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.

 

The e-health meeting place

Starting next year, Oslo Cancer Cluster will co-power the conference E-health in Norway (EHiN).

– This is a natural continuation of the work we do in digitalisation, for a better understanding of cancer and better patient treatment, said Ketil Widerberg, General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, at this year’s conference.

The Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services (HOD) and ICT Norway started a collaboration on creating a national meeting place for e-health. ICT Norway launched the first EHiN conference five years ago. Oslo Cancer Cluster is happy to announce that we are now one of the three stakeholders in this yearly conference, together with ICT Norway and Macsimum.

EHiN attracts a large audience from Norwegian government and business. The speaker in this picture is Christine Bergland, Director at the Norwegian Directorate of eHealth (NDE).

Norwegian e-health  
EHiN 2018 took place in Oslo Spektrum and was the biggest meeting place for actors in the public and private sector working with e-health in Norway. The conference had 150 speakers and 1300 participants. EHiN 2019 will be the 6th year of the conference.

What happened at EHiN 2018?

 — EHiN is an important meeting place for public and private actors, and for academia and business. This is a natural prolongation of the many meeting places Oslo Cancer Cluster is always working to establish and preserve, Ketil Widerberg says.

Digital technologies are part of what drives innovation to the maximum benefit of cancer patients. Widerberg is certain that e-health will change the way we understand and treat cancer in the future.

– E-health is part of the matrix for how we give the right medicine to the right patient at the right time, meaning precision medicine. One example of what we specifically do in this area, is a recent project we have been part of, called PERMIDES.

An e-health success story
From August 2016 until August 2018, Oslo Cancer Cluster together with five other European clusters in medicine and ICT, was managing a Horizon 2020 EU project called PERMIDES. It is a European e-health success story in bringing together biopharma and IT sectors.

D.B.R.K Gupta Udatha at the EHiN conference in 2018. Dr. Udatha was the project manager for PERMIDES at Oslo Cancer Cluster.

D.B.R.K Gupta Udatha is Director (Digital and EU) at Oslo Cancer Cluster. He has been instrumental in PERMIDES and explains why the project has had such a positive effect on the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) it has worked with. 

PERMIDES was a project to anchorage digital transformation across SMEs in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. We aimed to see where the biopharma companies were lacking digital infrastructure and where the ICT companies could bring digital skills to make sure that the biopharma companies were up to date, Dr. Udatha said at this year’s EHiN.

The project created matchmaking opportunities between these two different categories of companies and was awarded EUR 4.8 million from the EU’s Horizon2020 programme. It addressed specific challenges for SMEs to go digital with a precision medicine product.

Read more bout the PERMIDES project here.

The next wave in cancer immunotherapy

What is driving the next wave of innovation in cancer immunotherapy?

This was the question the experts tried to answer in the oncology session of the conference Nordic Life Science Days in Stockholm 12 September.

International experts from pharma, biotech, academia and the investment community discussed how different approaches to innovative cancer treatments could address challenges and shape the next wave of innovation in cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology.

They touched upon approaches such as big data, personalized medicine, new targets and lessons from neuroscience.

Over the past few years, the rapid development of novel cancer immunotherapy approaches has fundamentally disrupted the oncology space. Cancer immunotherapy has not only become a key component of cancer therapy, but it has also reshaped priorities in oncology research and development (R&D) across the industry, with unprecedented clinical success in certain cancer types continuing to fuel record investment and partnering activity.

As of today, more than 2.000 immuno-oncology agents, including checkpoint-inhibitors, vaccines, oncolytic viruses and cellular therapies are in preclinical or clinical development.

Read more about the cellular therapy research of Oslo Cancer Cluster members Oslo University Hospital and Zelluna.

Why so little effect? 
Despite all of this promising research, only a minority of patients benefits from effective and durable immuno-oncology treatments. Why is this happening?

Part of the answer is found in resistance or unexplained lack of response. This could be addressed through a better understanding of optimal timing of therapy, better combination therapy design, or improved patient selection. Another part of the answer lies in a lack of novel targets and of an overall better understanding of specific immune mechanisms. This lack of understanding is becoming a roadblock to further advance in this research space.

What can the experts do about this? It turns out they have several approaches. Two of the main ones include big data and turning so-called cold tumours hot.

Big data will expand
“We believe that this can be changed by adding deep and broad data from multiple sources”, said Richa Wilson, Associate Director, Digital and Personalized Healthcare in Roche Partnering.

“We use the words meaningful data at scale, that means high quality data with a purpose: to answer key scientific questions”, she said at the session.

These data will continue to evolve from clinical trials and aggregated trials and registries and in the future from real time and linked data. There was about 150 exabytes health data in 2015 and in 2020 it is expected to grow into 2300 exabytes, mainly from digital health apps and scans from the hospitals, Oslo Cancer Cluster member Roche presented.

Hot and cold tumours 
Emilio Erazo-Fischer, Associate Director of Global Oncology Business Development at Boehringer Ingelheim explained the cold and hot tumours and how the cold tumours can be turned hot and thus open for cancer immunology treatment. It is well explained in this short film by Oslo Cancer Cluster member Boehringer Ingelheim

Martin Bonde, CEO of Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody also presented how they try to turn the cold tumours hot.

The Norwegian company Vaccibody is a leader in the field of cancer vaccines and they are very ambitious. They currently have a trial for melanoma, lung, bladder, renal, head and neck cancer.

The impact of stress
Erica Sloan is the group leader of the Cancer & Neural-Immune Research Laboratory in Monash University in Australia. She gave a talk on how neural signalling stops immunotherapy working. The researchers at Monash University have led mouse studies where the nervous system is stressed. They show that immunotherapies fail unless peripheral neural stresses are excluded.

The threat of a cancer diagnosis is stressful, as are most certainly cancer and cancer treatments. The tumour micro environment inside the cells can hear the stress signal, that is adrenalin.

“So what can we do about it?” Erica Sloan asked, before she answered:

“Treating with beta blockers. Blocking neural signalling prevents cancer progression. It also has an effect on immunotherapies.”

Erica Sloan is the group leader for the Cancer & Neural-Immune Research Laboratory in Monash University, Australia. She gave an introduction to the effect of neural signalling on tumour cells during the NLSDays in Stockholm 2018.

“Could stress be responsible for non responders?”, the moderator Gaspar Taroncher-Oldenburg from Nature Publishing Group asked her in the panel. 

“Absolutely, neural signalling can be responsible for this. And the exciting thing with data sharing here is that it can allow us to see and understand the rest of the patients’ biology. We need to look more at the patients’ physiology and not just the tumour biology” she said. 

Can Norway compete internationally on health?

Can Norway take a leading international position within the health industry? This was the main question for one of our discussions at Arendalsuka last week.

A report released in April this year shows a Norwegian health industry on the rise. However internationally, Norway is still comparatively small even compared to our Nordic neighbors.

SEE VIDEO FROM THE MEETING (Facebook, in Norwegian)

See our other events during Arendaluka:

  1. Fremtidens kreftbehandling i Arendal (In Norwegian)
  2. Tim: Pasienten som kommer hjem (In Norwegian)

Feasibility study
Oslo Cancer Cluster, Norway Health Tech, LMI, Innovation Norway and the The Research Council of Norway have, based on the ambition of creating a profitable health industry in Norway, conducted a feasibility study regarding the strategical positioning of the Norwegian health industry. 30 key position holders within the industry have contributed to the report, giving their views on how Norway can build a stronger health industry.

READ THE REPORT

The event in Arendal featured a a debate panel consisting of Ketil Widerberg from Oslo Cancer Cluster, Kathrine Myhre from Norway Health Tech, Monica Larsen from Legemiddelindustriforeningen, Hans Eirik Melandsø from Innovasjon Norge and Anne Kjersti Fahlvik from The Research Council of Norway.

Collaboration key
Collaboration between public institutions and the innovative private sector is important to create a health industry of some size, both according to the report published in April and the participants in the Arendal-panel. Oslo Cancer Cluster facilitates this kind of innovative public-private collaboration.

– We represent the whole value chain when it comes to cancer treatment and innovation. Research institutions, hospitals, as well as both small and large companies, Ketil Widerberg explained.

One example of how Oslo Cancer Cluster contributes to a functioning health industry is the new Car-T cancer treatment developed by Novartis. Important research and treatment conducted by the department of cell therapy at the Radium hospital is funded for clinical studies by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the production is made possible by Norwegian innovations from Thermo Fischer, while the Norwegian Medicines Agency works hard securing international treatment approval.

– This type of collaboration saves lives while creating employment and income, said Widerberg.

Three ways to recreate success
The question is how do we recreate these type of success stories, and Widerberg emphasized three different aspects: More clinical studies, releasing the shackles on our health data and cultivating high-end research.

– Today, a successful Norwegian Centre of Excellence loses it’s funding after 10 years. If the research is a success, it should be doubled, he said.

Tim: Pasienten som kommer hjem

Kan digitale løsninger lette hverdagen for pasienter som kommer hjem etter endt behandling?

Det ville Oslo Cancer Cluster, sammen med Kreftforeningen og IKT Norge finne ut av på ettermiddagsprogrammet under Arendalsuka onsdag.

Arrangement: PASIENTEN KOMMER HJEM – PAKKEFORLØP OG DIGITAL OPPFØLGING

Kreftpasienten Tim
Daglig leder for Oslo Cancer Cluster og konferansier Ketil Widerberg begynte med å presentere oss for «Tim».  Tim er hovedpersonen i en rekke animasjonsfilmer fra Oslo kommune, der de ser for seg hvordan de skal møte innbyggerne i kommunen i framtida.

Hvorfor henger helsesektoren etter resten av utviklinga? (Ketil Widerberg)

Vi fikk se pasienten Tim og hvordan, i et drømmescenario, Tim blir tatt vare på etter endt kreftbehandling.

Dette er viktig fordi: «Vi vil stadig få flere og flere mennesker som får en kreftdiagnose», ifølge Ketil Widerberg.

I filmen ser vi Tim ta i bruk app-er og duppeditter for lette sin hverdag som pasient. Teknologi vi «alle» allerede bruker i hverdagen.

— Så hvorfor er dette et drømmescenario, spurte Widerberg etter å ha sett filmen.

— Er ikke dette teknologi vi har allerede i dag? Hvorfor henger helsesektoren etter resten av utviklinga?

Transportplan for data
Finansbyråd Robert Steen, som har jobbet i 15 år med digitalisering for Schibsted, mener vi mangler samhandling innen digitalisering.

— Vi må lage en nasjonal transportplan for data. Først da kan vi få en verden der pasienten får all mulig hjelp digitalisering faktisk kan tilby, sa Steen.

“Vi har teknologien. Vi må bare ta den i bruk!” (Anne Lise Ryel)

Anne Lise Ryel, generalsekretær for Kreftforeningen, understreket hvor viktig digitalisering er for hverdagen til dem som kommer hjem etter kreftbehandling, og at det finnes et stort potensial for både pasient og sykehus når det kommer til digitalisering.

— Jeg husker når man gikk i banken for å betale regninger. Det er veldig lenge siden nå, men det virker som helsesektoren ikke har beveget seg videre som resten av samfunnet, poengterte Ryel og sa senere:

— Vi har teknologien. Vi må bare ta den i bruk!

— Vi må kunne ta prøver i hjemmet slik diabetikere tar insulin. Det sparer pasienten for tid og energi, og gir flere ledige sykesenger, var ett av innspillene til Andreas Stensvold ved Sykehuset Østfold, der de prøver å ta i bruk mer moderne teknologi.

— Vi må bruk IT i kreftbehandlingen fordi vi trenger alle mulige hjelpemidler når stadig flere får kreft, poengterte Stensvold.

Må bestille smartere
Et sted å begynne for å gjøre digitale hjelpemidler tilgjengelig for pasienter, er å bestille smartere. Dette snakket Wenche Dehli, Helse- og sosialdirektør i Kristiansand kommune, om.

— Vi må samle bestillingene våre slik at lettere kan få de til å snakke sammen, sa hun, og videre:

— Pasienten skal ikke merke hvem de får tjenesten fra. Alt må koordineres på forhånd av kommune og sykehus.

Møtet avsluttet med en debatt med flere av deltakerne ledet av Nard Schreurs, avd. direktør for e-helse og smart-tech, IKT Norge.

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.

HPV program: Perfect Use of Our Health Goldmine

Since 2009, The Cancer Registry of Norway has made use of health data in groundbreaking ways. They have taken the Nordic HPV vaccine program and turned it into a unique study using real world data. The project manager Mari Nygård hopes the study can inspire others to use health data in a similar ways and dig up ‘health treasures’ important to public health.

How the Project Started
HPV stands for “human papillomavirus” and is the most common sexually transmitted infection. The majority of those infected are not aware of this and most infections are harmless and do not give any symptoms. However, some HPV types can cause cancer and are called high risk HPV. The most well known being cervical cancer.

In the 2000s, the pharmaceutical company MSD developed the first vaccine to prevent the HPV virus and the cancers caused by it.

However, when the vaccine was approved, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanded that health data monitoring the effect and side-effects of the vaccine, had to be collected for 15 years because that’s the time it takes for a HPV infection to cause cell change and cervical cancer.

This led to MSD contacting the Cancer Registry. Together they, with other Nordic research communities, started monitoring the effect of the vaccine in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland.

Image: The Cancer Registry

Uses Real World Data
Mari Nygård, head of the Cancer Registry’s HPV-related epidemiological research unit, has managed the project from the beginning, and is proud of their contributions thus far.

— We monitor the effect of the vaccine by using real world data. Among other things, we are using health registries to follow up 10,000 participants for 15 years. Less than five per cent have dropped out so far. That is sensational. The study is really unique in a global context, says Nygård.

The goal of the study is to map side effects and endpoints. Endpoints can be vaccine-induced immune responses, precursors to cervical cancer or other types of cancer caused by the HPV included in the vaccine.

The researchers used the health registries to gather information regarding the endpoints and combined this with obtaining biological material from clinical bio-banks for virologic and pathomorphological analyses. In addition, blood samples were collected from the participants at regular intervals to test for vaccine-induced HPV antibodies.

In addition to several publications and a general competence boost regarding HPV for the Cancer Registry, the research has received great international recognition.

Important to Collaborate on Health Data
Nygård hopes that the HPV program can inspire others to conduct similar studies using health data.

— There is currently a great interest in health registry research, and we know that the information stored is a potential goldmine. Our collaboration with MSD proves that it is possible to find “health gold” beneficial to public health, and the industry can play an important part creating these solutions, says Nygård.

The pharmaceutical company MSD agrees, and is very pleased with the collaboration.

— The Cancer Registry has played an important global part in the development of MSD’s HPV vaccines. We are proud to have contributed to promoting the national registries during the collaboration, and believe this can be an example of how Norwegian data can be used in future drug development and drug follow-up, says Elen Høeg, responsible for vaccines at MSD.

Inven2’s Important Contribution
Inven2 has also been an important contributor to the project. The company has been responsible for getting the first agreements between The Cancer Registry and MSD in place.

— Agreeing on the first contract with MSD was a complex process, but we got there with Inven2’s help, says Nygård.

Biotech Embrace IT Knowledge

— We have succeeded in bringing more IT knowledge to the Biotech world, says Project Manager of PERMIDES D.B.R.K. Gupta Udatha.

 

Merging IT and Biotech
Together with five European clusters, Oslo Cancer Cluster have been managing a Horizon 2020 EU project “PERMIDES”. The cluster-to-cluster projects main goal was to stimulate collaboration between biotech companies and IT companies, in the end to create more innovative and personalized cancer treatments.

The total volume of what the project has managed to achieve makes it a success, Gupta Udatha believes.

— The IT sector is developing fast. We now have tools like Big Data, Machine Learning, Blockchain and more. All this can be amazingly helpful for a Biotech company if they get help understanding the technology. This is what PERMIDES has provided! On a more basic level we have freed Bio-businesses from the clutching grasp of excel sheets and presented more effective computer solutions.

Results and Speed
And the program has provided an abundance of results.

  • PERMIDES supported 88 Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of the bio-pharmaceutical sector from 18 European countries
  • 119 grant applications have been submitted for innovation projects
  • 51 are funded for a total of € 2.65 M.

Furthermore, biopharma SMEs in need of consultancy services could apply for consultancy vouchers, each amounting to a maximum of 5,000 Euros. From a total of 91 applications, 41 are now financially supported by consultancy vouchers with a total funding volume of 261,000 Euros.

Another successful part of PERMIDES is how effective it has been

— Speed is a key factor of PERMIDES, which funds innovation projects for a maximum of half a year. The success of PERMIDES is further supported by the comparatively short review process of a maximum of three months between application submission and funding commitment, says Gupta Udatha.

Full Overview
If you want to take a closer look at what the PERMIDES project has achieved, check their brand new database.

— There you will not only find extensive information about the projects, but also about the project partners. Take a look at this information source and see for yourself the innovative solutions of European SMEs. Currently the projects of the first cut-off date are available. In the next few weeks, we will also add the projects of the second cut-off date and publish the Consultancy Voucher projects, says Gupta Udatha.

PERMIDES database.

For funded bio-pharmaceutical companies, there is still the possibility until mid of 2018 to receive a follow-up coaching by the PERMIDES team. The coaching includes, for example, information about further funding opportunities, support in applying for additional funding or further networking with companies and research institutions from the IT industry.

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.

Digital helse – hype eller håp?

En kortere versjon av denne kronikken sto på trykk i Aftenposten 13.10.2017. Du kan lese innlegget i Aftenposten her

Vi må forhindre at digital helse blir digitalt kvakksalveri.

 

Hva får vi hvis vi smelter sammen teknologi og biologi? Jo, digital helse. Her finner vi et kinderegg for pasienter, leger og forskere. Det inneholder unike muligheter til presis behandling for pasienter og leger, og kan gjøre at forskere ser nye mønstre og bedre forstår hvordan kroppen fungerer.

Digital helse innebærer at forskere og leger analyserer data i helseregistre, biobanker og gjør kliniske studier for å gi oss bedre behandling. Samtidig digitaliserer vi selv stadig mer av det vi ser og opplever. Det gir oss mulighet til å spore, styre og forbedre helsen og leve mer produktive liv.

En fremtidsdrøm?
På samme måte som flygende biler siden 70-tallet alltid har ligget noen tiår frem i tid, har vi de siste tjue årene hørt om den fantastiske fremtiden med digital helse. Vi har hørt om leger som får råd fra datamaskiner, et helsesystem som lærer av feil og forbedrer rutiner, forskere med banebrytende teknologi og pasienter som selv oppdager tidlige symptomer.

Det er ikke tilfellet i dag. På legekontorer og sykehus sitter leger foran datamaskinen og skriver inn samme tekst i forskjellige systemer for lagring – ikke for analyse. Vi har et helsevesen som ofte gjentar feil fra året før, og forskere som først etter flere år får tilgang til data å analysere.

Vi snakket om digitale beslutningsstøttesystemer allerede for 15 år siden – så hvorfor forblir digital helse en fremtidsvisjon?

Innsatsen mangler ikke. Teknologifirmaer investerer mer i helse enn noen gang før. GV (tidligere Google Venture) har nå hoveddelen av sine investeringer i helserelaterte prosjekter. Legemiddelselskaper fokuserer på digital omstilling. Stater har store programmer, som for eksempel Finland og Storbritannias satsing på sekvensering og presisjonsmedisin. Samtidig deler privatpersoner data som aldri før. Vi gjør det på Facebook, til Google og til selskaper som 23andMe. Med genetiske data fra over 1,2 millioner mennesker har 23andMe nå mer genetisk informasjon enn noen annen aktør i verden.

Digitalt kvakksalveri
Så hvorfor har vi ikke kommet lenger med digital helse? En del av svaret er at selv de digitale produktene som kan være nyttige, ofte mangler en måte å berike forholdet mellom legen og pasienten på. Ofte skaper slike produkter flere lag med programvare og krever nye prosedyrer. Dette øker kompleksiteten, i stedet for å frigjøre tid til pasienter. En unøyaktig sensor-app gjør det vanskeligere å finne ut hva som feiler en pasient.

Ingen ønsker at mulighetene og de positive produktene blir gjemt mellom såkalte digitale fremskritt som ikke fungerer eller faktisk hindrer omsorg, forvirrer pasienter og sløser bort tiden vår. Slike digitale tilbakeskritt kan være ineffektive elektroniske helsejournaler og en eksplosjon av digitale helseprodukter direkte til forbrukerne, med apper av blandet kvalitet. Vi må forhindre at digital helse blir digitalt kvakksalveri.

Hvordan kan vi i stedet berike forholdet mellom lege og pasient? Ved å bringe pasienten og legen inn i innovasjonssystemet. Der kan vi koble lovende oppstartselskaper med ledende globale firmaer og miljøer slik at de kan samarbeide om bedre løsninger for pasienten. Vi må se akademiske fag på tvers, og bringe ulike industrier sammen – ja, rett og slett skape nye økosystem for forskning og utvikling. Oslo Cancer Cluster er et eksempel på et slikt økosystem der pasientforeninger, sykehus, kreftforskere og firmaer finner bedre og raskere løsninger for kreftpasienter. Samarbeid bygger tillit som gjør at privat og offentlig drar i samme retning.

Samarbeid fra hype til håp
For å realisere håpet om digital helse, må holdninger og praksis endres på tre fronter. Det offentlige helse-Norge må gjøre helsedata mer tilgjengelig og bruke privat kompetanse. Private firmaer må på sin side prioritere nøyaktighet og sikkerhet og tilpasse sin teknologi til helsedata, og ikke omvendt. Samtidig må individer akseptere at helsedata deles for å få bedre folkehelse.

  1. Det offentlige må gjøre helsedata mer tilgjengelig.
    Ideelt burde leger hele tiden se etter mønstre hvor behandlingen fungerer og ikke fungerer, slik at offentlig helsevesen blir som en kontinuerlig klinisk studie på god helse. Ett steg på veien er å bruke offentlige helsedata for raskere testing og godkjenning av nye medisiner. Det vil hjelpe pasienter, skape arbeidsplasser og gi oss en solid plass i det internasjonale helsemarkedet. Det er helseministeren som må initiere dette, og han kan begynne med å følge opp helsedatautvalgets anbefalinger.
  2. Private firmaer må tilpasse teknologi til helsedata, ikke omvendt.
    Kunstig intelligens revolusjonerer bransje etter bransje. Teknologibransjen har for eksempel revolusjonert betaling og leveringssystemer for å gjøre 2000-tallets fiaskoer innen e-handel til dagens suksesshistorier. På samme måte må teknologifirmaene revolusjonere nøyaktighet og sikkerhet for å lykkes med kunstig intelligens i helse. De må forstå medisinske detaljer. Ved å samle teknologifirma, lege og pasient i ett økosystem kan vi få til dette.
  3. Vi må akseptere at våre helsedata blir delt.
    En ny virkelighet er at vi blir deltakere i forskningen på vår egen helse. Noen blir bekymret av dette. Kan forsikringsselskaper bruke det mot meg? De fleste av oss gir allerede fra oss data både når vi er friske og når vi er bekymret. Vi bruker betalingskort og fordelskort på apoteket og matbutikken. Hva og hvordan vi handler sier svært mye om vår helse. Data som pasienter selv lagrer i apper, fokusgrupper og genetiske analyser blir viktig for å komplimentere offentlige data.

De største gjennombruddene fremover ligger i grenseland mellom biologi og teknologi. Her må vi satse og tørre å samarbeide på nye områder. La oss bygge Norge som et ledende senter innen digital helse internasjonalt. Offentlig administrasjon, privat næringsliv og vi som individer må samarbeide for å unngå hype og digitalt kvakksalveri – og sammen skape reelt håp for bedre helse.

Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster