News regarding Personalized Cancer Medicine in Norway

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 neoanitgens, 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 personalzed 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.

 

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.

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.

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. 

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!

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.

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).

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.

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

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

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! 

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.

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)


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.

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

 

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

Kom med innspill til Helsedatautvalget

Ekspertutvalget for helsedata ønsker innspill fra Oslo Cancer Cluster sine medlemmer om hvordan man kan utnytte opplysninger i sentrale helseregistre, kvalitetsregistre, befolkningsbaserte helseundersøkelser og biobanker på en bedre måte.

Vi ønsker innspill til konkrete organisatoriske, tekniske og juridiske tiltak for å forbedre dagens system for tilgang til helsedata. Dette gjelder både til forskning og til tjenester/innovasjon.

Send dine innspill innen 15.11 til:

Les mer om ekspertutvalget her:

Doctor caring for elderly patient.

Help define gene panel

The Norwegian Research Council-financed project NCGC are joining forces with Norwegian Cancer Registry to establish a research platform for tumor-profiling in recruiting patients for clinical trials.

The objective is to make Norway an even more attractive location for the industry and to meet the industries specific needs. The first step in this work is to define a gene panel. In this connection the project team wants to get in contact with Oslo Cancer Cluster members who can give feedback on what targets should be included.

For more information, please contact:

More about NCGC here: cancergenomics.no 

DoMore! receives Lighthouse project grant from the Norwegian Research Council

The Norwegian Research Council IKTPLUSS has selected The DoMore! project application as one of the 3 winners of the prestigious Lighthouse Project grant. The Lighthouse Project winning proposals were announced at the Norwegian E-health conference on the 26th april 2016.

 

The DoMore! project aims to explore the unique combination of academic and industrial competence within the project group to radically improve prognostication and hence treatment of cancer by using digital tools for pathology. ​The DoMore! project focuses on heterogene​​ity in cancer​ and is led by Institute Director Håvard Danielsen.​

​By largely digitalizing and automating diagnostics and prognostication of cancer, we can literally DoMore! and analyze a ​greater number of samples from the same tumor​,​ ​leading to a more precise diagnosis for each patient​ ​​​​Safe storage, analysis and prosessing of the​ ​B​ig ​D​ata​ the project will produce will also be handled by the project partners.

The ​DoMore!​ ​team ​is composed ​of experts within several fields, including: digital imaging, processing, robotics, pathology, cell biology, surgery and oncology, both in Norway and abroad​​. ​​Together, we will create solutions that will​​ ​​​​allow​ us to DoMore!, resulting in objective cancer diagnostics that can be made available to all patients.

NLSDays 2015: Meet international life science leaders and discuss the sector’s future at the Nordic region’s largest partnering meeting

NLSDays September 9-10 at Stockholm Waterfront is the Nordic region’s premier life science event. The global life science sector is undergoing major structural changes, and as part of a strong established hub, companies in Sweden and the Nordic countries are of great interest when international investors and corporations are looking for new partners.

The entire value chain from basic research to the introduction of new therapies is subject to transformation – not least due to rapid developments in digital health. Life science companies therefore need to find new ways to collaborate and fund their projects. Since the Nordic region offers a modern, competitive environment for academia and research companies alike, the region has become highly attractive for the global life science industry.

  • NLSDays has become the most important meeting place for global investors and corporations that are looking for new collaborations in the Nordic region. The event is on course for record numbers and deals such as the recent one between Alligator Bioscience and Janssen Biotech which illustrates that Swedish companies offer major value to partners, says Jonas Ekstrand, CEO SwedenBIO, the Swedish national life science industry organization which founded the event three years ago.

Overall, the life science sector is currently very active in the Nordic countries. For example, the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, an investment of around 100 million Euros opens today (24 August). Furthermore, AstraZeneca recently announced a Euros 260 million investment in a new plant for bio-pharmaceutical production and from January 2014, 18 life science companies across all subsectors from medtech to biopharma have been listed on Nasdaq Nordic at a combined value of about Euros 250 million (Source Nasdaq). Furthermore, initiatives and companies in new areas such as personalized medicine, digital health and outcomes based provision are emerging at an accelerating pace.

During Nordic Life Science Days 2015 the main theme is “The New Value Chain”. The 2 day program covers several sessions in which international life science leaders will discuss strategies on how new partnerships can be established and how medical research and the life science industry in the Nordics can contribute.

Super Sessions from the program:

  • International Investors (9 September at 11.30 – 12.30)

International life science investors talk about their investment models and what they look for from entrepreneurs.

  • Personalized Healthcare – Matching Medicines to Patients (September 10 at 08:45 – 09-45)

How will big data and new diagnostic methods impact the future of medical research and treatment modalities? Listen to how the Digital Doctor Watson can revolutionize health care.

  • Oncology 2025 (10 September 11.30 – 12.30)

Immuno-oncology is hotter than ever and there is an ongoing competition between the big global companies to take on the most promising projects. Representatives from several of the major players talk about their strategies.

Currently, 800 delegates are registered for this year’s NLSDays, which is 33% more than at the corresponding time last year. This strongly indicate that the meeting will attract over 1,000 participants, outnumbering last year’s number of delegates.

The conference is organized September 9-10, 2015 at Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre, Nils Ericssons Plan 4 in Stockholm. More info on www.nlsdays.com.

 

About NLSDays

Founded in 2012 the Nordic Life Science Days has grown rapidly to become the largest Nordic partnering conference for the global life science industry. In 2014, 890 delegates from 28 countries attended the meeting. The 580 companies attending offered 490 licensing opportunities in the partnering system and during the two days 1600 one-on-one meetings were scheduled. Among the investors and big pharma already registered for the meeting in September 2015 are AbbVie, Alexion, Almi Invest, Astellas, AstraZeneca, Bayer HealthCare, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cadila Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, HealthCap, Industrifonden, Karolinska Development, Merck-MSD, Novartis, Pfizer, Pierre Fabre, P.U.LS. AB, Recipharm, Roche, Seventure Partners, SR-One.

In addition to partnering, NLSDays also offers an exhibition and a seminar program with 10 super session and four topic specific workshops. Speakers include senior representatives from the global life science companies, investors, and academic leaders who will all share their expertise and views for the future.

About SwedenBIO

SwedenBIO who is the founder and organizer of the Nordic Life Science Days is the Swedish life science industry organization. Our nearly 200 members operate across all sub-sectors from pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology to diagnostics. SwedenBIO serves to the benefit the entire life science industry in Sweden and is a member-driven, private, non-profit organization. The main objective is to improve the conditions for the life science industry for the benefit of industry growth and business development.

 

Oncology Super Session in Stockholm

Oslo Cancer Cluster is hosting a Super Session at the Nordic Life Science Days in Stockholm. International thought leaders will discuss current game changing innovations and their impact on the industry in the years ahead.

Oncology is at the forefront of realizing the promises of precision medicine. Huge and complex datasets are exploited for novel drug development as well as for informed and real-time care decisions. Emerging Cancer immunotherapies represent a paradigm shift for cancer treatment triggering a global R&D race and novel partnerships. Furthermore, the convergence of the genetics and digital revolution creates novel types of products, companies and growth opportunities transforming the sector.

 

Moderator: Mr. Richard Godfrey, CEO, BergenBio, Norway

Session Outline:

 

Min Topic Speaker
5 Introduction by moderator ·        Dr. Richard Godfrey, CEO BerGenBio

 

10 Topic 1 –global company – perspectives from industry leader – Precision Medicine ·        Dr. Vaios Karanikas, Senior Biomarker and Experimental Medicine Leader, Tumor Immunology, Roche Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development, Innovation Center Zurich
10 Topic 2 – Digital Health company – Big Data / artificial intelligence -> impact on cancer R&D and care ·        Dr. Anthony Bak, Principal Data Scientist, Ayasdi
10 Topic 3 – global company – perspectives from industry leader – Immuno-Oncology ·        Dr. Tim Fisher, Global Lead, Immuno-Oncology / Oncology, Search & Evaluation, Bristol-Myers Squibb
25 Panel Discussion ·        All speakers, joined by Dr. Erik Lund, Director, Worldwide Licensing at MSD (Merck & Co., Inc.)

 

Target Audience: Start-ups, Biotechs, Pharma, investors, academic innovators, TTOs

 

255 MNOK to biomedical research

The Norwegian Research Council recently announced four large investments in biomedical research on a total of 255 MNOK.

Of these investments, 60 MNOK will go to to sequencing and precision medicine, 80 MNOK to national biobanks, 65 MNOK to brain research and 50 MNOK to Norwegian Clinical Research Infrastructure Network.

– This is great news. Biomedical research affects not only a nation’s health, but international competitiveness too, says Ketil F. Widerberg, General Manager in Oslo Cancer Cluster in a comment.

 

Supercomputing reveals the genetic code of cancer

Cancer researchers in Oslo are now using one of the world’s fastest computers to detect which parts of the genetic code may cause bowel and prostate cancer.


Written by Yngve Vogt, Apollon. Read the original article in English here and in Norwegian here. Published on www.oslocancercluster.no with permisson from the author.

Cancer researchers must use one of the world’s fastest computers to detect which versions of genes are only found in cancer cells. Every form of cancer, even every tumour, has its own distinct variants.

“This charting may help tailor the treatment to each patient,” says Associate Professor Rolf Skotheim, who is affiliated with the Centre for Cancer Biomedicine and the Research Group for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Oslo, as well as the Department of Molecular Oncology at Radiumhospitalet, Oslo University Hospital.

His research group is working to identify the genes that cause bowel and prostate cancer, which are both common diseases. There are 4,000 new cases of bowel cancer in Norway every year. Only six out of ten patients survive the first five years. Prostate cancer affects 5,000 Norwegians every year. Nine out of ten survive.

Comparisons between healthy and diseased cells
In order to identify the genes that lead to cancer, Skotheim and his research group are comparing the genetic material in tumours with the genetic material in healthy cells. In order to understand this process, a fast introduction to our genetic material is needed.

Our genetic material consists of just over 20,000 genes. Each gene consists of thousands of base pairs, represented by a specific sequence of the four building blocks adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, popularly abbreviated to A, T, G, and C. The sequence of these building blocks is the very recipe for the gene. Our whole DNA consists of some six billion base pairs.

The DNA strand carries the molecular instructions for activity in the cells. In other words, DNA contains the recipe for proteins, which perform the tasks in the cells. DNA, nevertheless, does not actually produce proteins. First a copy of DNA is made. This transcript is called RNA, and it is this molecule that is read when proteins are produced.

RNA is only a small component of DNA, and is made up of its active constituents. Most of DNA is inactive. Only 1–2 % of the DNA strand is active.

In cancer cells, something goes wrong with the RNA transcription. There is either too much RNA, which means that far too many proteins of a specific type are formed, or the composition of base pairs in RNA is wrong. The latter is precisely the area being studied by the UiO researchers.

Wrong combinatorics
All genes can be divided into active and inactive parts. A single gene may consist of tens of active stretches of nucleotides (exons).

“RNA is a copy of a specific combination of the exons from a specific gene in DNA.”

There are many possible combinations, and it is precisely this search for all of the possible combinations that is new in cancer research.

Different cells can combine the nucleotides in a single gene in different ways. A cancer cell can create a combination that should not exist in healthy cells. And as if that didn’t make things complicated enough, sometimes RNA can be made up of stretches of nucleotides from different genes in DNA. These special, complex genes are called fusion genes.

In other words, researchers must look for errors both inside genes and between the different genes.

“Fusion genes are usually found in cancer cells, but some of them are also found in healthy cells.”

In patients with prostate cancer, researchers have found some fusion genes that are only created in diseased cells. These fusion genes may then be used as a starting-point in the detection of and fight against cancer.

The researchers have also found fusion genes in bowel cells, but they were not cancer-specific.

“For some reason, these fusion genes can also be found in healthy cells. This discovery was a let-down.”

Can improve treatment
There are different RNA errors in the various cancer diseases. The researchers must therefore analyse the RNA errors of each disease.

Among other things, the researchers are comparing RNA in diseased and healthy tissue from 550 patients with prostate cancer. The patients that make up the study do not receive any direct benefits from the results themselves. However, the research is important in order to be able to help future patients.

“We want to find the typical defects associated with prostate cancer. This will make it easier to understand what goes wrong with healthy cells, and to understand the mechanisms that develop cancer. Once we have found the cancer-specific molecules, they can be used as biomarkers. In some cases, the biomarkers can be used to find cancer, determine the level of severity of the cancer, the risk of spreading, and whether the patient should be given a more aggressive treatment.

Even though the researchers find deviations in the RNA, there is no guarantee that there is appropriate, targeted medicine available.

“The point of our research is to figure out more of the big picture. If we identify a fusion gene that is only found in cancer cells, the discovery will be so important in itself that other research groups around the world will want to begin working on this straight away. If a cure is found that counteracts the fusion genes, this may have enormous consequences for the cancer treatment.”

Laborious work
Recreating RNA is laborious work. The set of RNA molecules consists of about 100 million bases, divided into a few thousand bases from each gene.

The laboratory machine reads millions of small nucleotides. Each one is only one hundred base pairs long. In order for the researchers to be able to place them in the right location, they must run large statistical analyses. The RNA analysis of a single patient can take a few days.

All of the nucleotides must be matched with the DNA strand. Unfortunately the researchers do not have the DNA strands of each patient. In order to learn where the base pairs come from in the DNA strand, they must therefore use the reference genome of the human species.

“This is not ideal, because there are individual differences.”

The future potentially lies in fully sequencing the DNA of each patient when conducting medical experiments.

Supercomputing
There is no way the research can be carried out using pen and paper.

“We need powerful computers to crunch the enormous amounts of raw data. Even if you spent your whole life on this task, you would not be able to find the location of a single nucleotide. This is a matter of millions of nucleotides that must be mapped correctly in the system of coordinates of the genetic material. Once we have managed to find the RNA versions that are only found in cancer cells, we will have made significant progress. However, the work to get that far requires advanced statistical analyses and supercomputing,” says Rolf Skotheim.

The analyses are so demanding that the researchers must use the University’s supercomputer, which was ranked as one of the world’s fastest computers a few years ago. It is 10,000 times faster than a regular computer.

“With the ability to run heavy analyses on such large amounts of data, we have an enormous advantage not available to other cancer researchers. Many medical researchers would definitely benefit from this possibility. This is why they should spend more time with biostatisticians and informaticians. RNA samples are taken from the patients only once. The types of analyses that can be run are only limited by the imagination.”

“We need to be smart in order to analyse the raw data. There are enormous amounts of data here that can be interpreted in many different ways. We have just got started. There is lots of useful information that we have not seen yet. Asking the right questions is the key. Most cancer researchers are not used to working with enormous amounts of data, and how to best analyse vast data sets. Once researchers have found a possible answer, they must determine whether the answer is chance or if it is a real finding. The solution is to find out whether they get the same answers from independent data sets from other parts of the world.”

By Yngve Vogt

Innovation Camp on personalized cancer medicine

Almost 350 students at Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences was engaged in last weeks Innovation Camp where they were asked to come up with original ideas on how to communicate personalized cancer medicine.

Photo: Cicilie S. Andersen/Khrono

 

Last week Oslo Cancer Cluster, Young Entrepreneurship Oslo, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences (HIOA) and researchers from Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital teamed up. The reason for teaming up was this year’s Innovation Camp at HIOA for no less than 350 students from the faculties of both health and engineering. In collaboration, we had decided to let the students solve the following task in only 24 hours:

“It is important to give correct and realistic information about what personalized cancer medicine is. Please develop a (physical) product that communicates the essence of what personalized cancer medicine is. Please define your target group, for example students, adults, elderly, health personnel or politicians.”

The students were divided into groups of 4-5 people randomly – and then had 24 hours to come up with an idea, make a business plan and pitch it in a semi-finale before a jury.

 

Challenging assignment

The students were taken a bit back about the assignment at first – thinking it was almost impossible to solve. How ever it turned out that they were much clever than they thought them selves.

Before the assignment was presented they had been given a lecture on innovation and creativity by Kim Østberg Larsen from Young Entrepreneurship Oslo and a lecture on the concept of personalized cancer medicine from Leonardo Meza-Zepeda – plus a lecture on how cancer patient are treated with drugs that are classified as personalized by clinician Åslaug Helleland.

As Meza-Zepeda pointed out – the concept of personalized cancer medicine is unknow even for most of health personell – so there is a great need for communicating what this is, what is the upside are and of course the limitations.

 

Interactive game with cartoon caracters
After a hectic semi-finale round with more than 60 groups pitching in three parallel sessions, 9 groups where selected to go to the grand finale. Common for the groups that were selected was originality and a good understanding of the assignment and a good idea to solve it.

The jury decided on the three differet winners of the awards “Best Pitch”, “Best Innovation” and “Overall winner”.

The “Overall winner” turned out to be the same as the winner of the “Audience Award” that all the participants voted on. This was group nr. 1. They suggested to develop an interactive game for children diagnosed with cancer, using known and loved cartoon characters – where the children could play doctors combating cancer. As the group pointed out in their presentation: this would empower the children whilst giving them both knowledge and comfort.

The winners get an “Innovation Lunch” with the cancer researchers at Oslo University Hospital, including a guided tour to their labs and also inside the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park that is being built now.

 

Please read more about the Innovation Camp here: