AI Speeds Up Pharmaceutical Testing

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Immunitrack has landed investments worth millions. The money will be used to develop a computer program that can predict how the immune system will react to different substances.

Already Immunitrack, co-founded by Stephan Thorgrimsen and Sune Justesen, is offering contracted research to the pharmaceutical industry predicting how the immune system react to different pharmaceuticals, by producing reagents that can be used to examine the immune systems reaction.

New AI in The Making
When scientists discover promising substances they think can be developed into medicine for future treatments, only a small percentage will prove to have an effect after testing. The testing process is important, but at the same time expensive, time and resource consuming. What if a lot of this testing could be done virtually by a computer program? This is what Immunitrack want to offer with their new AI- technology.

The new investment will take this further and enable the company to boost its production and analytical capabilities. The investment will enable increased efforts in the development of a new best in class Prediction Software using artificial intelligence (AI). The software is seen as a vital cornerstone for applying the technology from Immunitrack in large scale projects within cancer treatment and precision medicine.

The applications of the new AI platform are multiple: The technology increases vaccine potency, speeds up the development of personalized cancer vaccines and remove negative immunological effects. Additionally, it enhances precision medicine efforts by improving patient profiling and treatment selection.

And everything is really moving fast for Immunitrack.

— Until September last year it was only the two of us that stood for everything. Production, marketing, you name it. Then things started happening for real and now we have employed 4 new colleagues, says Stephan Thorgrimsen.

The Investor
The new investment is from Blenheim Capital Limited. They are a diversified investment company focusing on geographically, commercially and technologically frontier companies and projects.

The investment in Immunitrack ApS with its emphasis on transforming market proven immunology-based skill set into a commercially viable AI solution matches Blenheim’s investment profile.

About Immunitrack
Immunitrack aims at becoming a world leader within prediction and assessment of biotherapeutic impact on patient immune response. The company has until now provided services and reagents to more than 70 biotech companies worldwide, including 6 of the top 10 Pharma companies.

Immunitrack was founded in 2013 by Sune Justesen and Stephan Thorgrimsen. Sune Justesen brings in experience from more than a decade of working in one of the world leading research groups at the University of Copenhagen. The company started commercialization of its products in 2016, and has grown its staff from 2 to 6 within the last 8 months.

The Future Norway: Ketil Widerberg on Tech and Cancer

Our General Manager Ketil Widerberg visited the podcast People creating the future Norway (De som bygger det nye Norge) hosted by Silvija Seres and Oslo Business Forum.

Ketil and Silvija discussed important issues like: Is it possible to make cancer a chronic disease? And how do you really create medicine that is tailored for each individual? And many other important topics. Have a listen!

Listen to the podcast HERE (In Norwegian).

Creating One Cancer Vaccine Per Patient

Oslo Cancer Cluster member Vaccibody is making headway with their cancer vaccine technology. Now they are ready with clinical trials involving 40 patients in Germany, the first patient is already enrolled.

 

Neoantigens Reveals Cancer Cells
Cancer is famous for its ability to deceive, appearing to the immune system as normal tissue while wreaking havoc on the body. But what if cancer cells could be revealed with subtle but unmistakable characteristics that revealed their true nature?

This revealing clue exists and is called neoantigens, which are mutated (or changed/altered) proteins found only in cancer cells. This is the science behind what Vaccibody and Agnete Fredriksen is currently doing, working to develop vaccines that use neoantigens to help patients’ own immune systems recognize and fight cancer tumors.

— I dare to say that this is quite unique. Each vaccine is thoroughly customized for each individual cancer patient. One vaccine per patient! What we do is conduct biopsies and blood tests to reveal each patient’s unique set of neoantigens and with our technology we have the ability to create a potent individualized vaccine in a relatively short time at reasonable cost, says Agnete B. Fredriksen, President and Chief Scientific Officer at Vaccibody.

Extra Effective With Checkpoint Inhibition
The Vaccibody researchers analyze individual tumor genomes and the patients’ immune systems to select an optimal mix of neoantigens.

— We can do that in a few days because of modern technology. Then we monitor and record the changes we think the immune system will react to and include them in the personalized vaccine. The neoantigen technology is then combined with so called checkpoint inhibitor therapy, which stops tumors from suppressing immune-system activity — to make the vaccine extra effective.

With this personalized medicine approach, each patient receives a unique DNA vaccine, in combination with standard of care checkpoint inhibitor therapy.

Vaccibody has also reached the front page of VG! Read the story here. (In Norwegian)

Clinical Trials in Germany
In the upcoming German clinical trials the vaccine will be tested on patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma, renal, bladder or head and neck cancer.

— Our technology is very flexible and it can record a number of different changes. The vaccine is therefore applicable as a treatment for many different kinds of cancers. The ones included in the trial are chosen because they contain a high number of mutations and changes creating a good basis to create a neoantigen vaccine.

During the trial Vaccibody will check if the vaccine is safe and without side effects.

— We really think it is based on previous experience with this platform! And we will of course check if the vaccine has the expected immune response and investigate signs of clinical efficacy, says Fredriksen.

Bekjemper kreft med gentilpasset behandling

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

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

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

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

Les saken i VG her.

Vessela Kristensen Receives Cancer Research Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10th Cancer Crosslinks: Precision Treatment Reviewed

For the tenth time the cancer experts gathered to share knowledge and ideas at Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park. Cancer Crosslinks 2018 presented a diverse program covering themes from immuno-oncology to cachexia, to big data.

 

Cancer research is changing rapidly. Immunotherapy and precision medicine has revolutionized cancer treatment. This year’s Cancer Crosslinks took a closer look at developments over the last decade, and highlighted “Precision Treatment: Exploiting Recent Advances – Fast and Furious?”.

Weber Gazed into the Crystal Ball
The leading immunotherapy expert professor Jeffrey S. Weber visited Cancer Crosslinks for a second time. Weber has worked with immunotherapy for 30 years.  He provided an overview on recent advances. He shared new data showing that the combination of a certain vaccine and a type of immunotherapy called Checkpoint inhibitors, are especially effective against cancer. He also gazed into the crystal ball and made predictions on the future of cancer treatment. Weber is optimistic and thinks there are several promising combinations of precision treatments on the horizon.  He believes we can hope for a survival rate of 70-80 percent for people with certain cancers.

A Fiber Diet is Recommendable
Professor Laure Bindels from Belgium explored the theme of Microbiome, Cancer and Cachexia. Diet can be an important tool to fight cancer and cancer symptoms. Her research on mice indicates that changing to a fiber-rich diet can prevent undernourishment and increase the survival rate for cancer patients.

Hege Russnes and Anne Hansen Ree introduced us to the MetAction project where they conduct extended personal diagnostic testing to give cancer patients better and more effective treatment.

From the USA, we were introduced to precision treatment of gynecological cancer from Douglas A. Levine.  He was followed by Professor Andreas Engert, who raised the hot topic of establishing joint European guidelines for treatment across Europe for hematological cancer.

A Big Maybe to Big Data
The last speakers of the day where Assistant Professor Marcela Maus from Harvard Medical School, and Elisabeth Wik and Marc Vaudel from the University of Bergen. Professor Maus explained the use of CAR T- cells in cancer treatment. CAR-T Cells are T-cells with modified receptors to make them more effective against certain diseases, in this case cancer.

Elisabeth Wik and Marc Vaudel, with backgrounds from cancer research and computer science, discussed the use of big data in cancer research and treatment. Will big data revolutionize cancer treatment? The answer is maybe. We don’t know yet, it has potential.  We need to continue exploration, research, and collaboration to find out.

Download the Presentations
For those of you who missed the event or would like to revisit:

You may watch most of the presentations here.

You can download presentations from the meeting here:

Opening and Welcome with Jutta Heix from Oslo Cancer Cluster and Anne Kjersti Fahlvik, Executive Director Innovation, The Norwegian Research Council.

Jeffrey S. Weber. Opening Keynote: Cancer Immunotherapy – The Journey So Far and Where We Are Heading.
Jeffrey S. Weber, Professor, Deputy Director and Co-Director, Melanoma Program, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York, USA.

Laure Bindels. International Keynote: The Microbiome, Cancer and Cachexia.
Laure Bindels, Louvain Drug Research Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium.

Hege G. Russnes and Anne Hansen ReeFrom Feasibility to Utility in Precision Medicine – Experiences from the first Norwegian Study of NGS-Based Therapy Decisions in Advanced Cancer.
Hege G. Russnes, Senior Consultant and Researcher, Oslo University Hospital, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Norway
Anne Hansen Ree, Professor, Akershus University Hospital, University of Oslo, Norway

Douglas A. Levine. International Keynote: Precision Medicine for Gynecologic Cancers – Opportunities and Obstacles.
Douglas A. Levine, Professor, Director of Gynecologic Oncology, Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center & Head, Gynecology Research Laboratory, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, USA.

Andreas Engert. International Keynote: Roadmap for European Hematology Research and Hodgkin Lymphoma: (Immuno)therapy, Late Effects and the Way Forward.
Andreas Engert, Professor for Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, University Hospital of Cologne, Germany.

Marcela V. Maus. International Keynote: The Next Generation of Engineered T-cells for Immunotherapy of Hematological and Solid Tumors.
Marcela V. Maus, Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School & Director of Cellular Immunotherapy, Cancer Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.

Marc Vaudel  and Elisabeth Wik: Making Sense of Big Data for Oncology Patients – Vision and Reality
Marc Vaudel, Center for Medical Genetics and Molecular Medicine, Haukeland University Hospital and KG Jebsen Center for Diabetes Research, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen, Norway
Elisabeth Wik, Centre for Cancer Biomarkers, University of Bergen and Department of Pathology, Haukeland University Hospital, Norway

Missed Us at Oslo Innovation Week?

Luckily, all our events at Oslo Innovation Week and Forskningsdagene are available for a rerun. Have a look!

We had great audiences during our three events on the 27th and 28th of September. If your were not among them, sitting in the brand new science centre of the Norwegian Cancer Society, do not despair. The events were all live streamed on Facebook. You still have a chance to experience them right here.

The events were co-hosted with our partners the Norwegian Cancer Society, the Norwegian Radium Hospital Research Foundation (Radforsk), IBM, Cancer Research UK, Norway Health Tech and EAT.

 

The first event of the week was titled “Antibiotic resistance and cancer – current status, and how to prevent a potential apocalyptic scenario”.

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Antibiotic resistance and cancer – Current status, and how to prevent a potential apocalyptic scenario #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

 

Our secondary event had the title “Cancer research and innovation – benefit for patients”.

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Cancer research and innovation – benefit for patients #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

 

The third and final event on our Oslo Innovation Week calendar was about how big data may transform the development of cancer treatments. 

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How Big Data may transform the development of cancer treatments #OIW2017

Posted by Kreftforeningen on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Meet our new members – Part One

We are proud to introduce Oslo Cancer Cluster’s new members. This is the first part of two stories about our new members.

You can find the second part HERE.

On the 24th of August, Oslo Cancer Cluster hosted a summer party with the intention of getting to know their newest members in an informative and fun setting. The party started with a heartfelt welcome and speech held by Oslo Cancer Cluster’s General Manager Ketil Widerberg and intensive mingling amongst guests. After the welcome was in order, each member stood up, in turn, to introduce their amazing work.

Of the 14 new members we have so far this year, here’s an introduction to those who primarily work in the area of biotechnology.

Precision Oncology
Precision Oncology is a specialty contract research organization (CRO) that provides clinical research services. The company primarily provides application of metrics-driven project management to perfect oncology drug development.

As for their inspiration and reasoning for joining the Oslo Cancer Cluster roster of members, Andrea Cotton-Berry, head of Strategic operations at Precision Oncology, responds:

– What really inspires us at Precision Oncology, is matching the right drug to the right patient, by using biomarkers for patient identification and stratification; a true personalized medicine approach, to find more efficient treatments for patients with advanced cancers. We are looking forward to bringing our team of oncology development experts to contribute to the Oslo Cancer Cluster mission and initiatives, especially advancing immuno-oncology research.

Personalis
Personalis is a leading preciscion medicine company focused on advancing next generation sequencing based services for immuno-oncology. The company is mainly focused on producing the most accurate genetic sequence from each sample set, and using analytics and privately owned content to draw reliable and accurate biomedical interpretations of the data.

In regards to current and future inspiration, Erin Newburn, Senior Manager and Field Applications Scientist at Personalis, comments:

– We aspire to utilize next-generation sequencing as a multi-dimensional platform for bio-marker discovery across cancer therapeutics, as well as throughout developmental stages.

iNANOD
iNANOD is a nanotechnology based anti-cancer drug developing company established in 2016. Their goal is to increase efficacy of anti-cancer drugs and to reduce side-effects for cancer patients as well as maximizing the patients longevity. They aim to become a pharmaceutical company for anti-cancer nanomedicines in the near future.

As for expectations and reasoning for joining Oslo Cancer Cluster, Nalinava Sengupta, CEO and Co-Founder of iNANOD shares his view:

– We think our project – to develop cancer nano-medicine – fits best with Oslo Cancer Cluster. In the incubator we get in touch with other similar firms who have achieved milestones in cancer drug delivery. We expect synergistic knowledge transfer within the incubator network, as well as various kinds of help from the cancer research related entrepreneurial ecosystem developed at Oslo Cancer Cluster. This also helps with business developmental aspects and project application writing.

Norgenotech
Norgenotech is a start-up company that originated from the EU project COMICS that aimed at improving production methods for analysis of DNA damage and repair. Norgenotech mainly assesses genotoxicity, or property of chemical agents that damage the genetic information within a cell, as well as drugs. The company also participates in research projects and developing tools for measuring DNA integrity in patients.

Eisai
Eisai AB originates from a global company in Japan that is active in the manufacturing and marketing of pharmaceutical drugs, pharmaceutical production systems, and over-the-counter drugs. Eisai AB, that will be joining the Oslo Cancer Cluster roster of members, is the sales subsidiary of Eisai Company.

Immunitrack
Immunitrack is a startup company with capabilities in production and studies of protein molecules central to the adaptive immune system in humans in order to develop new therapeutics. Their mission is to provide the research community with tools to redesign or select drug candidates at the early stage of research and development, but also to provide reagents to monitor leading drug candidates effect on patient’s immune system.

Nacamed
Nacamed‘s goal is to produce nanoparticles of silicon material for targeted drug delivery of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and diagnostics to kill cancer cells. By using silicon nanoparticles in cases such as therapy, the particles are biodegradable which entails a clean delivery without any side-effects as they completely disappear and dissolve from the body.

Arctic Pharma
Arctic Pharma is a privately held startup biotech company founded in 2012 that primarily focuses on developing innovative anti-cancer drugs. They do this by exploiting cancer cells and their peculiar features, or more specifically, by targeting key enzymes that are upregulated, or have been increased in terms of stimulus with inhibitors designed at Arctic Pharma. Essentially, their main mission is to become a leader in designing cancer therapies that are both environmentally friendly and have few side effects.

Persontilpasset medisin i Arendal

Sentrale fagmiljøer og helsepolitikere møttes på Oslo Cancer Clusters første åpne møte under Arendalsuka. De diskuterte hva persontilpasset medisin har potensial til å være – og hva som skal til for å oppnå resultater av forskning og klinisk bruk.

Hva er egentlig persontilpasset medisin? Det handler enkelt forklart om at forebygging og behandling av sykdom skal bli bedre tilpasset den enkeltes biologi. Veien dit går gjennom forskning på genetisk variasjon. Slik forskning gir innsikt i hvorfor noen blir syke og andre ikke.

Tirsdag 15. august samlet folk seg i skipet MS Sandnes ved kaia Pollen i Arendal for å høre om persontilpasset medisin i medisinsk forskning og klinisk bruk.

Debatten ble arrangert av Bioteknologirådet, K.G. Jebsen-senter for genetisk epidemiologi – NTNU, Folkehelseinstituttet, Helsedirektoratet, Kreftregisteret og Oslo Cancer Cluster.

Alle vil ha det – hvordan gjøre det?
Fagmiljøer, politikere, pasienter og næringsliv ser ut til å ønske en utvikling mot mer persontilpasset medisin velkommen. Hvordan kommer vi fram til et helsevesen der dette er vanlig praksis?

Ole Johan Borge, direktør i Bioteknologirådet, var ordstyrer. Han åpnet møtet med å minne om målet for persontilpasset medisin: å tilby pasienter mer presis og målrettet diagnostikk og behandling, og samtidig unngå behandlinger som ikke har effekt.

Næringslivets mange muligheter
Kreft er det medisinske området som er tidligst ute med å ta i bruk persontilpasset medisin i Norge. Ketil Widerberg er daglig leder i Oslo Cancer Cluster. Han deltok i panelet under debatten, og fikk spørsmålet:

– Du representerer en næringslivsklynge. Hvilke roller kan store og små næringsaktører spille innen norsk helsevesen for persontilpasset medisin?

– Store farmaaktører og små biotekselskaper er viktige i utvikling av ny medisin. Store internasjonale selskaper kan komme hit til Norge for å teste ut og utvikle nye medisiner her. Store næringslivsaktører innen teknologi, som ikke tradisjonelt er involvert i helse, er det i dag ikke klart hvordan skal samhandle med helsesystemet. Apple har i flere tiår sagt at de vil inn i helse, men de har ikke klart det i USA. I Norge har vi imidlertid tilliten og muligheten til å skape slik samhandling. Dette er noe andre land ikke nødvendigvis har, sa Ketil Widerberg.

Personvern og persontilpasset
En stor del av debatten handlet om hensynet til personvern mot behovet for mer forskning på persontilpasset medisin. Er det slik at vi må velge mellom personvern og god forskning på persontilpasset medisin?

Hør hvordan paneldeltakerne tok tak i dette spørsmålet i denne videoen på Bioteknologirådets nettsider.

I videoen kan du til sist høre hva politikere fra Arbeiderpartiet og Høyre mener om persontilpasset medisin i Norge – og hva de vil gjøre først dersom de får statsrådposten innen helse etter Stortingsvalget i 2017.

Oslo Cancer Cluster har flere åpne arrangementer under Arendalsuka. Finn ut når og hvor her! 

Funding Innovation in BioPharma and IT

What kind of work does it take to receive PERMIDES funding for innovative concepts and projects? Meet one of the companies that just received funding. 

 

22 collaboration projects will receive a total of 1,25 Million Euros from PERMIDES for innovation projects between small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from biopharma, bioinformatics and the IT sector. 

One of the lucky companies to receive innovation funding is Oslo Cancer Cluster member Myhere. For MyHere, it was especially important that the PERMIDES initiative is focused on the intersection between BioPharma and IT.

– Working with partners that are specialized in our field makes it easier to communicate the mission we are on, the concrete problems we are trying to solve and to qualify if we are a good match for each other or not. Furthermore, as we learned about the people and companies involved with PERMIDES, we discovered that we could learn a lot from the experiences of other SMEs in the program, says Jon-Bendik Thue, CEO at MyHere.

An innovative health app
MyHere’s mission is mainly carried out through the use of their app. This app, which pinpoints levels of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) in the bloodstream, enables a clearer outlook on potential prostate cancer and when to promptly, and timely, seek help. Thus, this app creates a balanced overview of prostate cancer that can save the patient and doctor from underdoing and overdoing the process. Essentially, the app is designed to save lives.

In this video, from MyHere’s webpage, the company explains the concept:

Essential health data
The funding will enable MyHere to start with a project that manages content from owners of health data. Health data is a tremendous resource, but unfortunately also tremendously underutilized. One important factor is the issue with getting consent from the owner of health data for research purposes. Typically, the owner is the individual the information was generated from, often in the role as a patient.

– As a provider of medical services directly to consumers, while at the same time organizing data across patient journeys, we are in a unique position to help solve the issue with consent for use of data. The funding from PERMIDES will allow us to build a dynamic data owner content management system, that will be integrated into our medical service platform. We are very excited about this project and we look forward to implementing it with our partner FramX, says Thue.

– Without this funding, we would have had to postpone the initiative without knowing when we would be able to realize it. Now we are thrilled that we will be able to hit the ground running right after the short Norwegian summer, he adds.

More winners in this round
Another Oslo Cancer Cluster member that got funding in this PERMIDES call is Arctic Pharma, a small start-up company committed to developing innovative anti-cancer drugs by exploiting the peculiar metabolic features of cancer cells.

These two Oslo Cancer Cluster members were among six Norwegian companies involved in four successful applications for Innovation Voucher funding. All of them will be able to initiate their joint projects in August and expect to see results early next year.