Can you tell us a little about your work? What are your specific tasks?
I am employed in a 100% position as professor of medical virology at the Department of Clinical Science. In addition, I am a senior consultant in the microbiology department, Haukeland University Hospital. In this latter position, I have for many years been involved in the introduction and use of nucleic acid diagnostics (e.g., PCR) for the rapid and accurate detection of viral infections in patients. Clinical and laboratory work is very useful in virology teaching for medical students.
At K2, I am the group leader for the Prostate Cancer Therapy Research Group. This group has a solid molecular biological background and has researched basic regulatory and signaling mechanisms in cancer cells and virus-infected cells. Over the past few years, innovation has become a bigger role. Panels of chemical substances have been screened for effect on cancer cells, and we have discovered new chemical substances and published what for protein the drug interacts with in the cell and the mechanisms of action. Patenting is underway in collaboration with VIS and with further development in collaboration with research groups in Shanghai and the company Xennials Therapeutics in Chicago. One exciting project is cryoimmunotherapy, abbreviated CryoIT. This is a form of immunotherapy that uses the patient’s own dendritic immune cells. After parts of the cancerous tissue are killed by a freezing process with special equipment inside the patient, the immune cells are injected into the freeze-killed cancerous tissue. These dendritic cells are capable of responding to what is different in cancer cells and can then instruct the entire immune system to attack the cancer cells, including cancer cells that have spread in metastases around the body. A Phase I clinical trial has just been conducted with CryoIT for patients with metastatic prostate cancer. The results are very useful for the next generation CryoIT with start-up in 2021.
The research group has received support from the Research Council’s program NFR TREATMENT and from the Cancer Society for robust production of more potent therapeutic dendritic cells for the next generation of CryoIT. The cells will be produced in the new therapeutic cell laboratory in the Helse Bergen building on the Laboratory building floor 1M. In this work, we focus on a synergy between the pharmacological screening project and CryoIT.
What do you enjoy working on at K2?
It is research that is the major challenge and the biggest commitment, otherwise I would probably have gone in clinical direction with patient work at the hospital. The collaboration with the others in the group and colleagues and clinical teams is inspiring. It is also rewarding to be able to teach and disseminate to the students and to experience the many young talents that are going on with their education and goals. I feel that there is a good environment in the Laboratory building, but that the potential for research and innovation is still greater than what has manifested itself until now. We have a compact medical campus with a very well equipped laboratory. It is sad that so many colleagues lack project funding. In particular, the experimental research is underfunded as operating expenses are relatively high. I am extremely grateful for the great support that my research group has received from private heathens in Bergen. This support has been essential to ensure that our projects are progressing well, that new people are being hired, and that we are looking forward to exciting years where new cancer treatment is a key goal.