The students of entrepreneurship at Ullern Upper Secondary School listened to Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, former CEO of Ultimovacs, give advice about fundraising. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Fundraising on the school curriculum

This article was first published in Norwegian on our School Collaboration website.

To set up a company, you need financing. In February, fundraising was a topic on the schedule for the students of entrepreneurship at Ullern Upper Secondary School. The lecturer was Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen who – as former CEO for Ultimovacs – has been through several fundraising rounds.

“Today, I will share my experiences with you and you can interrupt or ask questions as much as you like,” Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen began his lecture.

Kongstun Arnesen has 10 years of experience as CEO for Ultimovacs, a company that develops a universal cancer vaccine and has been through many rounds of raising funds.

Kongstun Arnesen shared his experiences with the students about what things companies need to organise before actively seeking financing.

“It is very important to have solid patents, which is the basis for any pharmaceutical or biotech company,” said Kongstun Arnesen.

He also stressed the importance of creating good investor presentations based on what kind of information the potential investors need.

Then, the former CEO explained the different stages of fundraising that the company had been through.

Kongstun Arnesen talks to the students of entrepreneurship at Ullern Upper Secondary School.

Kongstun Arnesen talks to the students of entrepreneurship at Ullern Upper Secondary School. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

From flying start to stock market

“In the beginning, we were lucky, because one of Norway’s wealthiest men, Bjørn Rune Gjelsten, invested in the company and was also involved in the management. The reason for this was that his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he wished to contribute to something more than a donation to the Radium Hospital,” said Kongstun Arnesen.

Kongstun Arnesen continued to explain that having Gjelsten on the team was important for the next time the company needed to raise funds.

“Gjelsten contacted his network and we got large owners onboard, such as Canica led by Stein-Erik Hagen and others. It went surprisingly well,” said Kongstun Arnesen.

Then the company needed to go on the financial market to raise funds. The financial market consists of companies that are set up to earn money from investments. The only thing they have in common is that the companies are different and invest in differing ways.

“It is about collecting so called venture capital and going to ‘family offices’. In other words, family-owned businesses that invest funds in order to manage families’ fortunes in the best way,” said Kongstun Arnesen.

During the next round, Ultimovacs was set to raise NOK 130 million.

“That is when you need to reach the big and heavy players, for example different types of retirement funds, banks and other types of investment funds,” said Kongstun Arnesen.

Finally, was the biggest ask. The company wanted to raise NOK 450 million.

“To raise such a big sum, you need to be listed on the stock market. Everyone can invest on the stock market and it demands a lot of a company to get listed and raise money. We still managed it. At that milestone, we had the funds we needed to show that the vaccine worked. That is when it was time for me to step down as CEO,” said Kongstun Arnesen.

 

Solveig and Benjamin from the Dept. of Cell Therapy, Oslo University Hospital, were trained by Erik Brodin from Matriks AS to use the Seahorse instrument, which will help cancer researchers make new discoveries in the cell therapy field.

Unravelling the mysteries of cancer cells

A new instrument in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator will help researchers to learn how cells function so novel cancer treatments can be developed.

The instrument Seahorse was recently donated by Radiumhospitalets Legater to Oslo University Hospital’s Department for Cell Therapy and will be available for all researchers in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

“The Department of Cell Therapy is in the international forefront in their field of research. Radiumhospitalets Legater is proud to support their endeavor with this important instrument,” says Jan Vincents Johannessen, Head of Radiumhospitalets Legater.

The instrument can make important measurements inside cells to understand the mechanisms of many diseases, including cancer. The data is collected from live cells in real-time, which will give researchers novel insights into cell metabolism.

“A Seahorse instrument measures the metabolism of cells, their respiration and energy production in real time and at high throughput,” said Dr. Else Marit Inderberg, senior scientist at the Department of Cell Therapy, Oslo University Hospital.

Metabolic reprogramming is emerging as a critical target in therapeutic intervention, for example in the development of new cancer treatments, which is why this instrument is so important for academics and companies in the cancer field.

“Metabolism plays a central part in the evolution of cancer cells and also in the efficacy of immune cells that infiltrates tumour cells. A tool that permits measuring the different metabolism modalities of both cancer cells and immune cells is an invaluable asset in the development of new therapeutic approaches,” Dr. Inderberg continued. “We will use the instrument to both assess the cancer cells as target cells and to optimize our immune cells used in therapy. This may help to provide clues about why some patients in clinical trials respond to different types of treatments and some do not.”

The instrument is placed in one of the laboratories in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, where both academic researchers and researchers from private companies can access it as they develop new cancer treatments. Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, by laboratory manager Janne Nestvold, made the physical space available and facilitated the procurement of the instrument, including user training.

“The Seahorse instrument will be a useful cell analysis tool in the laboratory instrument portfolio to support researchers in the development of next generation cancer therapies,” commented Nestvold.

The Seahorse is not the type of instrument you would find in just any laboratory.

“There are only around ten instruments of this kind in Norway,” said Erik Brodin from Matriks AS, a company that offers solutions, instruments and support to laboratories across Norway. “Each is worth approximately NOK 2 million.”

Brodin has given training and instructions to a couple of the researchers in the Incubator. These two researchers will pass on their knowledge to the rest of the team.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator are currently in the process of expanding the cell laboratories due to high demand for these kinds of facilities. Meeting rooms are now being converted into laboratories to meet the growing need from tenants.

LEGEN OG PASIENTEN: Fra venstre møteleder Siri Lill Mannes, kreftpasient Kjetil og lege Andreas Stensvold.

Evaluerer Nye metoder: – Tar arbeidet på største alvor

LEGEN OG PASIENTEN: Fra venstre møteleder Siri Lill Mannes, kreftpasient Kjetil og lege Andreas Stensvold.

– Evalueringen av Nye metoder er viktig for så mange, og det handler om liv og helse. Så vi går til dette arbeidet med stort alvor, sier Jens Plathe, prosjektleder i Proba samfunnsanalyse.

Jens Plahte, Proba Samfunnsanalyse

Jens Plahte, Proba Samfunnsanalyse

– Vi må velge ut noen enkeltsaker som dels kan belyse når systemet fungerer etter hensikten, og saker som kan belyse hvordan systemet fungerer når det settes under stress. Vi har fått mange innspill fra referansegruppen, og fortsetter å samle inn data frem til sommeren. Innen utgangen av oktober skal vi levere sluttrapporten, sa Plathe.

Han var invitert til å fortelle om prosjektet på årets første møte i møteserien Fremtidens kreftbehandling, der temaet var nettopp evalueringen av Nye metoder. Møteserien er i flere år blitt arrangert av Kreftforeningen, Oslo Cancer Cluster og LMI, i samarbeid med Janssen, MSD og AstraZeneca.

Her kan du se hele møtet

Kreftpasient Kjetil betalte gentesten selv

Evalueringen av systemet, som så mange er enige om at må forbedres, har vakt stor interesse, og det digitale møtet samlet rundt 370 deltakere rundt i hele landet. Vi fikk også høre historien til Kjetil, som har prostatakreft, og hvordan han sammen med legen sin, Andreas Stensvold, har funnet stadig nye måter å teste ut nye medisiner på – også delvis på tross av systemet – slik at han fortsatt er i live i dag. Historien hans sier noe om hvordan systemet, slik det er rigget i dag, har fått konsekvenser for pasientene og deres – til tider – kronglete vei til riktig behandling.

– Jeg har kjent Kjetil i mange år, og han har gjennomgått alt av standardbehandling, både cellegift og godkjente medisiner. Men disse virket veldig dårlig.  Det var tydelig at Kjetil ikke var en standardpasient, så vi måtte tenke på en annen måte, og gjøre flere undersøkelser – blant annet genanalyser. Men han disse måtte han betale for selv, forteller Stensvold.

Blant annet ville de finne ut om Kjetil hadde en genprofil som tilsa at han trengte en medisin som var beregnet på brystkreft, ikke prostatakreft. For Kjetil var det ikke vanskelig å ta valget om å betale for gentesten selv.

– Det var ikke noe annet alternativ enn å finne de pengene. Det begynte å se mørkt ut, så det var min eneste mulighet, sier han.

Da resultatene fra gentesten kom fra USA, satte Kjetil seg i bilen og kjørte hjem til legen sin for å levere resultatene.

– Vi endte med en off label-behandling, det vil si at Kjetil fikk en medisin som er godkjent i Norge, men til en annen kreftform. Og dette var ikke en avgjørelse jeg tok alene, den ble tatt etter en grundig juridisk og etisk vurdering. Det var også et kostnadsaspekt her, for hvis vi hadde sagt nei til off label-behandlingen måtte Kjetil ha betalt medisinen av egen lomme, sier Stensvold.

Behandlingen, som er en kombinasjonsbehandling med to immunterapier, startet de med i oktover 2020, og i løpet av få uker merket Kjetil at klumpene ved kragebeinet var borte. I desember var PSA-verdiene så lave at de ikke var målbare. Kreftlege Stensvold er rørt.

– Jeg har utsatt Kjetil for bivirkninger og nerveskader med de tidligere behandlingene. Men ingenting er likevel hyggeligere enn å se at nå har kreftsvulstene forsvunnet. Det er første gang siden 2014 at vi ikke ser noen metastaser hos ham, nesten alle kreftsvulster har forsvunnet. Det er veldig gøy, og man blir litt rørt selv, sier legen.

Men han etterlyser et bedre system, med mulighet for genanalyser og persontilpasset behandling. Noe er allerede på vei, men det er på overtid.

– Vi tilbyr behandlinger som ikke har effekt, fordi ny behandling er for dyr eller av andre grunner får nei i Nye metoder. Jeg syns danskene har et godt system der fagpersoner er dypt involvert, og der er det åpenhet og transparens om beslutningene, sier Stensvold.

Evalueringen skal besvare to hovedspørsmål

Prioriteringssystemet Nye metoder ble etablert i 2013, og har hatt noen «startproblemer» som etter 7 år ikke lenger kan kalles startproblemer. Myndighetene har derfor bestemt at systemet skal evalueres, og Helse og omsorgsdepartementet ga Proba evalueringsoppdraget. Proba har knyttet til seg Institutet för Hälso- och Sjukvårdsekonomi (IHE) i Lund i Sverige, samt flere uavhengige forskere: professor Kristin Bakke Lysdahl ved Universitetet i Sørøst-Norge, professor emeritus Ivar Sønbø Kristiansen og professor emeritus Aslak Syse. Professor Olav Helge ved Universitetet i Tromsø og førsteamanuensis Anne Kjersti Befring fra Universitetet i Oslo er eksterne kvalitetssikrere. I tillegg har Proba opprettet en rådgivende referansegruppe med 14 medlemmer som representerer pasientene, industrien, sykehusene, myndighetene og andre aktører.

Sluttrapporten Proba skal levere, skal besvare to hovedspørsmål.

Er dagens organisering og saksbehandlings¬proses¬ser i sys¬temet hensiktsmessig utformet og egnet til å oppnå de fastsatte målene?

Og er sys¬temet rustet til å møte fremtidens medisinsk-teknologiske utvikling, herunder utvikling av persontilpas¬set medisin?

Stor enighet om utfordringene

Hva er utfordringene med Nye metoder? Det er stor enighet om at tiden det tar, mangelen på åpenhet og hvordan usikre data i studier med presisjonsmedisin skal håndteres, er blant de viktigste. Også behovet for alternative prisløsninger går igjen i ønskene. Nederst i saken kan du se videoer der alle møtearrangørene fremhever de tre viktigste sakene de mener evalueringen av Nye metoder bør ta for seg.

Revolusjonen de siste årene, med immunterapier, målrettede behandlinger og genterapier, gjør at behandlingsmulighetene overstiger tilgjengelige ressurser, og særlig innen kreftbehandling. Flere av de nye kreftbehandlingene er så lovende at enkelte kreftformer går fra å være dødelige til å kunne leves godt med, og kanskje til og med bli kurert. Men hvordan skal helsetjenesten, som betalere, og legemiddelindustrien, som leverandører, bli enige om verdien av disse behandlingene når usikkerheten om effektene er så store? Hvordan kan de ulike aktørene bidra til at systemet blir mer rigget for fremtidens kreftbehandling?

Tid og nye dokumentasjonspakker

For Legemiddelverket, som gjør metodevurderingene som ligger til grunn for beslutningene i Nye metoder, gjør de nye avanserte terapiene hverdagen mer utfordrende. Enhetsleder Einar Andreassen sier at deres oppgave er å følge det som står i Prioriteringsmeldingen.

– Vi må vurdere hvilken nytte behandlingen har for pasienten, hvor alvorlig sykdommen er og hvor mye behandlingen koster eller hvor mye vi sparer. Dette vurdere vi hver for seg, og Beslutningsforum veier disse opp mot hverandre. Mest krevende nå er at vi får en dokumentasjonspakke fra firmaene, som viser effektdokumentasjonen, og den opplever vi blir mer sparsom med de nye teknologiene. Det kan det være fornuftige grunner til, andre ganger er det vanskelig å si hvorfor disse er vanskelige å vurdere for oss, sier han.

Færre pasienter i studiene kan være én grunn, men også etiske årsaker, sier han.

– Det vi også opplever er at disse studiene får midlertidig godkjenning i EMA. De godkjenner medisinene på bakgrunn av studier som er gjort på tidligere fase enn før, de fungerer godt i forhold til bivirkningene. Da vil den dokumentasjonen sendes videre til oss, som skal gjøre metodevurdering, og det er da utfordringene kommer. Ikke fordi kvaliteten er dårlig, men fordi den ikke sier like mye som vi er vant til fra før, sier Andreassen.

Han bekrefter at tid er en utfordring.

– Vi bruker de 180 dagene vi har på oss, og vel så det, og det jobber vi for å få ned. Men det handler om vår ressurskapasitet. Det handler også om tiden det tar for industrien å sende inn sin dokumentasjon.

Han sier at Legemiddelverket bør bli bedre til å velge ut hvilke saker de skal bruke tid på, slik at de kan behandle disse enklere og raskere. Her kan europeisk samarbeid, og nordisk samarbeid, gjøre at man kan dele på arbeidsbyrden og ikke gjøre unødvendig dobbeltarbeid.

Styrke testkapasiteten og finne nye betalingsløsninger

Jan Frich, viseadministrerende direktør i Helse Sør-Øst, mener en styrking av kapasiteten innen diagnostikk blir viktig fremover, med tanke på persontilpasset medisin. Han påpekte at det jobbes med å ruste opp dette i sykehusene nå. Han sier at det i mangelen på dokumentasjon i ny behandling blir en glidende grense mellom etablert behandling og utprøvende behandling, og viste i likhet med Karita Bekkemellem (i videoen) til IMPRESS-studien.

– Jeg hørte legemiddelindustrien nevne IMPRESS, som er en stor plattform for å prøve ut utprøvende behandling og samle dokumentasjon. Det er positivt å høre at industrien er med på dette, og vil bidra. Det har vi ønsket oss, at vi kan stå sammen for å bli bedre, sa Frich.

Også Frich mener industrien må levere dokumentasjon raskere.

– Jeg er enig i at vi skal prøve alt vi kan for å få saksbehandlingstiden ned, men noen ganger er det vårt system som er årsaken, men en god del ganger er det også industrien som ikke sender dokumentasjon. Så vi venter og venter på dokumentasjon, som kanskje ikke finnes. I noen av disse studiene er det kanskje 10-15 pasienter, sier Frich.

På spørsmål fra ordstyrer Siri Lill Mannes svarte han også på behovet for nye pris- og betalingsløsninger.

– Ja vi må lage forutsigbare finansieringsløsninger, slik at industrien blir mer på en løsning. Der må vi lage en ny modell for finansiering. Det blir en viktig nyskaping.

Politisk enighet

Tuva Moflag fra Arbeiderpartiet og Marianne Synnes fra Høyre var enige om det meste da de diskuterte temaene i en paneldebatt mot slutten av møtet. Blant annet er de helt enige om at de må se på det jurist Marianne Hammer tok opp, nemlig at pasienter i praksis har fått redusert sin rett til individuell vurdering fordi lovverket er så vanskelig å forstå.

– Vi må vurdere å endre lovteksten på det som går på pasientrettigheter. Dette er interessant for oss å se videre på, vi som tross alt er lovgivere, sa Moflag.

Hun mener evalueringen av Nye metoder og Beslutningsforum kommer sent, men godt.

– I fjor ble Beslutningsforum lovfesta. Vi ønsket at Beslutningsforum skulle evalueres før det ble lovfestet. De legger blant annet i for stor grad vekt på gruppetenkning. Hvis en kvinne på 30 år får en kreftform som vanligvis rammer menn over 75, blir den i systemet ikke funnet kostnadseffektiv. Og vi får stadig flere tilbakemeldinger om det med pris, at den delen vektes for tungt. Det gjelder ikke bare kreftpasienter. Innen MS er standardbehandlingen en gammel kreftmedisin. Det er helt fint hvis det fungerer, men problemet er at vi ikke vil betale for ny medisin til de som ikke har nytte av den gamle medisinen. Da har det gått for langt. Det handler om samspillet mellom pris og individuell vurdering, og det handler om at vi gjør prioriteringer ut fra hvordan dette påvirker sykehusbudsjettene. Hun som ikke får MS-behandlingen må nå få hjemmetjeneste og kan ikke lenger jobbe, sier Moflag, som mener dette bør tas med i det store regnestykket.

Marianne Synnes i Høyre er enig.

– Med evalueringen av Nye metoder kan vi se på nye ting som gjør at vi får til et bedre system likevel. Off label-behandling, at ikke alle vurderinger gjøres på gruppenivå,  og at vi skal implementere persontilpassa medisin. Det kommer til å bli krevende, men det må vi politikere også ta innover oss. Og så syns jeg det var et godt forslag fra Tuva om å se hele samfunnsregnskapet når man tar disse avgjørelsene.

Hege Edvardsen, seniorrådgiver i LMI, er fornøyd med møtet og alle innspillene som kom.

– Både vi i industrien og det offentlige må ta ansvar for å samarbeide bedre, og komme opp med gode løsninger som gjør at pasientene får raskere og bedre tilgang til de innovative medisinene som utvikles av industrien. En innovasjon som ikke tas i bruk er av liten verdi både for pasientene, samfunnet og for industrien, vi må derfor sammen finne løsninger som ivaretar både et bærekraftig helsevesen og næringsinteressene til en av de næringene Norge skal bygge sin fremtid på. Tilgang handler om mer enn bare pris, og industrien ønsker å være en samarbeidspartner både innen kliniske studier, pasienters tilgang til compassionate use og ved innføring av legemidler i standard pasientbehandling, sier Edvardsen.

 

 

Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder, Oslo Cancer Cluster. Foto: Stig Jarnes/Oslo Cancer Cluster

Mer presis behandling kan redde liv

Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster

Originally published in Dagbladet on 4 February 2021.

Verdens kreftdag markeres 4. februar hvert år for å styrke den globale innsatsen mot kreft. Vi har kommet langt – både i forebygging, tidlig behandling og bedre livskvalitet for mange pasienter. Vi er imidlertid langt ifra ferdige …

Vi har sett store fremskritt de siste 20 årene. Forskning innen immunologi har ledet til utviklingen av nye terapier som gjør at vi kan behandle pasienter mer effektivt, gir færre bivirkninger så de kan leve bedre og lengre liv. I dag kan behandlingen og kombinasjoner av behandlinger i økende grad målrettes til den enkelte pasienten og den spesifikke krefttypen, noe som kalles persontilpasset medisin eller presisjonsmedisin.

Norge har verdensledende miljøer som har bidratt i utviklingen av disse behandlingene som forlenger og redder liv. Dette har skapt fremgangsrike bedrifter, gitt oss arbeidsplasser og tiltrukket internasjonale investeringer til en helsenæring i vekst.

Legemiddelindustrien spiller en viktig rolle for å utvikle nye medisiner. Kliniker jobber hardt for å tilby beste behandling til sine pasienter. Ledere i helseforetakene kjemper med å prioritere kost og nytte for å godkjenne nye medikamenter fortest mulig.

I dag står vi overfor en stor utfordring.

Vi lever lengre. Vi har en voksende eldre befolkning. De nye kreftbehandlingene er dyrere og setter økt press på velferdsstaten Norge. For å lykkes i å gi god behandling til alle kreftpasienter må alle samarbeide. Politikerne må gi klar beskjed om hvordan pengesekken skal brukes. Helseforetak må snakke sammen med industrien for å finne nye måter å dokumentere og godkjenne medisiner raskere. Kliniker og pasienter må bli hørt gjennom hele prosessen.

CONNECT er et nytt offentlig-privat samarbeid som samler alle universitetssykehusene i Norge, ledende legemiddelselskaper, Kreftforeningen og offentlige instanser rundt et bord. Til sammen skal de diskutere problemstillinger og hindringer, samt pilotere nye løsninger for å ta i bruk presisjonsmedisin raskere. Oslo Cancer Cluster har en koordinerende rolle for å sikre en bred, balansert og informert tilnærming og debatt. Målet er at vi gjennom initiativet får fart på innføring av presisjonsmedisin.

Koronakrisen har vist oss att om vi jobber sammen er det mulig å utvikle vaksiner på mindre enn et år. Nå må vi gjøre det samme med kreft.

Vårt mål er at nye kreftbehandlinger i samarbeid skal utvikles på 5 istedenfor 10 år.

 

Ketil Widerberg

Daglig leder, Oslo Cancer Cluster

The team behind Hemispherian: (from left to right) Josipa Matić, Adam Robertson, Terezia Prikrylova, Zeno Albisser. Photo: Hemispherian

Hemispherian reaches new milestone

Our member Hemispherian closed its first funding round and appointed Masha Strømme as Chair of the Board last week.

The Norwegian pre-clinical pharmaceutical company Hemispherian closed a successful seed financing round last week.

The recently acquired funds will go to financing the company’s activities over the next year, develop its pre-clinical pipeline and take its lead product into clinical development.

The seed financing round was led by PAACS Invest and Investinor who partnered with American and British investors.

Dr Masha Strømme from PAACS Invest has also been appointed to chair the Board of Directors.

“Hemispherian’s compelling pre-clinical data sets the stage for the first epigenetic therapeutic to target the activation of the TET2 enzyme resulting in increased 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) and selective cancer cell death. We look forward to contributing to building Hemispherian and moving its promising pipeline towards the clinic,” commented Dr Masha Strømme, Chair of the Board, Hemispherian.

Hemispherian is a start-up company working on the development of a new class of cancer therapeutics, which are targeted towards some of the most aggressive kinds of cancer. One of the cancer types the company is investigating a treatment for is glioblastoma multiforme, a form of brain cancer.

Hemispherian has been a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster since 2020.

For more information, please visit https://www.hemispherian.com

Ingvild Hagen, Area Owner of Personalized Healthcare at Roche Norway, hopes this will motivate other companies to join the effort of bringing precision medicine to cancer patients. Photo: Roche

First pharma company joins IMPRESS-Norway

Roche is the first pharmaceutical company included in the national clinical study in cancer precision medicine called IMPRESS-Norway.

IMPRESS-Norway is a national clinical trial in precision oncology. Approved drugs will be used to treat new cancer indications (“off label”) based on the molecular profile of the patient’s tumour. The success of IMPRESS-Norway is dependent on molecularly targeted drugs contributed by pharmaceutical companies. Roche is the first company to officially join IMPRESS-Norway. The company will contribute eight different medicines and provide a diagnostic gene test through its subsidiary Foundation Medicine.

“Positive and important news that Roche wishes to contribute their resources. Now, this will be a joint investment in both diagnostics and treatment, so that precision medicine for advanced cancer disease can be offered at all hospitals in Norway. We are very happy that Roche wishes to participate in this initiative,” commented Egil Støre Blix, oncologist at the Cancer Department at the University Hospital of North Norway and member of the Trial Management Committee at IMPRESS-Norway.

IMPRESS-Norway is in dialogue with several other pharmaceutical companies about contributing cancer medicines. These companies have also joined CONNECT, the newly established public-private partnership initiated to accelerate the implementation of precision medicine for cancer patients in Norway (see the fact box below for a complete list of CONNECT Founding Partners).

“The CONNECT partnership and IMPRESS-Norway are important milestones in the implementation of personalised medicine and will drive the development of a more personalised health service,” commented Ingvild Hagen, Area Owner for Personalized Healthcare in Roche. “We hope that in signing the IMPRESS agreement, we are motivating other companies to do the same. To realise the potential of this project, we are dependent on as many partners as possible. We are definitely stronger together!”

Oslo Cancer Cluster has played an active role in setting up the initiatives IMPRESS-Norway, CONNECT, InPreD and INSIGHT, to gather the Norwegian oncology community with the common goal of getting cancer precision medicine faster to Norwegian patients.

Ketil Widerberg, General Manager at Oslo Cancer Cluster. Photo: Stig Jarnes/Oslo Cancer Cluster

“Cancer is a genetic disease. However, we often treat according to where in the body the cancer is discovered and not based on the genetic profile. This changes now when technology and medicine are merging in precision medicine. Roche is one of the companies that has come furthest in this development. Their involvement in IMPRESS and CONNECT is highly appreciated. This is an important milestone, and we look forward to more companies following their example,” commented Ketil Widerberg, General Manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Precision medicine is about providing the right treatment for the right patient at the right time. There are many cancer therapies today that can be targeted towards specific molecular changes in the cancer cells. Patient access to molecular diagnostics is one of the prerequisites for the successful implementation of precision medicine.

Randi Hovland, Head of Section for Clinical Genetics at Haukeland University Hospital and member of Trial Management Committee in IMPRESS-Norway. Photo: Mathilde Oseberg

“The establishment of broad genetic testing is essential to offer patients our treatments in clinical studies and IMPRESS drives the implementation of this in Norway. For patients whose tumour tissue isn’t available, the contribution from Roche through Foundation Medicine is of great importance to examine whether blood can replace tissue when identifying relevant biomarkers,” commented Randi Hovland, Head of Section for Clinical Genetics at Haukeland University Hospital and member of Trial Management Committee in IMPRESS-Norway.

IMPRESS is based on the DRUP (Drug Rediscovery Protocol) trial in the Netherlands, a precision medicine trial evaluating the effects of a broad portfolio of precision treatments based on the molecular profile of the patient’s tumour. The benefits of this study were highlighted by Emile Voest, Medical Director of The Netherlands Cancer Institute, at the recent Cancer Crosslinks. The  learnings from IMPRESS and related trials will be discussed in CONNECT and are important to develop novel implementation models for cancer precision medicine.

Read more about CONNECT, InPred and INSIGHT here: Landmark public-private agreement for precision cancer medicine

 

CONNECT Founding Partners:

  • Akershus universitetssykehus HF
  • Helse Bergen HF
  • Helse Stavanger HF
  • Olavs hospital HF
  • Universitetssykehuset Nord-Norge HF
  • Oslo Universitetssykehus med Kreftregisteret og OUH Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Folkehelseinstituttet
  • Oslo Cancer Cluster SA
  • Kreftforeningen
  • Legemiddelindustrien
  • Roche Norge AS
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb Norway Ltd NUF
  • Novartis Norge AS
  • Merck AB NUF
  • Takeda AS
  • Amgen AB Norge NUF
  • AstraZeneca AS
  • AbbVie AS
  • Bayer AS
  • PubGene AS
  • Pfizer Norge AS
  • NEC Corporation

 

Please get in touch with Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs at Oslo Cancer Cluster, to learn more about our initiatives in precision medicine and how to join CONNECT.

Eivind Lysheim at Ullern Upper Secondary School during the summer 2020 when he returned to complete a summer job with Kongsberg Beam Technology. Photo: Sofia Lindén / Oslo Cancer Cluster.

From pupil to full-time employee

Eivind Lysheim

This article was first published in Norwegian on our school collaboration website. Read it here.

Through the collaboration between Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School, former Ullern-student Eivind Lysheim has found his way in life – both academically and professionally. “I am very thankful for this,” said Eivind.

“I want to thank you for helping me find a summer job with Kongsberg Beam Technology (KBT). I appreciate that you took the time to help, despite problems caused by the pandemic.

“I worked for KBT last summer and felt right at home. I have since then worked a few hours every week with the company, next to my studies. A couple of days ago, I signed a permanent contract with KBT and I will begin to work in the company’s prospective office at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator from the summer 2021.”

This is the e-mail that Eivind Lysheim sent to Bente Prestegård in Oslo Cancer Cluster at the end of November 2020.

A guiding placement

Eivind Lysheim has half a year left of his degree at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology (NTNU), where he is working intensely to finalise his master’s in Medical Physics.

Eivind chose this degree after participating in a one-week placement at the Department for Medical Physics at the Radium Hospital in March 2016. The placement is an annual option for students at Ullern Upper Secondary School, as a part of the opportunities the students receive through the collaboration between Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School.

Eivind attended Ullern between 2013 and 2016 and specialised in different science subjects.

“I did not know exactly what do to after graduation. I liked science but didn’t know what I could do with it. When I participated in the placement, everything fell into place and I changed my first choice from Economics to Medical Physics at NTNU,” said Eivind.

Eivind said that choosing his degree was a direct consequence of the placement.

The physicist Taran Hellebust Paulsen explains to Kristian Novsett Borgen, Aurora Opheim Sauar, Edvard Dybevold Hesle, Alexander Lu, Trym Overrein Lunde and Tuva Askman Nærby about the use of radiation in cancer therapy. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

The physicist Taran Hellebust Paulsen explains to Kristian Novsett Borgen, Aurora Opheim Sauar, Edvard Dybevold Hesle, Alexander Lu, Trym Overrein Lunde and Tuva Askman Nærby about the use of radiation in cancer therapy. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

“It was an incredibly exciting placement and I was very fascinated by the researchers and clinicians that use radiation to treat cancer, even though radiation is deadly. This duality awakened something in me,” said Eivind.

He also found the people responsible for the placement genuinely enthusiastic about teaching their subjects to him and his co-students. They took time out of their busy schedules and were excellent communicators.

Summer job in a relevant company

Half a year after the placement, Eivind was in Trondheim at NTNU studying Medical Physics. This was the same degree that Taran Paulsen Hellebust, associate professor at the Department for Medical Physics and responsible for the placement that Eivind participated in, had studied.

In January 2020, Eivind sent an e-mail to Bente Prestegård. Bente is project manager for the collaboration between Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School.

“Eivind sent me a very nice e-mail, in which he told me he was a former student at Ullern and that he had participated in the placement with Taran. He wondered if I knew of any relevant summer jobs,” said Bente.

Bente asked around in her network among start-up companies in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator: were there any companies that needed Eivind’s skill set?

“Bjørn Klem, the manager of the Incubator, suggested the company Kongsberg Beam Technology that he was actively advising. I connected Per Håvard Kleven, the general manager at the time, with Eivind and, as a result, he got a summer job there during 2020,” said Bente.

Eivind and his co-students from Ullern at a placement at the Department for Radiobiology at the Radium Hospital in 2016. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Eivind and his co-students from Ullern at a placement at the Department for Radiobiology at the Radium Hospital in 2016. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Only positive references

Kongsberg Beam Technology is a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and develops technologies to improve the accuracy of proton therapy machines.

“The core of the project is to achieve industrial precision in cancer radiation therapy, to avoid damaging healthy tissue. By achieving higher precision, the cancer cells can be radiated with more powerful doses than today,” said Per Håvard Kleven, founder of Kongsberg Beam Technology.

Per Håvard Kleven, founder of Kongsberg Beam Technology

Per Håvard Kleven, serial entrepreneur and founder of Kongsberg Beam Technology. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Per Håvard is a serial entrepreneur and started the project that Kongsberg Beam Technology has spun out from in 2016. The company was officially founded in 2018.

In the summer of 2020, Eivind worked with different types of research for the company and it went so well that he continued in a 20 per cent position next to his studies during the fall. In November, Eivind was offered a permanent job beginning in August 2021.

“I am thrilled about this job. The assignments are exciting, and the colleagues are nice, so I am very happy and thankful for the opportunity. It was a good match with Kongsberg Beam Technology, and I feel that I am also contributing to a relevant part of the project. It is fun,” said Eivind.

Per Håvard only has words of praise for the new employee.

“Eivind is endlessly interested in the project and what we do. He receives tasks from a project manager. Many of the assignments are about researching different things. I receive great feedback on his work and efforts,” said Per Håvard.

New offices in the incubator

Kongsberg Beam Technology is in a research and development phase, the goal is to develop finished control systems for proton machines during the next years, in order to transition to a commercial phase by 2025. That is when Kongsberg Beam Technology will sell the systems globally.

“If we succeed with this, it will mean a revolution in radiation treatment of cancer patients.”

“We are in the lucky position that no one else globally is doing exactly what we are doing. If everything goes according to plan, we will be in a unique position on the market in only a few years,” said Per Håvard.

Per Håvard has recently hired Kerstin Jakobsson as new CEO of the company. She has long experience from radiobiology in Sweden, where this is an established commercial field, which it hasn’t become in Norway – yet.

“From the fall of 2021, Kerstin and Eivind will be in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, while I will be leading the Kongsberg-side of things in the Incubator Kongsberg Innovation,” said Per Håvard.

He is very impressed by the collaboration between Oslo Cancer Cluster and Ullern Upper Secondary School and says this is important to secure the recruitment of highly competent employees to a knowledge-intensive industry in Norway.

“It is very smart and positive that they have managed to build a collaboration between the school, the hospital, Oslo Cancer Cluster and the Incubator, where there is such a clear common goal on many levels,” said Per Håvard.

A unique network

Eivind says that the degree he chose was because of the placement. Now, the permanent position he has secured before finishing his master is very important to him.

“I realised in Trondheim that I had a network through Oslo Cancer Cluster that opened doors for me.”

“This made it easier for me, compared to my fellow students, to find a relevant summer job. I knew who to turn to,” said Eivind.

Bente is extremely happy to hear that Eivind, starting this fall, will be one of the many employees that share a workplace with her in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

Bente Prestegård, Project Manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster

Bente is project manager in Oslo Cancer Cluster and responsible for the collaboration with the school on behalf of the cluster. Photo: Gunnar Kopperud

“This is a really nice story that fully shows what we wish to achieve with the school collaboration. It should inspire further education and we wish to recruit for our members, both the companies and academic institutions,” said Bente.

“This fall, corona is hopefully under control so that I can meet Eivind in the incubator. It is really a cross-disciplinary environment, which is truly inspiring to work in. It will be fun to have him here,” said Bente.

  • Eivind was interviewed by Oslo Cancer Cluster in August 2020 about his summer job with Kongsberg Beam Technology – read the interview here.

 

About Kongsberg Beam Technology

  • Founded and led by serial entrepreneur Per Håvard Kleven, who has had a long career in the Kongsberg industry
  • Owned by Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, Kongsberg Innovation, VIS Innovation and 18 private owners. Partner with Semcon Norway on development.
  • Kongsberg Beam Technology will, by using precision technology from industrial control systems, make proton therapy to treat cancer tumours more precise and with fewer side effects.
  • Have developed a system for this called MAMA-K, which is short for Multi-Array Multi-Axis Cancer Combat Machine.
  • In 2020, the company received NOK 22,7 million in support from the Norwegian Research Council to develop the system.
  • The plan is to work with the development of the technology until 2025 and then transition to patient treatment.
  • The company has received support from Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator for business development and obtaining capital.

 

Read articles about the company

 

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Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, asks that the Norwegian government raises the bar to offer clinical studies for all cancer patients.

New political paper: Action Plan for Clinical Studies

Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster

The Norwegian government wants to double the number of clinical studies by 2025, but is this goal ambitious enough?

The highly anticipated political paper “Action Plan for Clinical Studies (2021-2025)” was released in Norway by the Ministry of Health and Care Services this week. The government’s vision is to make clinical studies an integrated part of patient care.

A clinical study is a type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches, such as screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatments, work in people.

The action plan is the first of its kind and has been requested by researchers, clinicians, the health industry and patient organisations for several years.

The number of clinical studies in Norway is on a negative, spiralling trend. This is especially alarming for cancer patients, who are eager to receive novel treatments.

The Norwegian Health Minister Bent Høie now sets the goal to double the number of clinical studies in Norway and include 5% of all patients in the specialist health services before 2025.

“The action plan includes many important points, we believe the bar should be raised higher,” commented Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

“Our goal should be to make clinical studies available for all cancer patients in Norway – not just a small fraction.”

The government also announced in the State Budget proposal in October 2020 that NOK 30 million will be allocated through the NorTrials scheme. The funds will be used to employ study nurses and improve competency in clinical research.

The Norwegian Health Minister also calls for a change in work culture, in order to make clinical trials an integrated part of patient treatment.

Another major obstacle is the difficulty to recruit patients quickly. The regional health authorities are now tasked with developing a best practice for patient recruitment.

Oslo Cancer Cluster contributed input to the development of this political paper in September 2019. Our major suggestions included:

  • the need for financial incentives to improve patient recruitment,
  • establishing Norway and the Nordic countries as an international testbed for innovative medicine,
  • authorities to collaborate with industry on guidelines on how to approve precision medicine treatments and the documentation requirements.

Read our entire input here (in Norwegian): Innspill Kliniske Studier til Helse- og omsorgsdepartementet (September 2019) fra Oslo Cancer Cluster

 

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Dr Deborah Owen, Partner, Dehns, is looking forward to help Norwegian companies in the cancer field. Photo: Dehns

Dehns acquires Norwegian office

Dr Deborah Owen, Partner, Dehns. Photo: Dehns

Our member Dehns announced this week that the company will set up a local office in Oslo.

The law firm Dehns has acquired the Norwegian Intellectual Property consultancy firm Leogriff. This means Dehns will now have an active Norwegian presence with a local office in Oslo.

Dehns is a law firm specialized in patents and trademarks. Dehns’ attorneys have insight in many different technologies in the engineering, chemistry and biotechnology sectors.

With this acquisition, Dehns gains the highly-experienced Leogriff team with all their additional competencies, skills and expertise in Intellectual Property. Leogriff’s clients include companies, investors, research institutes and universities.

What does this mean for Norwegian companies in cancer innovation and life science?

“Companies in the cancer field and life science sector face many challenges and need an excellent network of advisors to navigate these successfully.”
Dr Deborah Owen, Partner, Dehns.

“Intellectual Property (IP) issues are key to such companies at all stages, and we are delighted that the opening of the Dehns’ Norwegian office provides an expansion of the Dehns’ team to provide even greater experience and expertise in areas relating to IP management and strategy consultancy, which will be of real benefit to Norwegian companies of all sizes in these sectors,” continued Owen.

Dehns was founded in 1920 and is one of Europe’s leading firms of patent and trademark attorneys. The company has more than 230 staff across 8 offices: London, Munich, Oxford, Brighton, Manchester, Bristol, Sandwich and, now, Oslo.

Dr Adrian Samuels, Partner, Dehns. Photo: Dehns

Dr Adrian Samuels, Partner, Dehns. Photo: Dehns

“We are delighted that, having been working closely with Norwegian innovators and industry leaders for over half a century, Dehns’ ongoing success will be supported by this direct investment in Norway.”
Adrian Samuels, Partner, Dehns.

For more information, please read Dehns’ press release or visit Dehns official website.

Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs, who has launched a new collaboration study in ovarian cancer with the Nordic Society of Gynaecological Oncology, the European Network of Gynaecological Oncological Trial Groups and AstraZeneca. Photo: Ultimovacs

New clinical study in ovarian cancer

Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs

Our member Ultimovacs has announced a new Phase II clinical trial for ovarian cancer patients.

DOVACC is a new clinical study from Ultimovacs that will investigate the effect of combining the cancer vaccine UV1 with a checkpoint inhibitor and a PARP inhibitor in patients with ovarian cancer.

This is the first time this type of combination treatment is tested in a clinical study. Patients with advanced ovarian cancer, who have relapsed after receiving two rounds of chemotherapy treatment are eligible for the study.

The study will be sponsored by the Nordic Society for Gynaecological Oncology – Clinical Trial Unit (NSGO-CTU). This group is a part of the European Network of Gynaecological Oncological Trial Groups (ENGOT), which is also a part of the study.

“The collaboration with the NSGO-CTU and ENGOT is exciting for us as they are very experienced with conducting clinical trials in the field of gynaecological oncology. Their expertise and network will support the recruitment of patients at multiple participating study sites across Europe,” commented Jens Bjørheim, Chief Medical Officer at Ultimovacs.

The global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, will contribute with two different cancer drugs to the study. These include the checkpoint inhibitor durvalumab and the PARP inhibitor Olaparib.

Ultimovacs is evaluating the company’s universal cancer vaccine UV1 and has also received NOK 10 million from Innovation Norway.

“A key benefit of UV1 is its safety profile, which enables a triple combination study with a PD-L1 inhibitor and now for the first time also with a PARP inhibitor, in an indication in desperate need of new treatment options,” commented Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Ultimovacs.

“The evaluation of UV1, durvalumab and olaparib in this Phase II triple combination study is an important next step in changing the standard of care for patients with ovarian cancer,” added Dr. Mansoor Raza Mirza, Medical Director of the NSGO-CTU and Chair of the ENGOT.

DOVACC is a randomised study, which will include 184 patients. The study is divided into three control arms, or patient groups. The first group includes 46 patients who will receive PARP inhibitor. The second group includes 46 patients who will receive both the PARP inhibitor and the checkpoint inhibitor. The third group includes 92 patients who will receive UV1 and both AstraZeneca drugs.

The multi-centre study will be held at more than 30 hospitals in about 10 countries in Europe.

The first patient will be recruited during the first half of 2021 and results are expected in 2023.

Ultimovacs currently have a broad clinical development programme, with over 500 patients enrolled in Phase II trials.

Read more in the press release from Ultimovacs