T-cells and the Nobel Price

What does the Nobel Prize have to do with cancer research in Oslo Cancer Cluster?

This year the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer. This was a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options.

A statement from the Nobel committee hailed the accomplishments of Allison and Honjo as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.”

This principle, the idea behind much of the immunotherapy we see developing today, is shared by several of our Oslo Cancer Cluster members, including Oslo University Hospital and the biotech start-up Zelluna.

– This year’s Nobel Price winners have contributed to giving new forms of immunotherapy treatments to patients, resulting in improved treatments to cancer types that previously had poor treatment alternatives, especially in combination with other cancer therapies, said doctor Else Marit Inderberg as a comment to the price.

She leads the immunomonitoring unit of the Department of Cellular Therapy at Oslo University Hospital. The unit is present in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator with a translational research lab.

Inderberg has been studying and working with T-cells since 1999, first within allergies and astma, before she was drawn to cancer research and new cancer therapies in 2001.

So, what is a T-cell?
T-cells have the capacity to kill cancer cells. These T-cells are a subtype of white blood cells and play a central role in cell-mediated immunity. They are deployed to fight infections and cancer, but malignant cells can elude them by taking advantage of a switch – a molecule – on the T-cell called an immune checkpoint. Cancer cells can lock onto those checkpoints, crippling the T-cells and preventing them from fighting the disease.

The drugs based on the work of Nobel Prize winners Allison and Honjo belong to a class called checkpoint inhibitors – the same immune checkpoint that we find on T-cells. Drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors can physically block the checkpoint, which frees the immune system to attack the cancer.

Group leaders Else Marit Inderberg and Sébastien Wälchli often work in one of the cell labs in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. Photo: Christopher Olssøn

 

– We work on other ways of activating the immune system, but in several clinical trials we combine cancer vaccines or other therapies with the immune-modulating antibody, the checkpoint inhibitors, which the Nobel Price winners developed, Inderberg explained.

Inderberg and her team of researchers in the translational research lab in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator use the results from the Nobel Price winners’ research in their own research in order to develop their own therapy and learn more about the mechanisms behind the immune cells’ attack on the cancer cells and the cancer cells’ defence against the immune system.

– This Nobel Prize is very inspiring for the entire field and it contributes to making this kind of research more visible, Else Marit Inderberg added.

– Our challenge now is to make new forms of cancer therapies available for a large number of patients and find ways to identify patient groups who can truly benefit from new therapies – and not patients who will not benefit. Immunotherapy also has some side effects, and it is important that we keep working on these aspects of the therapy as well.

From research to company
Most of the activity of the translational research lab in Oslo relies on the use of a database of patient samples called the biobank. This specific biobank represents an inestimable source of information about the patients’ response to immunological treatments over the years. Furthermore, the patient material can be reanalysed and therapeutic molecules isolated. This is the basis of the Oslo Cancer Cluster member start-up company Zelluna.

 

Want to know more about Zelluna and the research they are spun out of?

This is a story about their beginning.

Curious about new research from the Department of Cellular Therapy in Oslo?

More on their webpage.

Want to hear from the Nobel committee about why this research was awarded the price?

Listen to this podcast by ScienceTalk. 

Prestigious partnership for Vaccibody

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody is entering into a clinical collaboration with the American biopharmaceutical company Nektar Therapeutics.

The aim of the collaboration is to explore positive effects from the combination of Vaccibody’s personalized cancer vaccine VB10.NEO and Nektar Therapeutics cancer drug NKTR-214. Pre-clinical results of the combination are very positive and the collaboration will mark the start of a clinical trial stage.

The clinical trials will include patients with head and neck cancer and initially involve 10 patients.

What is Nektar?
Nektar Therapeutics is not just any company when it comes to immunotherapy. At Nasdaq their market value is set as high as 10 billion dollars.

– For a year now, Nektar might be the most talked about company within immunotherapy and this winter they landed the largest deal of its kind with Bristol Meyers-Squibb (BMS), says Agnete Fredriksen, President and Chief Scientific Officer, in an interview with Norwegian newspaper Finansavisen.

Help more patients
BMS and Nektar started collaborating on the development of the immunotherapy drug NKTR-214, the same drug that is part of the collaboration with Vaccibody, with a potential worth of 3.6 billion dollars.

– That they want to work with us is a nice validation of Vaccibody and makes us able to help even more cancer patients. We hope the combination of our products will lead to even better treatments, Agnete Fredriksen says to Finansavisen.

More about Vaccibody’s cancer vaccine

Nektar and Vaccibody each will maintain ownership of their own compounds in the clinical collaboration, and the two companies will jointly own clinical data that relate to the combination of their respective technologies. Under the terms of the agreement and following the completion of the pilot study, the two companies will evaluate if they will take the partnership to the next stage.

Norwegian life science on exhibition

The strong life science actors in Norway joined forces during the conference Nordic Life Science Days 2018.

Oslo Cancer Cluster aims to enhance the visibility of oncology innovation made in Norway by being a significant partner for international clusters, global biopharma companies and academic centres. We used the conference Nordic Life Science Days 2018 in Stockholm this September week to show the growing Norwegian life science environment.

The Norwegian stand
From 2015 onward, we have had a Norwegian stand promoting Norwegian healthcare and life science industry together with other life science actors in Norway. Our partners this year were Norway Health TechAleapUniversity of Oslo: Life ScienceThe Life Science ClusterInvent2NORINNansen Neuroscience NetworkLMI, Centre for Digital Life NorwayInnovation Norway and The Norwegian Research Council. Together we represent the essence of Norwegian Life Science.

 

The Norwegian delegation with Ambassador Christian Syse visited the stand in 2018. From the left: Jutta Heix, International Advisor at Oslo Cancer Cluster, Christian Syse, the Norwegian Ambassador to Sweden, Tina Norlander, Senior Advisor in Innovation Norway and Jeppe Bucher, Intern at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm.

 

A European meeting place
There are several important meeting places for life science actors in Europe, such as BIO-Europe, BIO-Europe Spring and Nordic Life Science Days at the top of the list. Oslo Cancer Cluster is the oncology partner at the Nordic Life Science Days.

Are you interested in what the big oncology session during the Nordic Life Science Days 2018 was all about? The topic was cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology.

This article gives you the highlights of the session.

More Nordic collaboration
As a region, the Nordic countries are of international importance in the field of cancer research and innovation, especially in precision medicine, and Oslo Cancer Cluster participates in advancing Nordic collaboration. Oslo Cancer Cluster also engages in more cancer specific European events. One example is the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy Meeting (CIMT), which is the largest European meeting in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Read more about our international work

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. 

PCI Biotech with new research collaboration

PCI Biotech is initiating a scientific collaboration with Bavarian Nordic to boost their cancer treatment technology.

Oslo Cancer Cluster member PCI Biotech has announced that it is initiating a preclinical research collaboration with Bavarian Nordic, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical corporation focused on developing state-of-the-art cancer immunotherapies and vaccines for infectious diseases.

The two collaborators will be exploring synergies between their two technologies to further enhance the effect of treatments of cancer and infectious diseases.

Exploring possibilities
In brief, the collaborators will evaluate technology compatibility and synergy based on in vivo studies. The companies will evaluate results achieved from this research collaboration and then explore the potential for a further partnership.

CEO of PCI Biotech Per Walday says this regarding this fresh collaboration:

— I’m very pleased to announce another research agreement with a key player within the field of immunotherapies, which is the second collaboration initiated this year. We believe that the PCI technology has the potential to play a role in the realization of several new therapeutic treatments, and we look forward to exploring synergies with Bavarian Nordic’s unique and innovative technologies

Fremtidens kreftbehandling i Arendal

Gikk du glipp av frokostmøtet vårt i Arendal? Her kan du få det med deg likevel!

Fremtidens kreftbehandling handler om helsedata, persontilpasset medisin, kreftvaksiner og ambisiøse forskere og pådrivere. 

Noen av disse pådriverne kunne du se og høre under vårt frokostmøte i Arendal 15. August 2018. Møteserien “Fremtidens kreftbehandling” er et samarbeid mellom Kreftforeningen, MSD (Norge)Legemiddelindustrien, AstraZeneca, Janssen og Oslo Cancer Cluster. 

 

 

De ambisiøse forskerne kommer fra MetAction, det eneste studiet gjennomført i Norge som bruker en bredspektret prøve av arvematerialet i kreftsvulsten for å avgjøre hva slags behandling hver pasient bør få. Det er virkelig persontilpasset behandling.

— Vi har behandlet pasienter med spredningssvulst. Vi har tatt en prøve og sekvensert DNA i kreftsvulsten. Vi har sett på alle genene som vi i dag vet at er viktig for kreftutvikling, sier Gunhild M. Mælandsmo, biolog ved Oslo Universitetssykehus.

Det er en komplisert infrastruktur i denne behandlingen, og mange eksperter er involvert, før onkologer kan komme fram til hva slag persontilpasset behandling pasienten skal få. MetAction har rett og slett bygget opp en infrastruktur for ekspertene der de kan bruke hverandres kompetanse for å gjøre et tilpasset behandlingsvalg.

Pasientene har hatt nytte av dette. 6 av 26 pasienter hadde effekt av behandlingen og 2 hadde langvarig effekt og er nå tilbake i jobb. Dette er pasienter som var i et stadium av kreft der de var helt uten andre alternativer.

Etter 26 pasienter tok pengene i forskningsprosjektet slutt.

Forskerne og kreftlegene vet fortsatt ikke om de får penger til å fortsette.

— Dette er teknologi som finnes i dag. Vi har vist at vi kan gjøre dette i dag på sykehuset. Helsepolitikerne må ta beslutningen om at dette skal bli tilgjengelig for vanlige kreftpasienter, presiserer kreftkirurg Kjersti Flatmark.

Du kan lese mer om Metaction og se dem in action under Cancer Crosslinks i januar 2018 i denne saken (på engelsk)

Du kan høre hva helsepolitikerne Sveinung Stensland fra Høyre og Ruth Grung fra Arbeiderpartiet har å si til dette i videoen over, i samtale med Karita Bekkemellem fra Legemiddelindustrien og Kirsten Haugland fra Kreftforeningen.

Der vil du også kunne lytte til Giske Ursin fra Kreftregisteret og Jonas Einarsson fra Radforsk i samtale om verdiene i norske helsedata og helseregistre, og norske firmaer som utvikler fremtidens kreftbehandling.

Meet Us at Arendalsuka

In mid-August Oslo Cancer Cluster travel to Arendal to put focus on cancer treatment and innovation.

Arendalsuka is a week of political discourse and interaction, and Oslo Cancer Cluster want to highlight several cancer related topics we find important. In total, we are hosting or co-hosting three different events!

On Wednesday August the 15th we are involved in two events. We start off early at Clarion Arendal by looking in to the glass bowl and predicting the future of cancer treatment. In the afternoon we discuss if digital technology can aid patients recovering from cancer treatment. Finally, on Thursday we ask: How can we promote the Norwegian Health Industry? What should we do and what should we avoid?

Browse our event in Norwegian.

Or better: Come and join us at Arendal!

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.