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? 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.

 

Industrial precision against cancer 

Kongsberg Beam Technology wants to direct the precision technology from advanced industrial control systems to hit tumors in the human body. 

— We want to use Norwegian spearhead technology to combat cancer, Per Håvard Kleven said from the stage as he pitched the idea of his start-up at the DNB Nordic Healthcare Conference 2018.

He is the founder of the start-up company Kongsberg Beam Technology AS. As he wrote the patent application for the technology behind this start-up, he was far from the only one to explore this field. Nevertheless, the patent was granted earlier this year (2018). He was ahead of companies like Siemens and other giants.

— There is a lot of research going into radiation and all of it is focusing on increased precision, but no one is attacking the problem as fundamentally as we are.

Precision proton radiation
The method in question is proton radiation. This kind of radiation is directed towards a tumour and radiates far more precisely than x-ray radiation, the standard radiotherapy that hospitals currently use to treat cancer.

Proton radiation requires special machines. There are currently only 85 of these machines, known as proton  therapy synchrocyclotrones, in the world. Norway awaits its first proton synchrocyclotron in a couple of years. The existence of such a machine in Norway is a precondition for the business plan of Kongsberg Beam Technology.

This is one of the few proton therapy machines in use in the world today. It is the proton therapy synchrocyclotron in the Jacobson Building at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. Photo: Jonathunder/ Wikimedia Commons

The ambition of Kleven and his new board of directors is to let proton radiation follow the movements of the tumour, meaning the smallest movements of the patient as she breathes. This does not seem like much, but there is actually a lot of movement in for instance the lungs. And with vital organs closely linked to the lungs, such as the heart and the spine, it is extremely important to have a precise beam.

There is in deed a need for more precision in radiation therapy.

— The radiation that the hospitals use to treat cancer today is not precise. Healthy tissue is always damaged with radiation and this is a problem which we are attacking.

Norwegian spearhead technology
The system in question is to figure out exactly where the tumour is situated in the body, how it moves and how much radioactive energy it takes to radiate it properly.

He wants to take the principals and methods currently used in precision industries such as defence, space and oil- and gas, and apply these to radiation in cancer treatments. The aim is to obtain industrial precision to avoid damaging any healthy tissue.

Aims to develop a solution
The mechanical part of the system makes it possible to do online tracking of the cancer and synchronise the beam so that it always hits exactly on the cancer. This might not sound like it should be too difficult, but indeed it is.

— We cannot control a beam of particles with the agility and precision that is required today, but these functions will develop. We aim to develop them!

– In five years, when our project makes proton radiation reach its potential for industrial precision, my assumption is that proton radiation will take a much higher share of radio therapy in cancer treatment and that the number of proton centres will increase steeply.

According to Kleven, the testing will start soon, followed by prototyping and further testing and qualification. The goal is to have a working system by mid 2024. Kleven assumes that the future product can be installed as an add-on to exciting proton therapy synchrocyclotrones.

— Testing and remaining R&D will start as soon as the needed capital is in place, he said.

Needs more funding
The financing for the start-up so far is covered by Buskerud county, Innovation Norway, Oslofjordfondet and the Research Council of Norway. Kongsberg Beam Technology needs 93 million NOK initially, to test, develop and qualify the technology. 60 million of this sum should come from investors.

Kleven shows an estimate of a one billion NOK turn-over after a few years, in a profitable company with growth possibilities.

The new business is going to be established in Kongsberg in Norway, a town that is already well established as a hub for spin offs of the Norwegian defence industry. Kleven himself has a lifetime of experience from this sector, since he started to work in Kongsberg Weapons Factory (Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk) in 1975.

– An idea needs to attract investors

Meet Thomas Andersson, our new Senior Advisor Business Development. How could he be of help to your startup company? 

— The most important thing I do is to get the startup companies rolling.

Thomas Andersson, the new Senior Advisor for Business Development at Oslo Cancer Cluster and Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, looks dead serious as he makes this statement, but immediately after he lets out a smile and elaborates:

— A company needs to be investible. An idea needs to attract investors.

A lifetime of experience
Thomas holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Lund University in Sweden and has more than 30 years of experience from establishing, operating and funding start-ups in the life science field. He has a long background in business development in health tech startups, all the way back to the early 1980s.

— I’m that old! I went straight from my Ph.D. in biophysics into the problem-solving of business development.

In his career he has also taken on issues with patents and sales and he even bought a company that produced monoclonal antibodies with some friends and remodelled and sold it. 

— What did you learn from this journey? 

— I learned quite a lot, including the production business and the cell cultivation biotech business from the floor. I also learned how to lay out the production manufacturing facility.

See it like an investor
Thomas Andersson knows the biotech startup-scene from the investors’ point of view. He started to work at the tech transfer office of Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. It was called Karolinska Innovations back then, now it is known as KI Innovations.

— We raised a lot of money there, formed 45 companies as a group and we had a fantastic time! 

After 8 years he was recruited to Lund and worked in Lund University Bio Science and tried to vacuum clean the whole university for life science innovation.

— And we did find a lot! In the end there were about 20 investment proposals and those ended up in 9 investments, of which we turned down 5 or 6. Two of them are now at the stock market. 

In total, Thomas Andersson has been involved in starting about 20 companies, of which 5 survived and are now on the stock market.

Normally, it is said that only 1 in 30 biotech startups make it. 

 

Thomas Andersson, Senior Advisor Business Development. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

Here for you
— How did you end up here at Oslo Cancer Cluster?  

— I have had my eyes on Oslo Cancer Cluster for a while. I have liked the ideas that the cluster stands for. And I wanted to do something new in the end of my career. That is why I am here as a senior advisor now. I like it here! I am working on very interesting projects and ideas.

Our new Senior Advisor Business Development is present in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator nearly every week although he still lives in Lund, Sweden, on a farm in the woods where he can be practical and hands-on with hardwood and fly fishing.

— My door is open to people in the cluster and incubator with projects and ideas. I have a network that can help them and I have the experience of how investors, scientists and other actors can value a company. And being a Swede in the Norwegian system; I am basically here also to encourage you to think differently.

 

Interested in more funding opportunities for your company?

Check out our Access to Capital-page. 

 

In need of start-up funding?

Are you and your cluster company in need of early stage funding? Apply for Innovasjonsrammen by the 10th of September and compete for important start-up money.

Early financing for establishing companies is often limited, but can be absolutely crucial to get important projects off the ground. Therefore, Innovation Norway has created the special funding program Innovasjonsrammen (English: Innovation Frame) to support cluster start-ups at an early stage.

All our start-up members are invited to apply for money and note that you have the possibility to collaborate with partners outside the cluster.

NOK 10 million in funds are available for the calender year 2018. Two of our cluster members – Seald and NorGenoTech  – received funding earlier this year through the program, NOK 300 000 each.

Interested? SEE HERE!

For the online application system.

For more information contact Bjørn Klem, General manager Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator HERE.

The following criteria follow the application:

  1. The project must be a collaboration consisting of at least two companies and were one needs to be a member of the cluster.
  2. Innovation Norway offer a maximum of 50 percent funding for each project
  3. The project must comply with the guidelines set for research and development projects by the EEC regulations.
  4. The financing must have a substantial impact on the project.
  5. The project must comply with Innovation Norway’s demands for sustainability. All applicants must explain how they take care of their social responsibility through responsible business ethics, and describe possible positive environmental and social effects of the project. Read more on Innovation Norway’s guidelines here.
  6. The use of the funds must be reported by January 2020, possibly based on a milestone plan.

Cancer Innovation Pitched to Investors

A full house presented itself when Inven2 pitched 8 of their most promising cancer research projects at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator June 12th.

In total approximately 60 people gathered inside Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, and among the participants several experienced investors from other cancer projects.

— I’m positively surprised that so many potential and experienced investors found their way here today, commented Ole Kristian Hjelstuen, CEO at Inven2.

The event was the second in line of Inven2’s new pitching strategy, were they open up their projects at an early stage for potential investors and entrepreneurs with the will to transform the research into working companies.

— This shows that pitching is a good way to spread the word on the potential of our portfolio. The event today strengthens my belief that financing for our projects will be easier in the future, said Hjelstuen.

Eight Potential Treatments and Companies
Norway is among the very best when it comes to cancer research. Norwegian research has created top notch companies like Algeta, Nordic Nanovector, Ultimovacs and Zelluna Immunotherapy. Tuesdays  pitch proves that many more are on the horizon.

The eight-project presented at OCC Incubator are all exciting innovations that need financial backing and entrepreneurship to commercialize. The common denominator is a focus on modern treatments like immunology or precision medicine that are emerging as a result of what has been labelled “a breakthrough in cancer treatment” in later years.

Presentations of all eight projects available here.

The projects presented:

  • Tankyrase inhibition in cancer therapy
  • A new drug against Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
  • Autologous anti-CD20 TCR-engineered T-cell therapy for recurrent Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Lymphocyte Booster – Lymphocyte boosting growth medium for Adoptive Cell Therapy
  • CD37 CAR for cancer immunotherapy
  • IL-15 Immunotherapy – Fusion protein for immunotherapy of solid tumors
  • Backscatter: A communication technology enabling colon-cancer screening

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.

Inven2-Pitch: Morgendagens kreftselskaper

Er du investor eller gründerspire? Vi trenger deg!

Norge har en sterk tradisjon innen kreftforskning i verdensklasse. Basert på denne fremragende forskningen har selskaper som Algeta, Nordic Nanovector, Ultimovacs og Zelluna Immunotherapy blitt spunnet ut. Og det kommer mer.

Inven2 inviterer investorer, gründerspirer og andre interesserte til en presentasjon av de mest lovende nye prosjektene innen kreft i Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovasjonspark den 12. juni kl. 14.

Dette er alle spennende innovasjonsprosjekter som når de går over i kommersiell fase om kort tid vil trenge finansiering og gründere. Er du gründer, investor eller helseinteressert, er dette en unik sjanse.

Bli med å skape morgendagens helsenæring!

12. juni kl. 14-16 | Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator (OCCI)

Meld deg på her!

Prosjektene som skal pitches:
  1. Tankyrase inhibition in cancer therapy
  2. A new drug against Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML)
  3. Autologous anti-CD20 TCR-engineered T-cell therapy for recurrent Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  4. Lymphocyte Booster – Lymphocyte boosting growth medium for Adoptive Cell Therapy
  5. CD37 CAR for cancer immunotherapy
  6. IL-15 Immunotherapy – Fusion protein for immunotherapy of solid tumors
  7. Backscatter: A communication technology enabling colon-cancer screening.

Need Money For Your Life Science Start-up?

Inven2 are distributing start-up funds in Life Science! Very good news for Biotechs and cancer research companies in their early stages of development.

 

Attention all Oslo Cancer Cluster and Incubator members.  Inven2 received in late December 5 million NOK from Innovation Norway. They are now, subsequently, handing them out to Life science start-ups. Inven2 call them “presåkornkapital” meaning that the money is to serve as capital that stimulates the first stage of establishing a life science company. However, some criteria’s must be met to be eligible to apply. The application deadline is the 20th of February 2018.

Follow these criteria:

  • Investment can constitute 3 million NOK per company
  • Private investors must contribute with capital that at a minimum is equivalent with the Inven2-money “pre-såkornmidlene”.
  • At least 50 percent of private capital must be from independent investors, investors that are not a founder or an employee of the company.
  • The investment with “pre-såkorn” capital must be on equal terms with the private investments.
  • Companies receiving the investment must at the time of investment be Norwegian and younger than five years counted from the registry date at The Brønnøysund Register Center
  • Companies invested in must not be stock marked listed or large companies as defined in the EØS agreement state subsidy rules.
  • Companies invested in must be innovative as defined by the EØS Agreement state subsidy rules.
  • Investments can amount to 3 million NOK.

Be sure that your application contains the following:

  • A short introduction of your company
  • Business plan
  • How the money will be used
  • Explain how the matching money will be gathered
  • A plan for the execution of the new equity

Application deadline: 20th of February.

Send the application to: olav.steinnes@inven2.com

Join NOME – Nordic mentoring programme for life sciences companies

NOME is the first Nordic mentor network connecting prospective life science entrepreneurs with handpicked international mentors.

The goal is simple: to help the very best biotech and medtech startups in the Nordics to become the next growth successes. Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator coordinates the NOME-programme in Norway and collaborates with Oslo Medtech and the incubator Aleap to find the best match of mentors and entrepreneurs.

 

Watch the NOME information video here

Contact Bjørn Klem, General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, if you would like to join NOME or if you want more information about the programme in Norway.

Take a look at the NOME website and the information flyer for more information about the programme. 

 

Podcast on cancer research and development

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Radium Hospital Research Foundation, Radforsk, has launched their own podcast. The podcast is named Radium, and is about cancer research and development of new cancer treatments, as well as updates on Radforsk´s portfolio companies.

Radium has so far made nine episodes, and the ambition of Jónas Einarsson, CEO Radforsk and Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen, communication manager in Radforsk, is to make one new episode a week. The podcasts are in Norwegian, if they do not interview people from abroad, as they did in the Cancer Crosslinks special.

Einarsson and Andersen is usually joined by guests in the studio, and so far they have had guests from Oslo Cancer Cluster members; PCI Biotech, Ultimovacs, Targovax, Vaccibody, Oncoinvent, as well as Roy Larsen and Øyvind Bruland, talking about Algeta, Nordic Nanovector and Oncoinvent.

Upcoming epiosodes will include guests such as Professor Håvard Danielsen from Institute for Cancer Genetics and Informatics, Anne Lise Ryel, General Secretary in the Norwegian Cancer Society and CEO, Kjetil Hestdal in Photocure.

Here you may find all podcast episodes launched so far.