Posts

Three new board members of Oslo Cancer Cluster: Per Morten Sandset, Gunhild M. Maelandsmo and Cathrine Lofthus

New board members

We are happy to welcome three new members to the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Find out what they had to say about entering their new positions.

Per Morten Sandset

Per Morten Sandset

Per Morten Sandset is a Senior Consultant in hematology at the Oslo University Hospital and a professor in thrombosis research at the University of Oslo. He has previously been head of the Department of Hematology and Deputy Director of the Medical Division at Ullevål University Hospital and Director of Research, Innovation and Education of the southeastern Norway Health Region. He is currently Vice-Rector at the University of Oslo with responsibilities for research and innovation including the life sciences activities of the university. Sandset has published more than 315 original publications and supervised 30 PhD students.

Why did you join the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“There are currently strong political expectations that the many scientific achievements in the life sciences can be utilized, commercialized and eventually form the basis for new industry.”

“Oslo Cancer Cluster has matured to become a major player of the research  and innovation ecosystem within the life science area in Oslo and also on a national level. This is why being on the board is so interesting and important.”

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

“As a OCC board member, I want to strengthen and develop the collaboration across the sectors, i.e., between the hospitals and the university – and between academia and industry. On a larger scale, it is about establishing a regional ecosystem that take achievements of the basic sciences into the development of enterprises. Oslo Cancer Cluster should maintain its role as the major player in the cancer area.”

Gunhild M. Mælandsmo

Gunhild Mari Mælandsmo

Gunhild M. Mælandsmo is the head of Department of Tumor Biology, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital where she also is heading the “Metastasis Biology and Experimental Therapeutics” research group. She is a Professor at Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø.

Why did you join the board of Oslo Cancer Cluster?

“I think the concept of Oslo Cancer Cluster is very interesting, fostering a close collaboration between academia, health care providers and the health industry. 

“Focusing on translational research for many years, I think I can contribute in the board with valuable experience in several parts of the value chain; from basic science, from translational aspects and from my close collaboration with clinical partners as well as administrative experience.”

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?

“I hope I can contribute with valuable knowledge – both from cancer research and from my administrative experience from Oslo University Hospital. I also hope to see more products from small Norwegian companies reaching clinical testing and expanding the biotech industry. Finally, I hope to see the Norwegian health care system more active in providing precision cancer medicine (and to utilise the advantages we have when it comes to registries etc).”

Cathrine M. Lofthus

Cathrine M. Lofthus

Cathrine M. Lofthus is the CEO at the Norwegian South East Regional Health Authority (Helse Sør-Øst RHF). She has previously held several leading positions at Aker University Hospital and at Oslo University Hospital. Lofthus is a qualified doctor from the University of Oslo, where she also completed a PhD in endocrinology. She also holds qualifications in economy, administration and leadership, and has experience from the health sector as a clinician, researcher and leader. Lofthus also holds directorships in Norsk helsenett and KLP, in addition to being a member of the board of National e-Health.

 

We also wish to extend a special thank you to our previous board members:

  • Kirsten Haugland, Head of the Research and Prevention Department at the Norwegian Cancer Society.
  • Inger Sandlie, professor at the Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo and research group leader at the Department of Immunology, Oslo University Hospital.
  • Øyvind Bruland, professor of clinical oncology at the University of Oslo and consultant oncologist at The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital.

Curida’s Spreading Roots

Curida has come a long way from defending their place at the Norwegian factory to setting their sights internationally. What is Curida and their goal all about?

 

Creating value within ones own country while steadily spreading roots globally is no easy feat, but the young Norwegian pharmaceutical company Curida is blooming.


Overcoming the threat at Elverum

The company’s history is a classic tragedy intertwined with devotion and a feel-good ending. In 2013, change of ownership and new strategic priorities threatened to strip 190 employees from their jobs at the manufacturing site in Elverum, Norway. New owners Takeda announced that the site in Elverum was to be shut down, after providing pharmaceutical manufacturing since 1974.

What followed was a feat of patience and outstanding motivation. Employees and management joined forces to establish a new company, form a new business model, and get going. In July 2015, Curida was established and operation carried on.


Going abroad 

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Curida is now a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization, offering expertise in manufacturing and development of liquid pharmaceuticals.

The Curida customer base ranged from early-phase biotech companies to large, multinational pharma companies. Further growth in the international market is a top priority for the company. Curida is specialized on liquid products, using for example the advanced blow-fill-seal technology.

 

Unstoppable Ambition
Naturally, Curida has ambitious goals for home as well.

– In Norway we work closely with other start-up companies and make sure to help them thrive in production and innovation. Regardless of our vision to be a top-competitor internationally, locally, in Norway, we strive to become a national centre for industrialisation of medical innovation, says CEO Leif Rune Skymoen.

After overcoming the potential reality of shutting down, Curida now bursts through with unstoppable energy and ambition.

Creating a SPARK in Innovation and Industry

Stanford programme SPARK provides a shimmer of hope for startup companies. Now, SPARK sets sights on Norway. What exactly is SPARK?

We live in a world where technological and innovative solutions in medicine and healthcare are steadily pouring in. Not to mention, these solutions have the power to completely transform the health-sector in pinpointing and curing diseases before they even take hold.

Why, then, is it that we have the power to revolutionize healthcare, but don’t see it happen?

Unfortunate answer
The unfortunate answer lies in the explanation that most of these technological and innovative solutions have a tough time reaching the bedside from the bench. Reason being lack of funding, marketing or other important factors that help an industry flourish. How can we resolve this?

A solution
Enter SPARK: the Stanford programme that provides a unique partnership between the industry and university.

SPARK provides the necessary factors that help start-up and small companies to advance research breakthroughs. This is done by providing the education and mentorship needed to move the project along further.

SPARK scholars
More specifically, it works by providing graduate level courses about drug-development processes as well as “SPARK Scholars”—funding for project development and mentoring. This mentoring is provided by advisors who have expertise in product development, business, clinical care and generally preparing participants for generating research into therapies.

Coming to Norway
The University of Oslo : Life Sciences is planning to bring Stanford’s programme to Norway where two other European SPARK-programmes have visited Oslo in the summer to share their experiences. One of the univesity’s candidates has tested the programme at summer-school in Japan, as well.

 

Innovative solutions
Oslo Cancer Cluster has been an advocate for SPARK’s involvement in Norway, along along with the Norwegian Inflammation Network (NORIN), The Life Science Cluster and Norway Health Tech (previously Oslo Medtech).

Jutta Heix, the international advisor at Oslo Cancer Cluster, comments on SPARK’s involvement:

–The SPARK programme really fills a gap in the lively and growing biopharma innovation system here in Norway and will help to advance more projects and ideas from academia into innovative solutions for patients. In collaboration with SPARK Berlin and SPARK Finland, SPARK Norway will also contribute to building a European SPARK Network providing even broader support, exposure and collaboration opportunities for the academic innovators involved.  

 

Roche Medicine Ready to Fight Breast Cancer

On the 15th of August, drug Kadycla (trastuzumab emtansin) is finally approved by the Beslutningsforum and ready to help hundreds with breast cancer in Norway.

The drug, developed by company Roche, specifically targets patients with the variant HER2 positive breast cancer – a breast cancer that tests positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a protein which promotes growth of cancer cells.

About 15-20% of cases in breast cancer, cancer cells have a gene mutation that produces excess HER2 protein, thusly making it a more aggressive form of breast cancer as well as being resistant to hormone therapy. However, treatments that specifically target HER2 are very effective.

New Drug Kadycla
This is where newly developed drug Kadycla comes in.

Kadycla is the first medicine targeted towards breast cancer patients where the cell lymph nodes are linked to the targeted antibody; meaning it’s the first drug where lymph nodes, or parts of the cell that filter out cancer, are linked to the antibody that attacks or even neutralizes the infected cell. This causes the chemo to target the HER2 positive cancer cells.

Prolonged Survival Rate
With the drugs approval, around one hundred Norwegian cancer patients are provided with a treatment program that shows a median prolonged survival rate of 5,8 months, compared to the combination of lapatinib and kapecitabine for persons with the variant HER2-positive breast cancer.

Better Quality of Life
On top of this, it’s known that spreading breast cancer is a deadly disease with lower quality of life, but Kadycla helps by attacking cancer cells in place of the body’s own healthy cells. Essentially, this means better quality of life for the patient due to fewer symptoms brought on by the disease.

Reached an Agreeable Solution
Kadycla, since September in 2014, has been recommended in the Norwegian Breast Cancer Group’s medical guidelines for those who would benefit from its capabilities. Roche, in this case, through the span of three years aligned eight different pricing options for the authorities. In regards to this, Audun Ohna, director of market access and pricing, comments:

– We have worked a long time so that Norwegian breast cancer patients can have the chance to use Kadycla in Norwegian health services. After roughly three years negotiating, where we have stretched ourselves thin both economically and in variating payment solutions, we can finally and gladly say we have reached a solution that is both acceptable for both parties. This will benefit patients, doctors and society as a whole.