News from external sources

Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs

New clinical study in ovarian cancer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more in the press release from Ultimovacs

 

Top news 2020 from Oslo Cancer Cluster’s members

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

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

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

Adjutec Pharma

Pål Rongved, Adjutec Pharma.

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

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

BerGenBio

Richard Godfrey, CEO BerGenBio

Richard Godfrey, CEO of BerGenBio. Photo: BerGenBio

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

Visit BerGenBio’s official website to learn more

Exact Therapeutics

Rafiq Hasan, CEO, EXACT Therapeutics

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

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

Visit Exact Therapeutic’s official website to learn more

Kongsberg Beam Technology

Per Håvard Kleven, founder of Kongsberg Beam Technology

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

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

Ledidi

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

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

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

Visit Ledidi’s official website to learn more

NEC OncoImmunity

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

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

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

Visit NEC OncoImmunity’s official website to learn more

OncoInvent

OncoInvent

Photo: OncoInvent

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

Visit OncoInvent’s official website to learn more

Photocure

Dan Schneider, CEO of Photocure.

Dan Schneider, CEO of Photocure. Photo: Photocure

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

Visit Photocure’s official website to learn more

Ultimovacs

Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs. Photo: Ultimovacs

Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs. Photo: Ultimovacs

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

Visit Ultimovacs’ official website to learn more

Vaccibody

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

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

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

Visit Vaccibody’s official website to learn more

 

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

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

 

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Positive results from Targovax’s skin cancer study

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

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

What is anti-PD1 treatment?

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

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

3d illustration of a cancer cell and lymphocytes

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

 

Partial or complete responses

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

Systemic effects

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

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

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

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Bergenbio image of researchers in the lab

Cancer drugs being tested to treat Covid-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

Promising solutions from health industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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