Vaccibody is one of the companies working in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator's laboratories to develop novel cancer treatments. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

Turning offices into laboratories

OCC Incubator labs

Something remarkable has happened in Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator: office spaces have transformed into laboratories.

When Janne Nestvold, Chief Operating Officer of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, noticed the empty offices and meeting rooms in the beginning of the corona lockdown, she saw an opportunity. Why not turn these spare rooms into much-needed laboratory space?

Walls had to be moved, a separate ventilation system had to be installed, and new water pipes had to be fitted. Expensive instruments were ordered and work benches with hoods were mounted for the cell laboratory. All rooms needed to be dimensioned correctly down to the last millimetre for everything to fit precisely.

Shortage of laboratories

Why did Nestvold go to all this trouble? The answer is simple: there is a lack of laboratory and test capacity in Norway for new health companies.

“Emerging companies in cancer often don’t have the resources to build their own advanced laboratories and buy all the expensive equipment themselves. The companies turn to us instead for our shared public-private laboratory facilities, which have become very important for them to succeed.”
Janne Nestvold

Janne Nestvold

Janne Nestvold, Chief Operating Officer of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator

An urgent need

The demand for test facilities can be seen all over Norway. One example is Vaccibody, a Norwegian biopharmaceutical company developing novel vaccines and immunotherapies against cancer. As the company has grown recently, they needed to expand beyond the two labs they have in Oslo Science Park.

This spring, the Research Oncology Team at Vaccibody started using the labs at OCC Incubator. They are currently performing pre-clinical vaccination studies at the Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, a Comprehensive Cancer Centre, which is located next to OCC Incubator.

“It is practical for us to have a laboratory located close to the facility where we perform our in vivo studies. Being a member of OCC Incubator is beneficial as we for instance get access to equipment that we may not use often enough to purchase on our own.” Audun Bersaas, PhD and Senior Scientist at Vaccibody.

Audun Bersaas, and his team from Vaccibody, working in the Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator laboratories.

The Research Oncology team at Vaccibody are developing novel vaccines and immunotherapies against cancer. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

Breaking down barriers

The laboratories are shared between academic researchers from the Cell Therapy Unit at Oslo University Hospital and researchers from Norwegian companies, including Vaccibody, ThermoFisher, Zelluna Immunotherapy, Ultimovacs, and more.

“Research environments can be very competitive. In Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator, we are building a collaborative atmosphere, based on mutual respect and sharing principles. This is important to help new companies reach their milestones.” Janne Nestvold

The Research Oncology team at Vaccibody are developing novel immunotherapies and vaccines against cancer.

The laboratories will be shared between different companies and researchers from Oslo University Hospital’s Cell Therapy Unit. Photo: Oslo Cancer Cluster

The vision for a healthy future

Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator supports more collaboration between researchers, industry, hospital staff and innovation ecosystems, so treatments can be developed and reach patients faster.

“To meet increasing pressure on the health services in the future, we need to invest in developing new technologies, diagnostics and treatments here in Norway,” said Ketil Widerberg, CEO, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

“Norway has world-class research environments in medicine, it is time to turn the research into products that help people and companies that create jobs, export opportunities and added value for society.” Ketil Widerberg

Ketil Widerberg, CEO, OCC Incubator

Ketil Widerberg, Chief Executive Officer of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator

However, developing novel solutions in health come with high requirements. There is a need to test carefully to ensure it is safe and the innovations have a lengthy development time. This means that companies need access to more test facilities to bring innovative solutions to market.

Together with the other Norwegian health clusters, Norway Health Tech and Norwegian Smart Care Cluster, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator wants to set up more laboratories and test facilities in Norway.

In Oslo, there is already a lot happening. The Radium Hospital is building a completely new clinic and proton building, while Oslo Cancer Cluster Innovation Park will expand in two building stages over the next few years.

  • Hear more about the plans for building the health industry in Norway in this webinar (in Norwegian) from 21 May 2021.
Photo: NOME

Calling all life science start-ups

Are you a Norwegian life science start-up in need of mentoring?

The Nordic Mentor Network for Entrepreneurship (NOME) offers free mentoring to promising start-ups in the life science sector. Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) Incubator has coordinated NOME activities in Norway since 2016 and is actively seeking both start-ups and mentors to join the programme.

NOME is a not-for-profit mentoring network in the life sciences, managed by Accelerace AS. The goal of NOME is to increase the success rate of Nordic life science start-ups by giving access to experienced mentors. Participation is free of charge and funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.

How does it work?

Selected start-ups are matched with 3-4 mentors to address the company’s specific challenges. These are some of the most experienced, best networked, and most influential leaders from the Nordic life science industry. The mentors volunteer their services to help start-up companies in biotech, medtech and healthtech areas to reach their goals.

Peter Birk, Accelerace

Peter Birk, Head of Business Development at Accelerace

“It is not very easy for start-ups to get access to advice from people of the level that we have in NOME. We provide a framework and facilitate help from those who know to those who need,” said Peter Birk, Head of Business Development at Accelerace.

“Several analyses of life science ecosystems confirm that access to advice from those who “have been there and done that” is a critical factor of success,” Birk continued.


Accelerating innovation

The NOME mentoring programme is a complement to the OCC Incubator’s other activities, facilities, and services to support start-ups in the cancer innovation field. This includes one-to-one business development advice, state-of-the-art laboratories and offices, and access to a global network of key players in the cancer field.

Ketil Widerberg, CEO, OCC Incubator

Ketil Widerberg, CEO of OCC Incubator

”To accelerate the development of new cancer treatments, we need to build the Norwegian health industry and Nordic collaboration on life science,” said Ketil Widerberg, Chief Executive Officer, Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.

“NOME is one example of this. The start-ups get connected with the mentors they need to develop their companies and bring new innovations to the market. We hope many new life science start-ups in Norway will take advantage of this opportunity,” Widerberg continued.


Nordic collaboration for life science

NOME is active in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, and has an important role in connecting the entire Nordic Life Science system.

“Individually we are all small countries, but together we have critical mass and represent a very significant stronghold for life sciences that gets attention from the rest of the world,” said Peter Birk.

“A good example is that there is a high interest from very experienced non-Nordic individuals from the life science industry to become NOME mentors. This would not have happened if we were just a local Norwegian, Danish or Swedish,” Birk continued.

  • Do you want to receive mentoring for your start-up? Please get in touch with Ketil Widerberg, CEO of Oslo Cancer Cluster Incubator.
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.”


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.