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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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The Incubator Labs are expanding

The laboratories at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator are expanding to meet increasing demand from members.

 

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator has recently converted three offices into new laboratories to accommodate the rising demand from their members.

From the opening in 2015, the laboratories in the Incubator have been a great success. Several of the start-ups have expanded their work force and require more offices and lab space.

The new laboratory is jointly occupied by Zelluna Immunotherapy and the Department of Cellular Therapy (Oslo University Hospital). The Institute for Energy Technology and Arctic Pharma have also expanded their laboratories with an extra room each.

The laboratories are now running at full capacity, but there is some space available in the shared labs. Some of the members of the Incubator offer their services to outside companies who are in need of getting lab work done.

“Our ambition is to grow the Incubator Labs further into the new Innovation Park next door.” Bjørn Klem, General Manager

 

The Incubator occupies over 550 square meters. Offices have been converted into labs to meet the growing interest from the members.

 

A unique model

The Incubator Labs follow a unique model, which offers both private laboratories and fully equipped shared laboratories. The private laboratories are leased with furniture, water supply, electricity and ventilation. The companies bring their own equipment depending on their needs.

Shared laboratories, including a bacteria lab, a cell lab and wet lab, are leased including basic equipment with the opportunity for companies to bring their own if shared by all tenants. All laboratories share the common support facilities including a cold room for storage, a laundry room, and storage room including cell tanks and nitrogen gas.

“This model of a shared laboratory is very unusual,” said Janne Nestvold, Laboratory Manager at the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

The advantage of working in a shared lab is that companies can avoid the costs and limitations associated with setting up and managing a laboratory. A broad range of general equipment, including more advanced, analytical instruments, are provided by the Incubator.

”It would be too expensive for a small company to buy all this equipment themselves.” Janne Nestvold, Laboratory Manager

 

The Department of Cellular Therapy (Oslo University Hospital) are one of the members using the shared lab. Photograph by Christopher Olssøn

 

 

Open atmosphere

The laboratories have an open and light atmosphere. Large windows provide ample lighting and all spaces are kept clean and tidy. The halls are neatly lined with closets and plastic containers for extra storage.

The general mood is calm and friendly. Nestvold communicates daily with the users about changes, updates and improvements, which sets an informal tone. Thanks to monthly lab meetings, the users are also involved in the decision-making process. The companies often work side-by-side or in teams, fostering collaboration rather than competition. There is therefore a strong workplace culture based upon flexibility and mutual respect.

The companies often work side-by-side or in teams, fostering collaboration rather than competition.

Nestvold also ensures that the high demands on the infrastructure of the laboratory are met. She has put agreements in place to facilitate the members’ needs, such as the washing of lab coats, pipette service and shipping packages on dry ice. With all these services included, the Incubator Labs are attractive for researchers and companies to carry out their cancer research.

 

Over the years, Nordic Nanovector, OncoInvent, Targovax, Intersint, OncoImmunity have conducted research in the laboratories. Now, Arctic Pharma, the Department of Cellular Therapy (Oslo University Hospital), GE Healthcare, the Institute for Energy Technology, Lytix BioPharma, NorGenotech, Ultimovacs and Zelluna Immunotherapy are using the Incubator Labs to develop their cancer treatments.

 

  • For more information about the Incubator Lab, get in touch with Janne Nestvold.

 

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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.

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

Presentations from Cancer Crosslinks 2014

Cancer Crosslinks 2014, January 23, was the 6th edition of this annual oncology conference bringing together hematologists, oncologists and the industry in Norway.

This years conference was developed and hosted in collaboration with partners BMS, Amgen and the Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital. The feedback from the more than 220 participants was as always very positive, and we promise to come back with a even more exciting 7th edition of Cancer Crosslinks in January 2015.

The main presentations featured at Cancer Crosslinks 2014 are unfortunately no longer available online. Here is a list of the presentations that were held.


Opening Keynotes:

“Opportunities, challenges and visions for cancer research and treatment”
Prof. Kjell Magne Tveit, Head of Department of Oncology, Oslo University Hospital

“Current trends in oncology drug development”
Prof. Gunnar Sæter, Head of the Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital

Main session: New treatment modalities – need for a multidisciplinary approach

International Keynote:
“Cancer immunotherapies – novel treatment opportunities and their implications”
Prof. Mario Sznol, Yale Cancer Center, New Haven, CT, USA

International Keynote:

“Multidisciplinary collaboration for patient-centric oncology”
Prof. Cornelis van de Velde, Leiden University Medical Centre, Netherlands, ECCO President

“Optimizing treatment for each patient: MetAction as a Norwegian initiative”
Kjetil Boye MD, PhD; Oslo University Hospital as representative for the MetAction team

Two Oslo Cancer Cluster Board members receive K.G. Jebsen funding

Despite keen competition from other outstanding medical research groups, Oslo Cancer Cluster Board members Professor Ragnhild A. Lothe and Professor Rolf Bjerkvig have won the competition for funds for new K.G. Jebsen centres in the field of medicine – a long side John-Bjarne Hansen. 


By giving NOK 16 million to each of the three new centres, the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation wants to give a real boost to research and, not least, to contribute to excellent medical research benefiting patients sooner. In addition to the grants from the Foundation, each centre will also be allocated a substantial sum by its own institutions.

Focus on cancer research
It is worth noting that two of the new centres this year are cancer research centres. The centre at the University of Bergen led by Rolf Bjerkvig works on cancer of the brain, with particular focus on translating research results from laboratories into patient treatment. The centre is a collaboration between several research groups and hospital departments, and it is part of an international research network based in Luxembourg.

Ragnhild Lothe’s centre at Oslo University Hospital aims to develop better diagnostic and treatment methods for rectal cancer, and to help to improve hospital efficiency and benefit patients. Lothe believes that the establishment of a dedicated centre could encourage more young doctors and researchers to take an interest in this serious form of cancer, which is actually the second most common form of cancer in Europe and is currently only survived by around half the patients.

Of the 14 K.G. Jebsen Centres for Medical Research that will have been established in 2014, five work on cancer-related research. In a competition in which the primary criterion is quality, this is an indication that Norwegian cancer research is already at the forefront of the field, also in the international context

The new centre for medical research that is led by John-Bjarne Hansen will work on venous thromboembolism (VTE), which is a generic term for cardiovascular problems that affect almost 10,000 Norwegians every year.

Two of five focused research areas at Oslo University Hospital to cancer
As well as the K.G. Jebsen Centre – Professor Ragnhild Lothe also received one of five “Focused Research Areas at Oslo University Hospital 2014 – 2018”  for the colorectal SMART project.

Her research colleague Arne Kolstad, also received this appointment for his project within Cancer Immunotherapy, where both the Section for Cell Therapy and The Section for Immunology are major partners.

This clearly shows the strength of the cancer research performed at the Oslo University Hospital, when two of five focused research areas that will run in the next four years, goes to cancer.

 

Facts about the Kristian Gerhard Jebsen Foundation:
The Foundation was established in order to honor the memory of shipping magnate Kristian Gerhard Jebsen and his contribution to Norwegian and international shipping and business. The Foundation was established by Jebsen’s wife Aud Jebsen and the family in 2009.  At the turn of the year 2012/2013, the Foundation’s equity was NOK 916.6 million. Since the Foundation was established, it has awarded a total of NOK 324 million, NOK 274 million of which to Norwegian research.

 

Norwegian Cancer Society grant MNOK 160

The 2013 year’s grant to cancer research in Norway, 160 million NOK (EUR 20 M) is the largest grant the Norwegian Cancer Society has ever given.

“It is fantastic that we are able to provide such a large amount to our top cancer researchers in Norway”, says Secretary-General Anne Lise Ryel, Norwegian Cancer Society. “This is made possible thanks to our big and small, but always generous donors and members”.

The money will be divided among 121 projects at 12 research institutions across the country. The three institutions that will receive the most are: Oslo University Hospital (MNOK 73), the University of Oslo (MNOK 35) and the University of Bergen (MNOK 24).

Enables quality boost
For Oslo Cancer Cluster member NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the grants constitute a significant contribution to the university’s cancer research: “The money enables us to boost the quality of our research”, says Dean Stig Slørdahl from the Faculty of Medicine. “It was a great joy to receive this funding, especially when we know that only the best projects receives funding.”

One of the cancer researchers at NTNU that got funding for here project is Bodil Merete Kavli, whom you can read more about in the Cancer Society’s blog. She’s trying to find out which mechanisms inside the cells causes the development of lymphoma cancer. Thanks to the award from the Cancer Society, Kavli is now able to finance a four year research position.

About The Norwegian Cancer Society
The society is the largest non-government sponsor of independent cancer research in Norway. Over the last 10 years the Norwegian Cancer society  has granted 1.6 billion NOK (EUR 2bn) to cancer research. This represents over 25 prosent of total resources Norwegian researchers have at their disposal for their research.

Pucture: Cancer researcher Bodil Merete Kavli at NTNU, surprised by the Cancer Society and Norwegian Television. Photo: Arild Domaas, NCS

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