Norway steps up immuno-oncology ambitions with opening of $120M park

Norway has opened the doors at its NOK 1 billion ($120 million) bet on cancer R&D. The investment has enabled the creation of Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park, a site housing hospitals, Big Pharma and an incubator for the next generation of Norwegian oncology startups.

The opening of the park marks the culmination of years of work to align and expand resources in the city of Oslo to further oncology R&D and treatment. Norwegian state investment organization Siva has stepped up with 25% of the cash, while a private initiative involving OBOS, Industrifinans, Radium Hospitalets Legater and Utstillingsplassen Eiendom has raised a further two-thirds of the total. The influx of money comes at a time when the investor base for biotechs and healthcare in Norway is broadening.

"We've attracted Norwegian investors who have not looked at this sector before," Jónas Einarsson, CEO of the Radium Hospital Research Foundation, told BioWorld Today. Einarsson has been central in working to persuade the government of the benefits of establishing a system that builds upon the country's strength in basic research. This has taken time. "What we've been struggling with is to get them to understand that to get anything beyond publishing papers we have to invest in the next stage," Einarsson said.

Having opened the park, Oslo now has the makings of a system that can usher a program from basic research, through early-stage R&D and into the clinic. The existing Oslo Cancer Cluster, which is one of eight organizations that comprise the new Innovation Park, houses companies working on the second and third steps in this process. Many of Norway's oncology upstarts, such as IPO success story Nordic Nanovector (OSE:NANO), call the cluster home, while its recently-established incubator offshoot is aiming the shepherd the next generation of startups through their early days.

As these companies grow, the infrastructure around them is set to expand. The next phase of the project is the planned construction of a seven-storey, 8,000-square-meter facility. Such ambition suggests Oslo will have the physical infrastructure to come good on its cancer R&D plans. The bigger, as-yet-unanswered question, is whether it can achieve the marriage of infrastructure, ideas and money that characterizes the most effective R&D hubs.   

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