The Norwegian clinical stage biopharmaceutical company BerGenBio develops AXL inhibitors against cancer, which are now being tested to treat Covid-19 patients. Photo: Nils Olav Mevatne/BerGenBio

Cancer drugs being tested to treat Covid-19

Bergenbio image of researchers in the lab

Our member BerGenBio is currently testing the company’s cancer medicine as a potential treatment for Covid-19.

Another one of our members has emerged this year as an active contributor in the fight against the corona pandemic. BerGenBio, a Norwegian clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, is running a clinical trial to assess the safety of the company’s cancer drug to treat Covid-19 patients.

BerGenBio develops novel selective AXL kinase inhibitors, an advanced type of cancer treatment. In cancer, AXL suppresses the body’s immune response to tumours. In many different cancer indications, AXL can be the reason that treatments fail.

BerGenBio’s primary drug candidate is called Bemcentinib and is currently being investigated in several ongoing cancer clinical trials, against both lung cancer and leukaemia.

This year, BerGenBio announced the company will also test the drug as a treatment for hospitalised Covid-19 patients. The phase II study, which will recruit a total of 120 patients hospitalised with Covid-19 at different sites in India and South Africa, recruited its first patient in India this week.

“We are pleased to expand the BGBC020 study to patients in India, where incidences of COVID-19 remain high, following the commencement of dosing in South Africa in October,” Richard Godfrey, Chief Executive Officer of BerGenBio, commented. “There are still no approved therapies for patients hospitalised as a result of COVID-19 infection and we are keen to continue exploring the profile of bemcentinib as a potential treatment.”

Promising solutions from health industry

BerGenBio is one of our many members that have joined the effort against corona this year with their science, technology and knowledge.

Another example is the Norwegian biotechnology company Vaccibody, who have used the company’s cancer vaccine technology to expand their activities to do research into infectious diseases.

Similarly, our member NEC OncoImmunity has adapted the company’s artificial technology platform for improving cancer immunotherapies to design vaccine blueprints against the coronavirus.

Moreover, our member the Norwegian start-up company Ledidi has contributed with a data-sharing software that will be used to increase research collaboration in Oslo University Hospital’s clinical trials on Covid-19.

Several of the larger pharmaceutical companies in our membership base are also in the race to deliver effective vaccines against the coronavirus in 2021.

The corona pandemic has left many sectors of society across the world struggling, but the health industry has proved that it holds promising solutions to a global challenge. Medical innovations and the enthusiasm of researchers continue to shine a positive light at the end of this tunnel.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter to see the latest news and events

Prime Minister Erna Solberg visited PCI Biotech to learn about the PCI technology from researcher Anette Weyergang. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

PDT/PCI application grant 2021

Erna Solberg visits PCI Biotech

Radforsk annually distribute funding to photodynamic therapy and photochemical internalization (PDT/PCI) related research. Application deadline will for 2021 be January 15. Please note that one project will be chosen to receive a larger project grant on 1,25 MNOK per year for 3 years, in this application round.

 

Radforsk has one main call for applications for funding for research projects relating to PDT or PCI each year:

  • The maximum amount that can be applied for per project is NOK 300,000, and the total amount to be awarded for all projects is NOK 1,250,000
  • Funding for a larger project will be announced every other year, 2019, 2021 etc:
    The chosen project will be awarded a total amount of NOK 3,750,000,  NOK 1,250,000 every year for three years without sending new applications
  • All Oslo University Hospital employees can apply for funding
  • The deadline for the call for applications will be 15 January 2021

 

Applications, containing a description of the project, may be sent to:
Bente Prestegård: bp@radforsk.no

If you have received a grant for PDT/PCI projects previously, you must provide a project report with your new application.

 

Background:

The objective for Radforsk is to advance cancer research and contribute to better and more effective diagnoses, treatment, care, and prevention of cancer. Research funding is one of several instruments Radforsk has and uses to reach these goals.

Radforsk’s board of directors has decided that funding will be announced for research projects in the areas photodynamic therapy (PDT) or photochemical internalisation (PCI). This decision is due to a prior agreement involving Photocure from when Radforsk was technology transfer office for the Norwegian Radium Hospital.

Professor Pål Rongved introduced the ZinChel technology that fights antimicrobial resistance at Oslo Life Science Week 2017. Photo: UiO/Terje Heiestad

Norwegian invention to fight antibiotic resistance

Professor Pål Rongved introduced the ZinChel technology that fights microbial resistance at Oslo Life Science Week 2017. Photo: UiO/Terje Heiestad

A new Norwegian technology may help stop the increase of antibiotic multi-resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is growing, and the world is running out of treatment options. In 2020, approximately 700 000 people will die from antibiotic-resistant infections. By 2050, as many as 10 million deaths are forecast.

Increasing numbers of cancer patients also develop resistance to multiple antibiotics, which potentially leads to life-threatening conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO) writes that: “Without effective antibiotics, the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised.”

A Norwegian solution for global challenge

New Norwegian technology from the start-up Adjutec Pharma may help to stop increasing antibiotic resistance. The technology, known as ZinChel, was first developed in collaboration between the University of Tromsø (UiT) and the research group SYNFAS at the University of Oslo (UiO).

ZinChel has shown promising effects against a group of multi-resistant bacteria, which are increasingly widespread in many regions of the world, including Europe.

The bacteria, known as gram-negative, are equipped with a type of enzyme called “metallo-beta-lactamase”, which renders modern carbapenem antibiotics useless. These bacteria are on the World Health Organization’s list of the 12 most dangerous bacteria in the world, causing severe and often deadly infections.

Pål Rongved is a Professor at the University of Oslo with a PhD in chemistry. He is one of the inventors behind ZinChel and the founder and CEO of the start-up company Adjutec Pharma AS.

Adjutec Pharma AS has a strong momentum to develop the technology further together with our Norwegian partners and private investors. If we do this correctly, the results of this project can provide patients with vital treatment in the future and contribute to the establishment of a health industry that provides new jobs. We have an ethical and moral responsibility to bring the technology to market and patients as quickly as possible. There is no time to lose and we are on track”.

Creating value for patients and industry

The technology is not yet available to treat patients, because it is still in pre-clinical development. This means that it will need to be further tested on animals and humans to assess its safety and efficacy.

Adjutec Pharma has recently secured exclusive rights to the patents for the ZinChel technology and will raise more money to accelerate development of the drugs in collaboration with researchers at University of Oslo.

Adjutec Pharma has received $3 million in grants, including support from the Norwegian Research Council and Novo Nordisk. The company will raise $20 million in investments to reach Phase II clinical trials, including public and private funding.

Adjutec Pharma receives start-up services from Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Incubator, who are partly financed by SIVA, a governmental enterprise facilitating a national infrastructure for innovation.

Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, has provided important help in the establishment of Adjutec Pharma. Photo: Stig Jarnes

Bjørn Klem, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, has provided important help in the establishment of Adjutec Pharma. Photo: Stig Jarnes

Bjørn Klem, general manager of OCC Incubator, said:

“OCC Incubator provided help and advice to the founders when establishing Adjutec Pharma, including finding competent people for the board. The OCC Incubator has negotiated the licensing agreement with the University of Oslo, which gives the company exclusive rights to commercialise the inventors’ patents. We also help the company with the development of a business strategy and financing through public funding programmes and private investors.”

Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Photo: Vaccibody

Largest biotech agreement ever made in Norway

The team of Vaccibody celebrating their recent successes.

Our member Vaccibody signs multi-million-dollar agreement one week before the company is expected on the stock exchange.

The Norwegian cancer company Vaccibody has entered a worldwide license and collaboration agreement with GenentechRoche, to develop personalized cancer vaccines.

The agreement is worth up to 715 million dollars (approximately NOK 6,7 billion) in near term and milestones, in addition to low double-digit tiered royalties on sales of commercialized products. This makes it the largest agreement ever made in the Norwegian biotechnology sector. It is also the eighth largest biotechnology agreement made in Europe this year.

Michael Engsig, CEO of Vaccibody, said:

“We are very excited to have entered into this transformative agreement that marks the start of a new era for Vaccibody.”

“Genentech is widely recognized as one of the foremost leaders in leveraging the immune system to develop therapies for cancer and is a scientific pioneer within the neoantigen cancer vaccine space. They are therefore the partner of choice for the further development and commercialization of our innovative next-generation cancer vaccine platform for generating individualized therapies.”

This news comes about a week before Vaccibody is expected to be listed on Merkur Market, a part of the Oslo Stock Exchange.

A skyrocketing story

Vaccibody is dedicated to developing and discovering novel cancer treatments in the immunotherapy area. This is a type of treatment that boosts the body’s own immune system to recognise and destroy cancer cells.

The company was founded 13 years ago by Agnete Fredriksen, together with her mentors Professor Bjarne Bogen and his colleague Professor Inger Sandlie – two leading researchers in the Norwegian cancer innovation environment. Fredriksen is now President and Chief Scientific Officer of Vaccibody.

Over the last year, the company’s value has more than doubled several times and the company was valued at NOK 15,3 billion when markets closed on 1 October 2020.

Anders Tuv, Investment Director, Radforsk, and Chairman of the Board, Vaccibody. Photo: Radforsk

Anders Tuv, Investment Director, Radforsk, and Chairman of the Board, Vaccibody. Photo: Radforsk

Anders Tuv, Investment Director of Radforsk and Chairman of the Board of Directors for Vaccibody, has a solid track record of helping biotech companies develop in the oncology sphere. Tuv said:

“The deal with Genentech is a very significant endorsement of Vaccibody and a validation of the Vaccibody vaccine platform. Genentech, as one of the foremost leaders in leveraging the immune system to develop therapies for cancer, is the partner of choice to develop and commercialize individualized cancer vaccines. The deal will enable Vaccibody to accelerate and broaden the Company’s vaccine pipeline which we believe will unlock Vaccibody’s huge potential for patients and shareholders.

“This is a deal that generates substantial interest globally, and will put eyes on Norway as well.”

New strategy and focus

Vaccibody also presented a new strategy with expanded focus into research and development. The company wants to accelerate the development of existing drug candidates and detect new treatment options, based on the company’s technology.

The company’s technology platform will be extended to the discovery of other therapeutic areas and therapeutic methods, besides the present focus on cancer and infectious disease.

Promising cancer therapies

Vaccibody presently has two promising drug candidates. The first is a cancer vaccine against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is currently being tested in a phase II trial on cervical cancer, in collaboration with Roche.

The second is an innovative personalized cancer vaccine, which has just been licenced to Genentech, and is specially designed for each individual cancer patient, independent of their cancer type.

Sign up to our monthly newsletter