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From North Carolina to Norway
April 2010
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author


RALEIGH, N.C.—Targeted toward streamlining the search for new cancer treatments while strengthening its translational research and business development arms, the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences at Research Triangle Park has forged a one-of-a-kind partnership with the Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC) in Norway.  
A formal memorandum of understanding, signed Feb. 20, led to the expansion of Hamner's Global Biosciences Gateway, enabling companies and comprehensive cancer centers to speed up development of new cancer therapies, while creating an infrastructure in North Carolina and Oslo for drug discovery, high-quality oncology clinical trials and access to drug safety and regulatory experts to satisfy the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Medicines Agency and eventually the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration.
"This is the first time such an ambitious collaboration has been undertaken in the field of translational oncology," says Bjarte Reve, CEO of the OCC, known for its biobanks and extensive patient registries, which aim to accelerate of translational cancer research. "We passionately believe that this partnership … will enable companies and comprehensive cancer centers to speed development of new cancer therapies through global partnerships. Over the last few years, we have already taken great strides in Europe to bring together such clusters, with concrete results, such as a Phase I network and joint EU-IMI submissions. This partnership with The Hamner is a logical next step to forge stronger links with the United States and also to complement our existing initiatives in China."  
The collaboration is "equally beneficial," Reve adds. Hamner will act as a bioscience gateway and hub to the United States for OCC members and collaborators in China, while OCC will act as a similar gateway and hub to Europe, he said.
"Both Hamner and OCC have been identified by China as partners," Reve says. "In Europe, OCC has created the OCC European Cancer network, whose members include Lund, Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark; Heidelberg, Germany; Toulouse, France and Barcelona, Spain."  
Rick Williams, chief business officer at Hamner, a non-profit research organization located in Research Triangle Park, agrees with his Norwegian counterpart.  
"This is a mutually beneficial partnership that helps the Hamner and the OCC to develop stronger global programs in translational research, education/training and business partnering," Williams says.  
Hamner will provide the Oslo company access to a wide network of research collaborators, including three comprehensive cancer centers in North Carolina, the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Tianjin Institute for Hematology, he said. Recently, Hamner signed an agreement with China Medical City for international drug development. The China Medical City is a new, 66,000 square-foot life science park dedicated to biotech, pharmaceutical and medical innovation located in the Yangtze River Delta north of Shanghai, with 150,000 employees. The agreement with Hamner gives the OCC access to the facilities in China Medical City.  
North Carolina's "biotech ecosystem" contains experts and resources for the successful development and commercialization of new oncology-related businesses that are being developed in Norway, Williams says. Hamner and its partners in the United States and China will be able to access the OCC, as well as a network of premier cancer centers in Europe.
"Leaders from Hamner and the Oslo Cancer Cluster have been exploring opportunities to work together for the past three years," Williams says. "The recently signed memorandum of understanding is the first step in forming a long-term partnership that is being extended to the U.S., Europe and Asia."  
Hamner's senior managers, in conjunction with their North Carolina partners, will help the OCC screen potential partners and establish relationships with academic collaborators, clients, investors, nonprofit organizations, etc., Williams says.
The partnership gives each company a global network of potential business partners in the field of fighting cancer.   William Greenlee, CEO of Hamner, says, "the ability we now have to identify and capture cutting-edge cancer research in Europe and China will not only benefit patients, but also will be an important driver for business and economic development in our respective countries."
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