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

New Chairman at OCC

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen is appointed new chairman at Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC).

On a recent General Assembly, Oslo Cancer Cluster elected Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen as new chairman after a unanimous vote. He takes over after Henrik Lund who opted not to stand for re-election after four years in the position.

Øyvind is currently CEO at Ultimovacs, a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster with its own cancer vaccine technology. Read more about Ultimovacs here.

— We look forward to having Øyvind as our chairman. He is very knowledgeable and enthusiastically committed to oncology research and development. His medical background combined with biotech entrepreneurship and years in the pharmaceutical industry, will help elevate Oslo Cancer Cluster to the next level, says General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Ketil Widerberg.

Thank You Henrik
Oslo Cancer Cluster thanks Henrik Lund for his four years chairman and many years on the board. Oslo Cancer Cluster has during his years as chairman grown both at home and internationally. Widerberg thanked Henrik for his commitment to OCC during his tenure:

— Thank you for your commitment to Oslo Cancer Cluster all these years. During your time as chairman we have undergone important changes, and now have a solid foundation to build upon. The goal is to be the leading European center of cancer innovation.

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.

The Health Industry Is On the Rise

For the third year running, Menon Economics presented a report on “The Value of the Norwegian Health Industry”. The conclusion: Both the industry and exports are growing substantially. We see an increase in export income, research and innovation levels.

The report was launched at “Næringslivets Hus”, the home of NHO, and gathered a full house with people from the industry, public sector, press and the political sphere present.

Indications Verified: The health Industry is Growing
The report showed that export income is increasing and are estimated at 23.5 billion NOK, an estimate that is viewed as conservative. The report also finds an increase in private funds for research. In 2017, research and development funds originating from the private sector was in total 2.6 billion NOK.

In addition, the report notes an increase in start-up companies and innovation levels, but emphasizes a lack of available funds to realize projects in vulnerable phases.

The report’s main focus is the industry’s value contribution, which means contribution to BNP, jobs creation and tax income. However, in social economic terms, the report claims at present that as a benefit for society, the health industry is more important for the population and healthcare sector as a whole, rather than for economic growth alone.

Read the report. Download it here. (In Norwegian)

Can Help With White Paper
State Secretary Magnus Thue visited the launch of the report and talked about the upcoming White Paper on the Health Industry.

— Being healthy is a priced asset both for the individual and the society as a whole. This government prioritizes health and we want to create good working conditions for the industry.

And he added: – We will use this report as a backdrop when we are working on our White Paper.

We Have to Use Our Strengths
General Manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster Ketil Widerberg, is also happy for the report and that the health industry is on the rise.

— It means more and better treatment for people who need it!

However, he emphasized the importance of realizing that the health industry business is a global competition.

— This is an international competition and if we are to succeed, we have to succeed internationally! We need to use our strengths to position ourselves: That means putting our health data from our health registries to good use! This will prove beneficial both for industry and patient.

Behind the report is a consortium of contributors to the Norwegian Health Industry: NHO, Abelia, NHO Service, Oslo Cancer Cluster, Norwegian Smart Care Cluster, Inven2, The pharmaceutical Industry (LMI), Innovation Norway, The Norwegian Science Council, SIVA and Norway Health Tech.

Receives Prestigious Grant for a Second Time

Professor Harald Stenmark is granted the European Research Council’s (ERC) Advanced Grant for his cancer research. This is the second time he receives the grant; a privilege that has only befallen two other people, professor Edvard Moser (NTNU) and professor Kenneth Hugdahl (UiB).

Through the grant Stenmark’s research project “Coincidence detection of proteins and lipids in regulation of cellular membrane dynamics (CODE)” is supported with 2.5 million Euros over a 5-year period.

Cell Codes Give Cancer Insight
The research is intended to reveal “codes” our body use to trigger certain processes in our cells. This is especially important in cancer research because an error in these important codes may lead to uncontrollable cell division and cancer. If we can decipher the “codes” the cell utilizes, we could exploit this biotechnologically. Furthermore, one of the research objectives is to develop artificial codes that can be used in bio-sensors.

One of The Elite
Professor Stenmark is certainly a very busy researcher. Currently he is also starting his second Norwegian Center of Excellence (SFF) called “CanCell – Centre for Cancer Cell Reprogramming”. A center that will continue the research on cell coding and how it can be a tool in future cancer treatment.

The Research Council in a comment on the grant describes Stenmark as one of the elite.

By getting his second ERC-grant Stenmark is consolidating his position as an elite scientist who is producing breakthrough cancer research on a European and global scale, says Per Magnus Kommandantvold, national ERC contact at the Norwegian Science Council.

Bekjemper kreft med gentilpasset behandling

Gentilpasset behandling har siden begynnelsen av 2000-tallet blitt beskrevet som et av de nye, viktige våpnene som kan bekjempe kreft.

Hør forsker Hege G. Russnes og professor Anne Hansen Ree, her fra Cancer Crosllinks i januar i år, fortelle om deres forskningsprosjekt MetAction, og hvordan de tar i bruk gentilpasset behandling for å gi et behandlingstilbud til en pasientgruppe som har manglet det tidligere. Nå avsluttes prosjektet og du kan høre her hvorfor forskerne synes det er både feil og trist.

Forskningsprosjektet, som varte fra 2014 til 2017, ble ledet av Ree, kreftforsker og professor Gunhild Mari Mælandsmo, molekylærpatolog og lege Hege Russnes ved Oslo universitetssykehus, samt kreftkirurg og lege Kjersti Flatmark.

I forrige uke fikk de også forsiden på VG. Og det med god grunn: Ved bruk av genterapi og tverrfaglig kompetanse gir de hjelp til nye pasientergrupper og løfter norsk kompetanse innen gentilpasset behandling.

Les saken i VG her.

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.

Vessela Kristensen Receives Cancer Research Award

Professor Vessela Kristensen is awarded King Olav V’s Prize for Cancer Research for her breast cancer research.

A Prestigious Award
The prize is one million NOK and will be presented to Kristensen by his Majesty King Harald V on behalf of the Norwegian Cancer Society, April the 16th.

Kristensen is a Professor at the University of Oslo, and associated to the Department of Clinical Molecular Biology at Ahus and Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital.

– This is overwhelming! A Warm thanks to the Norwegian Cancer Society and all the many researchers that I have teamed up with and that have made my projects possible to complete, Kristensen says in a comment to the Norwegian Cancer Society.

King Olav V’s Prize for Cancer Research is regarded as the most prestigious award within cancer research in Norway, and is awarded by the Norwegian Cancer Society to researchers that have excelled in their field of research for a substantial period.

The Genetics of Breast Cancer
Kristensen receives the award for her research on how genetic variations in breast and ovarian cancer influences the two diseases. The goal of her research group is to identify biomarkers that can lead to early patient diagnostics, as well as better patient care and prognosis. With the help of advanced analytic models dealing with lots of data, she wants to tailor effective treatments to each breast cancer patient.

The Cancer Society emphasizes innovation as a main characteristic of Kristensen’s research and underlines her substantial reputation in both national and international scientific communities.

– This year’s winner represents proven research! That is why she has received research funds from the Norwegian Cancer Society previously. Now we give her this prize to stimulate further innovative research, says General Secretary of the Norwegian Cancer Society, Anne Lise Ryel in a press release.

Kommentar: Jeg deler, altså arbeider jeg

Kommentaren stod på trykk i Finansavisen 26.02.2018 og er skrevet av Ketil Widerberg, leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster og Nard Schreurs, direktør e-helse i IKT-Norge.

Vi må snakke om hvordan vi skal forvalte våre helsedata før det er for sent.

På jobb får vi betalt for det vi deler og gir av tid, kreativitet eller kompetanse. Hva med alle data vi deler?

Da internettet og senere smarttelefonene kom, valgte de fleste å gi sine data gratis til tjenestetilbyderne i bytte mot nye tjenester. Google vet hva vi søker på. Selskapets søkealgoritmer er enestående og hjelper oss å finne frem i den uoverkommelige informasjonsjungelen. Google får mye data om oss, og det tjener de gode penger på. Det samme gjør Facebook, banker og butikker. De tjener gode penger på data som vi gir fra oss gratis.

Så langt har det vært forbrukerdata som vi selv velger å gi bort. Nå står vi foran en ny bølge digitalisering der helsedata slippes fri. Apper måler vårt blodtrykk og våre bevegelser. I Storbritannia har myndighetene frigitt tilgang til genetiske data fra en halv million mennesker. Formålet er å utvikle bedre tjenester og skaffe forskning som kan gi oss alle bedre helse.

Er “forbrukermodellen” der vi gir dataene gratis fra oss den beste måten å håndtere dette? Eller finnes det måter vi som innbyggere og som samfunn kan oppnå høyere verdiskaping og bedre helse?

Enkelt sagt er det tre modeller som utpeker seg. La oss presentere dem kort, uten å gå nærmere inn på viktige dimensjoner som personvern og samtykke.

Første modell er fri bruk av data, som i forbrukermodellen. Helsedata frigjøres for alle som ønsker å drive innovasjon, uansett hvor de kommer fra, og i utgangspunktet også uansett hvilket mål de måtte ha. Litt som vi har gjort med kart, GPS, eller værdata. Fordelen med denne modellen er innovasjon som bidrar til et bedre samfunn og økonomisk virksomhet. Vi gir fra oss data for å få bedre tjenester. Ulempen er at det ikke er gitt at verdiskapningen skjer i Norge eller at verdien tilfaller de som gir fra seg data.

Andre modell er å låse inn dataene og be om en gjenytelse for å få bruke dem. Det kan være penger, lisens eller krav at dataene er knyttet til norske virksomheter. Fordelen er at globale teknologi- og pharmaselskaper skal dele verdien våre helsedata representerer. Ulempen er at selv om det ikke er feil at man skal dele verdien, vil modellen i praksis sannsynligvis ikke fungere. Det er få eksempler der innelåste data økonomisk kan konkurrere med frie data.

I den tredje modellen fungerer data som arbeid. Fordelene ved en slik modell er mange. Når vi bruker vår tid, kreativitet eller kompetanse får vi betalt for det. Hvorfor skulle vi ikke få betalt når vi generer data? I et heldigitalisert samfunn, der dataene om oss og fra oss er sentrale verdier, er det unaturlig at de brukes uten at vi får en økonomisk ytelse for det. Som eksempel er det mulig å tenke at på en blockchain-basert plattform knyttes helsedata opp mot individuelle kontoer. Hver gang dataene brukes får vi en (mikro)betaling. Slik får både vi som individer og dermed også det norske samfunnet betalt for det.

Vi ser at det er en del ulemper med siste modellen også, og vi tror ikke at det er det endelige svaret. Det vil derimot være fornuftig å ta en bredere samfunnsdebatt om hvordan vi skal forvalte våre helsedata, hvem som skal eie dem, og hvordan de skal bidra til verdiskapning, før det er for sent.