Norwegian life science on exhibition

The strong life science actors in Norway joined forces during the conference Nordic Life Science Days 2018.

Oslo Cancer Cluster aims to enhance the visibility of oncology innovation made in Norway by being a significant partner for international clusters, global biopharma companies and academic centres. We used the conference Nordic Life Science Days 2018 in Stockholm this September week to show the growing Norwegian life science environment.

The Norwegian stand
From 2015 onward, we have had a Norwegian stand promoting Norwegian healthcare and life science industry together with other life science actors in Norway. Our partners this year were Norway Health TechAleapUniversity of Oslo: Life ScienceThe Life Science ClusterInvent2NORINNansen Neuroscience NetworkLMI, Centre for Digital Life NorwayInnovation Norway and The Norwegian Research Council. Together we represent the essence of Norwegian Life Science.

 

The Norwegian delegation with Ambassador Christian Syse visited the stand in 2018. From the left: Jutta Heix, International Advisor at Oslo Cancer Cluster, Christian Syse, the Norwegian Ambassador to Sweden, Tina Norlander, Senior Advisor in Innovation Norway and Jeppe Bucher, Intern at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Stockholm.

 

A European meeting place
There are several important meeting places for life science actors in Europe, such as BIO-Europe, BIO-Europe Spring and Nordic Life Science Days at the top of the list. Oslo Cancer Cluster is the oncology partner at the Nordic Life Science Days.

Are you interested in what the big oncology session during the Nordic Life Science Days 2018 was all about? The topic was cancer immunotherapy, also known as immuno-oncology.

This article gives you the highlights of the session.

More Nordic collaboration
As a region, the Nordic countries are of international importance in the field of cancer research and innovation, especially in precision medicine, and Oslo Cancer Cluster participates in advancing Nordic collaboration. Oslo Cancer Cluster also engages in more cancer specific European events. One example is the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy Meeting (CIMT), which is the largest European meeting in the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Read more about our international work

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.

Young Skills at Thermo Fischer

The innovation company of the year wants to encourage young talents. 

 

Six students from Ullern Upper Secondary School spent their school day at Thermo Fisher Scientific just days after the company won the prestigious award as the innovation company of the year in Norway.

As part of the school collaboration between Ullern Upper Secondary School and Oslo Cancer Cluster, Thermo Fisher Scientific opens their labs for science students at work deployment.

 

Curious about the school collaboration? Check out our new webpage!

The Dynabeads
The students got a unique insight into how one of Norway’s largest biotechnology companies advances their products, based on the so-called Ugelstad-beads or Dynabeads, developed by Professor John Ugelstad in the late 1970s.

Today, Dynabeads are further industrialized for use in specialized diagnostic tests and cancer treatments worldwide. Annually, the beads are used in an estimated number of four billion diagnostic analyses.

Scientist Synne Larsen and three students are in the company laboratory in Lillestrøm, a ten minute train ride from the capital, where Thermo Fisher Scientific quality checks its products in Norway.

Impressed students 
– I find it incredibly useful to see how our learning at school is being used in the workplace, says student Emma E. J. Botten.

Together with two co-students she was able to see the research and production done in the company’s facilities in Lillestrøm. In parallel, three of the girls’ fellow students were in Oslo and tried out life as crime scene investigators, using Dynabeads as a tool for finding DNA, in the company’s facilities in Montebello.

– It’s impressive to see how much work lies behind their products and how dedicated those who work here are, says student Nora B. Grone.

Diverse employment strategy
The students are in their third year at Ullern Upper Secondary School, with science as their speciality. They all want a career in medicine, global health, mathematics, physics or engineering. A tour of the lab and a visit to the factory were therefore among the highlights of the day.

– It was a bit overwhelming to see Ugelstad’s equation, which is the recipe for the beads, says student Thilde E. Kjorstad.

– Yes, but keep in mind that everyone cannot be as brilliant as Ugelstad. Everybody we employ is equally important and we must have people with different backgrounds and experience, says Erlend Ragnhildstveit, Research Director of Thermo Fisher Scientific in Norway.

Useful cooperation
Thermo Fisher Scientific is a member of Oslo Cancer Cluster. Part of the staff is situated in Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, where Ullern Upper Secondary School is located as well.

– The collaboration with Ullern is useful and important to us as a company. This makes it easier to host deployments. In order to develop our business further, as well as the health industry in Norway, we need people with a science background, says Erlend Ragnhildstveit.

Immunotherapy: Finding the Right Fit

A new Norwegian research collaboration helps uncover what treatments are the right fit for American cancer patients. Who are the collaborators and what are they doing?

There’s a lot of excitement and optimism concerning immuno-oncology, where the method is to utilize a person’s own immune system to treat cancer. However, excitement aside, methods such as this are often a costly experience, in expenses as well as negative and unpredictable side-effects for the person in treatment.

Calibrated Collaboration
Company OncoImmunity is collaborating with the Norwegian Cancer Genomics Consortium (NCGC) in finding out what is causing these serious and unpredictable side-effects.

– This collaboration is an exciting opportunity for us. This is because we can demonstrate the strength of our advanced bioinformatics tools and show how they can be used to detect combinations of genetic variation in the patient, as well as neoantigens in the tumour that can further be used as biomarkers for sensitivity to this type of cancer treatment, says Dr. Richard Stratford, CEO of OncoImmunity, in a recent press release.

OncoImmunity develops proprietary machine-learning software for personalized cancer immunotherapy. The company previously won a prestigious European grant for their work.

You can read about it here!

Patients with sarcomas
The researchers in the collaboration analyse the patient’s genes in the tumour. More specifically, they are looking at American patients by using pembrolizumab, a humanized antibody that blocks cancer protection, on patients with sarcoma – cancer in various binding tissues.

Sarcomas are a rare form of cancer where treatment for such procedures have not developed as much as other cancer treatments. Patients who have sarcoma have generally a worse prognosis than other groups.

The research will be shared with the organization Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration (SARC), helping researchers within the organization to better utilize the results.

The NCGC perspective
The NCGC has, with help from the Norwegian Research Council, established a platform for advanced analysis for such cases. On top of this, they have a vast network of expertise within the area of molecular oncology.

– We find it exciting to see better treatments that can work for multiple cancers where treatment provides promising results, despite limited response, says Professor Ola Myklebost, leader for NCGC and the research project, in a recent press release.

– It is important to be able to choose the right patients for the right treatments. Not only because the treatment is high in cost, but also because of the serious and negative side-effects, he adds.

Creating a SPARK in Innovation and Industry

Stanford programme SPARK provides a shimmer of hope for startup companies. Now, SPARK sets sights on Norway. What exactly is SPARK?

We live in a world where technological and innovative solutions in medicine and healthcare are steadily pouring in. Not to mention, these solutions have the power to completely transform the health-sector in pinpointing and curing diseases before they even take hold.

Why, then, is it that we have the power to revolutionize healthcare, but don’t see it happen?

Unfortunate answer
The unfortunate answer lies in the explanation that most of these technological and innovative solutions have a tough time reaching the bedside from the bench. Reason being lack of funding, marketing or other important factors that help an industry flourish. How can we resolve this?

A solution
Enter SPARK: the Stanford programme that provides a unique partnership between the industry and university.

SPARK provides the necessary factors that help start-up and small companies to advance research breakthroughs. This is done by providing the education and mentorship needed to move the project along further.

SPARK scholars
More specifically, it works by providing graduate level courses about drug-development processes as well as “SPARK Scholars”—funding for project development and mentoring. This mentoring is provided by advisors who have expertise in product development, business, clinical care and generally preparing participants for generating research into therapies.

Coming to Norway
The University of Oslo : Life Sciences is planning to bring Stanford’s programme to Norway where two other European SPARK-programmes have visited Oslo in the summer to share their experiences. One of the univesity’s candidates has tested the programme at summer-school in Japan, as well.

 

Innovative solutions
Oslo Cancer Cluster has been an advocate for SPARK’s involvement in Norway, along along with the Norwegian Inflammation Network (NORIN), The Life Science Cluster and Norway Health Tech (previously Oslo Medtech).

Jutta Heix, the international advisor at Oslo Cancer Cluster, comments on SPARK’s involvement:

–The SPARK programme really fills a gap in the lively and growing biopharma innovation system here in Norway and will help to advance more projects and ideas from academia into innovative solutions for patients. In collaboration with SPARK Berlin and SPARK Finland, SPARK Norway will also contribute to building a European SPARK Network providing even broader support, exposure and collaboration opportunities for the academic innovators involved.  

 

Photocure’s Promising Combo

Photocure reveals promising results in bladder cancer through the use of Blue Light Cytoscopy alongside the drug Hexvix. 

Bladder cancer endangers 167,000 people in Europe annually followed by over 59,000 deaths.

Men are especially at risk, where a staggering 75% of bladder cancer cases occur. Not only that, but bladder cancer has a reputation as being one of the most expensive cancers to have, due to its high reccurence rate with an average of 61% reccurence the first year followed by 78% for the next five years.

The results we needed
As such, there is an increasingly urgent need to develop better methods of both managing and diagnosing the disease. We’re already hearing positive news from the Norwegian company Photocure; a leader in photodynamic technology. Photocure revealed the results from their study on the 18th of August, where the results appear promising in terms of prognosis and diagnosis.

The promising new combo
By combining Blue Light Cystoscopy (BLC) and Hexvix, Blue Light Cytoscopy being the insertion of a tube in the urinary tract instilled with a photosensitizing agent, they found the overall reccurence rate of three years had decreased substantially. More specifically, by combining Blue Light Cytoscopy with Hexvix, they found that the recurrence rate dropped down to 39% for the next three years, as opposed to using an optimized White Light Cytoscopy (WLC), a standard cytoscopy, that resulted in a 53.3% of reccurence.

Substantially better
The benefit was even more substantial for those with high-risk disease, where the chances of recurrence at year three were 52.1% for the Blue Light Cytoscopy combo as opposed to the White Light Cytoscopy, found to be at around 80%.

How does it work?
The probable reasoning for this improvement lies in how the new combo works to detect bladder cancer. By using Blue Light Cytoscopy with Hexvix, which is a drug that is selectively taken up by cancer cells in the bladder, they are able to see the cancer light up in bright pink. This enables the doctors  to accurately resect and make better management deciscions, thusly improving the patients outlook and way of life.

Meet Our New Members – Part Two

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

You can find the first part HERE.

On the 24th of August, Oslo Cancer Cluster hosted a bustling summer party in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, where the new members had the chance to introduce their amazing work.

This is a brief introduction to those of the new members who primarily work in consulting.

Dehns
At Dehns, they have a commercially focused and practical approach to intellectual property that helps them to turn inspired thinking into patents, registered designs and trade marks. Dehns was founded in 1920 and has over 90 staff members, with offices in multiple locations across England. Dehns is one of the largest firms of trade mark and patent attorneys in Europe.

– Partnering with Oslo Cancer Cluster will allow us at Dehns to have more contact with the diverse members at Oslo Cancer Cluster that could benefit from our services. Norway is a buzzing place for opportunity, so we believe this is a special chance to be more present. By doing this, we hope to help companies with whatever questions or problems they might have, whilst also setting sights on getting in contact earlier, so that we can get to the root of the problem quicker and make a real impact as a result. Undoubtedly, getting to the root of the problem at the start is more exciting for everyone, and we aim to do just that, says Barbara Rigby, associate at Dehns.

GIAMAG
GIAMAG was established in 2012 as a commercial spin-off of Norway’s Institute for Energy Technology (IFE), where their patented technology is based off of the Institute’s research. GIAMAG is not wholly belonging to the area of consulting, but nonetheless offers consulting services in their product: one of the world’s most forceful and configurable magnets. GIAMAG’s mission is to provide solutions based on magnet technology for a varying range of industrial applications. They have the expertise to design and configure magnet systems to customer’s specific requirements.

Acapo
Acapo is an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) firm mainly focused on the maintanace of patents, trademark registrations and design. Acapo, despite being located in several places, works as one company. The head office is located in Bergen. Acapo has a joint administration with one legal and one patent department. They strive for the highest degree of both service and quality, where the most important assets are their highly qualified professionals and staff members. They do not only offer advice in areas related to Intellectual Property, but also in business areas. Acapo covers all technical fields.

Artemida
Artemida Pharma is a consultancy company in drug development who has highly experienced scientists representing multiple disciplines and therapeutic areas. Artemida Pharma offers optimised strategic drug development for biotechnology and pharmaceutic clients. They have past experience with a wide variety of clients, geographic areas and product types that enable them to offer integrared project-driven solutions.

DNV GL
DNV GL allows organizations to progress the sustainability and safety of their business. They provide classification, technical assurance, software and independent expert advisory services to the maritime, oil & gas and energy industries. They also provide certification services to customers across a wide range of industries. In terms of healthcare, they support organizations in this sector across the globe by applying system thinking to address risks and deliver high-quality, person centered care.

IRW Consulting
IRW is a Nordic Contract Research Organization (CRO) With more than fifteen years of experience in conducting clinical trials, non-interventional studies and medical device studies. They have built a wide network in Scandinavia as well as with the rest of Europe and the United States. IRW, depending on the customer’s requirements, is equipped with staff that is either outsourced or works with in-house projects. They cover all stages of clinical development.

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! 

How Our Genes Will Change Cancer

Doctors, researchers and audience gather at breakfast to learn about genetics, data and how working together will help beat cancer.

The time is 8:15. Many have started to file in and shuffle to their seats while chatting and occasionally sipping their first morning coffee. As it starts to quiet down, the lights are dimmed, the audience wake up and the breakfast meeting begins.

An air of seriousness with a hint of respect changes the atmosphere, and the audience watches as the first guest speaker steps in and introduces the concept of genes and their relation to cancer.

– Cancer is brought on by errors in our genes. Most of the time, cancer is a result of the unlucky, says Borge, who is the director at the Norwegian Biotechnology Advisory Board.

This is the start of his talk on genes and cancer, where the audience is introduced to that which defines us most: DNA, the molecule of life.

To the moon and back
– 20,310 recipes in our genetic material. 2 meters of DNA in every cell. 10 Billion cells, of which 20 billion meters of DNA is found. If you do the math, astonishingly it amounts to 26,015 trips back and forth to the moon, Borg says, as he shows us a visual representation on the powerpoint slide. (See video in Norwegian.)

It’s this incredibly long strand of genetic material where things can go horribly wrong. If there’s a genetic error, or mutation in the DNA that happens to take place between the double helix and if there’s enough errors, cancer happens. This is the unfortunate fate for many of us.

– However, we may not have come a long way in finding the ultimate cure for cancer, but what we have accomplished is the ability and possibility of analysing, and ultimately predicting, cancer through genome sequencing, Borge says.

It was the best of times…
This message, as a central theme to the breakfast meeting taking place, shines a hopeful light in an otherwise frightful and serious subject. With genome sequencing, or list of our genes, scientists and doctors will have greater accuracy to predict genes that are potential carriers, and highly susceptible to, different cancers.

However, this requires a large amount of genome sequences: we need an army of genome data.

From terminal to chronic
To set further example, the next speaker to take the stage is oncologist Odd Terje Brustugun. He stresses the importance of personalized treatment for lung cancer patients, even those with metastatic cancers. These patients can be tested today to see if they are viable to receive new kinds of treatmemt, such as targeted therapy. This was the case for lung-cancer patient, and survivor for five years, Kari Grønås.

Kari Grønås was able to participate in a clinical study. She was treated with targeted therapy instead of the ordinary treatment for lung cancer patients at that time: chemotherapy.

– I feel I have gone from feeling like I have a terminal disease to a chronic one, she says from the podium.

Beating cancer: the story of us
This personalized approach is arguably what worked for Kari, setting the example and potential for the future. If we can analyse our own genes for potential cancer, then we are both able to prevent and provide personalized medicine catered to the individual. This is why genome sequencing is important for the future.

However, this cannot be done alone. To get a representable treatment for the individual, we need data. And data does not come reliably from one individual, but from the many.

– It is not your genes that are the key for tomorrows cancer research, it is ours. It is collaboration where large amounts of data and correlation will give us the knowledge that ensures the right path towards the future. A future with better cancer treatment for all, says Ole Johan Borge.