What does it take to make it?

What does it take to make it for new biotech companies? We are looking for answers, digging into the legacy and environment surrounding successful start-up companies like ARTBIO.

One of the newest members of Oslo Cancer Cluster is the clinical-stage radiopharmaceutical company ARTBIO. On their webpage, they present the company in these words:

ARTBIO is redefining cancer care by developing a new class of alpha radioligand therapies (ART) and building the ecosystem that maximizes their potential.

We first wrote about ARTBIO in an article presenting the newest members in January. Here, we can read that ARTBIO is shaped by a long-standing scientific legacy with nearly a century of pioneering work in radiation therapy conducted at the University of Oslo and Norway’s Radium Hospital.

What is this legacy all about, and what kind of environment is optimal for successful start-up companies like ARTBIO to grow up in?

The answer appears to be fourfold.

The obvious part: financing

Part of the answer for ARTBIO is the tremendous financing round that raised USD 90 Million in December last year, for progress in the pipeline and isotope technology development for a new class of alpha radioligand therapies. The news of the company raising this amount from private investors made headlines in the Norwegian newspaper E24. How was this possible in today’s slow and skeptical market?

“There are several reasons why we managed to raise one billion NOK in the series A investment. The first one is that ARTBIO is a very attractive investment case with a differentiated technology and pipeline within radio pharmacy, which is a field that is receiving a lot of attention internationally”, said Anders Tuv.

He is Managing Director at Radforsk, an early-stage evergreen fund dedicated to oncology. Radforsk is one of ARTBIO’s founders.

In the latest investment round Boston-based venture capital fund Third Rock Ventures was the main investor, together with an undisclosed healthcare fund and existing seed lead investors F-Prime Capital and Omega Funds, according to a press release from the company.

The crucial part: the right people

“Even though it is crucial to have the right technology as a foundation, it is a must to have the right people and teams. And on that note, we have hit the bull’s eye with ARTBIO”, Tuv said and added:

“The company has been rigged the right way to see it through and succeed with realizing their potential in a global competition.”

Tuv especially mentioned the hiring of ARTBIO CEO Emanuele Ostuni as a key success factor, who was also the first full-time employee. He is described as bright, tenacious, and with a compassionate drive to succeed for patients.

To the question what do you think it will take to get to the next milestone? Ostuni answered:

“Our goals all involve doing things that have not been done before. As such they require creativity, collaboration, and practical optimism.”

Ostuni added:

“We are working to start a phase 1 trial this year. That will require a working technology for P212 isolation and a robust process for manufacturing the therapeutic product. We are also working to create a broader pipeline of programs that addresses patient needs – several of these programs should also move forward this year.”

The historical part: the legacy

So far, we have touched upon the company’s technology, the people, and the financing. What about this long-standing scientific legacy that we started with?

Anders Tuv explained:

“The scientific founders behind ARTBIO are the same people that developed the only alpha-emitting radionuclide treatment on the market so far (Xofigo), the legendary researchers and founders Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland.”

Tuv added:

“I think that both the seed round and the series A round in particular have shown that we have worked hard and done many things right with ARTBIO. We got international specialist investors and founding CEO Emanuele involved at a very early stage with Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland, and F-Prime and Radforsk have been active investors, building the company and heavily involved from the beginning. We have been thinking globally from the start and extracted talent where they were to be found.”

This is the reason why ARTBIO has offices in Boston, Basel, London, and Oslo.

The part of the environment

Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park and Incubator, and the entire Campus around the Radium Hospital, including Radforsk, offer an environment for companies like ARTBIO to begin their journey, especially in radiopharmacy and precision medicine in cancer.

“We have a strong legacy and a good ecosystem for radiopharmacy in Oslo, including the Radium Hospital and the environment in Oslo Cancer Cluster”, Tuv said, and Ostuni agreed:

“We appreciate the availability of flexible space that is already partially equipped at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator – it allowed us to get started quickly when we were building the company.”

“The culture of openness and support at the Radium hospital also made sure that we could establish collaborations with academic groups and progress some programs while at the same time providing educational opportunities for female scientists”, said Ostuni.

So there you have it; the somewhat complex answer to what it takes to make it – at least through the first serious financing rounds.

About ARTBIO and Radforsk

ARTBIO’s approach: Alpha radioligand therapeutics (ARTs) are gaining attention as a promising experimental modality for delivering lethal radioactivity directly to cancer cells. The unique ARTBIO approach selects the optimal alpha-precursor isotope (Pb-212) and tumour-specific targets to create therapeutics with the potential for the highest efficacy and safety. ARTBIO is currently advancing multiple pipeline programs with lead program AB001 first in human trials.

Radforsk is engaged in the commercialisation of cancer research. Our goal is to develop better cancer treatment – for all patients. We invest in and develop infrastructure through Radforsk Innovation and companies through Radforsk Invest. Radforsk Invest is an oncology focused investment fund dedicated to developing immunotherapies, precision medicine and radiopharmaceuticals. The fund has an evergreen structure allowing flexibility and focus on investments that will create long-term value. Radforsk Invest`s model is based on very active ownership as investors and hands-on company builders. Radforsk’s portfolio of companies spans from early start-ups to public companies with products on the global market. For more information, please contact Anders Tuv, Managing Director Radforsk Invest (




Advancing Cancer Research in Norway: Eli Lilly’s SUNRAY-01 Study

Eli Lilly selected Norway as the site for its groundbreaking study project, SUNRAY-01, despite the recent year’s decline in applications for clinical cancer trials.

This study examines the efficacy of the drug candidate LY3537982 on advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) with a specific genetic alteration. and represents a significant advancement in health research and treatment for patients with KRAS G12C mutations, potentially reshaping the treatment landscape for this specific patient group.

The KRAS G12C mutation is a specific alteration in the KRAS gene, often associated with certain cancers such as non-small cell lung cancer. This mutation plays a significant role in promoting the growth and spread of cancer cells. Researchers are exploring methods to block or inhibit the effects of this mutation.

Decline in trails

Recently, Norway has experienced a notable decline in the number of applications for cancer clinical trials, dropping from 158 in 2022 to 98 in 2023. Lars Petter Strand, Senior Medical Director for the Nordics at Eli Lilly, voiced concern, noting,

Lars Petter Strand. Photo Eli Lilly

“We observe that the number of cancer clinical trials in Norway has significantly decreased.” He highlighted the global trend of increasing clinical trials in countries like the USA and China, contrasting with the reductions in most European countries.

Norway’s participation in Eli Lilly’s SUNRAY-01 study indicates a positive shift. Lars Petter Strand attributed the decision to several favourable trends in Norway’s healthcare system, including initiatives like CONNECT, IMPRESS, InPRED, and NorTrials, which have enhanced infrastructure and processes, making Norway an appealing destination for clinical trials.

Positive outlook for patients

Bjørn Henning Grønberg, Head of Department for Translational Cancer Research at St. Olav Hospital, one of the 7 hospitals selected for this study, emphasized the importance of such studies, stating, “It is always welcome to offer study participation to our patients.” The proportion of lung cancer patients with KRAS mutations eligible for targeted treatment through this study exceeds those eligible for other targeted treatments.

One of the most exciting and significant aspects of this study is its focus on finding targeted treatments for KRAS mutations, which currently aren’t as effective as other options available.

Patients with this mutation respond to immunotherapy, unlike those with EGFR and ALK positives, making it an interesting combination to explore. However, in the past, this has been challenging, as the combination of KRAS inhibitors with immunotherapy was too toxic, says Grønberg.

Challenges and opportunities

Despite these positive developments, Norway encounters challenges in maintaining its attractiveness for clinical trials. Strand emphasized the importance of addressing barriers such as delayed introduction of new treatments, lengthy approval processes, and capacity constraints in diagnostic tools at hospitals.

The roadmap for the health sector, a strategic document guiding sector development, underscores the significance of clinical trials in health research. While the government has set ambitious goals for increasing clinical trials, collaboration across sectors and collective efforts are essential to address challenges hindering this vital part of medical research.

A roadmap for the health industry

Oslo Cancer Cluster General Manager Ketil Widerberg emphasizes that this new study aligns well with the Norwegian government’s aspirations for a national health industry and ongoing efforts at Oslo Cancer Cluster to foster innovation and collaboration within the cancer research field. It represents a crucial step towards advancing cancer care and supporting Norway’s health industry growth.

Widerberg stresses the importance of patients accessing the latest treatment, doctors and researchers gaining insights into the latest technology, and the development of the Norwegian health industry, as Norwegian centres of expertise gain international visibility.

Crucial collaborations

To attract more clinical trials to Norway, stakeholders must collaborate effectively, as Lars Petter Strand highlights. It requires creating sufficient resources in hospitals, facilitating efficient communication between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare institutions, and streamlining startup processes. Improved communication between the pharmaceutical industry and hospitals is essential, as demonstrated by Eli Lilly’s collaboration with NorTrials during site recruitment for this study.

Collaboration between industry players, research institutions, and government bodies is crucial for advancing cancer research. Initiatives like NorTrials facilitate this collaboration, ensuring nationwide access to cutting-edge treatments, says Strand

Introducing our new members

Have you heard about our most recent members? Find out more about our growing cancer community below.

A wonderful mix of new members presented at our annual Summer Gathering last week, including companies in cancer prognostics and diagnostics, HR and recruitment, and financial and biopharma services. Here is a short overview from the presenters.


Peeter Padrik, CEO and founder of Antegenes, presented the Estonian company that offers innovative genetic tests for cancer prevention.

“If we detect disease as early as possible, we can also eliminate disease efficiently,” Padrik said.

Padrik explained that breast cancer screening in Norway begins from 50 years, but that 20 per cent of breast cancer cases happen to women younger than 50 years old. It is not reasonable to screen all younger women, but those who have elevated risk for breast cancer can be screened earlier.

Peeter Padrik, CEO and founder, Antegenes.

Peeter Padrik, CEO and founder, Antegenes.

“We need tools for more precise screening. Many cancer risks come from our genetic dispositions and we can identify individual risk levels for common cancers with personalized screening,” Padrik said.

New technology called polygenic risk scores can summarise risks from many gene variants for cancers, but this has not yet been implemented in the public healthcare systems. The company Antegenes has developed tests using polygenic risk scores for breast, prostate, colorectal and melanoma cancers. They are now creating models for new screening programmes, where genetics-based screening can be used, and how to implement these new approaches.


Ján Tkáč, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Glycanostics, presented the start-up company that develops tests for cancer diagnostics.

The company uses a glycan-based liquid biopsy approach. Glycans are complex carbohydrates attached to proteins. Glycanostics have developed a diagnostic cancer test by identifying glycan changes associated with cancer in the blood. The company has so far focused on prostate cancer diagnostics.

“This is an ideal cancer diagnostic test that can provide high accuracy. It can be done by analysis of blood and be cost-effective. We can avoid unnecessary biopsies, monitor disease progression and treatment, and it is applicable for 11 cancer types,” Tkáč said.

Ján Tkáč, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Glycanostics

Ján Tkáč, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, Glycanostics

Glycanostics have already filed five patent applications and are ready to scale up the technology for breast cancer, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

“We look forward to participating in Oslo Cancer Cluster’s projects to shape the diagnostics future for oncological patients. Collaboration with cluster members and international cluster partners can drive our mission faster and share Glycanostics’ vision,” Tkáč said.

Randstad Care – Norway

Jon Bjørbekk, Head of Recruitment, Life Sciences at Randstad, presented the recruitment company that is a global market leader in HR services.

“Randstad is quite new in Norway. We have been here for about 14 years and originate from the Netherlands. We are present in 39 countries and have 35 000 employees,” Bjørbekk said.

The company’s area of expertise is executive search, search and selection, and temporary hiring.

Jon Bjørbekk, Head of Recruitment, Life Sciences at Randstad.

Jon Bjørbekk, Head of Recruitment, Life Sciences at Randstad.

“People in the life science industry are quite hard to find or relocate. Most of you are quite loyal to your employers, so it is our job to make you curious about a career move. Things are growing in Norway and there is a huge focus on healthcare and startups for the last 5-10 years,” Bjørbekk said.

Bjørbekk underlines the importance of having local knowledge, keeping close feedback with job applicants and building employer branding in all steps of the recruitment process.


Jo Helge Grepstad, Head of Sales, presented TheVIT, a service provider that has a vision to be the best support apparatus for businesses.

“We are a service provider, so we are not in the field of health or curing cancer, but we want to help you find the cure to cancer by supporting your business in the fields where we are specialists,” Grepstad said.

Jo Helge Grepstad, Head of Sales, TheVIT.

Jo Helge Grepstad, Head of Sales, TheVIT.

TheVIT works in the areas of advisory and services, and supports companies with finances, human resources and business intelligence. They are located at Rebel where Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator also has some office space.

“Our values are value, innovation and team. We seek good solutions for our clients through putting together the right team with the right competence to solve the challenges the clients are facing. Complemented by utilizing new technologies, we can support growth. Our resources include financial and business controllers, financial managers, CFOs, HR managers and business intelligence resources, and we are open for dialogue with other members of Oslo Cancer Cluster,” Grepstad said.


Sandy Mercurio, Senior Manager of Business Development at Veracyte, presented the US-based global diagnostics company, which provides a range of services to biopharma partners. Last year, Veracyte acquired the French company HalioDx, which specialized in immuno-oncology and was a member of the Oslo Cancer Cluster community.

“Veracyte offers a unique portfolio of multi-omic testing services to our biopharma partners to help them in their biomarker strategy and support their drug development programs by leveraging the best insights from clinical samples through our innovative technologies. Our expertise in immuno-oncology and biostatistics, combined with our robust quality and compliance systems enable us to help our biopharma partners discover clinically relevant biomarkers, identify patients for clinical trials and develop companion diagnostics.”

Sandy Mercurio, Senior Manager of Business Development, Veracyte

Sandy Mercurio, Senior Manager of Business Development, Veracyte

The company recently introduced the Veracyte Biopharma Atlas, which is a comprehensive database to help guide clinical trials. The company has been involved in clinical trials for CAR T therapies and vaccines, and has dozens of biopharma partners.

Comunin AS has also joined Oslo Cancer Cluster recently and they will be presented at a later date.




Image of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

New member: Hubro Therapeutics

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

We are proud to present one of the latest additions to our cluster – Hubro Therapeutics.

Hubro Therapeutics is a Norwegian biotech start-up from 2018 that develops immunotherapies against cancer. These treatments aim to trigger the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The company is currently situated in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, where they are using the laboratory facilities to develop their treatments.

We talked with Jon Amund Eriksen, founder and CEO of Hubro Therapeutics, to find out a little bit more about the company, their work in cancer research and the reason why they joined Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Could you briefly describe Hubro Therapeutics and the role you take in cancer?

“Hubro Therapeutics AS is a biotech company based on thirty years of R&D experience in the field of immunotherapy of cancer. The company is specialising in developing peptide vaccines targeting shared cancer specific neo-antigens, focusing on design and development of novel peptides and peptide compositions for targeting frameshift mutations in micro-satellite instable (msi) cancers.  The lead candidate vaccine targeting frameshift mutation in TGFbR2 is currently in development for clinical testing in msi-colorectal cancer and potentially msi-gastric cancer,” said Jon Amund Eriksen, founder and CEO.

Why did you join Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“For us, Oslo Cancer Cluster with its incubator and laboratory facilities provides a perfect opportunity to operate in a highly relevant and focused scientific environment as well as to generate our own experimental results without heavy investments,” said Jon Amund Eriksen, founder and CEO.


Hubro Therapeutics logo


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