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From big pharma to biotech start-up

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Jonas Hallén - From big pharma to biotech start-up

If you want something done, start it yourself

By Johanne Kloster Ellingsen, published 10 June, 2022

With the ambition of treating an autoimmune disease, but struggling to find a company matching his ambitions, Jonas Hallén took matters into his own hands. In collaboration with a colleague, he founded Arxx Therapeutics in 2018, which, just four years later, is approaching its first clinical trial. By giving insight into his world in Arxx, Hallén illustrates the entrepreneurial spirit of getting it done.

Hallén illustrates the entrepreneurial spirit of getting it done

After finishing his PhD, Jonas was planning on going back to the hospital as an MD, however, through the act of fortune he ended up as a medical advisor for a large pharmaceutical company. After over a decade in big pharma, Jonas wanted a change. With the aspiration of working for a smaller biotech firm, but failing to find the right match, he, together with his colleague Riswan Hussain, decided to be the makers of their own fortune. Benefiting from over 30 years of research, Arxx is developing therapies for patients with the autoimmune, fibrotic disease systemic sclerosis based on the monoclonal antibody AX-202.

Every meeting we have serves a clear purpose

As the chief medical and development officer of Arxx, Jonas’s primary responsibilities include managing the pre-clinical and clinical pipeline for drug development, as well as maintaining communication with experts in the field. However, the nature of working in a small start-up makes for a flexible interpretation of what the role entails. “One of the benefits of working in a small company is the liberty of autonomy in your day-to-day work” he explains, which results in a much more flexible and varied work week compared to larger companies. When further asked about the differences between working in big pharma and a biotech start-up, he highlights the efficiency and the fruitfulness of the work put in. Less energy is directed towards internal bureaucratic processes, he explains, “every meeting we have serves a clear purpose”. This results in quicker implementation of decisions made, as less time and energy are spent on internal communication and decision-making across departments. In essence, the work you put down makes a visible impact on the future of the company, he states.

Always have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C

Despite the intrigue of starting on your own, the task of starting a biotech firm can seem daunting. Jonas has several tips for aspiring entrepreneurs. First, do your homework. Follow the field you’re interested in closely and make connections. “Most people you encounter are nice, so don’t be afraid to reach out”. Ideally through information exchange as “having some questions makes it easier to make a connection”. Second, have a plan. The decisions made in the early stages will follow the company for a long time, so it is important to think potential scenarios through. “Always have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C”. Thirdly, be flexible and solution oriented. With a small team you will face a varied set of completely new challenges, and so being open minded about the nature of your role is important. However, the absolute key, he says, is working with something you are passionate about, and never giving up. Starting up a business is hard, especially in a field which is as highly regulated as life science and biotech. Being passion driven and resilient will, however, allow you to put in the extra hours it takes to solve what can appear unsolvable resulting in a meaningful, dynamic, and exciting career.

He has taken the wheel of his own career

And it is perhaps this ethos which has allowed Jonas and the small team at Arxx to make important steps towards realising his dream of helping people with a disease where no effective treatment is currently available. The coming year will be an exciting one for Arxx, as AX-202 is approaching phase 1 clinical trials. Fuelled by the passion to make a meaningful difference for a largely overlooked patient group, Arxx serves as an inspiring case study in the possibility for trailblazing entrepreneurship to fulfil ambitions left unattended by larger industry. Hallén is this story. He has taken the wheel of his own career and demonstrates the empowering possibilities of doing so.

 

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About Arxx Therapeutics AS

Arxx was established in 2018 by Jonas Hallén, Rizwan Hussein, Jörg Klingelhöfer based on research conducted at the Danish Cancer Society in Copenhagen. The company is backed by Norwegian specialist investors Sarsia Seed and P53, with the administration located at ShareLab, Oslo Science Park. Øystein Soug, formerly with Algeta and Targovax, is heading Arxx as May 2022.

About AX-202

AX-202 is a monoclonal antibody neutralising the bioactivity of S100A4. S100A4 is a Damage Associated Molecular Pattern protein located inside the cells under physiological conditions. Upon tissue injury or stress, S100A4 is released into the extracellular environment alerting the surrounding cells to danger by engaging with Pattern Recognition Receptors. These receptors in turn trigger a broad repertoire of inflammatory and fibrotic responses including release of inflammatory mediators from macrophages and other immune cells, activation and differentiation of fibroblasts, and attraction of additional immune and stromal cells to the site of injury. Elevated levels of S100A4 are a hallmark of pathological tissue fibrosis and chronic inflammation and is seen in a wide range of diseases.

AX-202 has been shown to effectively ameliorate tissue fibrosis, chronic inflammation and cancer spread in multiple in vivo models

About ShareLab

ShareLab offers fully equipped and serviced wet labs for startups and industrial partners, as well as a community of industry experts and biotech entrepreneurs. The laboratory is located at Oslo Science Park amid Norwegian institutions like University of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital, SINTEF, and a range of life science companies. ShareLab is non-profit and invests all funds in cutting edge laboratories and industrial knowhow to help fuel life science.

Contact

If you would like to know more, you may contact Johanne and the ShareLab Team via LinkedIn or other social media.

 

 

 

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No plans to ever stop asking ‘why’

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Meet Johanne - the staff writer at ShareLab

Whiskey, ‘why's, and a future world of bio

ShareLab Team, published 30 March, 2022

“I was a definitely ‘why’ kid”, Johanne Ellingsen explains. And this curiosity burned all the way down to the ‘why’ of life. In the quest for an answer to her ‘why’, Johanne pursued biology as a natural field of uncovering the mysteries at the root of her curiousness. Her initial interest in the sciences has refined into a focus on biotechnology. Her goal for the future is to aid the development of biobusiness as a tool in solving pressing issues of our time. And in her role as staff writer at ShareLab, she investigates businesses wanting to do just that. 

As the tale of the dancing birds of paradise was told on TV by Sir David Attenborough, Johanne’s fascination for biology was born.

As the tale of the dancing birds of paradise was told on TV by Sir David Attenborough, Johanne’s fascination for biology was born. Throughout her school years many subjects captivated her interest, and at different points in time she wanted to become an IT engineer or study international relations. However, the interest in the system of life lingered and persistently more than all the rest. “One of my favourite exercises in school was to try to explain why some plant or animal looked or acted like it did. What can appear as a random and non-functional part of an organism generally has a logical explanation (although the logic might be somewhat obscure) which is always fun to debate”. However, it was the concept of humans using and manipulating biology to do something we want that was the selling ticket. “I find it extremely fascinating what bright minds can come up with using the toolbox of biology. Whether it be producing beer, meat, a drug or even something as theoretically ambitious as DNA for data storage.”

Johanne is currently finishing a degree in biotechnology at The University of Edinburgh.

The wave of bio-based industry is coming, and the opportunity to join it is one I feel cannot be missed

The field's capability to combine various branches of science was the second major selling point for Johanne. “A primary reason why I chose biotechnology is the interdisciplinary nature of the field. The intersection with computational sciences is an area I am currently exploring in my final year project in which I am evaluating deep learning models for automatic cell segmentation. I also think the field of synthetic biology is very interesting and a space to watch in the future.” Jason Kelly, co-founder of Gingko Bioworks, has stated that the industry of biotech, and more specifically synthetic biology, is now where the informatics industry was in the 1950s. “The wave of bio-based industry is coming, and the opportunity to join it is one I feel cannot be missed.”

...school, time outdoors, and a (cheeky) night out can all be combined

Besides her studies Johanne enjoys exploring Scotland. Having grown up involved in musical theatre, a major appeal of moving to Edinburgh was the thriving cultural scene of the city. Now that Covid is finally easing its grip, the bustling feel of the city is re-emerging. “I do try to sneak in some stand-up or concerts between study-sessions”. She also enjoys spending the weekends outdoors in the natural surroundings of Scotland. They are not always mutually exclusive, however, and school, time outdoors, and a (cheeky) night out can all be combined. “Last week we went on a whiskey distillery tour (and tasting) as a part of a “core skills” course. Consider it one of the benefits of studying biotechnology in Scotland” she smiles.

no plans to ever stop asking ‘why’

After her studies, Johanne is motivated to be involved in innovative ways of utilising knowledge gained through science for problem solving and product development of biobased products. As a member of her generation, she finds it necessary to engage in a field that is actively trying to solve our planet's biggest crisis. “I strongly believe biotechnology will be a key industry in the handling of the climate crisis, in both its root causes and its consequences.” And while she aims to contribute to the answering of many of our most pressing questions as a globalising society, she also has no plans to ever stop asking ‘why’.

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About ShareLab

ShareLab offers fully equipped and serviced wet labs for startups and industrial partners, as well as a community of industry experts and biotech entrepreneurs. The laboratory is located at Oslo Science Park amid Norwegian institutions like University of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital, SINTEF, and a range of life science companies. ShareLab is non-profit and invests all funds in cutting edge laboratories and industrial knowhow to help fuel life science.

Contact

If you would like to know more, you may contact Johanne and the ShareLab Team via LinkedIn or other social media.

 

 

 

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Sunlight and Skin Health

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Sunlight and skin health

Making a Friend out of a Foe

By Johanne Kloster Ellingsen (ShareLab Staff Writer), published March 3, 2022

Most of us have repeatedly been reminded of the importance of protecting our skin from the damaging rays of sunlight. Still, more than 50% of Norwegians over 50 have sun-damaged skin, says Oscar Solér, Managing Director of the Oslo-based start-up 3Skin. At 3Skin they are aiming to flip the script, as they have been developing solutions to reduce phototoxic effects on the skin with the help from the very same agent that damaged the skin in the first place: the sun.

The reasoning behind the name 3Skin is two-fold, Oscar explains. Firstly, the name is after the three founders Ana Maria Solér, Trond Warloe and Qian Peng, all MDs, and experts within the technology the company is built on, so-called photodynamic therapy. Photodynamic therapy is a clinically established modality against a range of cancers, as well as various forms of skin-damage. The founders of 3Skin were heavily involved in developing photodynamic treatments against skin damage at the Oslo University Hospital in the 1990s, setting the stage for its wide-spread applications 30 years later. However, the founders reasoned that the technology could also be used to prevent the formation of the skin damage. 3Skin was born in 2016 and is currently working on developing a sunscreen that, with the help from the sun, does just that.

In short, photodynamic therapy uses a combination of a photosensitising compound and light to specifically attack and kill damaged cells. In the 3Skin’s sunscreen, 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA), a naturally occurring amino acid, is used. Once taken up by the skin cells, 5-ALA forms the photosensitising protoporphyrin-IX which, in a high concentration and upon red light exposure, will induce cell death. Crucially, sun-damaged cells (like cancerous cells) have a higher production of 5-ALA-derived protoporphyrin-IX leading to selective cell death of damaged cells in the skin after light exposure. The damaged cells will then be replaced by new, healthy cells, a process called skin rejuvenation. This process also stimulates collagen production in the lower layer of the skin, increasing skin elasticity.

That leads us to the second reason for the company name, the three biological effects of its sunscreen: protection, rebuilding, and stimulation. Using a low dose of 5-ALA in combination with vitamin D3 and protective agents against damaging sun radiation, the 3Skin’s sunscreen protects against sun, rebuilds the skin with new and healthy cells, and stimulates collagen production. And the ingenious part, the light used to activate 5-ALA-induced protoporphyrin-IX leading to removal of damage cells and induction of collagen production comes from the sun. Thus, enjoying the sun while using the 3Skin’s sunscreen has the happy side-effect of not only preventing photo-damage, but also reducing wrinkles resulting in a skin that appears more youthful.

Having found its own niche within the photodynamic therapy space, the company, now run by Oscar, the son of one of the founders who stumbled into the family business while studying industrial design, is hoping to get a product to the market within the coming years. The vision is to further develop products that prevent, and in the future potentially treat, photodamaged skin. All are while enjoying sunshine. Who said you can’t have the cake and eat it?

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About 3Skin and ShareLab

3Skin is based at ShareLab (Oslo, Norway). ShareLab offers fully equipped and serviced wet labs for startups and industrial partners, as well as a community of industry experts and biotech entrepreneurs. The laboratory is located at Oslo Science Park amid Norwegian institutions like University of Oslo, Oslo University Hospital, SINTEF, and a range of life science companies. ShareLab is non-profit and will reinvest profits in cutting edge laboratories and industrial knowhow to help fuel life science.

 

 

 

 

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Ledig stilling for studentskribent

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Ledig deltidsstilling for student

Vil du skrive om vitenskap og innovasjon?

Published October 26, 2021

ShareLab er en labinkubator for livsvitere i Forskningsparken i Oslo. Laboratoriet huser i dag 28 selskaper med 70 livsvitere og entreprenører som har som mål å skape nye produkter innen diagnostikk, medisin, veterinærmedisin, landbruk og energi.

Vi søker nå etter en skriveglad student med bakgrunn innen biologi, biokjemi, farmasi eller medisin for å skrive artikler og intervjuer for ShareLab. Du bør ha tilbakelagt minst to studieår og skrive flytende norsk og engelsk på høyt nivå. Jobben er timesbetalt og fleksibel. Vi tror omfanget vil være på rundt 3 timer i gjennomsnitt per uke.

Arbeidet vil gi deg trening i å formidle avansert teknologi, utvide ditt nettverk og gi deg innsikt i innovasjon og entreprenørskap innen livsvitenskapene.

Send CV, karakterutskrift og en halv side med en fiktiv artikkel til ShareLab innen 15. november 2021 via LinkedIn. Bruk denne LINK.

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ShareLab Startup Show ’21

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Meet our bioentrepreneurs

ShareLab Startup Show 2021

Published September 27, 2021

COME TO SEE THIS YEAR's LINEUP OF STARTUPS FROM SHARELAB!
• Meet our most experienced founders
• Hear about our plans for the future
• Learn to know our community

Sharelab is a lab community embracing all entrepreneurs developing product in wet labs.  These startups will present:

  • Arxx Therapeutics - anti-S100A4 mabs for treatment of fibrosis
  • Beefutures - digital beehive
  • Caedo Oncology - anti-CD47 mabs for cancer treatment
  • Cenate - Silicon based nanotechnology for next generation batteries
  • CLEXbio - advanced tissue engineering
  • Corticalis - scaffolds for bone regeneration
  • Hemispherian - small molecule targeting brain cancer
  • Inhibio - antifouling technology
  • Marimetrics - aquaculture sensors
  • Norimmun - vaccines for animal health
  • Temogene - aquaculture genetics

Read More

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A guru never calls himself a guru

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New team member at ShareLab

A guru never calls himself a guru

Published September 20, 2021

ShareLab adds Lab Lead and entrepreneur-in-residence to the team

As of this month, the ShareLab team has been expanded with a new member: Tor Espen Stav-Noraas has a PhD in immunology and comes with several years of biotech experience from Thermo Fisher Scientific. He will take a leading role in moving ShareLab’s lab facilities and services to the next level, as well as assume the role of entrepreneur-in-residence.

Says Tor Espen “I love early discovery with a clear perception of the end-product in mind”. Cell therapy was Tor Espen’s key field at Thermo, while academic years were spent studying IL-33 and Notch pathways.

“The combination of his academic and industrial experience will no doubt be of great value to ShareLab members”, comments Esben A. Nilssen, managing partner at ShareLab, before continuing, “he will also help develop ideas into new biotech start-ups as part of his role as an entrepreneur-in-residence”.

We believe Tor Espen is our new biotech guru. Mind you, a guru would never call himself a guru.

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Feel the pain, then push harder

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Hemispherian Oncology

Feel the Pain, then Push Harder

Published February 26, 2020

It is a moment in every marathon race where you can either quit, fold, or say to yourself, ‘I can do this’. We know, it is a cheap trick to use sports lingo to describe entrepreneurship. However, in the case of Adam Robertson, Chief Scientific Officer and scientific founder of Hemispherian Oncology, it is more than tempting. It is necessary. Adam is a no-bullshit type with the stamina of a sleigh dog, his upbringing being far from winter and snow.

During boyhood years he was fed on Brunswick stew, peanut soup, and marble cake in Virginia, the birthplace of America. His father’s military assignment brought him to Guam for three years before he attended Virginia Tech and later University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for doctoral work. It was, however, as a postdoctoral researcher and group leader at Oslo University Hospital he understood that academic life was really not for him. Another day, another paper. Adam wanted to feel the pain, push harder, make an impact. He invented a novel CRISPR-like technology called RACeR, but what finally made him pull out of academia was the discovery that a group of small molecules would selectively kill glioblastoma cells. Glioblastoma patients have a median survival of 15-16 months. It was a no brainer: he wanted to make an impact, he exited academia.

Hemispherian Oncology has been hand built and bootstrapped by Adam, his Swiss partner Zeno Albisser (CEO), and a small dedicated team of scientists. This year they will do a seed round, imagine what they can do with money. Back to the sports lingo. The marathon is not really about the running (or the running entrepreneur), it's about the shared struggle. You will not be surprised that Adam is a marathon runner both intellectually and as a matter of fact.

Adam Robertson will give the lunch seminar at ShareLab 5 March 2020 at 11 am titled ‘Glioblastoma: not licenced to kill’. The seminar is open to all interested. Bring your lunch. Coffee, tea, and pastry will be served. Check more details here

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Lunch Seminar Program WS 2020

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Lunch Seminar Program W/S 2020

Entreprenurial Science

Lunch seminars WS20

Published 13 December 2019

ShareLab's lunch seminar program is out. Biotech lovers are in for a real treat 

In 2020 we will take a full dive into the science underpinning our member companies. The first four seminars are dedicated to human drug og dx start-ups covering inflammation, Alzheimer, and cancer. Closer to summer we will be introduced to how stem cell research may render it possible to culture meat, while our last seminar in June is reserved for fish health and aquaculture. The title of the latter seminar is yet to be announced.

Bring your own lunch to ShareLab – we will serve coffee and drinks. All interested welcome. Seminars are held in our co-working space at Oslo Science Park unless otherwise announced. Please show interest by using our Facebook event page posted 3 weeks ahead of the seminar date.

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IP Clinic at ShareLab

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Dehns at ShareLab

IP Clinic

Published 27 September 2019

Do you struggle with your biotech IPR? Do not despair. European patent attorneys Dehns are running an IP clinic at ShareLab on 1st October 2019. 

Dehns are members of ShareLab and offer current and future members a helping hand. If you are in need, please send an email to sharelab@dehns.com

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About HPLC*

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HPLC at ShareLab: scientists from member company Vaccibody having a ball.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About HPLC*

*But Were Afraid to Ask

Published 6 May 2019

Would you like to separate, identify, or quantify components in a mixture? At SharaLab we have both analytical and preparative HPLC systems at you disposal. No or little experience? No, worries! Join our workshop 29 May and we will make you fly. 

The workshop is a collaboration between Matriks and ShareLab. We start off with a little theory before we head off to the lab to run some real samples. If you would like to run your own samples, you are welcome to join our community. Also, if you would like help with the first samples (or the whole campaign for that matter), we have HPLC experts ready to help you off the ground. Check out the program and sign up HERE. Other questions? Reach out via FaceBook's Messenger.
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