Old and new leaders of OCC Incubator. From the left: Bjørn Klem, Janne Nestvold and Ketil Widerberg in front of OCC Innovation Park. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

New leadership in OCC Incubator

picture of Bjørn Klem, Janne Nestvold and Ketil Widerberg in front of OCC Innovation Park red framed windows. Old and new incubator leadership.Oslo Cancer Cluster

A new leadership duo strengthens Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Incubator, as General Manager Bjørn Klem steps down after six years.

“Six years as general manager of OCC Incubator has been a fantastic journey. We have moved from a small office in Lysaker to a dream come true in a building housing an entire innovation system for startups and enterprises next to the Radium Hospital in Oslo,” says Bjørn Klem, soon-to-be-former general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Incubator.

OCC Incubator plays a central role in the start-up scene in OCC Innovation Park. Many newly established start-ups in cancer innovation have advanced to a higher level of development thanks to the OCC Incubator during the past six years. Through the Accelerator programme, companies have attracted public and private funding, created job opportunities and added value through innovative treatments.

There is no slowing down with the new leadership duo. OCC Incubator will continue to build the Norwegian health industry and be an essential part of a unique environment for establishing new businesses in cancer.

New Chief Operating Officer

“The leadership of OCC Incubator is in safe hands with Janne Nestvold, who has built several impressive laboratories over the last years,” says Klem.

Nestvold is currently laboratory manager at OCC Incubator. She holds a PhD in Immunology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Oslo. Her research experience is from academia and biotech companies within the field of immuno-oncology.

“The OCC Incubator team is grateful to Bjørn Klem for his supportive and open-minded leadership. I am enthusiastic to further develop OCC Incubator and continue Klem’s solid work in the organization,” says Nestvold, new Chief Operating Officer (COO) in OCC Incubator.

Closer ties with the cluster

Ketil Widerberg steps in as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of OCC Incubator, bringing seven years of solid experience as general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Widerberg will continue as general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, while leading OCC Incubator in partnership with Nestvold. Widerberg is also Chairman of the Board at Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

“I look forward to ultimately obtaining Ketil Widerberg’s know-how and experience into the team,” says Nestvold.

Widerberg thinks working with Nestvold is a natural step towards a closer collaboration between the cluster and the incubator.

“OCC Incubator has become increasingly important in the development of a rich cluster environment with strong start-ups in OCC Innovation Park. For the start-ups in the incubator, closeness to larger private companies and public institutions, through the cluster, is essential. This is why I think our new organization is ideal right now,” says Widerberg.

Leading a start-up

Klem goes on to new adventures in the start-up scene in OCC Innovation Park, as the new CEO of AdjuTec Pharma from 1 July. AdjuTec Pharma is a Norwegian pharmaceutical start-up developing a new technology to combat antibiotic resistance.

“I am happy to say AdjuTec Pharma is a true product of the Accelerator programme. I will still have my office space in OCC Incubator and be part of the Accelerator programme as the head of a start-up,” Klem says.

“Finally, I want to thank the team and partners for unforgettable years at OCC Incubator. And I hope I will still get a homemade bun from the students with the baking project at Ullern Upper Secondary School every Friday.”

 

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

Å bekjempe kreft er et historisk oppdrag for Norge

Ketil Widerberg, general manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The following opinion piece was first published in Norwegian in Morgenbladet on 29 April 2021 (behind a paywall).

Norge kan redusere tiden for utvikling av ny kreftbehandling fra ti til fem år. Men da må vi på banen – nå.

I EU skjer det ting med kreft. I fjor bestemte EU at kreft er en av de virkelig vanskelige utfordringene i medlemslandene, der de største firmaene og de beste statlige instituttene ikke klarer å finne løsningen på egen hånd. Kreft er derfor ett av fem missions – hovedmål – for unionen.

40 milliarder kroner går til EUs Beating Cancer Plan. De store europeiske landene posisjonerer seg nå for pengesekken i forskningsprogrammet Horizon Europe og de fem hovedmålene. Pengestrømmer på størrelse med det norske statsbudsjettet er i spill. I land etter land styrkes organisasjoner, og initiativer startes for å sikre relevans. For å være med på cancer mission må hvert land ha noe å bidra med.

Men hva er egentlig en mission? Vi kan si det er det motsatte av den nylig lanserte perspektivmeldingen. «Meldingen er en invitasjon til å holde hardt på pengesekken, ikke til å bygge landet på nytt i møte med utfordringene», skrev Maria Reinertsen så treffende i Morgenbladet 26. mars. Missions skal skape nye løsninger som håndterer de store utfordringene vi står overfor. Begrepet stammer fra den italienske økonomen Mariana Mazzucato, som venstresiden priser for aktiv politikk. Noen på høyresiden ser derimot ikke like positivt på hennes forslag til styring av økonomien. Uavhengig av politisk ståsted, EU har bestemt seg, og Norge må posisjonere seg. Det er tross alt også Norges penger EU bruker på missions.

I dag står Norge med lua i hånda og sparker i grusen. I stedet burde vi løpt rundt i Brussel og vist at Norge kan være sentrale for å lykkes. Nå er tiden inne for å vise initiativ som sikrer relevans og medvirkning. Men hva kan lille Norge bidra med?

Vi kan faktisk redusere tiden for klinisk utvikling av ny kreftbehandling fra ti til fem år.

Det ville være en slags norsk mission. Dette bør være målet til et nytt senter for kreftinnovasjon. Et ambisiøst og realistisk mål. Et nasjonalt senter som kombinerer ny teknologi og unike offentlige og private data for bedre å forstå årsak, utvikling og oppfølging av kreft. Det er her vi sikrer plassen vår.

Kreft er over 200 ulike sykdommer og de krever samarbeid på tvers av fagdisipliner, offentlig forvalting og privat sektor. Europas Cern og USAs nasjonale laboratorier har tidligere vært sentrale for å løse slike komplekse samfunnsutfordringer, senest med vaksine for covid-19 gjennom Operation Warp Speed. Norge kan, på bakgrunn av nasjonale fortrinn som helsedata og biobanker, kombinert med ny teknologi, halvere tiden for klinisk utvikling av ny kreftbehandling. Tenk på hva det vil bety for norsk verdiskapning og arbeidsplasser. Tenk på hva det vil bety for pasientene.

Før jantelov og konservatisme forklarer hvorfor det ikke er mulig, la oss se hva som kan gjøres om ambisjonene er der. Atom-programmet i USA har som mål om å redusere preklinisk utvikling av legemidler fra seks til ett år. Der setter staten retning, og private og offentlige jobber sammen om en løsning. I klinisk utvikling er gevinsten enda tydeligere. Mye av tiden i kliniske studier går nemlig med til å finne pasienter og kontrollere at det gir bedre effekt å ta medisinen enn å ikke ta medisinen. I Norge kan vi bruke våre offentlige registre til dette. Gjennom registre får vi oversikt over aktuelle pasienter umiddelbart, og vi bruker deres data som kontroll. På den måten kan vi faktisk ta i bruk ny medisin mens vi overvåker hvilke pasienter som har nytte av den, vi fortsetter å hente inn kunnskap mens vi justerer bruken etter effekten, og er også villig til å stoppe bruken om dataene tilsier det. Det høres enkelt ut, men mange har prøvd uten å klare det på grunn av manglede data og manglende mulighet til å følge pasientene over tid. Norge kan være først ute med gode nok data til å klare det.

En slik målsetning stemmer også med hva helsedatautvalget konkluderte med i 2017: «Helsedata bør kunne brukes som dokumentasjonsgrunnlag for en raskere og bedre godkjennings- og evalueringsprosess for legemidler». Rapporten fra utvalget har vi nå en gylden mulighet til å følge opp.

Men hvorfor trenger vi et nytt senter for å være med på cancer mission, kan vi ikke utvide dagens ordninger? Dagens næringsklynger, Senter for forskningsdrevet innovasjon (SFI) og Senter for fremragende forskning (SFF) fra Forskningsrådet dekker kun en del av økosystemet og mangler tverrfagligheten og langsiktigheten som er nødvendig. Andre ordninger kommer også til kort: Katapult-satsingen til SIVA favner vidt, men driftsmodellen er ikke forenlig med å løse innsikt og samfunnsutfordringer. IKT pluss er et bra program fra Forskningsrådet, men det dekker også bare en liten del av et stort felt.

Samarbeidet på kreftområdet er fragmentert, eksperter jobber i sine siloer. Det er et prekært behov for tettere samarbeid, spesielt mellom offentlig og privat. Et nasjonalt senter vil kunne være en vitamininnsprøyting for at akademia, byråkrater og næringsliv søker sammen for noe nytt, en ny plattform som bygger på tillit, samhandling og samarbeid. Det trengs ikke dyre prestisjebygg, eller kostbare byråkratiske monstre. Det som trengs, er ett felles mål.

Et slikt mål er å redusere tiden for klinisk utvikling av ny behandling for kreft fra ti til fem år. Dette målet vil vi kunne nå i et nytt nasjonalt senter for kreftinnovasjon. Det vil sette Norge på kartet og gi retning for firmaer, byråkrater, forskere og pasienter. Jeg ser for meg et «non-profit»-laboratorium med grunnfinansiering for å kunne bevare fri forskning og bygge kompetanse, slik at forskningen kan konkurrere internasjonalt og bidra til utdannelse og innovasjon. Senteret bør være vertskap for de nevnte SFF og SFI, og ha tett samarbeid med industrien for å forstå deres forskningsutfordringer og prioriteringer. I et slikt senter vil teknologi overføres fra forskning til forretning, gjennom spin-off selskaper og industrielle samarbeidsavtaler. Viktigst av alt er at ett senter samler initiativer som i dag vokser seg store i isolerte siloer.

Norge er, med personnummer, registre og nasjonalt helsevesen, et av få land i verden som har muligheten til å redusere tiden for klinisk utvikling signifikant. Har vi ikke egentlig også et ansvar for å gjøre nettopp dette? Nå har vi en aktuell knagg i tillegg – EUs ressurser og prioriteringer i cancer mission.

Norge må posisjonere seg for å få muligheten til å bidra. Det krever en prioritering fra våre folkevalgte. Spørsmålet er om det gir stor nok politisk gevinst. Det har vært mye helse det siste året, orker våre folkevalgte mer? Når munnbind i butikken er et minne og covid-vaksinene har bidratt til åpne grenser, er kreft der fremdeles, like nådeløst som før. Kreft kommer til hver tredje av oss i løpet av livet. Det betyr at de fleste familier vil se en av sine miste håret, kraften og livsgnisten, men de vil også se resultatene av ny medisin og behandling. Det er nettopp derfor mission kreft er et oppdrag Norge bør ta. For det er et oppdrag Norge kan være med på å løse.

Av

Students gathered to discuss internationalisation and ethics, together with the lecturer Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen, former CEO of Ultimovacs. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Internationalisation and ethics

Klasserom

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

The students at Ullern Upper Secondary School faced great philosophical questions in the classroom, when Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen visited in April. This turned into an exciting and relevant session about strategy, ethical distribution of vaccines and many other things.

On Tuesday, the 20th of April, half of the students of entrepreneurship are present in the classroom, while the rest follow the session via video link. This is “the new normal” as education is adapted to the health regulations during a pandemic.

The subject today is internationalisation and ethics. Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen has been brought in as lecturer to start the discussion and share his experiences.

Kongstun Arnesen has long experience as doctor, medical director in several global pharmaceutical companies, former CEO of the vaccine company Ultimovacs and, chairman and member of the board in several companies.

The students heard him speak about raising funds earlier during the school year. You can read more about the lecture in this article: Fundraising on the curriculum

“Born global”

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen inspired the students with his reflections on and experiences of internationalisation and ethics in the pharmaceutical industry.

Øyvind Kongstun Arnesen inspired the students with his reflections on and experiences of internationalisation and ethics in the pharmaceutical industry. Photo: Elisabeth Kirkeng Andersen

Kongstun Arnesen tells the students that Norwegian biotech companies, such as Ultimovacs that he led for 10 years, are known as “born global”. It means that going international is not a matter up for discussion, it is a necessity.

“The Norwegian market is so small that it isn’t an option to develop a treatment only to be used in Norway. The cancer vaccine from Ultimovacs needs to be developed abroad in clinical studies, and the same goes for the approval of it, so the company has a strong international presence from day one,” says Kongstun Arnesen.

An important strategic choice for companies that develop medicines is whether to go all the way to sell it on the market on their own or to licence the product to a big pharmaceutical company.

“This isn’t only a choice that biotech companies must make. My neighbour, for instance, sells hats. They are building a brand and the strategy is to build a brand large enough that the company will be attractive for an acquisition in the future. Ultimovacs has almost the same strategy. We have developed, and the company still develops, a product good enough that it is attractive for licencing,” says Kongstun Arnesen.

The marketing of the company is an important element to succeed with a strategy for acquisition or licencing. Ultimovacs needs to reach international pharmaceutical companies, and not the general public. The pharmaceutical companies are potential collaboration partners and clients.

One of the students wonders which collaboration partners Ultimovacs already has.

“There are three larger pharmaceutical companies we work with: Bristol Myers-Squibb, Merck and Astra Zeneca,” says Kongstun Arnesen.

At the sound of the name Astra Zeneca, the questions from students come flooding and they ask about corona vaccines and the distribution of vaccines in the world today.

Corona vaccines and ethics

Student: “Can for example the corona vaccine from Astra Zeneca create mistrust towards the cancer vaccine that Ultimovacs is developing?”

Kongstun Arnesen: “No, I don’t think so. Cancer vaccines are completely different. It is a vaccine that removes serious disease. This is something separate from the vaccination against the corona virus to prevent serious disease. Also, very few people get the side effects from the Astra Zeneca vaccine. You could ask how many more would die from corona if they are not vaccinated with this vaccine, but we don’t hear about this in the media.”

Student: “I have heard talk that EU don’t want to licence the corona vaccines to Africa. Is this right and can they decide that?

Kongstun Arnesen: “That is a good question. I will get back to the question of distributing vaccines globally, but first I want to go back a bit in history.”

In the series It’s a sin from 2020, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is portrayed through a group of friends in London.

In the series It’s a sin from 2020, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is portrayed through a group of friends in London.

“You may not remember the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We first discovered the disease in homosexual men, and then in other people too. They died of immune deficiency, and there was a race to produce medicines against this. I was a general practitioner in Lofoten when this was at its worst in Norway. The authorities were working with a ‘worst case scenario’ in which 30% of the Norwegian population would die. When the medicines came, it was like turning off a switch. The patients who had been admitted to hospital before there were medicines, were admitted to die. When the first doses came, the patients became well and were discharged.

“The question was: How can we distribute the medicines over the world? HIV/AIDS was a much greater problem in Africa – in other words, in countries that could not afford the medicines. The pharma companies started giving away licences for free or at very large discounts to a factory in India that produced vaccines, which were then sold to poor countries. This made the medicines available to many more people.

“Another way of doing this is, for example, through the organisation COVAX. This is a collaboration between wealthy countries that buy vaccines for poor countries.

“A challenge is that the companies that develop new vaccines or medicines need to have an economic incentive to do this, they cannot develop medicines for free. Israel negotiated by themselves with the pharmaceutical industry to buy vaccines against corona, but they have also paid five times the price as many other countries, and not everyone can afford this.

“If you ask me, the distribution of pharmaceuticals in the world today is completely unethical and, in many ways, characterised by the pharmaceutical industry being extortioners. They develop medicines that can save lives and can set a high price. At the same time, they could make a choice and say to the owners or investors that they wish to set a reasonable price for the medicine, and not to have maximal profit. We had this discussion with our owners in Ultimovacs and it made me happy to see that the owners were positive to us not setting the maximum possible price.”

After a while, the questions multiplied, and a lively discussion ensued. We will not repeat everything here, that would make the article too long, but we will include one last question.

Student: “Why don’t we produce vaccines in Norway?”

Kongstun Arnesen: “We don’t have a vaccine factory in Norway. We had one about seven or eight years ago at the Institute of Public Health. When it was decided to close down the factory, an international company wished to acquire parts of the equipment and set up their own production of vaccines here. The Norwegian authorities became too demanding in the negotiations and the company chose to invest in building a factory in a different country instead. Norway lost the negotiations because they asked for a too high price, and then one thing led to another.”

Chelsea Ranger, NLSDays Program Director and NLSInvest Committee Co-Chair, spoke at the opening of NLSDays 2021, the first digital Nordic Life Science Days.

Bridging gaps at NLSDays 2021

Chelsea Ranger, Program Committee, NLSDays

Did you miss the Nordic Life Science Days this week? Here is a summary of Oslo Cancer Cluster’s activities.

The largest partnering conference for the life science industry in the Nordics was successfully converted to a virtual format this week.

“Going digital has allowed new participants to join who might not have otherwise done. This includes investors across all time zones, US to Asian Pacific, in record numbers: 179, in fact,” said Chelsea Ranger, NLSDays Program Director and NLSInvest Committee Co-Chair.

A day for start-ups to meet investors, a digital showcase room, one-on-one partnering and a three-day programme with inspiring sessions were all part of the conference.

“We’ve done some things differently in the programme, including a central theme: Bridging the Gaps, to address narrowing the boundaries across our region, better linking traditional and nontraditional sectors, and a focus on gender diversity. In this, we have focused not only on individual national strengths, but on the combined values of our Nordic Region as a joint success in life sciences,” continued Ranger.

Chelsea Ranger, Director of NLSDays

Chelsea Ranger, NLSDays Program Director

The main programme included engaging topics on data, microbiome, new vaccine technologies, and the integration of technology and digitalisation. It also included the most first-time speakers and most female speakers (over 50%) than all previous NLSDays events.

Connecting investors with start-ups

More than 80 early-stage life science companies pitched to investors on the one-day pre-event called NLSInvest – a brand new component of the conference. The presentations spanned across three dedicated tracks: biotech/pharmamedtech/diagnostics and digital/e-health.

Among the presenting companies were Oslo Cancer Cluster members Adjutec Pharma, Kongsberg Beam Technology and Hemispherian. The companies had prepared video presentations in advance, highlighting the unique features of their innovations and ambitious business development plans.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to pitch to international investors at NLSInvest and being presented as one of the Nordics’ 80 Rising Stars,” said Kerstin Jakobsson, CEO of Kongsberg Beam Technology.

Kerstin Jakobsson, CEO of Kongsberg Beam Technology

Kerstin Jakobsson, CEO of Kongsberg Beam Technology

“To be named a Rising Star means the company gains more exposure than what would have been possible. I hope this pre-event will take place again next year, because it is important to show all the promising medtech, biotech and pharma companies in the Nordics.”

Strong Norwegian life science presence

Oslo Cancer Cluster gathered with its life science partners in Norway for a digital showcase, offering both exposure and networking opportunities. The purpose is to promote the growing Norwegian life science ecosystem and increase collaboration between Norway and the Nordics.

The delegation included Norway Health Tech, Aleap, University of Oslo: Life Science, The Life Science Cluster, Inven2, NORIN, Nansen Neuroscience Network, LMI, Innovation Norway and The Norwegian Research Council. Here are a few of their comments:

“Nordic Life Science Days is a great occasion to get the latest updates from the life science’ communities in the Nordic countries and to network with others, the Norwegian delegates included,” said Morten Egeberg, Administrative Leader at University of Oslo: Life Science.

Morten Egeberg

Morten Egeberg, Administrative Leader at UiO:Life Science

Beate Rygg Johnsen, Senior Adviser of Innovation and Industry Collaboration at the Centre for Digital Life Norway, agreed:

“The opportunity to meet with many potential players in the ecosystem in a short time is really valuable to us. Only yesterday, I attended several meetings together with one of our research projects.”

Beate Rygg Johnsen

Beate Rygg Johnsen, Senior adviser at the Centre for Digital Life

“We are happy to participate in making Norwegian life science visible, showing what Norway can offer as a country, and attract potential investors and collaboration partners in science and innovation,” said Espen Snipstad, Head of Communications in LMI.

Espen Snipstad, LMI

Espen Snipstad, Head of Communications, LMI

 

Spotlight on precision medicine

As part of the main programme, Oslo Cancer Cluster presented Super Session 5: From Population to Precision. The 90-minute online session included presentations from representatives of biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical companies, and investment funds. This was followed by an engaging panel discussion between the speakers and included questions from the audience.

“This session highlighted the increasing importance of novel diagnostics solutions. Drivers are the Precision Medicine Revolution, the convergence between hardware, software and data, and of course the current pandemic,” said Jutta Heix, member of the NLSDays programme committee and Head of International Affairs, Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Jutta Heix, Head of International Affairs, OCC

Jutta Heix, member of the NLSdays programme committee and Head of International Affairs, Oslo Cancer Cluster

“The speakers illustrated challenges and opportunities for bringing products to the market in a set of complementary presentations. Both, Seald from Norway and Elypta from Sweden are examples for recent Nordic innovations in cancer diagnostics and we hope to see more diagnostic innovation building on Nordic research, data and biomarker expertise in the future,” Heix continued.

NLSDays Super session 5

Participants of NLSDays Super Session 5: From Population to Precision.

Thank you to the participants of Super Session 5 – From Population to Precision (pictured above):

  • Abdel Halim, Vice President at Taiho Oncology
  • Maria Orr, Head of Precision Medicine, Biopharmaceuticals at AstraZeneca
  • Karin Conde-Knape, Corporate Vice President at Novo Nordisk
  • Tove Cecilie Viebe, CEO at Seald
  • Karl Bergman, CEO at Elypta
  • Patrik Sobocki, Venture Investor at Industrifonden
  • Moderator: Mike Ward, Global Head of Healthcare Thought Leadership at Clarivate

 

Thank you for a fantastic week. We hope to see you again at the next Nordic Life Science Days!

Cancer researcher Anette Weyergang demonstrates the PCI technology to Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park

Granted PDT/PCI projects 2021

Erna Solberg visits PCI Biotech

Radforsk Investment Foundation has granted five research projects a total amount of NOK 4,95 million to further develop exciting research projects within photodynamic treatment and photochemical internalization. Cancer researcher Pål Selbo receives NOK 3,75 million for his project.

Radforsk Investment Foundation is an evergreen investor focusing on companies that develop cancer treatment.

“Radforsk has invested NOK 205 million of its profit back into cancer research at Oslo University Hospital. Of these, NOK 32 million, have gone to research in PDT/PCI. This year, we grant five projects a total of NOK 4,95 million,” says Jónas Einarsson, CEO of Radforsk Investment Foundation.

Radforsk had received a total of six applications by the deadline of 15 January 2021. The applications have been assessed by external experts.

This year, one of the projects has been awarded a total of NOK 3,75 million over three years. It is a project led by researcher Pål Selbo at the Department of Cancer Research entitled “Novel Photobiological Strategies Counteracting Tumor Immune Escape”.

“This is exciting research aiming to apply PCI technology in the field of immunotherapy. Pål has extensive experience as a researcher in the field, so it’s fun that he went all the way to the top with this application,” says Einarsson.

 Pål Kristian Selbo Project leader, Senior scientist; PhD

Pål Kristian Selbo,
Project leader, Senior scientist; PhD at Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital. Photo: Oslo University Hospital.

“It is fantastic and very motivating to receive such great support from Radforsk. This means that I can finally realize this project,” says Pål Selbo.

The researchers who have received funding for PDT/PCI research in 2021 are:

  • Anette Weyergang
  • Beáta Grallert
  • Mouldy Sioud
  • Pål Selbo
  • Petras Juzenas

PDT/PCI:

Cancer research in the field of photodynamic therapy and photochemical internalisation studies the use of light in direct cancer treatment in combination with drugs, or to deliver drugs that can treat cancer to cells or organs.

Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster, var med i høring digitalt i Finanskomiteen 22.3.2021. Video: Stortinget

Innspill til Perspektivmeldingen

Oslo Cancer Cluster har uttalt seg om Perspektivmeldingen 2021. Vårt hovedpoeng er at helsenæring må være en større del av regjeringens strategi for norsk økonomi.

Hvert fjerde år legger Finansdepartementet fram en Stortingsmelding om utfordringer i norsk økonomi de neste førti årene, og regjeringens strategier for dem. Denne kalles Perspektivmeldingen.

Oslo Cancer Cluster deltok i høringen av denne meldingen i Stortingets Finanskomité 22. mars 2021. Flere andre aktører innen kreft og helse deltok også i høringen, blant annet Kreftforeningen, Norway Health Tech, Legeforeningen og Pårørendealliansen.

Helsenæringens potensial for norsk økonomi var et gjennomgangstema.

Helsenæringens aspekter

Perspektivmeldingen poengterer hvor viktig det blir med offentlig-privat samarbeid og investeringer i helsenæring fremover. Videre nevner meldingen at ny teknologi i helse bidrar til økt ressursbruk og økt levealder med flere funksjonsdyktige leveår. Dermed fører ny teknologi også til et økt skattegrunnlag for finansiering av offentlige velferdsordninger.

– Det er gode elementer som er med. Samtidig er det flere aspekter ved helsenæring som Oslo Cancer Cluster savner, og som vi ønsker å trekke frem, sa Ketil Widerberg, daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster, under høringen.

Se Ketil Widerbergs innspill på video:

 

Det første aspektet som Oslo Cancer Cluster savner i Perspektivmeldingen, er at både uventede og forventede hendelser i helse gir store kostnader.

Uventede hendelser, som Covid19, har store budsjettkonsekvenser. I tillegg til kostnadene med nedstengte samfunn, er det store kostnader forbundet med innkjøp av teknologi til sporing, testing, behandling og vaksinering.

Forventede hendelser er for eksempel antallet nordmenn som får kreft og antallet som overlever kreftsykdom. Før fylte 75 år har nå én av tre nordmenn fått minst en kreftdiagnose, og dette tallet øker, ifølge Kreftregisteret. Det er også flere og flere som overlever og må leve med følgene av kreftsykdom. En slik prognose vil påvirke Norges finanser, og ved å utvikle norsk helsenæring blir ikke Norge stående kun på kjøpersiden, men vil også få inntekter fra et av verdens største og økende markeder.

Det andre aspektet er de økonomiske mulighetene. Slik ressursbruken i helse kan bidra til et økt skattegrunnlag, vil også store kostnader i helse representere store økonomiske muligheter for norsk helsenæring.

Norge har så langt bidratt til milliardeventyr i helse med blant annet Ugelstadkuler fra Dynal, som er sentrale i Covid19-testing, og med kreftmedisin fra Algeta og Vaccibody. Sistnevnte utvider nå sin vaksineplattform fra kreft til neste generasjons Covid 19-vaksiner.

– Dersom vi i Norge tilrettelegger godt for innovasjon innen helse og konkret følger opp Stortingsmeldingen om Helsenæringen, vil den voksende utgiftssiden også bli en voksende inntektsstrøm. Det er gode perspektiver, sa Ketil Widerberg under høringen.

Det tredje aspektet er økt samarbeid mellom det offentlige og privat næringsliv gjennom modne helseklynger.

– De norske klyngene er en etablert arena for samhandling mellom offentlig og privat sektor. Vi er også pådrivere for internasjonalt samarbeid og kunnskapssamarbeid. I tillegg legger vi til rette for kommersialisering av samfunnsnyttige, forskningsbaserte innovasjoner, og vi jobber med å koble bedrifter som søker finansiering med investorer og prosjekter. Dermed er vi med på å sikre nye selskaper viktig tilgang til kapital. Dette gir bedre kanalisering av tilgjengelig kapital, og er nettopp det Kapitaltilgangsutvalget ønsker mer av, sa Widerberg.

Spørsmål fra politikere

Oslo Cancer Cluster fikk spørsmål fra stortingsrepresentantene Sigbjørn Gjelsvik (Senterpartiet) og Ola Elvestuen (Venstre) under høringen. Spørsmålene var:

  • Hvilken rolle mener dere at det offentlige skal ha i et offentlig-privat samarbeid i helse?
  • Kan dere si noe mer om samarbeidet med helseforetakene om næringsutvikling og teknologiutvikling?

I denne videoen svarer Ketil Widerberg på spørsmålene:

 

Flere vil sikre helseklyngene

Kreftforeningen talte for at alle nå må gjøre alvor av satsingen på helsenæringen, blant annet gjennom å sikre finansiering av helseklyngene.

– Det er på tide å gjøre alvor av satsingen på helsenæringen. Vi må lykkes med å styrke samarbeidet mellom det offentlige, det private, akademia og ideell sektor. Et viktig ledd i denne satsingen må være å sikre finansieringen av klyngene på helseområdet, sa Thomas Axelsen, leder for samfunnspolitisk seksjon i Kreftforeningen, og viste til klyngene som deltok i høringen.

Axelsen understreket også behovet for umiddelbar handling:

– Vi må investere i teknologi og innovasjon i dag mens vi har et handlingsrom for å gjøre det, og sørge for at vi får på plass gode avtaler mellom det offentlige, det private og ideell sektor, slik at vi står klare neste gang vi trenger det.

Se videoen av Kreftforeningens innspill her.

Les mer: 

 

Gert W. Munthe, Chairman, and Øystein Rekdal, CEO in Lytix Biopharma. Photo: Lytix Biopharma/ Håvar Haug

Lytix Biopharma and UiT with exclusive agreement

Lytix

Lytix Biopharma enters into an exclusive license agreement with the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) about drug candidates that combat cancer cells by stimulating the body’s own immune cells.

The Norwegian biotech company and Oslo Cancer Cluster member Lytix Biopharma has developed a new group of promising drug candidates together with a research team at the Arctic University of Norway (UiT). The drug candidates can combat cancer cells by stimulating the body’s own immune cells.

“Over the past year, we have achieved several key milestones with our most advanced drug candidate, LTX-315, and have successfully confirmed the unique potential of our technology platform. Through one of the joint projects with the scientific expertise at UiT, a set of new promising molecules have been discovered. This exclusive license agreement expands our overall product portfolio, which further demonstrates the robustness of our approach to this segment,” says CEO Øystein Rekdal at Lytix Biopharma in a press release from the company.

A broad collaboration

The drug candidates licensed have been developed in a collaboration between UiT and Lytix Biopharma, partly funded by the Norwegian Research Council and the Norwegian Cancer Society. A combined team from UiT, Norce, Oslo University Hospital and Institute Gustave Roussy in Paris have contributed to the project. Lytix Biopharma originally stems from the Arctic University in Tromsø.

This agreement grants Lytix Biopharma all rights to further develop and commercialize this new class of compounds.

Partnership with Aurelius Biotherapeutics

Lytix also forms a strategic partnership with the US-based specialist veterinary medicine company Aurelius Biotherapeutics to expedite the progression of the compounds that seem especially promising and suitable for the veterinary medicine market.

Aurelius Biotherapeutics now initiates further studies on this compound, to validate the initial data, and to refine its target product profile. Aurelius is currently also developing their own lead candidate, which now will be combined with the Lytix drug candidate.

Read more about the new partnerships in the press release from Lytix Biopharma. You can download it here.

Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster, represented Norway in one of the panel sessions during Global Health Security Demo Day at SXSW2021.

Norwegian life science @ SXSW2021

We put global health security on the agenda at the influential technology conference SXSW.

Oslo Cancer Cluster and the other Norwegian health clusters Norway Health Tech and The Life Science Cluster participated in the conference South by South West (SXSW) for the first time ever last week.

The conference usually takes place in Austin (Texas), but due to current corona restrictions it was made available through an online platform.

The full-day event Global Security Demo Day, arranged by The Texas Global Health Security Innovation Consortium (TEXGHS), attracted many big names in health and life science from across the globe on Wednesday 17 March.

“It is clear that there is a silver lining of accelerated development, new innovations and increased public-private partnership in health emerging from the current Covid-crisis,” said Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster.

The Norwegian life science environment was also represented at this event, by keynote speaker Bent Høie, Minister of Health and Care Services, several representatives from private companies and the heads of the Norwegian health clusters Oslo Cancer Cluster, Norway Health Tech and The Life Science Cluster.

“It is great that Bent Høie, the Norwegian Minister of Health, supports innovative health companies at one of the world’s largest technology conferences in Texas,” said Ketil Widerberg.

View the panel sessions

Watch the video above for the panel session The race to a vaccine with Ketil Widerberg, general manager of Oslo Cancer Cluster and Trent Munro, Professor at Australian Institute for Bio-Engineering and Nanotechnology, moderated by Janet Walkow Executive Director and CTO, Drug Dynamics Institute, UT Austin.

The event was organised by TEXGHS, Austin Technology Incubator at the University of Texas at Austin, Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), Consulate General of Denmark in Houston, The Royal Norwegian Consulate General in Houston and European Network of Research and Innovation Centres and Hubs, USA (ENRICH).

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator staff runs the programme OCC Accelerator to help companies in cancer innovation succeed. Photo: Christopher Olssøn/Oslo Cancer Cluster

OCC Accelerator is here

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator relaunches the programme for start-ups in cancer innovation under the new name OCC Accelerator.

OCC Accelerator will identify, select, and develop promising innovations that will improve the lives of cancer patients. The aim is to make the projects attractive for private and public investments.

“This programme is for the best research projects and start-ups with innovative technology in cancer and a strong commercial potential.”

“This programme is for the best research projects and start-ups with innovative technology in cancer and a strong commercial potential. It is publicly funded with the overarching goal to build Norwegian health industry,” said Bjørn Klem, general manager, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

OCC Accelerator is a programme led by Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and it is funded by Siva, a governmental enterprise facilitating a national infrastructure for innovation.

“2021 will be a challenging year because of the corona pandemic, but thanks to Siva we can offer up to 100% discounted services to the Accelerator companies,” said Bjørn Klem.

How does the programme work?

OCC Incubator regularly meet with researchers, founders, and entrepreneurs to discuss whether their ideas have commercial potential. After a comprehensive evaluation and approval from the board, the project or start-up may be admitted to the OCC Accelerator programme.

“We tailor our services according to each company’s needs.”

“We tailor our services according to each company’s needs. Some companies need help with a specific challenge, while others need support with everything during the start-up phase,” Bjørn Klem said.

The activities often include to establish the company, secure intellectual property rights, fund the company, set up development plans, and recruit management, advisors, consultants, and a board of directors.

Help with funding

For most companies the most important thing is to pursue equity investments and public funding. OCC Incubator helps the company navigate the complex landscape of funding grants, coach them before negotiations with potential investors and provide valuable contacts.

The global network through Oslo Cancer Cluster also gives the companies exposure through international partnering conferences, pitching events and official communication channels.

Moreover, the OCC Accelerator companies have access to the OCC Incubator’s state-of-the-art laboratories and offices in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park.

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator offers state-of-the-art laboratories for researchers in the cancer field. Photo: Christopher Olssøn

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator offers state-of-the-art laboratories for researchers in the cancer field. Photo: Christopher Olssøn

“We can work intensely with companies for periods of time, but eventually they need to stand on their own feet. Our main goal is to make them attractive for investments,” Bjørn Klem said.

The companies may stay up to 4 years in the programme. Their progress is evaluated on a yearly basis to ensure they reach the necessary milestones.

One success story

Kongsberg Beam Technology is one of the companies currently in the OCC Accelerator programme. The company has benefited in several ways. Bjørn Klem has helped the founders write funding applications and arranged investor meetings. Thomas Andersson, Senior Advisor for Business Development in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, aided in recruiting the CEO Kerstin Jakobsson to the company and retains a seat on the board.

After the company’s first investor presentation in February 2021, the first issue of shares was oversubscribed in less than two days to the amount of 13MNOK. The company is also supported by the Norwegian Research Council with 23MNOK.

“We would not be where we are today without the support of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.”

“Kongsberg Beam Technology is a medtech company in oncology. It is very important for us as a start-up company to be part of a life science community such as Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator and have access to their network and partner meetings. We would not be where we are today without the support of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator. They have helped us with important funding contacts, to prepare the crucial investor meetings, which have secured our initial funding,” said Kerstin Jakobsson, CEO of Kongsberg Beam Technology.


If you are a researcher, founder or entrepreneur with an idea in cancer innovation with commercial potential, you are welcome to apply to OCC Accelerator. Please contact Bjørn Klem to find out more.


 

Cancer researchers Åslaug Helland, Simone Mester, Sigrid Skånland and Else Marit Inderberg talk about equality on International Women's Day.

Talking about cancer research and equality

International Women’s Day: three Norwegian researchers share their personal stories of being women in the cancer field.

Every year, International Women’s Day is marked on the 8th of March to put gender equality on the agenda. We wish to use this opportunity to celebrate women dedicated to developing new cancer treatments. It is important for us to highlight researchers that perform important research, who can also be role models.

We have reached out to cancer researchers across Norway, both in the public and the private sector. As a result, three accomplished Norwegian researchers share their personal perspectives. They are at different stages in their careers and focusing on different areas of research.

 


Åslaug Helland. Photo: Oslo University Hospital

Åslaug Helland. Photo: Oslo University Hospital

Combining family life and research

Åslaug Helland is a Group leader at the Institute for Cancer Research at the Norwegian Radium Hospital in Oslo and Senior Oncologist at the Department of Oncology at Oslo University Hospital. Helland’s research group focuses on translational studies on solid tumours, with a special interest in pancreatic cancers, lung cancers, ovary cancers and colorectal cancers.

“First of all, being involved in cancer research has been extremely rewarding. I started when still at med-school, in 1991, and since then we have learned a lot. Today we see that the insights gained some years ago benefit patients!

“When I started working in cancer research, there was a male dominance, which is not as obvious today. I started in Anne-Lise Børresen-Dale’s group at the Norwegian Radium Hospital. She was a world leading researcher in cancer molecular genetics and working with her was very inspiring.

“The regulations in Norway have made it possible for both men and women to combine family life and research.

“My family and I have lived abroad twice for research stays, first at Stanford University and thereafter at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia, and my experience is that Norway is one of the most advanced countries in gender balance and equal opportunities.”

 


 

Sigrid Skånland. Photo: Private.

Sigrid Skånland. Photo: Private.

Let me hold the door for you

Sigrid S. Skånland is a PhD, Project group leader, lab leader and researcher at the Institute for Cancer Research at Oslo University Hospital. Skånland has established her own research group, focusing on functional precision medicine in haematological cancers, in particular the B-cell malignancy chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

“When I talk about gender equality, I do it for my daughters. Their future. When they show bold confidence, I think ‘You go, girl!’

I want them to feel that they can claim their space, even as girls. I want them to see that it is possible to be smart, strong and successful, even as a single mom. I want them to be valued equally to men, also when they become women.

“As a biologist, most of my fellow students were female, and most of my colleagues during my graduate and post-graduate studies were women. As I have become more senior, my perspective has changed. Most students and trainees are still women. But. When I go to conferences, I see that most of the speakers are men. When I apply for research funding, I see that most of the grants are awarded to men. And when I establish new collaborations, I see that most of the higher positions are filled by men. I want everyone to see this.

“My daughter sat with me through a virtual conference. She pointed to the screen and said: ‘Are there only men?’ At the age of five, she already sees it.

“As a woman, I need women in leading positions to look up to. And I greatly appreciate the men who also see the value of acknowledging and promoting excellent female scientists. After 40 years, the first female members were elected to the international workshop on chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in 2019. This could not have happened without the support from the men on the board. Together, we can raise awareness on gender equality and make the gender gap smaller.

“I hope that I can inspire other women. Kamala Harris said it nicely: ‘It’s on those of us leading the way to leave the door more open than it was when we walked in.’”

 


 

Simone Mester. Photo: University of Oslo

Simone Mester. Photo: University of Oslo

Follow your dreams!

Simone Mester is a PhD student at The Laboratory of Adaptive Immunity and Homeostasis, which is part of both the Medical Faculty at the University of Oslo and Department for Immunology and Transfusion Medicine at Oslo University Hospital. Her research focus is on development of new biomedical technologies that may make cancer treatments more precise and effective. Her ambition is to start a biotechnology company in Norway.

Mester attended Ullern Upper Secondary School, which has an active collaboration with Oslo Cancer Cluster to inspire students to pursue careers in science and entrepreneurship. She was also the youngest researcher to be selected to SPARK, the University of Oslo’s two-year innovation programme. When she won the SPARK “pitch challenge”, she was awarded a six-month stay in ShareLab, where she now is exploring the commercial potential of her research results together with her colleague Torleif Tollefsrud Gjølberg, also a PhD student in the same laboratory.

“Early in my career, I have experienced great opportunities and lot of support. I strongly feel that the life science ecosystem is supporting me and would like to see me succeed. This is very motivating!

“For me, it is important to be part of a dynamic research environment that allows me to explore and develop as a researcher.

“I would like to encourage students and young researchers to be brave, ambitious and to follow their dreams!”

 


Else Marit Inderberg. Photo: Oslo University Hospital

Else Marit Inderberg. Photo: Oslo University Hospital

Calling for clear career paths

Else-Marit Inderberg is a Senior Researcher and Group leader at the Department of Cellular Therapy at Oslo University Hospital-The Norwegian Radium Hospital. The focus of her research is immunomonitoring in clinical studies and the development of cell therapies in cancer treatments. Inderberg’s research group uses the offices and facilities in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

“My experience as a woman in cancer research in Norway is very good and my supervisors and mentors were always very supportive.

“I was always given opportunities to take on responsibility and to be independent and it was up to me to decide if I wanted or could grab them or not.

One of the key things to change to keep future generations motivated to do cancer research is to have clear career paths for researchers, both female and male.