy to move around in the area, on foot, bike or public transportation.

“A key lesson from other innovation districts is the importance of adapting to the local context,” Wergeland Sørbye said.

However, no one has previously developed innovation districts in Norway. This makes it valuable to learn from international examples. Some innovation districts that have provided inspiration in the endeavour to develop Oslo Science City are Stockholm Science City, Copenhagen Science City, White City in London and Kendal Square in Boston.

Please follow the Oslo Science City official website for further updates on the development of the innovation district.

Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: Hemispherian

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

Our newest member Hemispherian is developing a better treatment option for patients with aggressive brain cancer.

Glioblastoma multiforme is one of the most aggressive types of cancer that begins within the brain. Current treatment options are limited to surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the median overall survival after diagnosis is only 15 months and is highly dependent on the success of the surgery.

A Norwegian company called Hemispherian is advancing a new method to treat glioblastoma multiforme. The molecules the company is developing are called GLIX1 and GLIX5. They target a mechanism that is unique to cancer cells and does not affect normal healthy cells. The molecules are highly toxic to cancer cells and have minimal side effects.

We talked to Adam Robertson, Chief Scientific Officer in Hemispherian, to find out more about the company and the research.

How is Hemispherian involved in health and cancer?

“We are advancing first-in-class therapeutics for the indication with the greatest unmet need in oncology — glioblastoma multiforme. Patients diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme have dismal outcomes. Overall survival is measured in months with quality of life deteriorating rapidly. It is Hemispherian’s mission to provide superior treatment options.” Adam Robertson, Chief Scientific Officer, Hemispherian.

Why did Hemispherian become a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“As a company focusing on developing cancer treatments Oslo Cancer Cluster is a natural fit for us. We are interested in Oslo Cancer Cluster’s extensive experience in the field and hope to benefit from advice and to make valuable contacts through Oslo Cancer Cluster’s network.” Adam Robertson, Chief Scientific Officer, Hemispherian.

Ullern students presented their own research

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

Arranging a poster session may seem like an unusual way to end the school year, but for Ullern’s researcher students it is the perfect way to finish.

The first year of the Researcher Programme at Ullern Upper Secondary School was brought to an end by the students presenting their research projects to the four mentors, the principal, their teachers and co-students. A sunny, warm morning in June the Ullern schoolyard was transformed into a poster session, an activity that normally only takes place at science conferences.

The presentation of their research projects is the “grand final” of the school year for the students on the Researcher Programme, says Monica Flydal Jenstad and Ragni Fet, who are the two teachers in charge of the programme.

“The students have worked on their own experiments related to radiation and made real research posters. This has been a bit challenging, because of the corona pandemic and studying from home during a long period. They were supposed to present their research projects to the four mentors already in April, but this was of course not possible. It is really fun that we managed to do this at all,” says Ragni.

The teachers Ragni Fet and Monica Flydal Jenstad are responsible for the Researcher Programme. They were really impressed by the research projects the students presented during their first poster session. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

The teachers Ragni Fet and Monica Flydal Jenstad are responsible for the Researcher Programme. They were really impressed by the research projects the students presented during their first poster session. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

The four mentors that Ragni is referring to is Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk and founder of Oslo Cancer Cluster and Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, consultant in Radforsk and former CEO of Ultimovacs, Simone Mester, cancer researcher at Oslo University Hospital and former student at Ullern Upper Secondary School, and Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and former head of research in Photocure.

Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and former head of research in Photocure, is studying the research posters in depth.

Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and former head of research in Photocure, is studying the research posters in depth.

The mentors’ task is to advise the students during their studies and contribute with guidance, inspiration and experience. The mentors were more than pleased with what was presented to them:

“I tutored the students in February when they were designing the experiments and brainstorming. It was really fun to see the finished results in the poster format. I think everyone reflected well on their own results and it was fun to discuss with them. I am very impressed by the results!” said Simone Mester.

Jónas Einarsson agreed:

“I am impressed by the students’ work in spite of all the complications with the closed school. They explored interesting issues and executed the projects very well.”

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen believes the students had a great advantage in their experienced teachers, who both have backgrounds in cancer research, when performing their own research projects:

“I think the students were especially good at formulating clear hypotheses. It is obvious they have understood the main reason for this type of research. They have great teachers and clear heads.”

A great success

A total of ten research projects were presented in poster format in the schoolyard. The principal, the science teachers, the mentors and the students walked among the posters, just like at a real science conference, read about the research and asked questions to the research talents.

The teacher Ragni Fet opens the poster session. To her left: the mentors Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, Jónas Einarsson and Bjørn Klem. In front of her: the nervous students prepared to present. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

The teacher Ragni Fet opens the poster session. To her left: the mentors Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, Jónas Einarsson and Bjørn Klem. In front of her: the nervous students prepared to present. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

“The poster session was a success! The students were brilliant. Both the mentors and teachers were impressed. The students’ task was to design and complete an experiment of their choosing related to the topic of radiation and to present the results of the experiment on a poster,” said Ragni Fet.

Two projects were awarded special prizes out of the ten research projects that were presented. The first prize was awarded by a jury consisting of the four mentors and the teachers. The second prize was awarded by the students themselves.

The winners

"Research into plants and microwaves" by Christofer Woxholt, David Venker and Jonathan Løvdal won the Jury’s Choice.

“Research into plants and microwaves” by Christofer Woxholt, David Venker and Jonathan Løvdal won the Jury’s Choice.

"Research into radiation of yeast" by Alexander Hustad, Alexander Marks and Martin Thormodsrud won Student’s Choice. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

“Research into radiation of yeast” by Alexander Hustad, Alexander Marks and Martin Thormodsrud won Student’s Choice. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen. 

The runner-ups

"How does light with different wavelength affect the growth of plants?" by Linnéa M. Skille, May Dagny Kollandsrud Hutchings, Tonje Marie Bjørklund Hopen and Elakhiya Dushyanthan won second place in both the Student’s Choice and the Jury’s Choice. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“How does light with different wavelength affect the growth of plants?” by Linnéa M. Skille, May Dagny Kollandsrud Hutchings, Tonje Marie Bjørklund Hopen and Elakhiya Dushyanthan won second place in both the Student’s Choice and the Jury’s Choice. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

"Can you fry an egg with ultrasound?" by Sebastian Heuser and Victor Garman won a shared second place in the Student’s Choice category. Sebastian was unfortunately not present for the poster session. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“Can you fry an egg with ultrasound?” by Sebastian Heuser and Victor Garman won a shared second place in the Student’s Choice category. Sebastian was unfortunately not present for the poster session. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen 

All research posters

"Water’s ability to slow gamma radiation" by Nikita Upadhyaya, Henrikke Thrane Steen Røkke and Lara Barazangy. Lara was not present when the picture was taken. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“Water’s ability to slow gamma radiation” by Nikita Upadhyaya, Henrikke Thrane Steen Røkke and Lara Barazangy. Lara was not present when the picture was taken. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

"The effect of different amounts of radiation on yeast cells" by Jakub Michalowski, August André Lukkassen and Emil Gråbøl-Undersrud. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“The effect of different amounts of radiation on yeast cells” by Jakub Michalowski, August André Lukkassen and Emil Gråbøl-Undersrud. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

"Radiation of e-coli" by Peder Hellesylt, Carl Thagaard, Fredrik Røren and Felix Gundersen. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“Radiation of e-coli” by Peder Hellesylt, Carl Thagaard, Fredrik Røren and Felix Gundersen. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

"The effect of different types of radioactive radiation on bacteria" by Isha Mohal and Nada Darwiche. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“The effect of different types of radioactive radiation on bacteria” by Isha Mohal and Nada Darwiche. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

"Does microwave radiation affect the growth of seeds?" by Anine Sundnes, Julia Beatrice Braaten and Tia Sauthon. Tia was not present when the photo was taken. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“Does microwave radiation affect the growth of seeds?” by Anine Sundnes, Julia Beatrice Braaten and Tia Sauthon. Tia was not present when the photo was taken. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

"Radiation of plants" by Iselin Langås Sunde, Andrea Øfstaas, Henrik E. Corneliussen and Fredrik Hansteen. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“Radiation of plants” by Iselin Langås Sunde, Andrea Øfstaas, Henrik E. Corneliussen and Fredrik Hansteen. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

The mentors together with the winning group. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

The mentors together with the winning group. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

The mentors together with the group that got second place in Jury’s Choice and Student’s Choice. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

The mentors together with the group that got second place in Jury’s Choice and Student’s Choice. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen.

 

More about the Researcher Programme

The Researcher Programme (Forskerlinja) is a unique opportunity for motivated and talented aspiring researchers. The students receive a tailored three-year educational programme with a specialisation in the natural sciences. The academic year 2019/2020 is the first year that Ullern Upper Secondary School has run this programme, which offers a first insight into biomedical research, technology and innovation. Teachers and researchers give the students a taste of how world-class research is done. The students learn in completely new ways in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, which Ullern Upper Secondary School is a part of.

The students have through the years participated in the unique collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster, which offers them exciting work placements with researchers, companies and laboratories associated with the cluster and the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Because of the corona pandemic, the students have unfortunately missed out on many of the planned activities.

The students still have two years left of the programme and they will present two more research projects, but first, they will enjoy a well-deserved summer holiday.

Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder, OCC

Hva er viktigst, hytta eller helsen?

This opinion piece was originally published in Aftenposten on 25 June 2020. Scroll down for a version in English.

Deaktiver Smittestopp-appen med en gang – med god samvittighet, skriver Joacim Lund. Han bør heller ha dårlig samvittighet.

Smittestopp-appen samler inn bevegelsesmønstre for å spore spredningen av covid-19. Personvern står høyt, og derfor bør vi ta det alvorlig når Datatilsynet protesterer mot appens datalagring og datahåndtering. Ved stans av datainnsamling brukte kun 11 prosent av Norges befolkning den. Det er langt under de nødvendige 50 prosent for å få en reell sykdomsoversikt.

Dette står i kontrast til det at store deler av oss bruker Google Maps, som også samler inn lokasjonsdata, så vi finner køfri vei til hytta.

Hva er viktigst, hytta eller helsen? Kan vi kombinere godt personvern og tillit til myndighetene for å se effekten av og begrense tiltakene mot covid-19? Folkehelseinstituttet og Simula gjorde en fantastisk jobb med Smittestopp. Appen bør utvikles med bedre sikkerhet og anonymisering, men det å ønske Smittestopp død er feil. Å samle inn og dele data for vår felles helse er viktig, i umiddelbare kriser som covid-19 og mot samfunnsutfordringer som kreft.

Smittestopp er død. Lenge leve Smittestopp.


What is more important: your holiday cabin or your health?

Deactivate the app Smittestopp at once – with good conscience, Joacim Lund writes in Aftenposten. This should rather give him a bad conscience.

The app Smittestopp collects people’s movement patterns to track the spread of covid-19. Privacy is important, and that is why we should take it seriously when The Norwegian Data Protection Authority (DPA) protests against the app’s storage and handling of data. Only 11 percent of Norway’s population used the app, when the data collection was stopped. That is far from the necessary 50 percent to get a real overview of the spread of the disease.

This is in contrast to the fact that many of us use Google Maps, which is also collecting location data, so that we can find the quickest way to our holiday cabins.

What is more important, the holiday cabin or our health? Can we combine good privacy and trust in government to see the effect of and limit the measures against covid-19? The Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Simula did a fantastic job with Smittestopp. The app should be developed with better security and anonymization, but to wish Smittestopp dead is wrong. To gather and share data for our common health is important, in immediate crises like covid-19 and against societal challenges like cancer.

Smittestopp is dead. Long live Smittestopp.

Targovax releases 12-month clinical data

Our member Targovax has released 12-month data from the company’s clinical study of the oncolytic virus ONCOS-102 in patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma.

Targovax is a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster that develops oncolytic viruses to treat solid cancer tumours. The company’s lead product is called ONCOS-102 and has been engineered to selectively infect cancer cells and activate the immune system to fight cancer.

An oncolytic virus is a virus that preferentially infects and kills cancer cells.

The oncolytic virus ONCOS-102 is currently being tested in a phase I/II clinical trial with the aim to establish its safety and efficacy. ONCOS-102 is tested in combination with the standard-of-care chemotherapy on patients with mesothelioma.

The company released 12-month data from the clinical trial this week, which powerfully demonstrate a broad immune activation linked to clinical benefit.

Watch the presentation with Magnus Jäderberg, Chief Medical Officer at Targovax:

What is mesothelioma?

Malignant mesothelioma is a type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs (mesothelium). Mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly form of cancer.

Mesothelioma is a difficult cancer disease to diagnose and treat. Only 10% of all patients are eligible for surgery. Many of the remaining patients receive chemotherapy. Radiotherapy may be used in some cases for palliative reasons. There have been no new break-through treatments with any significant impact during the last 15 years.

Immunotherapy has started to make an inroad on the disease. There are a couple of checkpoint inhibitor trials for patients with second-line disease. For patients with first-line disease, there are currently no immunotherapy options.

Checkpoint inhibitor therapy is a form of cancer immunotherapy, a type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer.

The 12-month data

Targovax has presented data from the company’s phase I/II trial focusing on safety on combining ONCOS-102 with chemotherapy. They have looked at both first-line and second-line patients being treated with standard-of-care chemotherapy in combination with ONCOS-12.

The study includes a control group of 11 patients who have received chemotherapy only and an experimental group of 14 patients who received the combination of chemotherapy and ONCOS-102.

The 12-month results show that ONCOS-102 drives broad and powerful immune activation across key parameters, including innate immune responses, adaptive immune responses and remodelling of the tumour microenvironment.

The tumor microenvironment has profound impacts on cancer progression and remodelling of the tumour microenvironment has emerged as a strategy to facilitate cancer therapy.

The analysed genes show that there is a clear difference in ONCOS-102-induced immune activation compared to chemotherapy only. The genes also show there is a clear association between the powerful immune activation and improved clinical outcome.

The data shows that ONCOS-102 drives the infiltration of CD8+ T cells into the tumour, which is associated with better outcomes.

Targovax now plans to continue the clinical study for first-line patients. The company sees a strong rationale for combining ONCOS-102 with checkpoint inhibitor and standard-of-care chemotherapy.

On Tuesday, Targovax also revealed they will collaborate with our member pharmaceutical company MSD (known as Merck in the US) to evaluate the immunotherapy drug Keytruda in combination with ONCOS-102.

Find out more …

Erna Solberg visits PCI Biotech

Grants awarded for PDT/PCI research

Radforsk has granted seven research projects a total amount of MNOK 1,25 to further develop exciting research projects within photodynamic treatment and photochemical internalization.

Radforsk is an evergreen investor focusing on companies that develop cancer treatments.

“Radforsk has ploughed NOK 200 million of its profit back into cancer research at Oslo University Hospital. Of these, NOK 25 million, have gone to research in PDT/PCI. This year we grant seven projects a total of NOK 1,25 million,” says Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk.

Radforsk had received a total of seven applications by the deadline on 1 March. All projects were allocated funding.

The applications have been assessed by external experts.

The researchers who have received funding for PDT/PCI research in 2020 are:

  • Anette Weyergang is granted NOK 300 000 to the project: “Photochemical Internalization: Development of a novel tumor-specific protein toxin to defeat aggressive and resistant cancers”
  • Beáta Grallert is granted NOK 100 000 for the project: “Cancer-specific bioluminescence-PDT”
  • Judith Jing Wen Wong is granted NOK 100 000 to the project “Light-enhanced targeting of immunosuppressive tumor cells”
  • Kirsten Sandvig and Tore Geir Iversen are granted NOK 200.000 to the project “Drug-loaded Photosensitizer-Chitoscan Nanoparticles for cominatorial Chemo- and Photodynamic cancer therapy”
  • Mouldy Sioud is granted NOK 200.00 to the project “Antibody- and peptide-targeted photodynamic therapy to kill cancer cells”
  • Qian Peng and Henry Hirschberg are granted NOK 50 500 to the project “Improved therapy of brain tumors by PDT induced anti-tumor immune responses”
  • Qian Peng is granted 300 000 to the project “Photopheresis of patients with Crohn’s disease using 5-aminolevulinic acid”

Read about the projects that were funded in 2019 here.

FACTS

PDT/PCI

Cancer research in the field of photodynamic therapy and photochemical internalisation studies the use of light in direct cancer treatment in combination with drugs, or to deliver drugs that can treat cancer to cells or organs.

Radforsk

Since its formation in 1986, Radforsk has generated NOK 600 million in fund assets and channelled NOK 200 million to cancer research, based on a loan of NOK 1 million in equity back in 1986.

During this period, NOK 200 million have found its way back to the researchers whose ideas Radforsk has helped to commercialise.

NOK 25 million have gone to research in photodynamic therapy (PDT) and photochemical internalisation (PCI). In total, NOK 40 million will be awarded to this research.

GLIMT UB, Arif and Unge Ferrari at Rikshospitalet, Oslo.

Helping teens in the hospital

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

Ullern students helped teenagers in the hospital while learning how to become entrepreneurs.

GLIMT UB, a youth company at Ullern Upper Secondary School, wants to give chronically ill teenagers the activities they need while they are in hospital. The pizza night with the famous Norwegian rappers Arif and Unge Ferrari was a big success, but then the corona pandemic put a temporary stop to the newly started company.

“GLIMT offers teens in hospital different activities, which are planned and carried out by other teens. We offer an arrangement for the hospitals, which is better adapted and more resource-efficient.”

Teenagers who stay in the hospital for long periods of time are often isolated and have few other fulfilling activities in their everyday lives. GLIMT UB decided to do something about this and thought of the idea to arrange pizza nights at the hospital, inviting famous people as guests for the young patients.

The concept was a success and the pizza night with Arif and Unge Ferrari at Rikshospitalet in January 2020 attracted five times as many young patients as other activities. Arif and Unge Ferrari hung out with the teens who are staying in the hospital because of different illnesses. The night was spent eating pizza, playing cards and beading.

“The mother of one of the patients said that we need to come back and arrange this more times. She insisted that this was an important optional activity because it was planned by teens for teens,” said Tyra Kristoffersen.

Tyra has worked in GLIMT UB, together with the other Ullern students Andreas Bjurstrøm, Carl Ruge, Miriam Idsøe and Alexander Floskjer, during the last school year.

Young patients are isolated

“During the age when you have the greatest need to be social and gain new experiences, one group is getting left out of the traditional social framework. Across Norway, there are children and young adults staying in hospitals and, in spite of both internal and external measures, many end up being isolated from the rest of society. The age group 13 to 19 is a very challenging group to reach and they lack adequate activities. To improve the health service in Norway, we need better adapted activities for this age group.”

This quote is from GLIMT UB’s business plan, which awarded the company first place in the category Best Business Plan in the Oslo Championship for Young Entrepreneurs.

The team behind the youth company GLIMT UB gathered at Ullern Upper Secondary School. Photo: GLIMT UB’s Facebook page

The team behind the youth company GLIMT UB gathered at Ullern Upper Secondary School. Photo: GLIMT UB’s Facebook page

The concept of GLIMT is based on young, famous people’s motivation to help young people in a challenging situation, without getting paid for their time.

“If we had paid the celebrities to come, this wouldn’t have worked because the hospitals have such a limited budget. The famous people still benefit from positive mentions in social media and can use the activity to promote themselves if they wish,” Tyra said.

Before the corona pandemic, GLIMT UB had planned several pizza nights at Rikshospitalet, since the first one was such a success.

“We have been in touch with several celebrities, such as Herman Flesvig, Ulrikke Falck and Tix, who were all very positive to participate. Unfortunately, the corona pandemic forced visitation restrictions in place at hospitals in Norway, so we couldn’t arrange more pizza nights than the one with Arif and Unge Ferrari,” Tyra said.

The students behind GLIMT UB still think they have learned a lot.

A valuable mentor

Entrepreneurship is one of many subjects that the students at Ullern Upper Secondary School can choose in their second or third year. The students learn how to start a company and the theory behind what makes some businesses succeed and why other businesses fail.

The students also need to establish and run their own youth company during the course.

The team behind GLIMT UB considered an idea about redesign, but scrapped it when they realised that this was a concept that many youth companies were interested in.

“We started thinking about what is close to our school and of course the hospital is right next door. We discussed with our entrepreneurship teacher Karin if we could think of something in relation to that. We quickly found out that teens in the hospital don’t have many activities. The younger kids get visits from hospital clowns and their own playroom,” Tyra said.

At the Norwegian Radium Hospital, there are however not many young adults admitted. Most teenage patients are at Rikshospitalet and Ullevål.

“Through our mentor Bente, we got in touch with the activity leader for teenagers at Rikshospitalet and Ullevål. He liked our idea a lot, and other people were also positive, so we just had to keep working,” Tyra said.

Mentor Bente Prestegård and the students Andreas Bjurstrøm, Carl Ruge, Tyra Kristoffersen and Miriam Idsøe, standing outside Ullern Upper Secondary School. Alexander Flåskjer is also a part of the GLIMT team, but was unfortunately not present on the day the image was taken. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Mentor Bente Prestegård and the students Andreas Bjurstrøm, Carl Ruge, Tyra Kristoffersen and Miriam Idsøe, standing outside Ullern Upper Secondary School. Alexander Flåskjer is also a part of the GLIMT team, but was unfortunately not present on the day the image was taken. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Bente, that Tyra mentioned, is Bente Prestegård. She is a project manager in Oslo Cancer Cluster and one of her many projects is the school collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster.

“I have had a few meetings with the students behind GLIMT. I have specially advised them about how to relate to patients and staff in the hospital, and I helped them with pitch training in advance of the Oslo Championship in Young Entrepreneurship,” said Prestegård.

Prestegård thinks that it is a lot of fun to be a mentor for GLIMT and she is impressed about how driven the students have been and how much they have accomplished, even though the corona pandemic but a sudden stop to the company’s activities in March.

The students also learned a lot from Bente’s advice and are grateful for all the coaching they have received while running the company.

“Bente introduced us to several key people at Oslo University Hospital, which was very valuable for us. She is also very knowledgeable about the economy and has given us a lot of good input on that aspect too,” Tyra said.

Learning in practice

It is June now and homeschooling is fortunately over, but there are still strict visitation rules at Norwegian hospitals because of the pandemic. GLIMT UB is dissolved since the school year is over and the students have gained a sense of what it is like to be a founder.

“It has been fun and educational. We would, of course, had wanted to do more for these teens, but hopefully, the hospitals across the country can be inspired by our idea,” said Carl, the company’s interim manager.

One thing that has been challenging for GLIMT is to find a way to make money out of the idea since the hospitals have limited resources.

“We still had NOK 7 000 left in our budget this year, which we have donated to Oslo University Hospital,” said Tyra.

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International Cancer Cluster Showcase 2020

The 9th International Cancer Cluster Showcase has been launched on June 8th as a virtual event presenting 20 early-stage oncology companies.

For the first time, the annual International Cancer Cluster Showcase (ICCS) is presented in a digital format. Although we are missing the lively networking elements this year, there is a clear advantage: participants from around the globe can view the full program or selected presentations whenever suitable until July 8th – independent of time-zones and location. The record-high participation with about 400 registrations confirms that this flexible format offers an interesting opportunity to meet new companies in times when travelling is limited.

The organising partners from North America and Europe have jointly selected 20 emerging oncology companies from 8 countries advancing novel therapeutic, diagnostic and digital solutions. The CEOs of this outstanding group of early-stage companies present their latest innovations and partnering opportunities in four thematic sessions.

“We hope that this 9th International Cancer Cluster Showcase again creates novel collaboration opportunities and contacts for presenters and participants and stimulates relevant discussions.”

Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

A joint welcome from the organising partners opens the first session with the theme Targeting novel mechanisms. Our member EXACT Therapeutics is one of the companies selected for this session. CEO Rafiq Hasan introduces the company’s unique Acoustic Cluster Therapy for ultrasound-mediated, targeted therapeutic enhancement.

“It was important for EXACT Therapeutics to participate at ICCS as this is one of the leading opportunities for us to communicate progress with our innovative Acoustic Cluster Therapy (ACT) platform in oncology to key stakeholders and potential partners.

“We are impressed by the virtual format and the agility with which the in-person meeting was transformed to a digital platform. This ensures that the objectives of the meetings are achieved despite the challenges of the current situation.”

Rafiq Hasan, CEO, EXACT Therapeutics

CEO Rafiq Hasan, EXACT Therapeutics

Rafiq Hasan, CEO of EXACT therapeutics, is one of the presenters at ICCS 2020.

The theme of the second session is Immuno-Oncology and Cell therapy. Here the Oslo Cancer Cluster member Nextera introduces their NextCore technology and relevant applications in oncology.

“It was important for Nextera to present our unique drug and target discovery platform at the stage we are now, since we believe we can enable immuno-oncology therapies to new levels both from efficacy and safety points of view.

“The digital format fosters a great flexibility as well as the message reaches a larger audience.”

Ole Henrik Brekke, Chief Business Officer, Nextera

Geir Åge Løset, CEO of Nextera, presented at ICCS 2020.

Geir Åge Løset, CEO of Nextera, is one of the presenters at ICCS 2020.

The third session has the theme Immuno-Oncology, oncolytic viruses and vaccines, featuring companies from the US, UK and France showcasing their technologies and lead candidates.

As final Nordic company, our member Kaiku Health presents their platform for personalized digital health interventions in the fourth session titled Diagnostics and digital health interventions.

“ICCS is a good platform to reach like-minded innovators in oncology interested in making cancer care more personalised. We were happy to have the opportunity to go virtual during these exceptional times.”

Lauri Sippola, CEO and Co-Founder, Kaiku Health

Lauri Sippola, CEO of Kaiku Health, is one of the presenters at ICCS 2020.

Lauri Sippola, CEO of Kaiku Health, is one of the presenters at ICCS 2020.

The Virtual International Cancer Cluster Showcase is available online, via the official ICCS website, until 8 July 2020.

Details of all the presenters can be found in the ICCS 2020 event guide.

We kindly thank the sponsors and partners BIO, DNB, Precision for Medicine and Takeda for their ongoing support and program contribution.

 

Organising partners:

Sponsors:

CEO Rafiq Hasan, EXACT Therapeutics

Combating cancer with ultrasound

Our member EXACT Therapeutics gains pharma veteran Rafiq Hasan as CEO, reveals company name change and reports strong progress in first clinical trial.

Our member EXACT Therapeutics, formerly known as Phoenix Solutions, is a Norwegian biotech company developing an innovative platform technology that enables precision therapeutic targeting using ultrasound, with an initial focus in oncology.

The method is called Acoustic Cluster Therapy (ACT®) and has potential utility across multiple therapeutic areas. In oncology, the effect of chemotherapy is amplified through biomechanical effects induced by ultrasound insonation of microbubbles transiently trapped in the microvasculature.

In other words, ACT® is a method to enhance the delivery of chemotherapy with greater precision exactly to the target site of action. Patients receive an intravenous injection of ACT® comprising microbubbles and microdroplets, which are activated at the location of the tumour using conventional diagnostic ultrasound. This creates large bubbles that apply transient and controlled pressure to the vascular wall enabling greater extravasation of the co-administered chemotherapeutic. In essence, this means that more chemotherapy is “pumped” into the tumour. The potential is that chemotherapy can achieve greater therapeutic efficacy using standard of care chemotherapy, resulting in better clinical outcomes for patients living with cancer.

Watch the video below to learn more about the technology in detail.

Pharma veteran appointed CEO

EXACT Therapeutics recently appointed Rafiq Hasan as CEO to lead the company on its journey to commercialise ACT. Rafiq Hasan is a seasoned veteran of the pharma business and has held several top positions in Bayer and Novartis.

Dr Hasan commented: “There has been tremendous progress in the last 8 years within the field of microbubbles and sonoporation, driven forward by ACT® and EXACT Therapeutics. Through its targeted delivery, ACT® has the potential to enhance therapeutic efficacy of a multitude of products across numerous therapeutic areas. This exciting science with the potential to have a transformative impact on medicine and patients, and I could not pass up this opportunity to lead EXACT Therapeutics into its next phase. I am impressed with the preclinical data where ACT® shows efficacy across a range of drugs and disease models, whilst the clinical development is already underway with the Royal Marsden Hospital/the Institute of Cancer Research.”

Clinical trial ongoing

EXACT Therapeutics is now reporting strong progress in an ongoing clinical trial, which started at the Royal Marsden Hospital in September 2019. The clinical trial is investigating ACT® in combination with standard of care chemotherapy for treating colorectal and pancreatic cancers.

Watch the video from BBC News of the first patient to test the new treatment.

Visit the original homepage to learn more about EXACT Therapeutics.

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Designing cells to fight cancer

How can new designs of T cells improve cell therapy for cancer patients?

Hakan Köksal defended his PhD digitally from Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Hakan Köksal defended his PhD digitally from Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

This was the question Hakan Köksal attempted to answer in his PhD thesis, which he defended from the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator via a digital platform on Thursday 28 May 2020.

Köksal first arrived at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator to begin his PhD in October 2016 for the Department of Cellular Therapy, belonging to Oslo University Hospital. Three and a half years later, he is finally finished and has made a discovery that could potentially help cancer patients that are not responding to standard cell therapies.

“Essentially, what we are doing is called adoptive T cell therapy. We try to manufacture designs of chimeric antigen receptors to redirect T cells against cancer cells,” Köksal explained.

Cell therapy is an exciting, new area in cancer research and is a type of immunotherapy. This means that the patient’s immune system is changed in order to recognise and destroy the cancer cells in the body. CAR T cell therapy (CAR is short for chimeric antigen receptor) specifically involves collecting cells from the patient’s blood and changing them in the laboratory.

“We collect T cells, or lymphocytes, from the patients and engineer them so they can detect cancerous cells. Afterwards, they can be reinfused in the patient to destroy the cancer cells.” Hakan Köksal

Novel designs and new approaches

Current CAR T cell therapies have proved successful against several haematological cancers (blood cancers). However, the long-term clinical effects are quite limited and several barriers remain to cure all cancers with cell therapy. One problem Köksal looked at is when lymphoma patients treated with CD19 CAR T therapy relapse with CD19 negative lymphoma.

“We come up with alternative designs and approaches that may have an improved therapeutic effect, a lowered toxicity and improved survival in the body,” Köksal said. “The study we conducted can potentially be used as a standalone therapy or it can be complementary to reduce relapse.”

Standard CAR T therapies use antibody fragments as recognition units to detect cancer cells. In his thesis, Köksal has used a T cell receptor part, which is a different recognition domain, to increase the number of the targetable markers on cancer cells.

“Usually CAR T therapies can only detect proteins on the surface of the cell, but this new design can technically also recognise proteins inside the cell.” Hakan Köksal

Köksal stresses that we cannot know the clinical efficacy of the study before testing it in humans. The furthest they have tested is in mice, which is still a completely different organism from humans.

Read more about the research in this article: “The first Norwegian CAR”

Presenting during corona

Köksal finished his thesis in August 2019 but has not had the opportunity to defend it until now. Due to the ongoing corona situation, he could not present the trial lecture and defence in a filled auditorium but had to make do with an empty room and a laptop.

“It’s completely different. Normally, I would be standing on a stage and looking the audience in the eyes to see if I do well or bad. Now, I couldn’t see the audience, because they couldn’t share their video screens. I could only see my opponents,” Köksal explained.

In March, the corona pandemic affected the researchers in the Incubator too, because there were difficulties getting the necessary deliveries as companies worldwide had limited personnel. The laboratory had to restrict the number of people coming in and meeting rooms were temporarily converted to offices to avoid shared office space. The Incubator never closed completely and stayed open with extra sanitation procedures in place, so that the important research could go on.

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

A collaborative effort

Köksal emphasised that the research behind his PhD thesis has been a team effort. He is thankful to his supervisors at Oslo University Hospital, Else Marit Inderberg, Sebastien Wälchli and June Helene Myklebust, for helping him and giving important guidance during his projects.

It has also meant a lot for him to be a part of the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Innovation Park and the Oslo Cancer Cluster ecosystem.

“It is good to be in such a translational building. You have one part that has an arm in the clinic and at the same time you have pre-clinical research going on side-by-side with the private companies. You have different niches and you can meet a lot of people with different backgrounds and interests. It gives you new perspectives,” Köksal said.

Köksal thinks the Incubator is a calm, relaxing work environment and not super busy like many other research buildings, where there is a lot of competition going on. In the Incubator, the researchers are united by the common goal to accelerate cancer treatments.

“I feel happy when I see an announcement that a company has reached a new milestone, because it means someone is making an impact and a difference out there.” Hakan Köksal

Köksal will now begin a postdoctoral position and continue his ongoing research projects. He aims to work on the development of cell therapies and hopes to make new breakthroughs on the treatment of solid cancers in the future.

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Fremtidens Kreftbehandling: Kreft og kliniske studier. Et veikart for bedre kreftbehandling.

Integrating clinical trials in cancer treatment

How can we make clinical trials an integrated part of cancer treatment in Norway so that more patients can gain access to new and better treatments?

We arranged a webinar with key experts and politicians to answer this question. Watch the entire webinar on Youtube:

“The number of patients that get considered to participate in clinical studies in Norway is too low and it is difficult to arrange clinical studies across borders in the Nordics. This is unacceptable, but how can we change it?” This is how the moderator Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, set the scene for our first webinar, which was live-streamed from Kreftforeningens Vitensenter in Oslo.

A visionary plan

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services has said that clinical studies should be an integrated part of patient treatment in Norway. This is especially relevant when it comes to the advent of new cancer treatments and the fact that the number of clinical trials is decreasing in Norway. The Ministry is now working on a Clinical Studies Action Plan to be completed in 2020.

Maiken Engelstad, Deputy Director General of The Department of Specialist Health Care Services, gave a presentation on its contents so far. An overarching goal is to get more, useful clinical studies to Norway, so that more patients can receive better treatments, and ultimately achieve a more efficient health service.

Engelstad mentioned many important aspects to achieve this. For example, to create more collaborations between the industry and public sector, with NorCRIN as a “one-stop-shop” for clinical studies. Engelstad stressed that Norway needs to build capacity, so that feasibility, recruitment and approval is accelerated. Engelstad also talked about building competency, by including clinical research, gene therapy and artificial intelligence in education. Moreover, Engelstad wants to increase the multitude of different studies, catering to both big and small patient groups, vulnerable patients, assessing both new and established treatments, and conducting the trials both locally, nationally and internationally. 

“We need to look to Norway’s advantages, such as real world data, which can be used from designing the drugs to implementing new therapies in the clinic.” Maiken Engelstad

Engelstad said that there needs to be a national and regional framework in place to achieve this, with regulations, financing, infrastructure and competency. Engelstad finally highlighted that one of the biggest challenges is to achieve a cultural change towards conducting clinical trials in Norway.

The tangle of rules

The legal framework that regulates clinical studies in the Nordics is very difficult to navigate for patients who wish to participate in and for companies that wish to arrange clinical trials. Wenche Reed, Head of Research in The Section for Research, Innovation and Education at Oslo University Hospital, talked about how complicated it is to interpret the regulations. 

“There are many laws to consider when conducting clinical studies. It is not easy to navigate the legal landscape – not even for lawyers!” Wenche Reed

Reed explained that the advent of personalized medicine in cancer is challenging the division between patient treatment and clinical research. Moreover, the ethical and legal framework for handling big data is being challenged, because of new developments using artificial intelligence in diagnostics.

Tearing down the barriers

The introductory presentations were followed by a lively panel discussion, divided into three sections. The first section included a video message from Tone Skår, project manager in VIS Innovation and founder of the MED.hjelper project and #SpørOmKliniskeStudier social media movement. Skår emphasised the importance of informing patients of the possibility of participating in trials and creating incentives for doctors and hospitals to run the trials.

Sigrid Bratlie, Special Adviser in The Norwegian Cancer Society, commented that a cultural change is needed. Bratlie said we need to look at concrete cases to learn how to conduct successful clinical studies in cancer personalised medicine.

Bratlie highlighted that Norway has world-class cancer research milieus, especially in cell therapy, but the total number of clinical trials is dwindling. Europe risks falling far behind the US and China, because of the complicated legal framework.

“The Biotechnology Act is just one small piece of the puzzle. Soon there will be a hearing for the Genetechnology Act. We need to look at the bigger picture and how the different laws interact.” Sigrid Bratlie

The second part of the panel conversation turned to both clinicians and industry for their perspectives. Daniel Heinrich, Senior Consultant Oncologist at Akershus University Hospital and Head of The Norwegian Oncology Association, wants to offer his patients the opportunity to try new treatments, which potentially can be better than the standard treatment. Heinrich highlighted that it is difficult for patients that need to travel to different hospitals and private clinics for testing because the hospitals lack capacity. He said that the directives need to come from above, from hospital management, the Directorate of Health and the politicians.

“It is almost impossible to include patients in studies in other countries now. Often it is difficult to understand why!” Daniel Heinrich

Baldur Sveinbjørnsson, Chief Scientific Officer in Norwegian cancer start-up Lytix Biopharma, has tried to arrange a clinical trial in Norway, but found that it was better to conduct it from a hospital in Copenhagen. When patient recruitment was too slow and costs were mounting every day, Sveinbjørnsson travelled around the Nordics to attract patients. There was great interest, but the differing regulations and processes in the Nordic countries put a stop to recruitment.

“We have started looking towards the US and filed an application to the authorities to conduct our next clinical study there.” Baldur Sveinbjørnsson

Hege Edvardsen, senior adviser in Legemiddelindustrien (LMI), thinks Norwegian companies should be able to conduct their trials in Norway. Edvardsen said we need to establish a “one-stop-shop” for clinical studies in Norway. Edvardsen said that the pharmaceutical industry often turns to the most successful cancer centres and hospitals when placing their clinical trials.

“Dedicated enthusiasts are the ones running the clinical studies, but we need targeted financing, so the people doing the work are acknowledged.” Hege Edvardsen

The final part of the panel discussion included two politicians’ visionary perspectives for the future.

Marianne Synnes Emblemsvåg, politician for The Conservative Party of Norway – Høyre, said she was touched by the ambitious plans in the Action Plan. Emblemsvåg commented that she is an impatient person, but that the bureaucratic process takes time to change.

“We need to market Norway in a way that makes us attractive for clinical trials.” Marianne Synnes Emblemsvåg

Emblemsvåg commented that there are many exciting developments considering artificial intelligence and diagnosing cancer, but that they come with some very challenging ethical considerations.

Tuva Moflag, politician for The Labour Party of Norway – Arbeiderpartiet, agreed that things take time to change. Moflag emphasised that part of the political work is to “clean up” some of the bureaucratic mess and to remove the legal barriers.

“We should have high ambitions for clinical studies, considering that we are a rich country and should assume responsibility for our patients.” Tuva Moflag

Moflag also stressed that there needs to be infrastructure, personnel and financing to complete it. Creating a culture of innovation, so that medical personnel feel they are part of something bigger than themselves.

The webinar ended with some final comments from Engelstad, who had been listening and taking diligent notes to bring with her in her work with the Action Plan going forward.

We want to direct a special thank you to all the meeting participants, to the organising partners and to everyone who followed the live stream.

Our next meeting in this series will take place this fall. More details will be published on our website closer to the event.

 

Event organisers:

 

 

 

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Per Håvard Kleven, founder of Kongsberg Beam Technology

Improving proton therapy for cancer patients

Kongsberg Beam Technology has entered an agreement with the Research Council of Norway to develop precision technology for proton therapy centres.

The grant will secure the company a total of NOK 23 million in support to develop a technology that improves the accuracy of proton therapy in combating cancer.

Many cancer patients receive radiotherapy treatment to destroy the cancer cells. The big negative side-effect is that healthy cells around the tumour are also damaged.

Proton therapy is more precise, which means that there is less damage to healthy tissue and organs surrounding the cancer. This reduces the unwanted side effects and improves the quality of life for the patient.

Kongsberg Beam Technology has developed a technology that increases the accuracy of proton therapy, even when the patient or their organs may be moving, for example while their lungs are breathing.

The technology creates a digital twin, a virtual copy of the patient. The digital twin gives a dynamic and predictive real-time image while the tumour is treated with proton therapy. This makes the treatment even more exact than before.

The system is called MAMA-K, which is short for Multi-Array Multi-Axis Cancer Combat Machine. The machine treats the tumour with several proton beams at the same time and is especially adapted for organs in motion. The system can be plugged into both current and new proton machines.

“The MAMA-K system will be clinically beneficial and yield significantly improved treatment effects to patients compared to state-of-the-art systems and procedures,” said Karsten Rydén-Eilertsen, Ph.D. Head of Section, Department of Medical Physics at Oslo University Hospital.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has assisted Kongsberg Beam Technology with business development advice and help in pursuing funding opportunities.

“The support from Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has been vital in reaching where we are today,” says Per Håvard Kleven, the founder of Kongsberg Beam Technology.

Semcon is another important collaboration partner, who is responsible for the technical and digital development of the project.

The first phase of the project will last until 2022. This has begun with securing the proof-of-concept, which means that Kongsberg Beam Technology has demonstrated that the concept has a verified practical potential. Now, a prototype is in development, which will be used to test the system. During phase 2 of the project, the system will be tested and verified until 2024 to prove that it works.

Norway currently does not have any proton therapy centres, but two are already in the planning stages. One will be in Oslo, at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, and one in Bergen, at Haukeland University Hospital. The first Norwegian cancer patients will be treated with proton therapy in 2024.

The MAMA-K system that Kongsberg Beam Technology are developing will be tested at The Norwegian Radium Hospital, a part of Oslo University Hospital.

Other collaboration partners are the University of Oslo and Onsagers.

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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:

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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

Digi-b-cube logo

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.

 

Vesteraalens logo

 

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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.

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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” 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.”

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