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

Advanced microscopy on the timetable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning from practical work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images of cells

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

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

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

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

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

The students look and nod with interest.

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

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

You can see the cell image below.

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

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

What is cell migration?

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Ullern to Mars

Read this article in Norwegian on our School Collaboration website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a straightforward task

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The journey is as important as the goal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Simone Mester mentoring students in the lab.

Mentor meeting with Mester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Researching new cancer medicine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Students at the DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference.

Students helped create podcast

Our school collaboration project inspires science and health communication.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Student helping in the glass studio.

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

Want to find out more?

 

ThermoFisher Scientific Norway lectures students at Ullern

A peak into the cancer research world

Ullern Upper Secondary School is unique, because it shares its building with world-class cancer researchers. Last month, all new Ullern students got to experience this first-hand.

This year’s School Collaboration Days in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park were held right before the autumn holiday. All the first-year classes at Ullern Upper Secondary School were given a guided tour around the Innovation Park to get to know the companies that they share their everyday lives with.

The purpose of the School Collaboration Days is to give the first-year students at Ullern Upper Secondary School an understanding of what the different companies in the Innovation Park and departments of Oslo University Hospital do.

The common denominator for all of them is cancer and many are developing new cancer treatments. While the Cancer Registry of Norway are collecting statistics and doing cancer research, Sykehusapotekene (Southern and Eastern Norway Pharmaceutical Trust) produce chemotherapy and antibodies for patients that are admitted to The Norwegian Radium Hospital and the Department of Pathology (Oslo University Hospital) gives the cancer patients their diagnoses.

 

IN PICTURES

The student guided tours of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

Jonas Einarsson lecturing to students at Ullern

True to tradition, Jónas Einarsson, CEO of the evergreen fund Radforsk, opened the School Collaboration Days in Kaare Norum auditorium with a common lecture. In this image, Einarsson is talking about the development of the Montebello area, which Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park is a part of. The first Radium Hospital was opened in 1932 and the following year Ullern School was moved from Bestum to the same place that houses Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park today.

 

Kreftregisteret lecturing to students at Ullern.

Elisabeth Jakobsen, Head of Communications of the Cancer Registry of Norway, tells the first year students about what they do and the risk factors for developing cancer. Also, she asked the students several questions about how to regulate the sales of tobacco, e-cigarettes and many other things.

 

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

Thor Audun Saga is the CEO of Syklotronsenteret (“the Norwegian medical cyclotron centre”). He told the students about what they do, what a cyclotron is and how they use cyclotrons to develop cancer diagnostics.

 

ThermoFisher Scientific Norway lectures students at Ullern

The management of Thermo Fisher Scientific Norway are also housed in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. They told the students about the Norwegian invention called “Ugelstadkulene”. This is both the starting point for million of diagnostic tests across the world and revolutionary (CAR T) cancer treatments, 45 years after they were invented.

 

Students guided through the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator Laboratory

The tour was ended with a walk through the laboratory of the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. The students were given an inside look at the work done and instruments used by the cancer researchers in the lab. This area is only one or two floors above their regular class rooms. The student could see first-hand the opportunities there are in pursuing a career in research, entrepreneurship and innovation.

KUR programming event for teachers to learn to teach programming.

Introducing programming to the curriculum

Programming is not only for computer hackers, it can also help teachers to engage their students in science subjects and inspire start ups to discover new cancer treatments.

 

Almost 60 teachers working in upper secondary schools in Oslo visited Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and Ullern Upper Secondary School one evening in the end of March. The topic for the event was programming and how to introduce programming to the science subjects in school.

“The government has decided that programming should be implemented in schools, but in that case the teachers first have to know how to program, how to teach programming and, not least, how to make use of programming in a relevant way in their own subjects.”

This was how Cathrine Wahlström Tellefsen opened her lecture. She is the Head of Profag at the University of Oslo, a competence centre for teaching science and technology subjects. For nearly one hour, she talked to the almost 60 teachers who teach Biology, Mathematics, Chemistry, Technology, Science Research Theory and Physics about how to use programming in their teaching.

 

What is KUR? KUR is a collaborative project between Oslo Cancer Cluster, Ullern Upper Secondary School and other schools in Oslo and Akershus. It aims to develop the skills and competence of science teachers. Every six months, KUR arranges a meeting where current topics are discussed.

 

Programming and coding

“Don’t forget that programming is much more than just coding. Computers are changing the rules of the game and we have gained a much larger mathematical toolbox, which gives us the opportunity to analyse large data sets,” Tellefsen explained.

Only a couple of years ago, she wasn’t very interested in programming herself, but after pressures from higher up in her organisation, she gave it a shot. She has since then experienced how programming can be used in her own subject.

“I have been a Physics teacher for many years in an upper secondary school in Akershus, so I know how it is,” she said to calm the audience a little. Her excitement over the opportunities programming provides seemed to rub off on some of the people in the room.

“In biology, for example, programming can be used to teach animal population growth. The students understand more of the logic behind the use of mathematical formulas and how an increase in the carrying capacity of a biological species can change the size of its population dramatically. My experience is that the students start playing around with the numbers really quickly and get a better understanding of the relationships,” said Tellefsen.

When it was time for a little break, many teachers were eager to try out the calculations and programming themselves.

 

Artificial intelligence in cancer treatments

Before the teachers tried programming, Marius Eidsaa from the start up OncoImmunity (a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster) gave a talk. He is a former physicist and uses algorithms, programming and artificial intelligence every day in his work.

“OncoImmunity has developed a method that can find new antigens that other companies can use to develop cancer vaccines,” said Eidsaa.

He quickly explained the principals of immunotherapy, a cancer treatment that activates the patient’s own immune system to recognise and kill cancer cells, which had previously remained hidden from the immune system. The neoantigens play a central role in this process.

“Our product is a computer software program called Immuneprofiler. We use patient data and artificial intelligence in order to get a ranking of the antigens that may be relevant for development of personalised cancer vaccines to the individual patient,” said Eidsaa.

Today, OncoImmunity has almost 20 employees of 10 different nationalities and have become CE-marked as the first company in the world in their field. (You can read more about OncoImmunity in this article that we published on 18 December 2018.)

The introductory talk by Eidsaa about using programming in his start up peaked the audience’s interest and the dedicated teachers eagerly asked many questions.

 

Programming in practice

After a short coffee break, the teachers were ready to try programming themselves. I tried programming in Biology, a session that was led by Monica, a teacher at Ullern Upper Secondary School. She is continuing her education in programming now and it turns out she has become very driven.

“Now you will program protein synthesis,” said Monica. We started brainstorming together about what we needed to find out, which parameters we could use in the formula to get the software Python to find proteins for us.

Since my knowledge in biology is a little rusty, it was a slow process. But when Monica showed us the correct solution, it was surprisingly logical and simple. The key is to stay focused and remember to have a cheat sheet right next to you in case you forget something.

 

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Arctic Pharma, a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster, gave students a lecture on the chemistry behind cancer treatments.

Chemistry with mutual benefits

Students were taught about the chemistry behind developing cancer treatments in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

In February, forty chemistry students were given a memorable specialisation day on the subject of the chemistry behind developing cancer treatments. The company Arctic Pharma in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator invited them to the lab and gave a long and detailed lecture on the chemistry behind the medication they are developing to treat cancer.

Karl J. Bonney, who is a researcher in the company, started the day with an interactive lecture in English about the chemistry of the substance Arctic Pharma hopes will be effective against cancer.

Bonney emphasised to the students that the company is in the early stages of the development, and that it will take approximately three to four years before they are potentially able to start clinical trials on humans to see whether the substance is effective.

The pupils who are studying chemistry as their specialisation in the last year of upper secondary school were obviously fascinated by what they heard. They asked many important questions both to the lecturer, Bonney, and the chemistry teacher, Karsten, who participated to explain the most difficult terms in Norwegian.

 

Sugar-hungry cancer cells

Arctic Pharma is exploiting a well-known biological fact regarding cancer cells, namely that they like sugar, which means they have a sweet tooth. This is called the Warburg effect, and, so far, nobody has used it in the treatment of cancer. Since this is such a characteristic aspect of cancer cells, it would make sense to think that this could be a viable starting point for treatment.

Arctic Pharma is one of the smaller companies in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and is co-located with Ullern Upper Secondary School. Bonney has been permitted to use the school’s chemistry lab to test the chemical substance being developed to attack the Warburg effect.

The chemistry day at the company was organised to return the favour and to inspire the young chemistry students to keep studying chemistry at a university or university college.

 

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Ullern student Jørgen on his work placement in the hospital.

Transporting patients

Student Jørgen Amdim got to experience life as an orderly on his one-week placement at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

 

Transporting patients in Norway’s biggest cancer hospital is strenuous both physically and psychologically. “But it’s really good,” said Jørgen Amdim, who is studying the program Healthcare, childhood and youth development at Ullern Upper Secondary School. His one-week placement was at the Transport Section at the Norwegian Radium Hospital. The work experience certainly gave him a taste for more.

Jørgen has previously worked in a nursing home, but he found the work a little tedious. He enjoyed being an orderly though and asked the school if there were any available placements.

An orderly is an attendant in a hospital who is responsible for, among other things, transporting patients, medical equipment and other essential materials. Jørgen spent one week as an orderly at the Radium Hospital and he loved it. He enjoyed it so much that he wants to work there again during the summer of 2019.

Knut Arve Kristiansen, the Head of the Transport Section, has worked at the Radium Hospital for 30 years and praised Jørgen:

“He was a perfect addition to our team, and we are very happy with him.”

 

80 km per week

Jørgen enjoys manual labour, which is great if you want to become an orderly. Wheeling around heavy medical equipment or patients in beds and wheel chairs is hard work. Knut Arve explained:

”As orderlies, we’re constantly on the go, and we could end up walking around 80 kilometres on hard floors during a week of work.

“It can be strenuous for the body, so we have to regularly do strength exercises to keep fit,” Knut Arve continued.

Knut Arve only had positive things to say about Jørgen and he hopes that Jørgen will want to return to the Transport Section for a summer job as an orderly.

“Jørgen is a social person and very well liked. This is important for patients when they are transported between examinations and the rooms they are staying in,” said Knut Arve.

Jørgen praises the work environment and especially the warm welcome he received from the other staff.

Jørgen has constantly been accompanied by a colleague from the section during his stay, because he is not allowed to do much on his own when on a placement. If he returns for a summer job, things will be different. Then he will have to work more independently and take responsibility if an emergency should occur while he is transporting a patient.

The orderlies are also responsible for transporting food and medication. To newcomers, the Radium Hospital can appear to be a huge labyrinth, especially outside the wards. The hospital is also currently being renovated, because a new hospital is being built. A sense of direction is therefore essential for anyone finding their way through the building.

 

A future in health

Jørgen does not necessarily want to become an orderly, but sees himself working in healthcare:

“I would really like to work in an emergency room – receiving ill and injured people at the hospital when they arrive in an ambulance. But I think working as an orderly is very exciting too, so I don’t want to exclude it as an option.”

Knut Arve says that a trade certificate is required to work as an orderly and that they currently offer placements for several apprentices in the section. Students need to study Healthcare, childhood and youth development during upper secondary school and then finish a two-year apprenticeship to obtain their trade certificate as an orderly.

”Workdays here are very varied and you meet many different people. It is really fun to talk to people and no two days are the same. I have really enjoyed it.” said Jørgen.

 

Attracting and developing the life science talents of the future is an essential goal for Oslo Cancer Cluster. One way to do that is to take students outside the traditional classroom setting and invite them to work placements and educational lectures. These collaborations between industry and academia give the students a unique insight into the specialist skills needed to become tomorrow’s researchers and entrepreneurs.

  • Find out more about Oslo Cancer Cluster’s school collaboration with Ullern Upper Secondary School.

 

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Jon Amund Kyte at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

Attracting clinical trials to Norway

Dr. Jon Amund Kyte at Oslo University Hospital (OUH) and Oslo Cancer Cluster share the common goal of bringing more clinical trials to Norway.

 

Jon Amund Kyte is the new Head at the Department of Experimental Cancer Treatment at OUH. He also runs three separate clinical trials and is the leader of a research group at the Department of Cancer Immunology, where he develops novel CAR T cell therapy and conducts translational studies.

Kyte aims to increase the number of and improve the quality of clinical trials in Norway. He says this will contribute to more patients gaining access to novel cancer treatments and to improving the efficacy of cancer therapies.

“The only way to improve cancer treatment is to have clinical trials,” said Kyte.

Oslo Cancer Cluster also wants to bring more clinical trials to Norway to develop innovative cancer medicines. The ambition is to enable faster patient recruitment from across the Nordic region, so that many more can benefit from new treatments, such as immunotherapy.

 

CAR T cells are produced by isolating specific cells of the immune system (T cells) from a cancer patient and modifying them so that they become more effective at recognizing and killing cancer cells.

 

Promising advances

Immunotherapy represents a new type of cancer treatment, which activates the patient’s immune-system to fight off the cancer cells. It gives doctors the opportunity to help patients that previously had limited treatment options. Most types of immunotherapy also cause less side effects than traditional cancer treatments.

“The important point is that immunotherapy can have a long-term effect,” said Kyte.

“Most patients that experience a recurrence or progression of the disease cannot be cured. The traditional treatments only have a limited, short-term effect on them. But immunotherapy may have a long-term effect on the patient – and, in some cases, even cure the disease.”

 

Two big challenges

Immunotherapy may sound like a miracle drug, but researchers still have a long way to go to perfect the treatment for all cancer patients. Kyte highlights two of the biggest barriers that remain.

“One challenge is to develop immunotherapy so that it works efficiently on all types of cancer. The other challenge is to learn how to choose personalised treatment plans: to identify an individual’s biomarkers and find out which treatment will be effective for that specific patient.”

A biomarker is a biological molecule in the patient’s body and these may be used to see how well a patient will respond to a certain treatment. Kyte said that to develop immunotherapy, there needs to be more clinical trials. It is the only way for researchers to find out how to activate an immune response in the patient’s body.

“A big potential for development lies in trying different possible combinations of cancer treatments. In my clinical trials, for example, we combine immunotherapy with immunogenic chemotherapy or radiation therapy,” Kyte explained.

 

Jon Amund Kyte presenting the Clinical Trial Unit.

The Clinical Trial Unit are experts in assisting companies and researchers to conduct clinical trials in Norway.

 

Welcome, companies

OUH has a long history of conducting clinical trials and is an appealing option for both researchers, doctors and companies that wish to initiate their own trials. Kyte welcomes more companies to conduct clinical trials at OUH:

“The more clinical trials that are conducted here by companies, the stronger our clinical research environment becomes and our ability to run our own studies is also strengthened.”

The Clinical Trial Unit in Kyte’s department offers its services to companies that want to run a clinical trial at OUH. They have extensive background knowledge of how the hospital is organised and which approvals are needed to conduct a clinical trial in Norway. They can step in as project coordinator for companies that need help to get their clinical trials up and running.

“We are highly experienced in applying for approvals in Norway. When you run a clinical trial, there are regulations from the Norwegian Medicines Agency and the ethical committee and other governmental agencies. A clinical trial also involves many different parts of the hospital – the departments of pathology and radiology, the laboratories, the infusion unit, the hospital wards and out-patient clinic and the administrative offices that oversee different agreements, data management and biobanking.”

 

Nordic clinical trials

All these administrative obstacles may appear discouraging, but there are many convincing reasons to conduct a clinical trial in Norway.

“The Oslo University Hospital is a good place to run a clinical trial, because in terms of the number of cancer patients, it is one of the largest hospitals in Europe. Norwegian healthcare is also extremely well-organised. Patients are rarely lost to follow-up, because there are no private healthcare alternatives and patients rarely move out of the country,” Kyte explained.

The Clinical Trial Unit is also taking part in the development Nordic Nect, a collaboration to recruit patients from the entire Nordic region to clinical trials. The plan is to have one hospital where the clinical study is conducted and to involve patients from Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. There will then be a population of 25 million people from which to recruit patients, which opens the possibility for larger clinical trials.

“This is a good thing for the companies that want to run clinical trials in Norway. It is also good for the researchers. But most of all, it is good for the patients – who have the opportunity to take part in more novel cancer treatments,” said Kyte.

 

 

 

 

Hands cradling female reproductive system

New collaboration aims to treat cervical cancer

The companies Vaccibody and Roche have started a new collaboration to investigate a drug combination to treat patients with advanced cervical cancer.

Both companies are members of Oslo Cancer Cluster and are involved in the development of novel cancer treatments.

Martin Bonde, CEO of Vaccibody, said: “We are very pleased with this collaboration. This is an important study as it explores a novel targeted treatment approach that addresses the high medical need of patients with advanced cervical cancer.”

Cervical cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer among women in developing countries and is the second most commonly occurring cancer amongst women worldwide.

Vaccibody is a vaccine company that aims to develop and discover new immunotherapies to treat difficult forms of cancer. They have developed a therapeutic DNA vaccine that treats cancers caused by HPV (the human papillomavirus).

Cervical cancer is caused by high risk HPV. HPV16 is the type that most frequently causes cancer.

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that aims to switch on a patient’s immune system to kill cancer cells.

Roche is a healthcare company that has developed an immune-checkpoint inhibitor. Now Vaccibody wants to test their vaccine in combination with the immune-checkpoint inhibitor designed by Roche.

An immune checkpoint inhibitor is a type of drug that blocks certain proteins made by some types of cancer cells. When these proteins are blocked, the “brakes” on the immune system are released and T cells are able to kill cancer cells better.

Agnete Fredriksen, President and CSO of Vaccibody, said that the combination of the two drugs build on the positive results seen when their vaccine has been used on patients with cervical cancer. Therefore they now expect to see positive results when they combine the vaccine with an immune checkpoint inhibitor.

During the second half of 2019, Vaccibody expects to begin the phase II study, which will involve 50 patients. It will assess the safety of the drug, its ability to invoke a response in the immune system, how the patients tolerate it and how efficient the drug is. The group for this new drug combination involves patients with advanced cervical cancer.

 

Raised NOK 230 million

Vaccibody also raised NOK 230 million (EUR 23.6 Million) in a private placement the same week. The sum was indeed placed all within one day, according to Agnete Fredriksen.

The proceeds from the share sales will be used to conduct the phase II clinical study of the drug combination from Vaccibody and Roche. The money will also go to the preparation of expansion patient groups in Vaccibody’s clinical trials and to generate corporate purposes.

 

For more information, read the press release from Vaccibody.

 

Three students experimenting with fruit flies in a lab.

Operation fruit flies

Fruit flies are not only annoying little insects that appear when bananas are overripe. They are also popular research tools for cancer researchers.

The four pupils Kalina Topalova Casadiego, Ida Hustad Andresen, Andreas Bernhus and Dina Düring got to experience how cancer researchers look at fruit flies during their work placement in January.

“Let’s turn on the gas, and then I’ll put some fruit flies on the pad under your microscope.” Speaking is cancer researcher Lene Malrød who, together with her colleague Nina Marie Pedersen, is responsible for four pupils from Ullern Secondary School on work placements.

“Gosh! They’re moving,” proclaims one of the pupils.

But not for long. Soon, all the fruit flies are anaesthetised and, eventually, dead; then the pupils are tasked with surgically removing the ovaries of the female flies. It is easier said than done, even with the help of microscopes to enhance the tiny flies. Especially when the operating tools are two tweezers.

Fruit flies are kept in two test tubes

The fruit flies are kept in test tubes.

 

An exciting placement

It is the third day of the pupils’ work placement at the Institute for Cancer Research, located next to the school. For four days at the end of January, they have learnt about cancer research and which methods researchers use in their daily work.

“The work placement is not like we imagined,” says Kalina and Ida.

“There’s a lot more manual work than I would have thought, and then you realise how important research is through what we do,” says Ida.

She is the only one who is specialising in biology in combination with with other science subjects, and she finds this very useful when working in the lab together with researchers. The other three have had to catch up on the reading, but they all agree that it is very exciting.

“Yesterday, we learnt a lot about CRISPR, which is a new method for cutting and splicing genes. Media gives you the impression that this is a highly precise tool, but the researchers here say that a lot can go wrong, and that it’s not at all as precise as you might think,” says Ida.

A student looks at fruit flies under a microscope

The students look at the fruit flies under a microscope.

 

From Western Blot to flies

A total of twelve pupils were picked out for this work placement. They have been chosen based on motivation and grades, and they all have a wish to study something related to medicine or science after they finish upper secondary school.

The twelve students are divided into three groups with completely different activities and get to learn a number of different research methods. The group consisting of Ida, Kalina, Andreas, and Dina, for instance, is the only group which will have a go in the fly lab.

“Am I really supposed to remove the ovaries? I don’t see how,” one of the pupils say, equally discouraged and excited.

Andreas, on the other hand, is in complete control. First, he has separated the males and the females with a paint brush. He has then used the tweezers to remove the heads from the females, punctured the bottom to remove the intestines, and finally found the ovaries in the abdomen.

Lene gathers all the different body parts for the pupils to look at through a different microscope. These fruit flies are in fact genetically manipulated to glow in the dark – they are fluorescent.

If you are wondering why researchers use fruit flies as part of their research, you can read more about it in this article from Forskning.no (the article is written in Norwegian).

“It is so much fun to be here, and we are really lucky to get this opportunity,” says Dina on her way from the fly lab to another lab to carry out another experiment.

 

The pupils on the work placement have uploaded many nice photos and videos on Ullern Secondary School’s Instagram account – visit their account to see more from the placement.

Photo of Richard Stratford and Trevor Clancy in OncoImmunity.

Machine-learning for immunotherapy

A prestigious EU-grant will advance OncoImmunity’s machine-learning approach to develop personalized cancer immunotherapy.

The bioinformatics company OncoImmunity AS is empowering cancer immunotherapy with artificial intelligence. They use innovative software solutions to guide the discovery of neoantigen-based personalized immunotherapies and biomarkers. What does this really mean?

It means that the software they have developed helps to identify neoantigens, also known as immunogenic mutations, in a patient’s cancer cells. Cancer cells deceive the immune system by looking like healthy cells. But they still express cancer-specific markers, known as neoantigens. (See facts box for explanation.)

 

Enables personalized medicine

The interesting part about neoantigens, is that every patient’s tumor expresses a unique combination. This enables truly personalized medicine to be applied, if the correct neoantigens are selected from the thousands of possible candidates in the genome of a tumor. Researchers using this technology can now solve this “needle in the haystack” challenge by analyzing a tumor genome to figure out the right cocktail of neoantigens, for each individual patient, and design a specific vaccine or cell therapy uniquely designed just for them.

Such personalized immunotherapy can for instance boost the immune system’s response by making the immune system better able to recognize and target the patient’s unique cancer cells.

 

Faster bespoke treatment

OncoImmunity’s flagship software, the ImmuneProfiler™, is a unique machine learning solution that makes it easier to instantaneously see and accurately select which neoantigens will be responsive in each patient.

It thereby helps biotech companies design neoantigen-based personalized cancer vaccines and cell therapies and enables bespoke treatments to be developed faster. Additionally, the technology allows clinical researchers to select which patients will likely respond to the wide range of cancer immunotherapies currently under development in the field.

In that sense, the OncoImmunity-approach to cancer treatment is exactly in line with Oslo Cancer Cluster’s main goal: to speed up the development of new cancer treatments for the benefit of cancer patients.

 

Prestigious EU-grant

Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument is a grant that is tailored for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). It targets innovative businesses with international ambitions — such as OncoImmunity.

The SME Instrument has two application phases. Phase one awards the winning company 50 000 Euros based on an innovative project idea. Phase two is the actual implementation of the main project. In this phase, the applicant may receive between 1 and 2,5 million Euros.

Oncoimmunity won the phase one project last year. Then, the founders of the bioinformatics company were happy about the opportunity to refine and optimize their machine-learning framework. Their goal has always been to facilitate personalized cancer vaccine design.

 

Fantastic funding

Now, they have won a considerably larger grant of 2,2 Million Euros that they are going to use to fund a project titled Machine-learning Engine for the Design of personalized Vaccines in Cancer (MEDIVAC).

The SME Instrument grant provides OncoImmunity the opportunity to further customise their machine-learning framework, called the ImmuneProfiler™,for specific vaccine platforms, facilitating the design of safer and more efficacious personalised cancer vaccines.

— We applied for the SME instrument grant as it represents a fantastic funding vehicle for cutting edge, innovative projects with huge commercial potential. The call matched our ambition to position OncoImmunity as the leading supplier of neoantigen identification software in the personalised cancer vaccine market, says Dr. Richard Stratford, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of OncoImmunity.

— This opportunity will also help us establish the requisite quality assurance systems, certifications, and clinical validation with our partners, to get our software approved as a medical device in both the EU and US, says Dr. Trevor Clancy, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder of OncoImmunity.

 

SMEs can apply

The SME Instrument is looking for high growth- and highly innovative SMEs with global ambitions. They are developing innovative technologies that have the potential to disrupt the established value networks and existing markets.

Companies applying for the SME Instrument must meet the requirements set by the programme. Please see the SME Instrument website for more information in English or the SME Instrument webpage of Innovation Norway for more information in Norwegian.

Curious about which companies have received the SME Instrument so far? Have look at this database with an overview of all the grant receiving companies in Europe.

Want to know which Norwegian companies received grants from The European Unions research programme Horizon2020 in 2018? Read this article from Innovation Norway (in Norwegian).

Oslo Cancer Cluster  supports members via the EU Advisor Program in collaboration with Innovayt, making them aware of relevant EU- and H2020 funding opportunities and helping them to identify the right calls for their development phase and goals. Oslo Cancer Cluster also assists with partner searches using national and international networks and provides direct support during the grant writing and submission process.

 

Surgery, squash and anaesthesia

Hannah (18) wants to become a doctor. After two days job shadowing doctors and nurses at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, she is even more certain that this is what she wants to do.

If your dream is to become a doctor, it may be a good idea to gain some insight into what the job actually involves before embarking on a long education. But job shadowing a doctor is usually only a possibility if you’re already a medical student.

Truls Ryder is a senior consultant and surgeon at the Norwegian Radium Hospital. He decided to do something about this, and over three days, one theme day that you can read more about here and two days of job shadowing, 18 pupils had the opportunity to experience surgery, morning staff meetings and patient consultations with the best cancer specialists and nurses in Norway.

Hannah Fiksdal is one of these pupils. And I, Elisabeth the journalist, shadowed her on the first of her two days at the Norwegian Radium Hospital. It was a day that neither of us will forget. A day that left Hannah with an even stronger desire to become a doctor.

‘I am incredibly grateful for the chance to shadow two different doctors, and to Truls Ryder for taking the initiative to allow pupils from Ullern to come to the Norwegian Radium Hospital. It gives us some idea of what may interests us before we apply for higher education in the spring. Having had a taste of two different aspects of medicine, I think that surgery and anaesthesiology were probably the things that I found most exciting.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

Hannah Fiksdal starts the day early at the hospital. Photo. Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Tuesday 7 November

07:15 – the Norwegian Radium Hospital, basement level 2 – the corridor outside room AU 230
Sixteen excited pupils, 14 from the natural science and mathematics programme who will be shadowing doctors and two from the healthcare programme who will be shadowing nurses, are standing in a corridor two floors below the main entrance to the Norwegian Radium Hospital dressed in white hospital clothes.

Truls Ryder, senior consultant and prime mover behind the job shadowing scheme, is also here. He quickly reads out where each pupil will be spending the day, and sets of at a brisk pace with everyone in tow.

This is an indication of what is to come.

We go five floors up and then a couple of floors down via the back stairs. On the way, pupils peel off from the group to join other senior consultants and professors who they will be job shadowing today.

Hannah and Tristan are handed over to the anaesthetists at the anaesthesiology department. The department has nine senior consultants, one professor working 50% of a full-time position, and three specialist registrars.

07:34
The morning staff meeting has already started when Hannah and Tristan arrive. Eight doctors and nurses go through the list of patients who will need anaesthesia or pain relief today. Some will undergo surgery in the hospital’s central unit, and some require their services in other parts of the hospital, such as the radiotherapy department.

It is difficult to understand the discussions and information exchanged between the doctors and nurses. The jargon is technical, professional and precise. I wonder how much Hannah and Tristan understand? But it is clear that we have a full day ahead, and that many of the patients are seriously ill with cancer. Some are young, and some patients’ cancer has returned after treatment. Despite the difficult subject, the tone of the meeting is upbeat and friendly. It will remain so for the rest of the day.

08:00
Tristan and Hannah meet their mentors for the day. Tristan will join Senior Consultant Hege for a complicated operation that may take more than ten hours. The patient has a form of cancer that means that the surgeons have to go into the skeleton, among other things.

Hannah will be joining Senior Consultant Anne. Anne has several operations on her schedule today, and Hannah and I will be allowed to tag along and see how she works. Anne’s first patient is having an epidural and then a general anaesthetic. This is also a complicated operation.

Anne and Hege both tell us to be prepared that what we experience may make a strong impression on us and that it is natural to feel unwell. They both share stories about themselves and about medical students who have fainted both during and after visits to the operating theatre.

‘Let us know if you fell unwell,’ is their mantra, ‘and we will help you.’ I think back to the countless shifts I worked at nursing homes during my student days, and hope that they have prepared me for this. But what about young people of 18 and 19 who want to go on to work here?

08:07
Anne gives us green scrubs and a purple cap. We change in her office while she explains that her job can be compared to a pilot flying a plane. There is a lot to do when the operation starts until the patient is under anaesthesia, and then there is a calmer period of observation of the patient, often done by her colleagues, and then she goes back to full focus when the patient wakes up.

We get changed quickly.

8:10
Surgery starts early at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, and the patient arrives at the operating theatre at the same time as we do. Anne explains who Hannah and I are and why we are here. In addition to the patient, there are already five people working here.

Anne jokes and talks to the patient, who she has already met several times before. She explains that she will first be administering a local anaesthetic to the back before putting in an epidural, a form of pain relief given as an injection in the back. After that, a cannula will be inserted into a vein in the patient’s lower arm. When the patient is completely asleep, Anne will place a catheter in the neck that will be used to administer anaesthetics, pain relief, salts and anything else the body may need during an operation.

Anne involves Hannah in the work and explains what she is doing while she works, and she also explains to the patient.

‘It was also really nice to see how caring the doctors and nurses were and how they reassured the patients before surgery. They were very good at creating a pleasant atmosphere to make the patients feel safe despite the seriousness of the situation.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

08:41
Operating theatre 4 is a big, light room, and one of the long walls has big windows with a view of Mærradalsbekken stream and the surrounding forest. The river and the walking path meander side by side. But today, we can hardly see any of this through the darkness and fog.

Anne keeps an eye on the pulse and heart monitor that the patient is connected to, while the theatre nurse is preparing the instruments that the surgeons might need during the operation.

The patient is about to be put under full anaesthesia. Anne and her colleagues place a cannula in an artery in the patient’s lower arm/hand and a catheter in a vein in the neck. Anne is calm and talks to both the patient and Hannah. She explains to the patient that she will soon be asleep. She explains to Hannah what she is doing, and how you can tell the difference between a vein, which carries blood back to the heart: ‘It is darker in colour and pumps slower’ and an artery, which carries blood from the heart: ‘It is light in colour, full of oxygen, and has more force. If I had made a hole in an artery, the blood would have squirted out.’

Despite the number of people working in the operating theatre, the atmosphere is calm and pleasant.

Hannah pays close attention to Anne and asks questions while she is working. Anne is obviously impressed with the pupil: ‘Hannah, you are a tough cookie.’

09:10
The patient has been anaesthetised and is ready for surgery. At this stage, Anne and her colleagues’ responsibility is to ensure that the patient is okay during surgery.

09:40
The patient is in good hands in the operating theatre, so Anne goes to the recovery unit where the patients are taken to recover from the effects of surgery. Patients are closely monitored here. Many complications can arise following surgery, such as bleeding, breathing difficulties, a fall in blood pressure, pain and nausea.

Anne will set up a pain pump for the patient. This is a pump with morphine that Anne programs so that the patient can regulate how much pain relief she needs and wants in the days following the operation. We are allowed to use the staff’s break room while she is programming it. ‘Drink squash with sugar,’ she advises. We do as we are told, and talk a bit about what we have seen and experienced so far. Hannah is pleasantly surprised that she has been allowed into the operating theatre already, and at how open and welcoming everyone is.

‘There was some information about anaesthesia at the theme day yesterday, so I understand what is going on,’ says Hannah, and talks more about her wish to become a doctor.

Anne returns and takes the time to talk to Hannah about medical school and her many years working as an anaesthetist at Haukeland University Hospital. She took up her position at the Norwegian Radium Hospital a month ago, and there is still much that is unfamiliar.

10:01
We return to the operating theatre. There are suddenly a lot of people here, and several surgeons with different areas of specialisation discuss the surgery they are about to perform. It is a complex operation that requires cooperation.

After conferring for a while, the surgeons make a plan. Several of the Ullern pupils on job shadowing come by together with a gastrointestinal surgeon. One of the surgeons takes the time to explain the plan to Hannah and the others.

10:20
A theatre nurse goes through a checklist with the physician, surgeon and anaesthetist Anne. Everything is in order, and the operation can begin. Anne uses all her senses to check that the patient is still doing well.

Two surgeons cooperate on the operation. Hannah stands watching behind them. They talk about this and that while they are working, including the musical Book of Mormon. The actual operation is expected to take five hours. After working and discussing amongst themselves for a while, they ask for another surgeon to be called. They need what is called a ‘second opinion’, or another surgeon’s assessment.

There are suddenly a lot of people in the operating theatre, and several surgeons with different areas of specialisation discussing the case. Truls comes in with a couple of pupils who are shadowing him. Truls confers with his colleagues, and one of the surgeons explains that they are uncertain about the best way to proceed. When the surgeons opened the patient up, they found that the assumptions they had made from the outside were not correct. They have to rethink and make a new plan for the operation.

Anne lets us know that this is very unusual. There are rarely this many surgeons involved in an operation, and they do not often spend this much time discussing what to do. She suggests that we take a break and get something to eat. She has to work, though, both with more of today’s patients and planning for tomorrow, but she thinks that we should eat something.

‘Another thing that surprised me was the doctors’ willingness to show and tell me what they were doing and why. During the first day in particular I learnt a lot that I hope will be useful in my future studies. It was also very clear during the operations that good cooperation is incredibly important in order to achieve the best possible outcome for the patients. Everything from how the senior consultants’ discussed to find the best way to proceed during the first operation to how the two surgeons cooperated without needing to communicate much during the second one.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

11:07 Break room
Since we have green scrubs on, we have crispbread with cheese in one of the break rooms. Otherwise, we would have had to change, leave to eat and then change back afterwards. We also have more squash. With sugar. More pupils come in for a welcome break. Four intense hours have flown by. Two pupils have fainted and woken up again.

Ander Bayer from Oslo University Hospital’s communications department also joins us. He made this video about the job shadowing.

 

11:36 Operating theatre 2
Anne comes to get us. Hannah is going to go with her to another operation. Anne is to put another patient under anaesthesia. Again, Anne explains to the patient and theatre nurses who we are. This patient is also having an epidural in the back, and again, Anne alternates between speaking softly and reassuringly and explaining what she is doing to the patient and Hannah. Fourteen minutes after we entered the operating theatre, the patient is under. Two nurse anaesthetists help Anne by monitoring the patient. The theatre nurses wash the abdomen where the surgeons will open up the patient to remove tumours.

12:15 Operating theatre 4
Anne is needed in operating theatre 4 again, where three surgeons are operating on the first patient. They have now decided what to do.

12:23 Break
We get to take another break and have some squash with sugar, while Anne is preparing a pain pump for the second patient.

12:32
The second patient’s operation is under way. Two surgeons are standing face to face, working together. Anne gets a stool so that Hannah can stand by the patient’s head and watch the surgeons work inside the patient’s abdomen. They have made an incision that is held open by a large tool. There is a smell when the surgeon uses an electrosurgical knife to cut tissue and burn small blood vessels. The cancer they are removing is located around the vein and artery, the blood vessels running to and from the heart and legs. The surgeons show Hannah where they have to be careful. The cancer is removed, and they quickly suture the different layers of tissue before stapling the skin. The theatre nurses perform a routine equipment count. The operation is completed in 40 minutes.

The day in the operating theatre was at least as exciting as I imagined! I had not expected that they would allow us to get so close to the patients and really get a proper insight into what happens during an operation and also how the patients are anaesthetised.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

13:35
Anne returns to make sure that both the patient and Hannah are okay. Anne and her colleagues from the anaesthesiology department wake the patient up. The important thing now is for the patient to start breathing again. Everything goes as it should.

13:40
We accompany the patient to the recovery unit, where the patient will remain for a few hours. Anne’s work with this patient is now finished. We go back to her office to change out of the green sterile scrubs. Anne tells Hannah that she will probably doze off early after such a long and intense day. Anne’s shift will last until half past three, when other anaesthetists will take over for the evening shift. In the hall, Hannah thanks Anne for everything she has taught her and for taking care of her during the day.

14:00
As we leave the Norwegian Radium Hospital through the main entrance, we wonder how the first patient whose surgery we saw in the operating theatre is doing. And Hannah says that she is looking forward to another day of job shadowing tomorrow.

Epilogue
The evaluation results for the theme day and job shadowing were excellent. The pupils and teachers were highly satisfied, and it has already been decided that this will be made an annual event for pupils at Ullern upper secondary school who are considering a career in medicine.

‘Finally, I would like to say that it was very inspiring to see how committed Anne and Anna (Anna Winge-Main, who was Hannah’s mentor on the second day of job shadowing) was to their work and how much they loved their job. It was very clear that they are really dedicated to helping their patients. As Anne said, medical school can be hard and difficult, but once you start working as a doctor, nobody regrets their choice.’

Hannah Fiksdal.

READ MORE:

Days to partner up

Roche is looking for new partners in the innovative Norwegian life science scene. 

Roche is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world with about 800 ongoing clinical trials. Within cancer research and development, this translates into about 500 clinical trials for many different types of cancer. Roche is a member in Oslo Cancer Cluster. 

Read more about Roche’s cancer research

As a part of Roche’s scouting for new innovative collaborations, the company arranged two partnering days in the beginning of December together with Oslo Cancer Cluster and the health cluster Norway Health Tech. Together, we welcomed start-ups, biotechs, academic researchers, clinicians, politicians, innovation agencies, students and other interested parties to a two day open meeting.

Partnering with companies 
The first day was at the at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and the second day was at Oslo Science Park.

Growing life sciences in Norway is important to Oslo Cancer Cluster, and the larger pharmaceutical companies’ commitment to working with local stakeholders and local companies is an essential part of the innovative developments in this field.

Such collaborations have the potential to bring more investment to Norway and provide platforms for local companies to innovate, thrive and grow. 

— What we want to do is to strengthen the collaborations and to see even more companies emerge from the exciting research going on in academia in Norway, said Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs at Oslo Cancer Cluster. 

Partnering with academia
Professor Johanna Olweus from the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital was one of the speakers. She also presented the Department of Immunology and K.G. Jebsen Center for Cancer Immunotherapy for a full auditorium at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. 

Established back in 1954, the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital is certainly a well established institute and their Department of Immunology is currently involved in all the clinical trial phases.

— The scientists at the institute realise the importance of collaborating with the industry in order to get results out to the patients, Olweus said, and showed some examples of scientist-led innovations from the institute, including the Department of Cancer Immunology.  

In this story, you can read more about how science from Oslo University Hospital is turning into innovation that truly helps cancer patients.

The e-health meeting place

Oslo Cancer Cluster will co-power the conference E-health in Norway (EHiN).

– This is a natural continuation of the work we do in digitalisation, for a better understanding of cancer and better patient treatment, said Ketil Widerberg, General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, at EHiN 2018.

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services (HOD) and ICT Norway started a collaboration on creating a national meeting place for e-health. ICT Norway launched the first EHiN conference five years ago. Oslo Cancer Cluster is happy to announce that we are now one of the three stakeholders in this yearly conference, together with ICT Norway and Macsimum.

EHiN attracts a large audience from Norwegian government and business. The speaker in this picture is Christine Bergland, Director at the Norwegian Directorate of eHealth (NDE).

Norwegian e-health  
EHiN 2018 took place in Oslo Spektrum and was the biggest meeting place for actors in the public and private sector working with e-health in Norway. The conference had 150 speakers and 1300 participants. EHiN 2019 will be the 6th year of the conference.

What happened at EHiN 2018?

 — EHiN is an important meeting place for public and private actors, and for academia and business. This is a natural prolongation of the many meeting places Oslo Cancer Cluster is always working to establish and preserve, Ketil Widerberg says.

Digital technologies are part of what drives innovation to the maximum benefit of cancer patients. Widerberg is certain that e-health will change the way we understand and treat cancer in the future.

– E-health is part of the matrix for how we give the right medicine to the right patient at the right time, meaning precision medicine. One example of what we specifically do in this area, is a recent project we have been part of, called PERMIDES.

An e-health success story
From August 2016 until August 2018, Oslo Cancer Cluster together with five other European clusters in medicine and ICT, was managing a Horizon 2020 EU project called PERMIDES. It is a European e-health success story in bringing together biopharma and IT sectors.

D.B.R.K Gupta Udatha at the EHiN conference in 2018. Dr. Udatha was the project manager for PERMIDES at Oslo Cancer Cluster.

D.B.R.K Gupta Udatha is Director (Digital and EU) at Oslo Cancer Cluster. He has been instrumental in PERMIDES and explains why the project has had such a positive effect on the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) it has worked with. 

PERMIDES was a project to anchorage digital transformation across SMEs in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. We aimed to see where the biopharma companies were lacking digital infrastructure and where the ICT companies could bring digital skills to make sure that the biopharma companies were up to date, Dr. Udatha said at EHiN 2018.

The project created matchmaking opportunities between these two different categories of companies and was awarded EUR 4.8 million from the EU’s Horizon2020 programme. It addressed specific challenges for SMEs to go digital with a precision medicine product.

The team of Vaccibody celebrating their recent successes.

Prestigious partnership for Vaccibody

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody is entering into a clinical collaboration with the American biopharmaceutical company Nektar Therapeutics.

The aim of the collaboration is to explore positive effects from the combination of Vaccibody’s personalized cancer vaccine VB10.NEO and Nektar Therapeutics cancer drug NKTR-214. Pre-clinical results of the combination are very positive and the collaboration will mark the start of a clinical trial stage.

The clinical trials will include patients with head and neck cancer and initially involve 10 patients.

What is Nektar?
Nektar Therapeutics is not just any company when it comes to immunotherapy. At Nasdaq their market value is set as high as 10 billion dollars.

– For a year now, Nektar might be the most talked about company within immunotherapy and this winter they landed the largest deal of its kind with Bristol Meyers-Squibb (BMS), says Agnete Fredriksen, President and Chief Scientific Officer, in an interview with Norwegian newspaper Finansavisen.

Help more patients
BMS and Nektar started collaborating on the development of the immunotherapy drug NKTR-214, the same drug that is part of the collaboration with Vaccibody, with a potential worth of 3.6 billion dollars.

– That they want to work with us is a nice validation of Vaccibody and makes us able to help even more cancer patients. We hope the combination of our products will lead to even better treatments, Agnete Fredriksen says to Finansavisen.

More about Vaccibody’s cancer vaccine

Nektar and Vaccibody each will maintain ownership of their own compounds in the clinical collaboration, and the two companies will jointly own clinical data that relate to the combination of their respective technologies. Under the terms of the agreement and following the completion of the pilot study, the two companies will evaluate if they will take the partnership to the next stage.

Ketil Widerberg speaks 20 September 2018 in the Jonas Einarsson auditorium.

American tech and Norwegian health data

Combining country scale population data with world class computer systems and algorithms will push the boundaries of precision medicine.

This is a story about the unique American-Norwegian collaboration that combines the best health data with the most powerful computers in a pioneer project run by Cancer Registry of Norway and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Data to screen cancer 
The ongoing project was initiated after a talk on tech between the General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster and a Senior Scientist from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Some months later, in San Francisco, a meeting room was filled with some of the world’s best minds on cancer and technology. The Norwegians knew cancer and the Americans knew computing. The outcome was unknown. 

They identified a concrete challenge. Can we see patterns in data to screen cancer more precisely?

The quest resulted in a successful cooperation between Lawrence Livermore and the Cancer Registry in January 2016 where a team from the Cancer Registry started the first project on cervical cancer. If successful, they would potentially identify and screen high risk patients earlier and leave the low risk patients unburdened. 

Now there are two ongoing projects, one on cervical cancer and one on multitask learning for cancer. The goal is to make predictions more accurate and improve precision medicine. 

– If successful we can potentially identify and screen high risk earlier and leave the low risk unburdened. The individual and social impact of such a strategy is significant. This may be the reason why Joe Biden mentioned details from this project at a UN Assembly last year, Widerberg said.

Former Vice President Joe Biden led the American cancer initiative known as the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel. Two years ago, when the collaborative project between Norway and the USA had just started, the Blue Ribbon Panel released a report describing ten transformative research recommendations for achieving the Cancer Moonshot’s ambitious goal of making a decade’s worth of progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in just 5 years.

One of the ten recommendations was to expand use of proven cancer prevention and early detection strategies.

The major research questions
– One of the major research questions right now is How do we design the optimal screening programs? Another is how to actually take advantage of the registry data that we have, said Giske Ursin, Director of the Cancer Registry of Norway.

In Norway, and similarly in the other Nordic countries, we have registries on various diseases, pregnancy/births, vaccinations, work history/unemployment, income and much more. We have data sets dating from the 1950s. That is unique in the world. 

– If you look at enough data, you can find interesting links that can be explored in the clinical world or elsewhere. For instance; how do other diseases affect cancer diseases? We need international expertise to cover areas we are not experts on ourselves, she said, showing a picture of one of the super computers at Lawrence Livermore.

Cancer and national security
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory and part of the U.S Department of Energy. The laboratory has over 5000 employees, of which at least half are engineers and researchers.

– We have the mandate from the government to push the forefront on subjects like bio security. Precision medicine is alined with the bio security mission, but it is even more relevant to the super computing research mandate. What are the next types of problems that will move this forward? Biomedical data complexity. That is why we are in this, Ana Paula de Oliveira Sales from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said in her presentation. 

Some ingredients of the project on cervical cancer is to improve cancer outcome prediction by combining disparate cancer types. The preliminary results are encouraging.

 

Break down barriers
John-Arne Røttingen, CEO of the Research Council of Norway, gave a talk on how collaborations between the Nordic countries and other countries are important for population based clinical research and health research.

– Personalized medicine is full of promise and we want to contribute to this progress, but we cannot do this only with our data. We have to collaborate with other countries and with different fields of research, he said.

One important country in that respect is of course the USA.

Kenneth J. Braithwaite, U.S Ambassador to Norway, talked about the opportunities with the Norwegian databases in a meeting in the Oslo Cancer Cluster innovation park 20 September 2018.

— I have learned the past few years that data is king, and we need to wrap our arms around this. I think there is a responsibility from the governments to begin to break down the barriers and truly find a cure to cancer. That’s what we are up against, said U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth J. Braithwaite, who is Rear Admiral of United States Navy (Retired).

— As we say in the Navy, full speed ahead!

The next wave in cancer immunotherapy

What is driving the next wave of innovation in cancer immunotherapy?

This was the question the experts tried to answer in the oncology session of the conference Nordic Life Science Days in Stockholm 12 September.

International experts from pharma, biotech, academia and the investment community discussed how different approaches to innovative cancer treatments could address challenges and shape the next wave of innovation in cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology.

They touched upon approaches such as big data, personalized medicine, new targets and lessons from neuroscience.

Over the past few years, the rapid development of novel cancer immunotherapy approaches has fundamentally disrupted the oncology space. Cancer immunotherapy has not only become a key component of cancer therapy, but it has also reshaped priorities in oncology research and development (R&D) across the industry, with unprecedented clinical success in certain cancer types continuing to fuel record investment and partnering activity.

As of today, more than 2.000 immuno-oncology agents, including checkpoint-inhibitors, vaccines, oncolytic viruses and cellular therapies are in preclinical or clinical development.

Read more about the cellular therapy research of Oslo Cancer Cluster members Oslo University Hospital and Zelluna.

Why so little effect? 
Despite all of this promising research, only a minority of patients benefits from effective and durable immuno-oncology treatments. Why is this happening?

Part of the answer is found in resistance or unexplained lack of response. This could be addressed through a better understanding of optimal timing of therapy, better combination therapy design, or improved patient selection. Another part of the answer lies in a lack of novel targets and of an overall better understanding of specific immune mechanisms. This lack of understanding is becoming a roadblock to further advance in this research space.

What can the experts do about this? It turns out they have several approaches. Two of the main ones include big data and turning so-called cold tumours hot.

Big data will expand
“We believe that this can be changed by adding deep and broad data from multiple sources”, said Richa Wilson, Associate Director, Digital and Personalized Healthcare in Roche Partnering.

“We use the words meaningful data at scale, that means high quality data with a purpose: to answer key scientific questions”, she said at the session.

These data will continue to evolve from clinical trials and aggregated trials and registries and in the future from real time and linked data. There was about 150 exabytes health data in 2015 and in 2020 it is expected to grow into 2300 exabytes, mainly from digital health apps and scans from the hospitals, Oslo Cancer Cluster member Roche presented.

Hot and cold tumours 
Emilio Erazo-Fischer, Associate Director of Global Oncology Business Development at Boehringer Ingelheim explained the cold and hot tumours and how the cold tumours can be turned hot and thus open for cancer immunology treatment. It is well explained in this short film by Oslo Cancer Cluster member Boehringer Ingelheim

Martin Bonde, CEO of Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody also presented how they try to turn the cold tumours hot.

The Norwegian company Vaccibody is a leader in the field of cancer vaccines and they are very ambitious. They currently have a trial for melanoma, lung, bladder, renal, head and neck cancer.

The impact of stress
Erica Sloan is the group leader of the Cancer & Neural-Immune Research Laboratory in Monash University in Australia. She gave a talk on how neural signalling stops immunotherapy working. The researchers at Monash University have led mouse studies where the nervous system is stressed. They show that immunotherapies fail unless peripheral neural stresses are excluded.

The threat of a cancer diagnosis is stressful, as are most certainly cancer and cancer treatments. The tumour micro environment inside the cells can hear the stress signal, that is adrenalin.

“So what can we do about it?” Erica Sloan asked, before she answered:

“Treating with beta blockers. Blocking neural signalling prevents cancer progression. It also has an effect on immunotherapies.”

Erica Sloan is the group leader for the Cancer & Neural-Immune Research Laboratory in Monash University, Australia. She gave an introduction to the effect of neural signalling on tumour cells during the NLSDays in Stockholm 2018.

“Could stress be responsible for non responders?”, the moderator Gaspar Taroncher-Oldenburg from Nature Publishing Group asked her in the panel. 

“Absolutely, neural signalling can be responsible for this. And the exciting thing with data sharing here is that it can allow us to see and understand the rest of the patients’ biology. We need to look more at the patients’ physiology and not just the tumour biology” she said. 

Met Action Cancer Crosslinks 2018

Promising treatment for late stage cancer

MetAction has used targeted gene therapy to give patients with metastatic cancer a treatment method. The future of this work is now in danger.

Late stage cancer is still a real challenge for modern medicine. The gene mutations multiply and are difficult to control. However, the research group MetAction, based at the Oslo University Hospital, has used targeted gene therapy to give patients with metastatic cancer a treatment method.

The results have been very promising, but all the good work could go to waste.

Targeted Gene Theraphy has been described as one of the new important weapons in the fight against cancer for two decades now. Norwegian hospitals still lack an infrastructure to facilitate this type of treatment.

Meet MetAction
MetAction started as a research project in 2014 to explore the possibilities of targeted gene therapy, but ended in 2017 because of a lack of funding. The project made use of modern genetic tools, combined with knowledge across the cancer treatment spectrum, to help patients with late stage cancer.

Cancer Specialist Anne Hansen Ree explained how it all started at this year’s Cancer Crosslinks in January.

– We had this idea to use targeted gene therapy for people who suffered from late stage cancer to deal with the types of mutations common for this group, she said.

With this idea as a backdrop they started developing a research project.

– To do this we had to put together quite a large project with a lot of new diagnostic tools, as well as specialists with the knowledge to interpret the data and find patients that were willing to join the study, she explained.

During the project, MetAction found that they could give at least half of the patients in their study a treatment based on the genetical data collected.

A patient group previously labelled “terminally ill” could actually receive effective treatment.

You can read about the cancer patient Grete and how she was successfully treated with late stage stomach cancer by MetAction in this article in the Norwegian newspaper VG (in Norwegian).

Knowledge in danger
All the knowledge and competence the MetAction group has established in this field is now in danger of disappearing.

– It’s sad to see that all the good work from this project could vanish and that a patient group loses out on a possible treatment method, said molecular pathologist and doctor Hege Russnes.

Both Russnes and Ree emphasized that the research group both want to and should continue.

Join the debate
Last year at the yearly political get-together event “Arendalsuka” Oslo Cancer Cluster and meeting-co-hosts posted the question: “Why can’t we have a second-opinion board for patients that have run out of options, like in Denmark?” Now that a Norwegian Expert Panel is about to come to fruition–as promised by the Norwegian Minister of Health, Bent Høie–it presents an excellent possibility to include personalized gene treatment as a viable treatment option for patients with late stage cancer. We will discuss this possibility during our meeting in Arendal next week.

8 AM Wednesday 15 August, MetAction will present their project and we will discuss possibilities for future cancer treatment as part of this year’s Arendalsuka. Come and join our event there.

Or simply follow our live stream on Facebook!

Ullern Student With a Career in Medicine

Aksel Stien graduated from Ullern Secondary School in 2011. Today he is a physician working on his specialty subjects at Oslo University Hospital. Aksel has always wanted to become a physician and the foundation was already in place at Ullern. He learned things from his deployment at The Norwegian Radium Hospital during his upper secondary days that he has yet to learn from his medicine studies.

A warm summer afternoon Aksel is at an Adamstuen café. It’s four a clock and his workday at Ullevaal is done. Aksel is currently working at the department of Gastrointestinal Surgery at Ullevaal Hospital, a part of his specialization and continuing education as a doctor.

— Recently I worked at the emergency services at Grünerløkka for three months, a time I experienced as both exiting and hectic. However, I think it is interesting working at Gastrointestinal Surgery as well.

At Ullern he specialized in natural sciences and he has only good things to say about the teachers.

— I didn’t have one inadequate teacher in all my years at Ullern. Quite amazing really and that contributed to my good grades. Of course, I also worked hard to be able to enroll as a medicine student in Bergen right after graduation.

Very Interesting Deployment
Aksel finished his studies in 2017 and can now call himself doctor. However, a doctor is never fully educated. He is currently undergoing part one of his continuing education. And when he looks back, he remembers well his years at Ullern were he participated in two work deployments at the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

— The deployments motivated me. I learned things I haven’t experienced later, like laboratory work and advanced cell biology. The best thing is that my passion for natural science was rewarded and encouraged. It felt fun doing stuff that was outside of the straight forward curriculum, says Aksel

Aksel was both deployed at a group led by Kristian Berg working on photochemical internalization and how it can be used to kill cancer cells, and additionally at dep. of Radiation Biology were the students learned about skin cancers and the danger of tanning booths.

Uncertain on Future
After finishing the first part of his continuing medical education, he will start the second part that decides the type of doctor he will become at the end, what field of expertiese he will delve deeper into. However, exactly what type of doctor he wants to become he hasn’t decided yet.

— Many of the different types of specializations are fun. Right now, gastrointestinal surgery is very exciting, but I don’t know. It will be a difficult choice, says Aksel.

Aksel has wanted to become a doctor for a long time and thinks it is an exciting profession combining knowledge of the natural sciences, medicine and the body with human contact skills.

— The life of a physician is very diverse, and it is very rewarding often seeing the results of your hard work immediately, says Aksel.

Aksel is tempted to go into research or maybe combining patient treatment with research. Treating patients and doing research is a quite common combination and Aksel has already participated in several research projects.

Do What You Find Fun!
Aksel is a believer in personal motivation. It is important that each graduate student go on to study what they are interested in and excites them.

— If you chose something that motivates you it’s much easier working hard because doing that extra work comes so naturally, says Aksel.

He thinks it is very understandable that natural sciences lover choose the medical profession after upper secondary.

— It’s a natural choice because of the job security and the exciting diversity of the profession. You can work with people, do research or work with patients. As a career it has it all and offers you a choice whatever you do, says Aksel.

— Personally, I have wanted to work with medicine since I was a toddler and I’m very happy about the career path I have chosen.

AI Speeds Up Pharmaceutical Testing

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Immunitrack has landed investments worth millions. The money will be used to develop a computer program that can predict how the immune system will react to different substances.

Already Immunitrack, co-founded by Stephan Thorgrimsen and Sune Justesen, is offering contracted research to the pharmaceutical industry predicting how the immune system react to different pharmaceuticals, by producing reagents that can be used to examine the immune systems reaction.

New AI in The Making
When scientists discover promising substances they think can be developed into medicine for future treatments, only a small percentage will prove to have an effect after testing. The testing process is important, but at the same time expensive, time and resource consuming. What if a lot of this testing could be done virtually by a computer program? This is what Immunitrack want to offer with their new AI- technology.

The new investment will take this further and enable the company to boost its production and analytical capabilities. The investment will enable increased efforts in the development of a new best in class Prediction Software using artificial intelligence (AI). The software is seen as a vital cornerstone for applying the technology from Immunitrack in large scale projects within cancer treatment and precision medicine.

The applications of the new AI platform are multiple: The technology increases vaccine potency, speeds up the development of personalized cancer vaccines and remove negative immunological effects. Additionally, it enhances precision medicine efforts by improving patient profiling and treatment selection.

And everything is really moving fast for Immunitrack.

— Until September last year it was only the two of us that stood for everything. Production, marketing, you name it. Then things started happening for real and now we have employed 4 new colleagues, says Stephan Thorgrimsen.

The Investor
The new investment is from Blenheim Capital Limited. They are a diversified investment company focusing on geographically, commercially and technologically frontier companies and projects.

The investment in Immunitrack ApS with its emphasis on transforming market proven immunology-based skill set into a commercially viable AI solution matches Blenheim’s investment profile.

About Immunitrack
Immunitrack aims at becoming a world leader within prediction and assessment of biotherapeutic impact on patient immune response. The company has until now provided services and reagents to more than 70 biotech companies worldwide, including 6 of the top 10 Pharma companies.

Immunitrack was founded in 2013 by Sune Justesen and Stephan Thorgrimsen. Sune Justesen brings in experience from more than a decade of working in one of the world leading research groups at the University of Copenhagen. The company started commercialization of its products in 2016, and has grown its staff from 2 to 6 within the last 8 months.

Podcast Ketil

The Future Norway: Ketil Widerberg on Tech and Cancer

Our General Manager Ketil Widerberg visited the podcast People creating the future Norway (De som bygger det nye Norge) hosted by Silvija Seres and Oslo Business Forum.

Ketil and Silvija discussed important issues like: Is it possible to make cancer a chronic disease? And how do you really create medicine that is tailored for each individual? And many other important topics. Have a listen!

Listen to the podcast HERE (In Norwegian).

Enjoying a Meteoric Career as a Researcher

Former Ullern upper secondary school student Simone Mester is enjoying a meteoric career as a researcher. Her research is aimed at making cancer drugs more efficient by getting them to stay longer in the body. But how did she end up here, and what advice does she have for upper secondary school students who are about to choose what educational path to take?

Simone Mester is 25 years old. Before studying molecular biology and being taken on as a researcher at the University of Oslo (UiO), she took natural science subjects at Ullern upper secondary school. She was one of the first students to be offered a place on a work placement programme under the auspices of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Her placement was at the Institute of Clinical Medicine where she worked at both the Department of Tumor Biology and the Department of Radiation Biology.

But choosing molecular biology after upper secondary school was not an easy choice.

‘I felt unsure at the time. I remember thinking a lot about what jobs would be available to me after studying molecular biology. At the same time, the work placements had given me an idea of what it means to work as a researcher. Without that, I would never have dared to choose molecular biology, but would have gone for medicine instead,’ says Simone Mester.

Inspired by Inger
Now, just five years after celebrating her graduation from Ullern, Simone is a researcher at the University of Oslo (Department of Biosciences and Department of Pharmacology) and at Oslo University Hospital (Department of Cancer Immunology) as a member of Jan Terje Andersen and Inger Sandlie’s research group. As chance would have it, Professor Inger Sandlie is a member of the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster and is one of the founders of two enterprises working on a new form of cancer treatment.

‘Inger was one of my lecturers when I took my bachelor’s degree, and I found her very inspiring. She has won several innovation awards and started up businesses. I like working on research that is complex but understandable, and that can form the basis for new and better treatment for serious illnesses,’ says Simone.

So it is no great surprise that Simone’s research project focuses on developing better cancer drugs that stay longer in the body. This enables the drug to kill more cancer cells at lower doses, which means that there are also fewer side effects. This was also the focus of her master’s thesis.

‘My master’s thesis was well received. It opened the door to Inger Sandlie and Jan Terje Andersen’s research group, but chance played a part as well, of course,’ says Simone modestly.

Chance always plays some part, but Simone has no reason to be modest. She is not where she is today as a result of chance alone.

Do not choose the most prestigious fields
Simone is very happy that she did not choose a subject that is better known than molecular biology in terms of status and job opportunities. She encourages upper secondary students to think about what they are good at and what they think is fun when making the hard choice of which direction to take after upper secondary school.

‘I feel that it’s a general problem that so many young people choose high status professions such as law, engineering and medicine, rather than looking at other possibilities. When I tell people that I’m a molecular biologist, they don’t understand what it is, and they don’t ask either, but that’s OK. It’s more important to choose something you think is fun, because that means you will also perform better, even though it’s hard work,’ says Simone.

She adds:

‘And if you think upper secondary school is tough and that you have to work really hard to get good grades, then I can tell you that university is much tougher. That means that it’s really important that you choose a field you’re passionate about,’ says Simone.

She encourages students to talk to their subject teachers about possible career choices.

‘I had several good biology teachers at Ullern, and was considering studying biology. However, Ragni, one of my teachers, was adamant that I should focus on molecular biology since I was particularly good at it,’ says Simone.

She has never regretted her decision. When we ask her what fascinates her about molecular biology, she says:

‘I’m working on such a tiny scale with things like DNA, protein and cells, the building blocks for all life. It’s like a different universe, and, in the beginning, it was hard to understand how I fitted in,’ Simone says.

But after listening to Inger’s lectures and later becoming part of her research team, she is sure about her decision.

The SPARK Winner And the Prime Minister
Simone completed her master’s degree in 2017, by which time the university had already granted her application for innovation funds to continue her research. In addition, she is the youngest person at the university to be accepted for ‘Spark Norway’, an innovation programme at UiO:Life Science, which Oslo Cancer Cluster has helped to establish.

‘My SPARK project is an extension of the project I began during my master’s studies. Of all the proteins I’ve created, I’ve found one with the ability to stay in the blood stream for a very long time. That means that it doesn’t break down so quickly. At the same time, a lab in the Netherlands has developed several new antibodies that can effectively kill cancer cells. The problem is that the antibodies break down quickly in the body. So now we’re trying to combine these antibodies with our unique technology, in the hope of tailoring the next generation of cancer drugs,’ says Simone.

The aim of the SPARK innovation programme is to give young researchers a chance to further develop their own ideas in health-related life science for the benefit of patients and society at large. And Simone’s project really fits the bill in that respect, something a lot of people agree with.

When Prime Minister Erna Solberg opened the new incubator ShareLab at the Oslo Science Park in March this year, a competition was organised between the SPARK participants. And guess who won?

None other than Simone.

Ragni Fet on Simone:

Ragni is a biology teacher at Ullern upper secondary school. Simone Mester was one of her students for all three years: first in natural science and then in biology for two years. Simone was part of Ragni’s first cohort of students nine years ago.

‘I remember Simone very well, and we have actually been in touch after she graduated from Ullern upper secondary school. She struggled a bit to stay motivated while taking her bachelor’s degree in biology, and I talked to her about how that was completely natural and that things would improve at master’s level,’ says Ragni.

And it’s safe to say that the pep talk worked.

Ragni was also the one who recommended Simone to study molecular biology.

‘Many upper secondary school students tend to have a too narrow perspective when it comes to choosing an education and profession. I’m trying to expand their horizons, and I strongly recommended that Simone study molecular biology rather than medicine, which she was considering at the time,’ says Ragni.

She is both pleased and proud that Simone is doing so well as a researcher at the University of Oslo, but she is not the least bit surprised.

‘Simone was very good at biology and really grasped the subject in her final year. I seem to remember giving her the best grade in biology. It’s great that she’s doing so well now. I’m really rooting for her. She has everything it takes to succeed, from intelligence to social skills and work capacity,’ says Ragni.

She is really pleased that the work placement offered to Ullern students was the decisive factor in Simone’s decision to go for a career as a researcher.

‘Students and society at large are very under-informed about what research is and what being a researcher entails. When students praise each other, they say “What are you, a brain researcher or something?”, so they clearly think you have to be extremely clever to become a researcher. Most people find research diffuse, so it’s great that some students can go on work placements and experience first-hand what research is and what a researcher does,’ says Ragni.

Creating One Cancer Vaccine Per Patient

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody is making headway with their cancer vaccine technology. Now they are ready with clinical trials involving 40 patients in Germany, the first patient is already enrolled.

 

Neoantigens Reveals Cancer Cells
Cancer is famous for its ability to deceive, appearing to the immune system as normal tissue while wreaking havoc on the body. But what if cancer cells could be revealed with subtle but unmistakable characteristics that revealed their true nature?

This revealing clue exists and is called neoantigens, which are mutated (or changed/altered) proteins found only in cancer cells. This is the science behind what Vaccibody and Agnete Fredriksen is currently doing, working to develop vaccines that use neoantigens to help patients’ own immune systems recognize and fight cancer tumors.

— I dare to say that this is quite unique. Each vaccine is thoroughly customized for each individual cancer patient. One vaccine per patient! What we do is conduct biopsies and blood tests to reveal each patient’s unique set of neoantigens and with our technology we have the ability to create a potent individualized vaccine in a relatively short time at reasonable cost, says Agnete B. Fredriksen, President and Chief Scientific Officer at Vaccibody.

Extra Effective With Checkpoint Inhibition
The Vaccibody researchers analyze individual tumor genomes and the patients’ immune systems to select an optimal mix of neoantigens.

— We can do that in a few days because of modern technology. Then we monitor and record the changes we think the immune system will react to and include them in the personalized vaccine. The neoantigen technology is then combined with so called checkpoint inhibitor therapy, which stops tumors from suppressing immune-system activity — to make the vaccine extra effective.

With this personalized medicine approach, each patient receives a unique DNA vaccine, in combination with standard of care checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

Vaccibody has also reached the front page of VG! Read the story here. (In Norwegian)

Clinical Trials in Germany
In the upcoming German clinical trials the vaccine will be tested on patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, renal, bladder or head and neck cancer.

— Our technology is very flexible and it can record a number of different changes. The vaccine is therefore applicable as a treatment for many different kinds of cancers. The ones included in the trial are chosen because they contain a high number of mutations and changes creating a good basis to create a neoantigen vaccine.

During the trial Vaccibody will check if the vaccine is safe and without side effects.

— We really think it is based on previous experience with this platform! And we will of course check if the vaccine has the expected immune response and investigate signs of clinical efficacy, says Fredriksen.

Met Action Cancer Crosslinks 2018

Bekjemper kreft med gentilpasset behandling

Gentilpasset behandling har siden begynnelsen av 2000-tallet blitt beskrevet som et av de nye, viktige våpnene som kan bekjempe kreft.

Hør forsker Hege G. Russnes og professor Anne Hansen Ree, her fra Cancer Crosllinks i januar i år, fortelle om deres forskningsprosjekt MetAction, og hvordan de tar i bruk gentilpasset behandling for å gi et behandlingstilbud til en pasientgruppe som har manglet det tidligere. Nå avsluttes prosjektet og du kan høre her hvorfor forskerne synes det er både feil og trist.

Forskningsprosjektet, som varte fra 2014 til 2017, ble ledet av Ree, kreftforsker og professor Gunhild Mari Mælandsmo, molekylærpatolog og lege Hege Russnes ved Oslo universitetssykehus, samt kreftkirurg og lege Kjersti Flatmark.

I forrige uke fikk de også forsiden på VG. Og det med god grunn: Ved bruk av genterapi og tverrfaglig kompetanse gir de hjelp til nye pasientergrupper og løfter norsk kompetanse innen gentilpasset behandling.

Les saken i VG her.

Vessela Kristensen Receives Cancer Research Award

Professor Vessela Kristensen is awarded King Olav V’s Prize for Cancer Research for her breast cancer research.

A Prestigious Award
The prize is one million NOK and will be presented to Kristensen by his Majesty King Harald V on behalf of the Norwegian Cancer Society, April the 16th.

Kristensen is a Professor at the University of Oslo, and associated to the Department of Clinical Molecular Biology at Ahus and Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital.

– This is overwhelming! A Warm thanks to the Norwegian Cancer Society and all the many researchers that I have teamed up with and that have made my projects possible to complete, Kristensen says in a comment to the Norwegian Cancer Society.

King Olav V’s Prize for Cancer Research is regarded as the most prestigious award within cancer research in Norway, and is awarded by the Norwegian Cancer Society to researchers that have excelled in their field of research for a substantial period.

The Genetics of Breast Cancer
Kristensen receives the award for her research on how genetic variations in breast and ovarian cancer influences the two diseases. The goal of her research group is to identify biomarkers that can lead to early patient diagnostics, as well as better patient care and prognosis. With the help of advanced analytic models dealing with lots of data, she wants to tailor effective treatments to each breast cancer patient.

The Cancer Society emphasizes innovation as a main characteristic of Kristensen’s research and underlines her substantial reputation in both national and international scientific communities.

– This year’s winner represents proven research! That is why she has received research funds from the Norwegian Cancer Society previously. Now we give her this prize to stimulate further innovative research, says General Secretary of the Norwegian Cancer Society, Anne Lise Ryel in a press release.

10th Cancer Crosslinks: Precision Treatment Reviewed

For the tenth time the cancer experts gathered to share knowledge and ideas at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Cancer Crosslinks 2018 presented a diverse program covering themes from immuno-oncology to cachexia, to big data.

 

Cancer research is changing rapidly. Immunotherapy and precision medicine has revolutionized cancer treatment. This year’s Cancer Crosslinks took a closer look at developments over the last decade, and highlighted “Precision Treatment: Exploiting Recent Advances – Fast and Furious?”.

Weber Gazed into the Crystal Ball
The leading immunotherapy expert professor Jeffrey S. Weber visited Cancer Crosslinks for a second time. Weber has worked with immunotherapy for 30 years.  He provided an overview on recent advances. He shared new data showing that the combination of a certain vaccine and a type of immunotherapy called Checkpoint inhibitors, are especially effective against cancer. He also gazed into the crystal ball and made predictions on the future of cancer treatment. Weber is optimistic and thinks there are several promising combinations of precision treatments on the horizon.  He believes we can hope for a survival rate of 70-80 percent for people with certain cancers.

A Fiber Diet is Recommendable
Professor Laure Bindels from Belgium explored the theme of Microbiome, Cancer and Cachexia. Diet can be an important tool to fight cancer and cancer symptoms. Her research on mice indicates that changing to a fiber-rich diet can prevent undernourishment and increase the survival rate for cancer patients.

Hege Russnes and Anne Hansen Ree introduced us to the MetAction project where they conduct extended personal diagnostic testing to give cancer patients better and more effective treatment.

From the USA, we were introduced to precision treatment of gynecological cancer from Douglas A. Levine.  He was followed by Professor Andreas Engert, who raised the hot topic of establishing joint European guidelines for treatment across Europe for hematological cancer.

A Big Maybe to Big Data
The last speakers of the day where Assistant Professor Marcela Maus from Harvard Medical School, and Elisabeth Wik and Marc Vaudel from the University of Bergen. Professor Maus explained the use of CAR T- cells in cancer treatment. CAR-T Cells are T-cells with modified receptors to make them more effective against certain diseases, in this case cancer.

Elisabeth Wik and Marc Vaudel, with backgrounds from cancer research and computer science, discussed the use of big data in cancer research and treatment. Will big data revolutionize cancer treatment? The answer is maybe. We don’t know yet, it has potential.  We need to continue exploration, research, and collaboration to find out.

Download the Presentations
For those of you who missed the event or would like to revisit:

You may watch most of the presentations here.

You can download presentations from the meeting here:

Opening and Welcome with Jutta Heix from Oslo Cancer Cluster and Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director Innovation, The Norwegian Research Council.

Jeffrey S. Weber. Opening Keynote: Cancer Immunotherapy – The Journey So Far and Where We Are Heading.
Jeffrey S. Weber, Professor, Deputy Director and Co-Director, Melanoma Program, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, USA.

Laure Bindels. International Keynote: The Microbiome, Cancer and Cachexia.
Laure Bindels, Louvain Drug Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

Hege G. Russnes and Anne Hansen ReeFrom Feasibility to Utility in Precision Medicine – Experiences from the first Norwegian Study of NGS-Based Therapy Decisions in Advanced Cancer.
Hege G. Russnes, Senior Consultant and Researcher, Oslo University Hospital, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Norway
Anne Hansen Ree, Professor, Akershus University Hospital, University of Oslo, Norway

Douglas A. Levine. International Keynote: Precision Medicine for Gynecologic Cancers – Opportunities and Obstacles.
Douglas A. Levine, Professor, Director of Gynecologic Oncology, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center & Head, Gynecology Research Laboratory, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, USA.

Andreas Engert. International Keynote: Roadmap for European Hematology Research and Hodgkin Lymphoma: (Immuno)therapy, Late Effects and the Way Forward.
Andreas Engert, Professor for Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, University Hospital of Cologne, Germany.

Marcela V. Maus. International Keynote: The Next Generation of Engineered T-cells for Immunotherapy of Hematological and Solid Tumors.
Marcela V. Maus, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School & Director of Cellular Immunotherapy, Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.

Marc Vaudel  and Elisabeth Wik: Making Sense of Big Data for Oncology Patients – Vision and Reality
Marc Vaudel, Center for Medical Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Haukeland University Hospital and KG Jebsen Center for Diabetes Research, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen, Norway
Elisabeth Wik, Centre for Cancer Biomarkers, University of Bergen and Department of Pathology, Haukeland University Hospital, Norway

KUR: En reise langs det elektromagnetiske spekteret

I kursserien Kompetanseutvikling i realfag (KUR), spør vi denne gangen: Er det farlig med stråling?

Hvordan påvirkes vi av trådløse nettverk?  Hvordan behandler man kreft med ioniserende stråling?

Stråling er en del av hverdagen vår på mange måter.  Det elektromagnetiske spekteret er også en gjenganger i mange læreplaner, både grunnskolen og i videregående skole.  Denne kurskvelden har det overordnede temaet “det elektromagnetiske spekteret”, og hvordan stråling påvirker liv og helse.

Vi tilbyr for første gang også en omvisning i strålingsbygget på Radiumhospitalet!

Hva er KUR? 

KUR er en serie med seminarer for lærere i videregående skole. Seminarene arrangeres av Ullern videregående skole og Oslo Cancer Cluster og foregår om ettermiddagen. Målet er å lære noe nytt, spennende og relevant for undervisningen sammen med både realister og andre lærere. Seminarene innledes med et foredrag av en forsker som forteller om ny forskning innen sitt felt.

Program

  • Registering, servering av mat og drikke, og mingling med gode kollegaer
  • Velkommen
  • Hvordan bruke matte og fysikk i kreftbehandling?
  • Kaffe og mingling
  • Høyspentlinjer og trådløs kommunikasjon-farlig eller ikke?
  • Q & A
  • Omvisning på avdeling for medisinsk fysikk på Radiumhospitalet

 

Opplegget er gratis, men du må melde deg på slik at vi vet hvor mange som kommer, og dermed kan beregne riktig i forhold til innkjøp av mat.

Klikk her å registrere

Missed Us at Oslo Innovation Week?

Luckily, all our events at Oslo Innovation Week and Forskningsdagene are available for a rerun. Have a look!

We had great audiences during our three events on the 27th and 28th of September. If your were not among them, sitting in the brand new science centre of the Norwegian Cancer Society, do not despair. The events were all live streamed on Facebook. You still have a chance to experience them right here.

The events were co-hosted with our partners the Norwegian Cancer Society, the Norwegian Radium Hospital Research Foundation (Radforsk), IBM, Cancer Research UK, Norway Health Tech and EAT.

 

The first event of the week was titled “Antibiotic resistance and cancer – current status, and how to prevent a potential apocalyptic scenario”.

Antibiotic resistance and cancer – Current status, and how to prevent a potential apocalyptic scenario #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

 

Our secondary event had the title “Cancer research and innovation – benefit for patients”.

Cancer research and innovation – benefit for patients #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

 

The third and final event on our Oslo Innovation Week calendar was about how big data may transform the development of cancer treatments. 

How Big Data may transform the development of cancer treatments #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Young Skills at Thermo Fischer

The innovation company of the year wants to encourage young talents. 

 

Six students from Ullern Upper Secondary School spent their school day at Thermo Fisher Scientific just days after the company won the prestigious award as the innovation company of the year in Norway.

As part of the school collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster, Thermo Fisher Scientific opens their labs for science students at work deployment.

 

Curious about the school collaboration? Check out our new webpage!

The Dynabeads
The students got a unique insight into how one of Norway’s largest biotechnology companies advances their products, based on the so-called Ugelstad-beads or Dynabeads, developed by Professor John Ugelstad in the late 1970s.

Today, Dynabeads are further industrialized for use in specialized diagnostic tests and cancer treatments worldwide. Annually, the beads are used in an estimated number of four billion diagnostic analyses.

Scientist Synne Larsen and three students are in the company laboratory in Lillestrøm, a ten minute train ride from the capital, where Thermo Fisher Scientific quality checks its products in Norway.

Impressed students 
– I find it incredibly useful to see how our learning at school is being used in the workplace, says student Emma E. J. Botten.

Together with two co-students she was able to see the research and production done in the company’s facilities in Lillestrøm. In parallel, three of the girls’ fellow students were in Oslo and tried out life as crime scene investigators, using Dynabeads as a tool for finding DNA, in the company’s facilities in Montebello.

– It’s impressive to see how much work lies behind their products and how dedicated those who work here are, says student Nora B. Grone.

Diverse employment strategy
The students are in their third year at Ullern Upper Secondary School, with science as their speciality. They all want a career in medicine, global health, mathematics, physics or engineering. A tour of the lab and a visit to the factory were therefore among the highlights of the day.

– It was a bit overwhelming to see Ugelstad’s equation, which is the recipe for the beads, says student Thilde E. Kjorstad.

– Yes, but keep in mind that everyone cannot be as brilliant as Ugelstad. Everybody we employ is equally important and we must have people with different backgrounds and experience, says Erlend Ragnhildstveit, Research Director of Thermo Fisher Scientific in Norway.

Useful cooperation
Thermo Fisher Scientific is a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Part of the staff is situated in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, where Ullern Upper Secondary School is located as well.

– The collaboration with Ullern is useful and important to us as a company. This makes it easier to host deployments. In order to develop our business further, as well as the health industry in Norway, we need people with a science background, says Erlend Ragnhildstveit.

Precision Oncology Team

Meet our new members – Part One

We are proud to introduce Oslo Cancer Cluster’s new members. This is the first part of two stories about our new members.

You can find the second part HERE.

On the 24th of August, Oslo Cancer Cluster hosted a summer party with the intention of getting to know their newest members in an informative and fun setting. The party started with a heartfelt welcome and speech held by Oslo Cancer Cluster’s General Manager Ketil Widerberg and intensive mingling amongst guests. After the welcome was in order, each member stood up, in turn, to introduce their amazing work.

Of the 14 new members we have so far this year, here’s an introduction to those who primarily work in the area of biotechnology.

Precision Oncology
Precision Oncology is a specialty contract research organization (CRO) that provides clinical research services. The company primarily provides application of metrics-driven project management to perfect oncology drug development.

As for their inspiration and reasoning for joining the Oslo Cancer Cluster roster of members, Andrea Cotton-Berry, head of Strategic operations at Precision Oncology, responds:

– What really inspires us at Precision Oncology, is matching the right drug to the right patient, by using biomarkers for patient identification and stratification; a true personalized medicine approach, to find more efficient treatments for patients with advanced cancers. We are looking forward to bringing our team of oncology development experts to contribute to the Oslo Cancer Cluster mission and initiatives, especially advancing immuno-oncology research.

Personalis
Personalis is a leading preciscion medicine company focused on advancing next generation sequencing based services for immuno-oncology. The company is mainly focused on producing the most accurate genetic sequence from each sample set, and using analytics and privately owned content to draw reliable and accurate biomedical interpretations of the data.

In regards to current and future inspiration, Erin Newburn, Senior Manager and Field Applications Scientist at Personalis, comments:

– We aspire to utilize next-generation sequencing as a multi-dimensional platform for bio-marker discovery across cancer therapeutics, as well as throughout developmental stages.

iNANOD
iNANOD is a nanotechnology based anti-cancer drug developing company established in 2016. Their goal is to increase efficacy of anti-cancer drugs and to reduce side-effects for cancer patients as well as maximizing the patients longevity. They aim to become a pharmaceutical company for anti-cancer nanomedicines in the near future.

As for expectations and reasoning for joining Oslo Cancer Cluster, Nalinava Sengupta, CEO and Co-Founder of iNANOD shares his view:

– We think our project – to develop cancer nano-medicine – fits best with Oslo Cancer Cluster. In the incubator we get in touch with other similar firms who have achieved milestones in cancer drug delivery. We expect synergistic knowledge transfer within the incubator network, as well as various kinds of help from the cancer research related entrepreneurial ecosystem developed at Oslo Cancer Cluster. This also helps with business developmental aspects and project application writing.

Norgenotech
Norgenotech is a start-up company that originated from the EU project COMICS that aimed at improving production methods for analysis of DNA damage and repair. Norgenotech mainly assesses genotoxicity, or property of chemical agents that damage the genetic information within a cell, as well as drugs. The company also participates in research projects and developing tools for measuring DNA integrity in patients.

Eisai
Eisai AB originates from a global company in Japan that is active in the manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceutical drugs, pharmaceutical production systems, and over-the-counter drugs. Eisai AB, that will be joining the Oslo Cancer Cluster roster of members, is the sales subsidiary of Eisai Company.

Immunitrack
Immunitrack is a startup company with capabilities in production and studies of protein molecules central to the adaptive immune system in humans in order to develop new therapeutics. Their mission is to provide the research community with tools to redesign or select drug candidates at the early stage of research and development, but also to provide reagents to monitor leading drug candidates effect on patient’s immune system.

Nacamed
Nacamed‘s goal is to produce nanoparticles of silicon material for targeted drug delivery of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and diagnostics to kill cancer cells. By using silicon nanoparticles in cases such as therapy, the particles are biodegradable which entails a clean delivery without any side-effects as they completely disappear and dissolve from the body.

Arctic Pharma
Arctic Pharma is a privately held startup biotech company founded in 2012 that primarily focuses on developing innovative anti-cancer drugs. They do this by exploiting cancer cells and their peculiar features, or more specifically, by targeting key enzymes that are upregulated, or have been increased in terms of stimulus with inhibitors designed at Arctic Pharma. Essentially, their main mission is to become a leader in designing cancer therapies that are both environmentally friendly and have few side effects.

Persontilpasset medisin i Arendal

Sentrale fagmiljøer og helsepolitikere møttes på Oslo Cancer Clusters første åpne møte under Arendalsuka. De diskuterte hva persontilpasset medisin har potensial til å være – og hva som skal til for å oppnå resultater av forskning og klinisk bruk.

Hva er egentlig persontilpasset medisin? Det handler enkelt forklart om at forebygging og behandling av sykdom skal bli bedre tilpasset den enkeltes biologi. Veien dit går gjennom forskning på genetisk variasjon. Slik forskning gir innsikt i hvorfor noen blir syke og andre ikke.

Tirsdag 15. august samlet folk seg i skipet MS Sandnes ved kaia Pollen i Arendal for å høre om persontilpasset medisin i medisinsk forskning og klinisk bruk.

Debatten ble arrangert av Bioteknologirådet, K.G. Jebsen-senter for genetisk epidemiologi – NTNU, Folkehelseinstituttet, Helsedirektoratet, Kreftregisteret og Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Alle vil ha det – hvordan gjøre det?
Fagmiljøer, politikere, pasienter og næringsliv ser ut til å ønske en utvikling mot mer persontilpasset medisin velkommen. Hvordan kommer vi fram til et helsevesen der dette er vanlig praksis?

Ole Johan Borge, direktør i Bioteknologirådet, var ordstyrer. Han åpnet møtet med å minne om målet for persontilpasset medisin: å tilby pasienter mer presis og målrettet diagnostikk og behandling, og samtidig unngå behandlinger som ikke har effekt.

Næringslivets mange muligheter
Kreft er det medisinske området som er tidligst ute med å ta i bruk persontilpasset medisin i Norge. Ketil Widerberg er daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster. Han deltok i panelet under debatten, og fikk spørsmålet:

– Du representerer en næringslivsklynge. Hvilke roller kan store og små næringsaktører spille innen norsk helsevesen for persontilpasset medisin?

– Store farmaaktører og små biotekselskaper er viktige i utvikling av ny medisin. Store internasjonale selskaper kan komme hit til Norge for å teste ut og utvikle nye medisiner her. Store næringslivsaktører innen teknologi, som ikke tradisjonelt er involvert i helse, er det i dag ikke klart hvordan skal samhandle med helsesystemet. Apple har i flere tiår sagt at de vil inn i helse, men de har ikke klart det i USA. I Norge har vi imidlertid tilliten og muligheten til å skape slik samhandling. Dette er noe andre land ikke nødvendigvis har, sa Ketil Widerberg.

Personvern og persontilpasset
En stor del av debatten handlet om hensynet til personvern mot behovet for mer forskning på persontilpasset medisin. Er det slik at vi må velge mellom personvern og god forskning på persontilpasset medisin?

Hør hvordan paneldeltakerne tok tak i dette spørsmålet i denne videoen på Bioteknologirådets nettsider.

I videoen kan du til sist høre hva politikere fra Arbeiderpartiet og Høyre mener om persontilpasset medisin i Norge – og hva de vil gjøre først dersom de får statsrådposten innen helse etter Stortingsvalget i 2017.

Oslo Cancer Cluster har flere åpne arrangementer under Arendalsuka. Finn ut når og hvor her! 

Having Chemistry with Chemistry

Interested pupils at Ullern Upper Secondary School arrive at laboratory 117 to learn alongside Dr. Bora Sieng, a chemist in Arctic Pharma. Dr. Sieng advocates for the importance of chemistry and encourages pupils to pursue a career in the exciting field of chemistry.

 

At nine o’clock in the morning, three boys eagerly gather outside laboratory room 117. They’re waiting for an exciting opportunity offered by the collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary and Oslo Cancer Cluster. This opportunity provides pupils the chance to see how chemistry is used in a real-life setting (a biotech company). This allows pupils to apply what they have learned in the classroom and in their textbooks to real-life scientific problems, such as developing new therapies for diseases.

The door opens and Dr. Bora Sieng greets the students with a friendly smile and handshakes. Dr. Sieng, who has a PhD in organic chemistry and is project leader in Arctic Pharma, welcomes them in. Arctic Pharma is a small start-up company developing innovative anti-cancer drugs.

Reaction Action
When entering the lab, we can feel the excitement between the pupils, they are here to learn. Dr. Sieng asks the boys what level of chemistry the pupils have taken. They nervously, but excitedly respond that they haven’t taken advanced levels, but know basic organic chemistry. Thus, they’re put to work after going through some textbook examples and introductory concepts. It’s time for some chemistry cooking!

A Collaboration is Formed
Arctic Pharma relocated their chemistry laboratory temporarily to Ullern in April. Dr. Sieng has been using the laboratory since then. He offers some insight into the new collaboration between Arctic Pharma and Ullern Upper Secondary School.

– For the past few months, I have had the opportunity to carry out my work using the facilities at Ullern through Arctic Pharma’s Collaboration with the school. I feel the school collaboration is a win-win for Arctic Pharma and the pupils at Ullern. Arctic Pharma is committed to introduce pupils to organic chemistry from a company’s perspective. This provides the students with the chance to get a feel of what it is like to work in a biotech company and to see how their education can be applied.

Chemistry is Exciting
When asked why exactly the pupils should learn chemistry, Dr. Sieng responds with this:

– Organic chemistry is fascinating! It can have many applications such as drug design and development, cosmetics, material development in, for example, rubber, plastics, detergents and paints as well as production of chemicals used in agriculture, to name a few examples.

Next Generation
At Arctic Pharma, Dr. Sieng works in a team of scientists that specialize in different fields important for drug design and development. As a medicinal organic chemist, Dr. Sieng is passionate about his work, and hopes to inspire the new generation of chemists.

–  To keep Norway a world innovator, the field of chemistry is important and we especially need to nourish the next generation of chemists and scientists, hence this collaboration is also important for our country.

Essentially, we need to ensure a future for Norway that will continue to thrive, construct and further the research that will help us continue down the path of innovative discovery. Such a future can only be secured if we continue to unlock the potential that chemistry offers us; a future waiting to be unlocked by the next generation.

Funding Innovation in BioPharma and IT

What kind of work does it take to receive PERMIDES funding for innovative concepts and projects? Meet one of the companies that just received funding. 

 

22 collaboration projects will receive a total of 1,25 Million Euros from PERMIDES for innovation projects between small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from biopharma, bioinformatics and the IT sector. 

One of the lucky companies to receive innovation funding is Oslo Cancer Cluster member Myhere. For MyHere, it was especially important that the PERMIDES initiative is focused on the intersection between BioPharma and IT.

– Working with partners that are specialized in our field makes it easier to communicate the mission we are on, the concrete problems we are trying to solve and to qualify if we are a good match for each other or not. Furthermore, as we learned about the people and companies involved with PERMIDES, we discovered that we could learn a lot from the experiences of other SMEs in the program, says Jon-Bendik Thue, CEO at MyHere.

An innovative health app
MyHere’s mission is mainly carried out through the use of their app. This app, which pinpoints levels of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) in the bloodstream, enables a clearer outlook on potential prostate cancer and when to promptly, and timely, seek help. Thus, this app creates a balanced overview of prostate cancer that can save the patient and doctor from underdoing and overdoing the process. Essentially, the app is designed to save lives.

 

Essential health data
The funding will enable MyHere to start with a project that manages content from owners of health data. Health data is a tremendous resource, but unfortunately also tremendously underutilized. One important factor is the issue with getting consent from the owner of health data for research purposes. Typically, the owner is the individual the information was generated from, often in the role as a patient.

– As a provider of medical services directly to consumers, while at the same time organizing data across patient journeys, we are in a unique position to help solve the issue with consent for use of data. The funding from PERMIDES will allow us to build a dynamic data owner content management system, that will be integrated into our medical service platform. We are very excited about this project and we look forward to implementing it with our partner FramX, says Thue.

– Without this funding, we would have had to postpone the initiative without knowing when we would be able to realize it. Now we are thrilled that we will be able to hit the ground running right after the short Norwegian summer, he adds.

More winners in this round
Another Oslo Cancer Cluster member that got funding in this PERMIDES call is Arctic Pharma, a small start-up company committed to developing innovative anti-cancer drugs by exploiting the peculiar metabolic features of cancer cells.

These two Oslo Cancer Cluster members were among six Norwegian companies involved in four successful applications for Innovation Voucher funding. All of them will be able to initiate their joint projects in August and expect to see results early next year.

 

How Our Genes Will Change Cancer

Doctors, researchers and audience gather at breakfast to learn about genetics, data and how working together will help beat cancer.

The time is 8:15. Many have started to file in and shuffle to their seats while chatting and occasionally sipping their first morning coffee. As it starts to quiet down, the lights are dimmed, the audience wake up and the breakfast meeting begins.

An air of seriousness with a hint of respect changes the atmosphere, and the audience watches as the first guest speaker steps in and introduces the concept of genes and their relation to cancer.

– Cancer is brought on by errors in our genes. Most of the time, cancer is a result of the unlucky, says Borge, who is the director at the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board.

This is the start of his talk on genes and cancer, where the audience is introduced to that which defines us most: DNA, the molecule of life.

To the moon and back
– 20,310 recipes in our genetic material. 2 meters of DNA in every cell. 10 Billion cells, of which 20 billion meters of DNA is found. If you do the math, astonishingly it amounts to 26,015 trips back and forth to the moon, Borg says, as he shows us a visual representation on the powerpoint slide. (See video in Norwegian.)

It’s this incredibly long strand of genetic material where things can go horribly wrong. If there’s a genetic error, or mutation in the DNA that happens to take place between the double helix and if there’s enough errors, cancer happens. This is the unfortunate fate for many of us.

– However, we may not have come a long way in finding the ultimate cure for cancer, but what we have accomplished is the ability and possibility of analysing, and ultimately predicting, cancer through genome sequencing, Borge says.

It was the best of times…
This message, as a central theme to the breakfast meeting taking place, shines a hopeful light in an otherwise frightful and serious subject. With genome sequencing, or list of our genes, scientists and doctors will have greater accuracy to predict genes that are potential carriers, and highly susceptible to, different cancers.

However, this requires a large amount of genome sequences: we need an army of genome data.

From terminal to chronic
To set further example, the next speaker to take the stage is oncologist Odd Terje Brustugun. He stresses the importance of personalized treatment for lung cancer patients, even those with metastatic cancers. These patients can be tested today to see if they are viable to receive new kinds of treatmemt, such as targeted therapy. This was the case for lung-cancer patient, and survivor for five years, Kari Grønås.

Kari Grønås was able to participate in a clinical study. She was treated with targeted therapy instead of the ordinary treatment for lung cancer patients at that time: chemotherapy.

– I feel I have gone from feeling like I have a terminal disease to a chronic one, she says from the podium.

Beating cancer: the story of us
This personalized approach is arguably what worked for Kari, setting the example and potential for the future. If we can analyse our own genes for potential cancer, then we are both able to prevent and provide personalized medicine catered to the individual. This is why genome sequencing is important for the future.

However, this cannot be done alone. To get a representable treatment for the individual, we need data. And data does not come reliably from one individual, but from the many.

– It is not your genes that are the key for tomorrows cancer research, it is ours. It is collaboration where large amounts of data and correlation will give us the knowledge that ensures the right path towards the future. A future with better cancer treatment for all, says Ole Johan Borge.

A Constant State of Liveliness

A driving force behind the collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster is stepping down. This is her adventure.

After fifteen great and productive years at Ullern Upper Secondary School, Esther Eriksen steps down from her position as vice principle in the upcoming month. Esther, who has been responsible for many various tasks in her position, has been a part of Ullern’s transformative experience alongside Oslo Cancer Cluster’s emergence in 2009 and recounts her time at Ullern.

A flourish of innovation
Esther Eriksen describes the transformation and unification of Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster as being a progression from a strong belief in it’s potential to a flourish of innovation.

The collaboration has become a constant state of liveliness: from pupils attending classes, to research, to teamwork and a continuous process of growth.

Since 2009, the school and the cluster, with all its member companies and institutions, has unified to produce a collaborative arena for the pupils. This is an experience Eriksen describes nothing short of “wonderful, educational and groundbreaking”.

Diversity in teamwork
– The collaborative experience is incredible due to the pupils’ ability to take in experience in regards to teamwork. Not to mention they learn how knowledge from books can be translated to hands on work and ultimately get a feel for what life has in store for them, says Eriksen.

Esther Eriksen describes her own experience as being much of the same, and stresses the notion of working as a team.

– Diversity in teamwork is really important! We see this from well-received results and happy pupils, says Eriksen.

Future potential
In regards to the future of this collaboration, Vice Principle Eriksen expresses her desire to see the school continue down the path it has set out on. She wants to see the pupils continue to learn, gain opportunities and continue to work collaboratively.

– I wish the pupils would gain further awareness of the potential this unification brings, and hope to see increased interest in teamwork as an integrity.

The best of moments
Esther Eriksen also shares what she would consider the best moments of her time at Ullern, of which these were her favorite:

  1. When the new school first opened in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park in 2015 – hard work finally turned to fruition
  2. Seeing how happy and motivated the pupils are when they do projects with scientists, businesses and hospitals in the cluster
  3. The emergence of vocational studies, such as electronics and health care studies, at Ullern Upper Secondary School

To conclude, Vice Principle Eriksen would like to leave the school and her colleagues this message: that she will continue to observe and follow the thriving development taking place at Ullern Upper Secondary School.

– This is only the beginning!

 

Helping biotech companies through innovative IT solutions

The cluster-to-cluster project PERMIDES stimulates collaboration between biotech companies and IT companies. Its goal is to develop more innovative, personalized cancer treatments.

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster is currently involved in a big European collaboration through the cluster-to-cluster project PERMIDES.

24 May you can benefit from the project by joining the BIOMED INFORMATICS workshop in Oslo. This workshop brings together small and medium sized companies from the biopharma/medtech and IT sectors. (See the sidebar for more info on this event.)

PERMIDES aims to utilize novel IT-solutions to accelerate drug development in biotech companies. Biotechs and the healthcare sector generally lag in using IT in their everyday work.


Can get better at IT

“I know of companies who still manage their clinical trial studies using Excel. This is not a good idea. An Excel sheet may only hold a limited amount of data before it crashes and you lose everything”, says Gupta Udatha.

Udatha is the PERMIDES project leader in Norway. He divides his time between Oslo and Halden, where the NCE Smart Energy Markets-cluster is situated. This cluster is mainly involved in IT. Other clusters participating in the project are from Austria and Germany.


Ambitious goals for next year

Before PERMIDES ends in 2018, it aims to have reached some ambitious goals:

  • 90 innovation projects between IT and biotechs will have received funding through a voucher system
  • 120 IT companies and biotech companies will have benefited from technology transfer activities
  • 75 enterprises will have participated in networking conferences at both regional and European levels
  • 100 companies will have placed their profile in a semantic matchmaking portal: the PERMIDES platform


Find your ideal match

The PERMIDES platform is designed to match IT-companies and biotech companies. As a supplementary service, Gupta Udatha and others involved in PERMIDES are currently busy arranging matchmaking events all over Europe. They try to find the perfect match between IT- and biotech companies interested in collaborating on projects on personalized medical treatment.

Through PERMIDES voucher funding, a biotech company can avail services for up to 60 000 Euros from an IT-company. This gives them a market advantage in digitalizing their processes.

“The health care and biopharma sectors must understand that new IT solutions are the way forward. Tasks which a company may spend weeks and months doing, may easily be done by a few smart IT-solutions, in just few clicks, says Udatha.


Pursuing new EU-programs

PERMIDES is the first EU-project Oslo Cancer Cluster is involved in, but it will not be the last. Oslo Cancer Cluster is actively seeking new EU-projects to apply for.

This year, Oslo Cancer Cluster and Oslo Medtech, another health cluster in Norway, are looking into new EU-projects to apply for together. They have received support from the Norwegian Research Council, that wants more Norwegian institutions and companies to get involved in EU-projects.

“Hopefully, we will have landed ten new EU-project applications by 2019”, says Udatha.

 

What PERMIDES is

  • Stands for Personalized Medicine Innovation through Digital Enterprise Solutions
  • The project is for European small and medium sized enterprises in biotech and IT
  • The aim is to strengthen the competitiveness and foster the innovation potential of personalized medicine as an emerging industry in Europe
  • PERMIDES offers workshops, funding schemes and a matchmaking portal for the participating companies
  • Read more on permides.eu

 

Clusters involved in PERMIDES
Oslo Cancer Cluster S.A (Norway)
NCE Smart Energy Markets, c/o Smart Innovation Østfold AS (Norway)
Software-Cluster c/o CyberForum e.V. (Germany)
Cluster für Individualisierte ImmunIntervention (Ci3) e.V. (Germany)
Intelligent views GmbH (Germany)
NETSYNO Software GmbH (Germany)
Oncotyrol – Center for Personalized Cancer Medicine GmbH (Austria)
IT-Cluster – Business Upper Austria, OÖ Wirtschaftsagentur GmbH (Austria)

 

Utplassering radioterapi

Learning about physics in radiotherapy

Join six pupils from Ullern Upper Secondary School to see how physics plays a crucial role in good cancer treatment.

 

A group of interested pupils pay close attention as Taran Paulsen Hellebust explains the recommended radiation dose for a patient with prostate cancer. On a big monitor, she shows how the dose administered by the radiotherapy machine should vary between organs, and what will happen if you increase the dosage or the radiation, or expand the radiation field.

The six upper secondary school pupils ask many good questions. This week, they are spending their school days at the Norwegian Radium Hospital’s Department of Medical Physics, where they are on work placement.

While looking at the screen, they are talking about grey which is a unit of measurement, just like metres and decilitres, for radiation.

All six pupils are studying maths and physics plus either chemistry or biology at Ullern Upper Secondary School, which is only a stone’s throw away from the hospital. Many of them are considering studying medicine, engineering or biotechnology after they graduate this spring. The pupils are Kristian Novsett Borgen, Aurora Opheim Sauar, Edvard Dybevold Hesle, Alexander Lu, Trym Overrein Lunde and Tuva Askmann Nærby.

 

Cooperation on radiation
The pupils get practical insight into topics they have barely touched on during physics lessons. They appreciate getting some insight into working life and seeing how a physicist works.

Hellebust explains how a team comprising a doctor, a radiation therapist and a physicist cooperate on planning a patient’s radiation treatment. If, like many others, you think of physicists as elderly men with unkempt hair running around with their heads full of abstract and incomprehensible formulas, your prejudice has hereby been refuted. The physicists who supervise the pupils and work with radiotherapy on a daily basis are young and know how to entertain their pupils.

 

From brachytherapy to radiotherapy machines
After the pupils have been given an introduction to brachytherapy, physicists Jørund Graadal Svestad and Live Furnes Øyen take them on a tour to see the radiotherapy machines in use in the radiotherapy building. Cancer patients sit in the corridors with family members and friends waiting for their turn, while Jørund explains to the students how the radiotherapy machine is used.

Inside the radiotherapy room, the Geiger counter that Jørund is carrying detects radiation.

‘But it’s a very small amount of radiation, not problematic in any way,’ he says.

The final stop before lunch is a room that could easily be mistaken for the set of the old Norwegian science TV series Fysikk på roterommet. Among other things, it contains an old radiotherapy machine and an old-fashioned ultrasound machine. The pupils have a look and fiddle around with the old machines. They get a chance to feel and see how today’s radiotherapy has developed by leaps and bounds within a relatively short space of time.

‘It’s been great fun and very educational and, not least, we’ve had an opportunity to learn from the experts,’ says one of the pupils.

 

Photo of Oncolmmunity's offices.

OncoImmunity AS wins the EU SME Instrument grant

The bioinformatics company OncoImmunity AS was ranked fourth out of 250 applicants for this prestigious grant.

250 companies submitted proposals to the same topic call as OncoImmunity AS. Only six projects were funded.

We applied for the SME instrument grant as it represents an ideal vehicle for funding groundbreaking and innovative projects with a strong commercial focus. The call matched our ambition to position OncoImmunity as the leading supplier of neoantigen identification software in the personalised cancer vaccine market”, says Dr. Richard Stratford, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of OncoImmunity.


Personalised cancer vaccines
Neoantigen identification software facilitates effective patient selection for cancer immunotherapy, by identifying optimal immunogenic mutations (known as neoantigens). OncoImmunity develops proprietary machine-learning software for personalised cancer immunotherapy.

This solution also guides the design of neoantigen-based personalised cancer vaccines and cell therapies, and enables bespoke products to be developed faster.

The SME Instrument gives us the opportunity to further refine and optimise our machine-learning framework to facilitate personalised cancer vaccine design. This opportunity will help us establish the requisite quality assurance systems, certifications, and clinical validation with our partners, to get our software accredited as an in vitro diagnostic device”, says Dr. Richard Stratford.

In vitro diagnostics are tests that can detect diseases, conditions, or infections.

Dr. Richard Stratford is Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of OncoImmunity, member of Oslo Cancer Cluster and part of the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.


Hard to get
Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument is tailored for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). It targets innovative businesses with international ambitions — such as OncoImmunity.

“The SME instrument is an acid test; companies that pass the test are well suited to make their business global. It also represents a vital step on the way to building a world-class health industry in Norway”, says Mona Skaret, Head of Growth Companies and Clusters in Innovation Norway.

The SME Instrument has two application phases. Phase one awards the winning company 50 000 Euros based on an innovative project idea. Phase two is the actual implementation of the main project. In this phase, the applicant may receive between 1 and 2,5 million Euros.

The support from the SME instrument is proof that small, innovative Norwegian companies are able to succeed in the EU”, says Mona Skaret.

You can read more about the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument in Norwegian at the Enterprise Europe Network in Norway.

 

Thinking of applying?
Oslo Cancer Cluster helps its member companies with this kind of applications through the EU Advisor Program and close collaboration with Innovayt and Innovation Norway.

The SME Instrument is looking for high growth and highly innovative SMEs with global ambitions. They are developing innovative technologies that have the potential to disrupt the established value networks and existing markets.

Companies applying for the SME Instrument must meet the requirements set by the programme. Please see the SME Instrument website for more information.

Three people sitting in front of a Macbook.

Try our matchmaking platform

Why join the PERMIDES platform? It is where you can find your biopharma-IT match.

“Since the launch of PERMIDES in September 2016, we have collected a lot of input from small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Several of our members have contributed by sharing their needs and challenges of digitalisation”, says Gupta Udatha, Project Manager for PERMIDES.

PERMIDES kicked off the matchmaking platform on March 15, 2017. During the following two weeks, approximately one hundred SMEs across the globe registered in the platform to find potential partners  for joint biopharma-IT innovation projects in personalised medicine.

There is plenty of room for more companies to benefit from the platform.

Potential project team partners can find each other on the PERMIDES platform. It offers matchmaking of companies from the biopharmaceutical and IT sector, based both on their needs and expertise”, says Udatha.

To be eligible for funding, project teams need to consist of one biopharma SME as the main applicant and at least one IT SME as the service provider.


Funding opportunities

PERMIDES offers different types of vouchers to SMEs allowing them to tackle and solve challenges at specific levels of complexity. Advancing personalised medicine in the digital age requires solutions to issues currently driving the IT and software sector, e.g. Big Data, machine learning, IT security, data protection, and cross-enterprise collaboration.

Each SME can apply for multiple vouchers, but is restricted to the maximum value of each voucher type as detailed at our Open Call for Financial Support. The voucher funding scheme of PERMIDES is aimed at SMEs for developing novel personalised medicine products and solutions.

It is the ambition of PERMIDES to accelerate the digitalisation of biopharmaceutical SMEs in the field of personalised medicine. This is a way of increasing the competitiveness of the participating SMEs.

 


Do you have questions?

We will be happy to have a meeting with your company and guide you through the PERMIDES funding and collaboration opportunities. Simply contact us if you have questions.

Gupta Udatha
gupta.udatha@oslocancercluster.no
455 34 627

Jutta Heix
jh@oslocancercluster.no
941 63 089

Utplassering på patologen ga mersmak

Ullern videregående skole har et unikt tilbud til sine elever. Gjennom det skolefaglige samarbeidet med Oslo Cancer Cluster kan de delta på utplasseringer hos medlemmene. Spennende, var gjennomgangstonen da vi besøkte de åtte elevene fra Ullern som denne uken har vært hos avdeling for patologi ved Oslo universitetssykehus. Marie Wahlstrøm  kan godt tenke seg å bli patolog.

 

– Dette er et snitt av en frisk livmorhals, sier Else Skovholt og justerer på mikroskopet slik at cellene i prøven, rosa, hvit og sort i fargen, trer tydelig fra.

Skovholt er patolog og sitter nå omringet av åtte elever fra Ullern videregående skole. De ser alle ned i hvert sitt mikroskop som viser samme bilde som Skovholt har lagt på.

– Men se her. Dette er et snitt av en livmorhals med celleforandringer forårsaket av HPV-virus. Om dere ser her så ser dere normalt vev, og så skjer det en glidende overgang til flere celler som sitter tettere sammen med mange mørke kjerner. Dette kan utvikle seg til kreft og må skjæres bort for ikke å gjøre det, sier Skovholt.

Alle jentene som er på utplassering er vaksinert mot dette viruset, og følger nøye med på gjennomgangen av friskt og sykt vev og hvordan se forskjellene på de ulike cellene som er på snittet.

– Tidligere i dag fikk vi se en livmor. Pasienten som den var fjernet fra ligger fremdeles på Radiumhospitalet rett over veien her, sier Marie Wahlstrøm fra klasse 2STE.

 

Et håndarbeid som viser hvem som er frisk og hvem som er syk

Elevene følge fascinert med ettersom Skovhold skifter ut snitt fra ulike prøver. Neste ut er eggstokker og eggledere, sædlederne og bryst. Rutinert viser hun elevene forskjellene på friskt vev, de ulike celletypene som er byggesteinene i de ulike organene og kreftceller. Spørsmålene er mange og Skovholt svarer enkelt på legspråk slik at alle får med seg alt.

På spørsmål om patolog er et yrke elevene kan tenke seg, er Marie krystallklar.

– Definitivt ja. Dette er et håndarbeid der du jobber praktisk i stedet for å sitte på kontor, du er med på å avgjøre om noen er syk eller frisk, og du vet at pasientene er rett her borte, så det blir veldig nært og føles veldig viktig, sier Wahlstrøm.

Patolog Marius Lund-Iversen bidrar også med sin spesialkunnskap. Over to dager har de åtte elevene tuslet opp i sjette etasje i den blå blokka i Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark for å få skreddersydd kunnskap om et yrke som sårt trenger rekruttering.

Elevene har fått lage snitt, tappe eget blod for å analysere det for hvite og røde blodlegemer. De har også sett på ulike organer og hvordan de blir oppbevart på formalin, for så å bli snittet opp slik at de kan studeres i mikroskop.

Utplasseringen hos patologen skjer hvert år. Det er ett av mange tilbud som elever ved Ullern får takket være det skolefaglige samarbeidet mellom Oslo Cancer Cluster og Ullern videregående skole.

 

Kick-Off: Call for Proposals for PERMIDES

The first call for proposals for the PERMIDES project is opening on March 15th. We urge all small and medium sized biopharma-companies working to take the step into the digital era, to apply for funding up to 60 000 Euros.

 

D.B.R.K Gupta Udatha, project manager for PERMIDES, is very happy to kick off the first call for proposals. He wants to help you succeed in this call for proposal by defining the essentials:

‘In your proposals, you should address the innovation barriers and challenges that you experience in the area of personalised medicine. It should be challenges that somehow can be solved by digitalisation’, says Udatha.

 

Developing novel personalised medicine
The voucher funding scheme of PERMIDES is aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from the biopharmaceutical sector developing novel personalised medicine products and solutions (e.g. biotech/medtech companies, diagnostics companies, CROs, biobank companies, bioinformatic companies).

‘To be eligible for funding, project teams must consist of one biopharma SME as the main applicant or beneficiary. In addition, there must be at least one IT SME as a service provider. Potential team partners in the project can be found via the PERMIDES platform, which offers a matchmaking of companies from the biopharmaceutical and IT sectors’, says Udatha.

 

Get more information:

 

Contact:

Jutta Heix, International Advisor
D.B.R.K Gupta Udatha, Project Manager PERMIDES

 

War on Cancer Nordics

The Economist & Oslo Cancer Cluster: War on Cancer Nordics

Oslo Cancer Cluster is proud to be partner of The Economist Events War On Cancer Nordics.

The War on Cancer Nordics 2017 in Oslo will gather leaders in oncology from the Nordic region and beyond, to discuss the region’s primary challenges in cancer care and control. The event will bring together policy makers, NGOs, academia, research and health care professionals, patient groups and cancer control institutes with private sector business leaders.

 

Questions we will answer

  • How much does cancer cost the Nordic countries per year both in terms of treatment costs and its impact on the labour market?
  • Would a unified Nordic oncology framework be desirable? 
  • What can be learnt from countries that have made more progress in prevention initiatives? 
  • How could research in immuno-oncology be scaled across the region to improve outcomes for patients? 
  • What role will new technologies play in shaking up cancer care, from prevention, through diagnosis, to treatment and to optimise symptoms and quality of life?

 

Founding sponsor: The Research Council og Norway and silver sponsor: Roche

Per Walday, CEO, PCI Biotech

PCI Biotech granted NOK 13.8 million from the Research Council

Our member PCI Biotech has been granted NOK 13.8 million to the project “Photochemical vaccination – novel immunotherapy concept for treatment of cancer and infectious diseases”.

The main goal of the project is to document in a proof-of-principle clinical study in cancer patients that PCI Biotech’s photochemical internalization (PCI) technology can be used to improve the efficacy of a therapeutic cancer vaccine. Other important aspects of the project is to develop the PCI technology for use in vaccination against certain types of viral and bacterial infections, and to explore the technology for use with mRNA-based vaccination.

‘This grant supports further development of the promising fimaVacc technology, as well as the important vaccination application of the fimaNAc technology. Both of these applications are well suited for the development of new types of immunotherapy against cancer, and also for the prevention and treatment of some types of infectious diseases, including certain types of chronic virus infections. We are very pleased to see that the expert evaluators and the Research Council share our view on the potential of these technologies.’ says CEO in PCI Biotech, Per Walday.

The project will be initiated in Q3 2017 and run for three and a half years. The grant will cover up to 35% of the project costs and the project will be implemented in the company’s current plans. The grant is subject to final contract negotiations.

Established in 2006, the BIA programme is the largest industry-oriented programme at the Research council of Norway (Forskningsrådet). This broad-based programme supports high-quality R&D projects with good business and socio-economic potential.

About PCI Biotech
PCI Biotech is a biopharmaceutical company focusing on development and commercialisation of novel therapies for the treatment of cancer through its innovative photochemical internalisation (PCI) technology platform. PCI is applied to three distinct anticancer paradigms: fimaChem (enhancement of chemotherapeutics for localised treatment of cancer), fimaVacc (T-cell induction technology for therapeutic vaccination), and fimaNAc (nucleic acid therapeutics delivery).

www.pcibiotech.no