NOME Important to BioIndustry Growth

Nordic Mentor Network for Entrepreneurship (NOME) will be an important piece of the puzzle if Norway is going to fulfill their ambitions set by the coming White Paper on the Healthcare Industry.

If we are to make our bioindustry more competitive and take a leading European role within eHealth, we need to learn from the best in the business. NOME is a program that aims to lift Nordic life sciences to the very top by using mentors.

The Norwegian Parliament’s Health Committee has asked for a report on the Healthcare industry in Norway, a so called White Paper. The objective is to examine the challenges we face because of climate change, new technology, robotics and digitalization.

Innovation needs to meet industrial targets
Additionally, the committee has stressed the importance of a purposeful dedication to health innovation. There should be a focused investment In fields where we have special preconditions to succeed. A better facilitation of clinical studies and use of health data is especially emphasized. Nordic countries are in a unique position with vast registries of well documented health data, a good example being the Cancer Registry of Norway. With better implementing of new technology this type of health data will be increasingly important.

The committee also emphasized the need to shorten the distance between research and patient treatment through effective commercialization. And, in continuation, easier access to risk investment capital to help the industry grow.

–The path from research to actual treatments and medication is long and hard, and rightfully so – everything must be thoroughly tested. But you can imagine! Every second we can peel off the time it takes for new research to reach patients is extremely valuable and saves lives, explains Bjørn Klem, Managing Director, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

NOME a piece of the puzzle
However, how do we fulfill these ambitions? Klem believes the answer is combining forces within the other Nordic countries.

– We have different strengths. Think about how big Bioindustry and business is in Denmark. There is so much to learn form that!

NOME is a concrete way of collaborating. It is easy to say: “we are going to learn from each other”, but how do we in a concrete fashion set about doing this. NOME is a mentoring program that sets collaboration in motion.

— To put it plainly, NOME is a program for all Nordic Bio start-ups. They can apply and if their application is successful we send experts catered to help with the company’s very specific needs, explains Klem.

NOME is a meeting place between the start-up freshman and the experts that have thread this path before. They match Nordic entrepreneurs with handpicked international professionals to help each start-up with their specific needs.

— Think about it! There is so much a new start-up don’t know, lacking network and experience. How do you make it as a commercialized company in the health industry? NOME can provide both business and research mentoring transferring knowledge from past successes to new ones, says Klem.

A Twofold Benefit to Society
The desire is to propel the Nordic countries into one of the leading life science regions to commercialize high growth life science start-ups.

— With NOME society’s return is twofold. Firstly, we give patients access to new treatment faster by giving start-ups the necessary guidance and know-how. Secondly, we give our Bio Business a chance to grow with all the positives that has to economy and employment, Klem believes.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator coordinates the NOME-program in Norway and collaborates with the incubator Aleap to find the best match of mentors and entrepreneurs. To take part in the program you can click here for more information.

Precision Medicine has a New Target

Researchers at the Centre for Cancer Biomedicine, a Center of Excellence and a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster, have discovered an enzyme wreaking havoc inside cells that turns into tumors.

For our body to work as normal, cells need to know which way is up. When cells lose track of their orientation, they can start to grow out of control, and develop into cancer.

A team of researchers has identified an enzyme for cell orientation, offering a future target for precision medicine in cancer treatment.

– We have discovered how a traffic jam in the sorting inside cells can cause tumor development, says senior author Tor Erik Rusten at the Centre for Cancer Biomedicine at the University of Oslo and Oslo University Hospital.

LKB1 Activity Promotes Tumor Growth
And the villain is an enzyme called LKB1. Results suggests that LKB1 is shut off in normal cells, but that a traffic jam allows LKB1 to remain active longer.

– High activity of LKB1 contributes to tumor growth by sending confusing signals to the cell about which way is up, says Rusten.

The teams research showed that a high activity of LKB1 increased stress signals in the cells and disrupted cellular orientation.

Targeting LKB1 as Potential Therapy
Rusten and colleagues further tested the effect of genetically removing LKB1 from cells that otherwise would form tumors due to loss of orientation.

– To our surprise, reducing LKB1 activity restored normal epithelial organization and prevented tumor growth. These results suggest that pharmacological inhibition of LKB1 may be beneficial as treatment in some cancer types, says Rusten.

It will be important to determine if pharmacological agents can specifically target LKB1 in animals or in human cells in culture, and how such potential treatment may be transferred to the clinic.

– This is another example on how long-term financial commitments to basic research can lead to high-quality preclinical results. Hopefully, our findings will help provide better treatment for future cancer patients, concludes Rusten

Raising Prostate Cancer Awareness

This week on Monday, Prostate Cancer Day, the Norwegian Cancer Society initiated their Blue-Ribbon Campaign to raise prostate cancer awareness. In line with the campaign, Oslo Cancer Cluster gives you the chance to update yourselves on prostate cancer research Thursday the 30th of November.

 

The Blue-Ribbon campaign is initially a month’s focus on prostate cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancers we know. On average, every day three people die of prostate cancer in Norway alone. Over the length of a year, that number climbs above 5000 and they are all exclusively male.

For 20 years the Pink-Ribbon Campaign has been synonymous with awareness of breast cancer, a form of cancer that almost exclusively affect women. The movement was a success and brought a lot of attention and money for breast cancer research. Now, the attention turns to men and prostate cancer.

Research Needed
— I think we will receive a lot of attention with this campaign. The disease affects so many and is under communicated. Men often keep this type of information to themselves. And importantly, we need more research on the subject, says Anne Lyse Ryel, Secretary General at the Norwegian Cancer Society.

First and foremost, the campaign aims to lift prostate cancer into the limelight. Subsequently lifting taboos and increasing awareness among men and the population at large. Next in line is money for research. It is severely needed because reaching 2030, estimates predict an 40 percent increase on the frequency of prostate cancer.

An Update on Prostate Cancer
However, research is very much ongoing. And, if you are wondering what the most current research on prostate cancer entails? Visit Oslo Cancer Cluster’s R&D Network Meeting that Thursday the 30th of November focuses on exactly prostate cancer research. It can serve as a very informative conclusion to a month of prostate cancer awareness. Listen to prominent experts explaining current research and where prostate cancer research is heading in the future.

Read more about our Prostate Cancer meeting.

New Funds for Ultimovacs

Investors are recognizing the huge potential of Oslo Cancer Cluster member Ultimovacs. They are currently investing an additional 125 million NOK in the cancer research company.

 

Well known investors and Ultimovacs backers Stein Erik Hagen, Anders Wilhelmsen og Bjørn Rune Gjelsten are among financiers putting fresh money into the cancer research company, according to the Norwegian newspaper Finansavisen.

Preparing for the Stock Exchange
Kjetil Fjeldanger,  the Ultimovacs chairman, believes a stock exchange listing within 12-18 months is realistic. – We will start the preparations for a stock exchange listing to prepare for further financing, says Fjeldanger.

Ultimovacs has so far gathered a lot of funds. However, a lot of funding still remains because of the sheer cost of doing cancer research.

– Current funds will fund us until the start of phase two of clinical studies, explains General Manager of Ultimovacs, Øyvind Arnesen.

Fighting Cancer with the Body’s Own Tools
The company is developing a cancer vaccine that helps the body’s own immune system fight cancer. Currently, three concluded studies have been combined into one, and all participating patients will now be followed closely during a five year period to monitor their survival rate.

– The patients are doing well, but the documentation is not sufficient, but we continue in very good spirits, explains Arnesen.

However, a commercial vaccine will not be for sale until 2021, according to Arnesen.

Arnesen and Ultimovacs are also initiating a new study on melanoma cancer where the vaccine is used in combination with the most common immunotherapy remedies. The hope is that the two methods will strengthen each other and make an efficient cancer fighting remedy together. The study will conclude in 18 months.

Photocure with FDA Priority

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Photucure recently announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accepted a Priority Review for an expansion of Cysview.

 

The FDA has accepted a supplemental New Drug Application (NDA) for Cysview on a priority review basis. Photocure, the Oslo, Norway-based company that developed and is marketing the drug-device system, wants to expand the labeling to include use for hospital patients not staying overnight.

Basically, a Priority Review  means that the FDA will speed up their approval process and a decision is now expected in the first half of 2018.

How Cysview Detects Cancer
Cysview is a method of detecting bladder cancer using photodynamic technology and is the only FDA approved product for use with blue light cystoscopy, where a device called a cystoscope is used to detect cancer inside the bladder.

Cysview is injected into the bladder through a catheter. It accumulates differentially in malignant cells. When illuminated with blue light from the cystoscope, the cancerous lesions fluoresce red, highlighting the malignant areas.

An important Tool
— Photocure is dedicated to improving the lives of patients with bladder cancer and we are committed to working with the FDA to bring this important clinical tool to the US market as soon as possible.

— We look forward to hearing a decision from the FDA early next year on the US Cysview® label expansion to include patients undergoing surveillance cystoscopy using a flexible scope, said Kjetil Hestdal, President & CEO, Photocure ASA.

 

 

 

About Photocure:

Photocure, the world leader in photodynamic technology, is a Norwegian based specialty pharmaceutical company. They develop and commercialize highly selective and effective solutions in several disease areas such as bladder cancer, HPV and precancerous lesions of the cervix and acne.

Their aim is to improve patient care and quality of life by making solutions based on Photocure Technology™ accessible to patients worldwide.

Photocure was founded by the Norwegian Radium Hospital in 1997. Today, the company, headquartered in Oslo, Norway, has over 60 highly skilled employees and operates in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the United States.

Targovax Releases Positive Clinical Results

Targovax has received very positive results regarding the survival rate of patients with pancreatic cancer.

Immune-oncology aims to help the body’s own immune system fight cancer and the ambition is to address the unmet need for long-term survival for patients with advanced cancers.

13 of 13
The company specializes in immune-oncology and is a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster. It recently released information revealing that 13 of 13 test subjects where alive after one year of treatment in a stage two clinical trial study. In addition, an active immune response–meaning the immune system was triggered to attack the cancer–was observed in as much as 11 of 13 patients.

No allergic reactions
These results came after the number of test subjects were reduced from 19 to 13 to see if allergic reactions stalled with reduced dosages of the TG01; Targovax’s lead RAS immunotherapy product. And luckily, no serious allergic reactions were observed,

Magnus  Jäderberg MD, Chief Medical Officer of Targovax, said:

– We are delighted that we maintain a strong immune response and one-year survival rate with the reduced dosing  regimen, essentially  equivalent  to  and  consistent with the previously  reported data  from the  main cohort.

These new results are so positive that stock market analysts DnB Markeds predict a serious stock market rise for Targovax.

 

About Targovax

Arming the patient’s immune system to fight cancer

Targovax is a clinical stage company focused on developing and commercializing novel immuno-oncology therapies to target, primarily, treatment-resistant solid tumors. Immuno-oncology is currently one of the fastest growing therapeutic fields in medicine.

In July, 2016 the Company listed its shares on Oslo Axess.

Read more

 

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.

Young Skills at Thermo Fischer

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photocure’s Promising Combo

Photocure reveals promising results in bladder cancer through the use of Blue Light Cytoscopy alongside the drug Hexvix. 

Bladder cancer endangers 167,000 people in Europe annually followed by over 59,000 deaths.

Men are especially at risk, where a staggering 75% of bladder cancer cases occur. Not only that, but bladder cancer has a reputation as being one of the most expensive cancers to have, due to its high reccurence rate with an average of 61% reccurence the first year followed by 78% for the next five years.

The results we needed
As such, there is an increasingly urgent need to develop better methods of both managing and diagnosing the disease. We’re already hearing positive news from the Norwegian company Photocure; a leader in photodynamic technology. Photocure revealed the results from their study on the 18th of August, where the results appear promising in terms of prognosis and diagnosis.

The promising new combo
By combining Blue Light Cystoscopy (BLC) and Hexvix, Blue Light Cytoscopy being the insertion of a tube in the urinary tract instilled with a photosensitizing agent, they found the overall reccurence rate of three years had decreased substantially. More specifically, by combining Blue Light Cytoscopy with Hexvix, they found that the recurrence rate dropped down to 39% for the next three years, as opposed to using an optimized White Light Cytoscopy (WLC), a standard cytoscopy, that resulted in a 53.3% of reccurence.

Substantially better
The benefit was even more substantial for those with high-risk disease, where the chances of recurrence at year three were 52.1% for the Blue Light Cytoscopy combo as opposed to the White Light Cytoscopy, found to be at around 80%.

How does it work?
The probable reasoning for this improvement lies in how the new combo works to detect bladder cancer. By using Blue Light Cytoscopy with Hexvix, which is a drug that is selectively taken up by cancer cells in the bladder, they are able to see the cancer light up in bright pink. This enables the doctors  to accurately resect and make better management deciscions, thusly improving the patients outlook and way of life.

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.