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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.

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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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.

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.

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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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.

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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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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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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.”

gsk logo

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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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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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New member: PharmaRelations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did you join Oslo Cancer Cluster?

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

Pharma relations logo

 

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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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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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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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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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News from our members

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

Promising combination treatment

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

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

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

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

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

View the entire press release from Targovax

US patent for Norwegian cancer technology

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the entire press release from PCI Biotech

New results from clinical study

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

View the entire press release from BerGenBio

 

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Erna Solberg visits PCI Biotech

PDT/PCI application grant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Olweus sitting in front of her laptop and smiling.

Olweus wins prestigious award

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

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

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

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

 

Donor technology to save lives

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What’s next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

What is immunogene therapy based on T cells?

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

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

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

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

Image describing CAR T cell therapy.

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

Not yet a cure for all patients

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

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

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

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

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

 

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DNB Nordic Health Care Conference

DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference 2019

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

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

Start-up prize

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

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

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

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

Podcast studio

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

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

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

Company presentations

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

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

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

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

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

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Bjellesermoni Oslo Børs PCI Biotech

PCI Biotech works with Astra Zeneca

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

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

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

The company currently develops three different programs:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Two persons working in front a two laptops.

What’s new in Q3?

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

BerGenBio logo

BerGenBio

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

Read more in the press release from BerGenBio

Nordic Nanovector logo

Nordic Nanovector

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

Read more in the press release from Nordic Nanovector

Photocure logo

Photocure

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

Read more in the press release from Photocure

 

Targovax logo

Targovax

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

Read more in the press release from Targovax

 

Ultimovacs logo

Ultimovacs

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

Read more in the press release from Ultimovacs

 

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

 

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

100 episodes of cancer research & development

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

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

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

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

 

Interested investors

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

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

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

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

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

 

Affecting health policies

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

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

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

 

Best of Norwegian research

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

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

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

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

 

For the patients

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

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

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

 

Listen and download Radium:

 

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

 

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

 

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Torbjörn Furuseth, Targovax

New clinical trial at Oslo University Hospital

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

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

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

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

Promising results

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

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

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

A forceful combination

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Sune Justesen and Stephan Thorgrimsen from Immunitrack

New tool to improve cancer vaccines receives funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Norwegian AI-based cancer research gets a boost

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

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

 

AI meets precision medicine

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

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

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

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

 

The rise to success

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

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

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

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

 

Medicine is becoming digital

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

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

 

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

 

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

SINTEF to develop methods in immuno-oncology

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

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

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

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

Help cancer patients

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

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

 

Develop methodology

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

Bridging the gap

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

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

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

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

SINTEF and Catapult Life Science are now looking for partners.

Looking for new partners

Einar Sulheim sums up the ideal partners for this project:

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

 

Interested in this project?

Dr James Allison, Dr Padmanee Sharma

Nobel Prize winner joins Lytix Biopharma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Ultimovacs enter Oslo Stock Exchange

Ultimovacs enters the Oslo Stock Exchange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lab researcher from Nordic Nanovector

A successful first quarter for Nordic Nanovector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Image of taking tests in the lab.

How will biobanks accelerate cancer research?

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

 

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

 

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

 

Christian Jonasson, seniorforsker ved NTNU.

Christian Jonasson, seniorforsker ved NTNU.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

A competitive edge

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

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

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

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

 

Sharing the data

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

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

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

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

 

Image of DNA spiral.

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

 

The hidden key

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg pays a visit to one of the cancer research labs.

Radforsk to invest NOK 4.5 million in cancer research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

New use of PCI technology

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

What is Radforsk?

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

 

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Two people working on computers.

Supporting cancer research with IP rights

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why IP protection?

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

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

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

Source: Potter Clarkson

 

Supporting growth

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

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

 

Building value

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

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

 

Patent protected

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

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

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

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

 

Biotech meets law

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

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

 

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

 

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Woman in lab studying test tube samples.

Encouraging news from BerGenBio

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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