The Economist & Oslo Cancer Cluster: War on Cancer Nordics

Oslo Cancer Cluster is proud to be partner of The Economist Events War On Cancer Nordics.

The War on Cancer Nordics 2017 in Oslo will gather leaders in oncology from the Nordic region and beyond, to discuss the region’s primary challenges in cancer care and control. The event will bring together policy makers, NGOs, academia, research and health care professionals, patient groups and cancer control institutes with private sector business leaders.

 

Questions we will answer

  • How much does cancer cost the Nordic countries per year both in terms of treatment costs and its impact on the labour market?
  • Would a unified Nordic oncology framework be desirable? 
  • What can be learnt from countries that have made more progress in prevention initiatives? 
  • How could research in immuno-oncology be scaled across the region to improve outcomes for patients? 
  • What role will new technologies play in shaking up cancer care, from prevention, through diagnosis, to treatment and to optimise symptoms and quality of life?

 

Founding sponsor: The Research Council og Norway and silver sponsor: Roche

DoMore! receives Lighthouse project grant from the Norwegian Research Council

The Norwegian Research Council IKTPLUSS has selected The DoMore! project application as one of the 3 winners of the prestigious Lighthouse Project grant. The Lighthouse Project winning proposals were announced at the Norwegian E-health conference on the 26th april 2016.

 

The DoMore! project aims to explore the unique combination of academic and industrial competence within the project group to radically improve prognostication and hence treatment of cancer by using digital tools for pathology. ​The DoMore! project focuses on heterogene​​ity in cancer​ and is led by Institute Director Håvard Danielsen.​

​By largely digitalizing and automating diagnostics and prognostication of cancer, we can literally DoMore! and analyze a ​greater number of samples from the same tumor​,​ ​leading to a more precise diagnosis for each patient​ ​​​​Safe storage, analysis and prosessing of the​ ​B​ig ​D​ata​ the project will produce will also be handled by the project partners.

The ​DoMore!​ ​team ​is composed ​of experts within several fields, including: digital imaging, processing, robotics, pathology, cell biology, surgery and oncology, both in Norway and abroad​​. ​​Together, we will create solutions that will​​ ​​​​allow​ us to DoMore!, resulting in objective cancer diagnostics that can be made available to all patients.

Read more about the DoMore!-project here.

NLSDays 2015: Meet international life science leaders and discuss the sector’s future at the Nordic region’s largest partnering meeting

NLSDays September 9-10 at Stockholm Waterfront is the Nordic region’s premier life science event. The global life science sector is undergoing major structural changes, and as part of a strong established hub, companies in Sweden and the Nordic countries are of great interest when international investors and corporations are looking for new partners.

The entire value chain from basic research to the introduction of new therapies is subject to transformation – not least due to rapid developments in digital health. Life science companies therefore need to find new ways to collaborate and fund their projects. Since the Nordic region offers a modern, competitive environment for academia and research companies alike, the region has become highly attractive for the global life science industry.

  • NLSDays has become the most important meeting place for global investors and corporations that are looking for new collaborations in the Nordic region. The event is on course for record numbers and deals such as the recent one between Alligator Bioscience and Janssen Biotech which illustrates that Swedish companies offer major value to partners, says Jonas Ekstrand, CEO SwedenBIO, the Swedish national life science industry organization which founded the event three years ago.

Overall, the life science sector is currently very active in the Nordic countries. For example, the Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, an investment of around 100 million Euros opens today (24 August). Furthermore, AstraZeneca recently announced a Euros 260 million investment in a new plant for bio-pharmaceutical production and from January 2014, 18 life science companies across all subsectors from medtech to biopharma have been listed on Nasdaq Nordic at a combined value of about Euros 250 million (Source Nasdaq). Furthermore, initiatives and companies in new areas such as personalized medicine, digital health and outcomes based provision are emerging at an accelerating pace.

During Nordic Life Science Days 2015 the main theme is “The New Value Chain”. The 2 day program covers several sessions in which international life science leaders will discuss strategies on how new partnerships can be established and how medical research and the life science industry in the Nordics can contribute.

Super Sessions from the program:

  • International Investors (9 September at 11.30 – 12.30)

International life science investors talk about their investment models and what they look for from entrepreneurs.

  • Personalized Healthcare – Matching Medicines to Patients (September 10 at 08:45 – 09-45)

How will big data and new diagnostic methods impact the future of medical research and treatment modalities? Listen to how the Digital Doctor Watson can revolutionize health care.

  • Oncology 2025 (10 September 11.30 – 12.30)

Immuno-oncology is hotter than ever and there is an ongoing competition between the big global companies to take on the most promising projects. Representatives from several of the major players talk about their strategies.

Currently, 800 delegates are registered for this year’s NLSDays, which is 33% more than at the corresponding time last year. This strongly indicate that the meeting will attract over 1,000 participants, outnumbering last year’s number of delegates.

The conference is organized September 9-10, 2015 at Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre, Nils Ericssons Plan 4 in Stockholm. More info on www.nlsdays.com.

 

About NLSDays

Founded in 2012 the Nordic Life Science Days has grown rapidly to become the largest Nordic partnering conference for the global life science industry. In 2014, 890 delegates from 28 countries attended the meeting. The 580 companies attending offered 490 licensing opportunities in the partnering system and during the two days 1600 one-on-one meetings were scheduled. Among the investors and big pharma already registered for the meeting in September 2015 are AbbVie, Alexion, Almi Invest, Astellas, AstraZeneca, Bayer HealthCare, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cadila Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, HealthCap, Industrifonden, Karolinska Development, Merck-MSD, Novartis, Pfizer, Pierre Fabre, P.U.LS. AB, Recipharm, Roche, Seventure Partners, SR-One.

In addition to partnering, NLSDays also offers an exhibition and a seminar program with 10 super session and four topic specific workshops. Speakers include senior representatives from the global life science companies, investors, and academic leaders who will all share their expertise and views for the future.

About SwedenBIO

SwedenBIO who is the founder and organizer of the Nordic Life Science Days is the Swedish life science industry organization. Our nearly 200 members operate across all sub-sectors from pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical technology to diagnostics. SwedenBIO serves to the benefit the entire life science industry in Sweden and is a member-driven, private, non-profit organization. The main objective is to improve the conditions for the life science industry for the benefit of industry growth and business development.

 

Oncology Super Session in Stockholm

Oslo Cancer Cluster is hosting a Super Session at the Nordic Life Science Days in Stockholm. International thought leaders will discuss current game changing innovations and their impact on the industry in the years ahead.

Oncology is at the forefront of realizing the promises of precision medicine. Huge and complex datasets are exploited for novel drug development as well as for informed and real-time care decisions. Emerging Cancer immunotherapies represent a paradigm shift for cancer treatment triggering a global R&D race and novel partnerships. Furthermore, the convergence of the genetics and digital revolution creates novel types of products, companies and growth opportunities transforming the sector.

 

Moderator: Mr. Richard Godfrey, CEO, BergenBio, Norway

Session Outline:

 

Min Topic Speaker
5 Introduction by moderator ·        Dr. Richard Godfrey, CEO BerGenBio

 

10 Topic 1 –global company – perspectives from industry leader – Precision Medicine ·        Dr. Vaios Karanikas, Senior Biomarker and Experimental Medicine Leader, Tumor Immunology, Roche Pharmaceutical Research and Early Development, Innovation Center Zurich
10 Topic 2 – Digital Health company – Big Data / artificial intelligence -> impact on cancer R&D and care ·        Dr. Anthony Bak, Principal Data Scientist, Ayasdi
10 Topic 3 – global company – perspectives from industry leader – Immuno-Oncology ·        Dr. Tim Fisher, Global Lead, Immuno-Oncology / Oncology, Search & Evaluation, Bristol-Myers Squibb
25 Panel Discussion ·        All speakers, joined by Dr. Erik Lund, Director, Worldwide Licensing at MSD (Merck & Co., Inc.)

 

Target Audience: Start-ups, Biotechs, Pharma, investors, academic innovators, TTOs

 

255 MNOK to biomedical research

The Norwegian Research Council recently announced four large investments in biomedical research on a total of 255 MNOK.

Of these investments, 60 MNOK will go to to sequencing and precision medicine, 80 MNOK to national biobanks, 65 MNOK to brain research and 50 MNOK to Norwegian Clinical Research Infrastructure Network.

– This is great news. Biomedical research affects not only a nation’s health, but international competitiveness too, says Ketil F. Widerberg, General Manager in Oslo Cancer Cluster in a comment.

For more information: http://www.forskningsradet.no/no/Nyheter/13_milliarder_til_forskningsutstyr/1254010677263/p1174467583739

Supercomputing reveals the genetic code of cancer

Cancer researchers in Oslo are now using one of the world’s fastest computers to detect which parts of the genetic code may cause bowel and prostate cancer.


Written by Yngve Vogt, Apollon. Read the original article in English here and in Norwegian here. Published on www.oslocancercluster.no with permisson from the author.

Cancer researchers must use one of the world’s fastest computers to detect which versions of genes are only found in cancer cells. Every form of cancer, even every tumour, has its own distinct variants.

“This charting may help tailor the treatment to each patient,” says Associate Professor Rolf Skotheim, who is affiliated with the Centre for Cancer Biomedicine and the Research Group for Biomedical Informatics at the University of Oslo, as well as the Department of Molecular Oncology at Radiumhospitalet, Oslo University Hospital.

His research group is working to identify the genes that cause bowel and prostate cancer, which are both common diseases. There are 4,000 new cases of bowel cancer in Norway every year. Only six out of ten patients survive the first five years. Prostate cancer affects 5,000 Norwegians every year. Nine out of ten survive.

Comparisons between healthy and diseased cells
In order to identify the genes that lead to cancer, Skotheim and his research group are comparing the genetic material in tumours with the genetic material in healthy cells. In order to understand this process, a fast introduction to our genetic material is needed.

Our genetic material consists of just over 20,000 genes. Each gene consists of thousands of base pairs, represented by a specific sequence of the four building blocks adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, popularly abbreviated to A, T, G, and C. The sequence of these building blocks is the very recipe for the gene. Our whole DNA consists of some six billion base pairs.

The DNA strand carries the molecular instructions for activity in the cells. In other words, DNA contains the recipe for proteins, which perform the tasks in the cells. DNA, nevertheless, does not actually produce proteins. First a copy of DNA is made. This transcript is called RNA, and it is this molecule that is read when proteins are produced.

RNA is only a small component of DNA, and is made up of its active constituents. Most of DNA is inactive. Only 1–2 % of the DNA strand is active.

In cancer cells, something goes wrong with the RNA transcription. There is either too much RNA, which means that far too many proteins of a specific type are formed, or the composition of base pairs in RNA is wrong. The latter is precisely the area being studied by the UiO researchers.

Wrong combinatorics
All genes can be divided into active and inactive parts. A single gene may consist of tens of active stretches of nucleotides (exons).

“RNA is a copy of a specific combination of the exons from a specific gene in DNA.”

There are many possible combinations, and it is precisely this search for all of the possible combinations that is new in cancer research.

Different cells can combine the nucleotides in a single gene in different ways. A cancer cell can create a combination that should not exist in healthy cells. And as if that didn’t make things complicated enough, sometimes RNA can be made up of stretches of nucleotides from different genes in DNA. These special, complex genes are called fusion genes.

In other words, researchers must look for errors both inside genes and between the different genes.

“Fusion genes are usually found in cancer cells, but some of them are also found in healthy cells.”

In patients with prostate cancer, researchers have found some fusion genes that are only created in diseased cells. These fusion genes may then be used as a starting-point in the detection of and fight against cancer.

The researchers have also found fusion genes in bowel cells, but they were not cancer-specific.

“For some reason, these fusion genes can also be found in healthy cells. This discovery was a let-down.”

Can improve treatment
There are different RNA errors in the various cancer diseases. The researchers must therefore analyse the RNA errors of each disease.

Among other things, the researchers are comparing RNA in diseased and healthy tissue from 550 patients with prostate cancer. The patients that make up the study do not receive any direct benefits from the results themselves. However, the research is important in order to be able to help future patients.

“We want to find the typical defects associated with prostate cancer. This will make it easier to understand what goes wrong with healthy cells, and to understand the mechanisms that develop cancer. Once we have found the cancer-specific molecules, they can be used as biomarkers. In some cases, the biomarkers can be used to find cancer, determine the level of severity of the cancer, the risk of spreading, and whether the patient should be given a more aggressive treatment.

Even though the researchers find deviations in the RNA, there is no guarantee that there is appropriate, targeted medicine available.

“The point of our research is to figure out more of the big picture. If we identify a fusion gene that is only found in cancer cells, the discovery will be so important in itself that other research groups around the world will want to begin working on this straight away. If a cure is found that counteracts the fusion genes, this may have enormous consequences for the cancer treatment.”

Laborious work
Recreating RNA is laborious work. The set of RNA molecules consists of about 100 million bases, divided into a few thousand bases from each gene.

The laboratory machine reads millions of small nucleotides. Each one is only one hundred base pairs long. In order for the researchers to be able to place them in the right location, they must run large statistical analyses. The RNA analysis of a single patient can take a few days.

All of the nucleotides must be matched with the DNA strand. Unfortunately the researchers do not have the DNA strands of each patient. In order to learn where the base pairs come from in the DNA strand, they must therefore use the reference genome of the human species.

“This is not ideal, because there are individual differences.”

The future potentially lies in fully sequencing the DNA of each patient when conducting medical experiments.

Supercomputing
There is no way the research can be carried out using pen and paper.

“We need powerful computers to crunch the enormous amounts of raw data. Even if you spent your whole life on this task, you would not be able to find the location of a single nucleotide. This is a matter of millions of nucleotides that must be mapped correctly in the system of coordinates of the genetic material. Once we have managed to find the RNA versions that are only found in cancer cells, we will have made significant progress. However, the work to get that far requires advanced statistical analyses and supercomputing,” says Rolf Skotheim.

The analyses are so demanding that the researchers must use the University’s supercomputer, which was ranked as one of the world’s fastest computers a few years ago. It is 10,000 times faster than a regular computer.

“With the ability to run heavy analyses on such large amounts of data, we have an enormous advantage not available to other cancer researchers. Many medical researchers would definitely benefit from this possibility. This is why they should spend more time with biostatisticians and informaticians. RNA samples are taken from the patients only once. The types of analyses that can be run are only limited by the imagination.”

“We need to be smart in order to analyse the raw data. There are enormous amounts of data here that can be interpreted in many different ways. We have just got started. There is lots of useful information that we have not seen yet. Asking the right questions is the key. Most cancer researchers are not used to working with enormous amounts of data, and how to best analyse vast data sets. Once researchers have found a possible answer, they must determine whether the answer is chance or if it is a real finding. The solution is to find out whether they get the same answers from independent data sets from other parts of the world.”

By Yngve Vogt