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A Visit to Arctic Pharma in Oslo, Norway

Posted on October 16th, 2017 by in Pharma R&D


In Norway, a land that evokes images of rough-hewn Scandinavians, icy natural beauty and old wooden Viking ships, there is in fact a great deal of investment currently being put into not-so-rugged things like cutting-edge new labs and state-of-the-art scientific research.

Elsevier recently saw this firsthand when we traveled to Oslo, Norway’s capital, to film a video about one of the Nordic nation’s most exciting biotech start-ups, Arctic Pharma.

Making the video provided an opportunity for us to get up close and personal with Arctic, which was one of the initial companies selected to participate in Elsevier’s new initiative, The Hive. The start-up is part of the Oslo Cancer Cluster (OCC), an oncology research and industry cluster focused on accelerating the development of new cancer diagnostics and treatment. Located next to Radium Hospital, OCC shares a building with a science & technology high school, and it is inspiring to see the study and practice of high-tech scientific research, education and healthcare come together in one concentrated area.

In addition to the innovative, environmentally-friendly anti-cancer therapies that they are developing, there are a few other things that really distinguish the Arctic Pharma team. For one, even though they all clearly appreciate life in Oslo, none of them are actually Norwegian (Germany, Chile, France the United States, and Iran are among the countries of origin represented). Another very notable distinction is that five of the six team members are women. The team itself doesn’t seem to find this fact so very remarkable, as they just view themselves as scientists doing their jobs, but, as you’ll soon see in the video, it’s a heartening sight at a time when there’s so much emphasis on bringing more women into STEM fields worldwide.

While Arctic Pharma’s name is fitting given its northerly location, we found that the members of the company truly exude warmth. CEO Claudia Bøen, who has her PhD in biological chemistry, is quick with a laugh, a smile and a helping hand, which you will see on camera but was even more evident behind-the-scenes. Those qualities are especially valuable in a tight-knit company like Arctic, where a small group of people are working so closely together. Bøen is always there to pitch in as needed, so she may be working on the business end of things one minute, and then assisting one of her researchers in the lab the next.

We interviewed each team member individually to learn more about their responsibilities, their biggest successes and challenges, what attracted them to working pharma and what their thoughts are on some big-picture issues in the industry, and we think you’ll enjoy hearing what they have to say. The video also shows you what a day in their lives looks like: Bora Sieng and Elahe Jafari, the team’s medicinal chemists, gave a peek into life in the chemistry lab, while biochemist Kathrin Hnida demonstrated her work in the bacteria lab and cellular biologist Anja Oldenburg invited viewers into the cell lab.

Steffi Lundvall, Arctic’s biochemistry project leader who is currently in the midst of her year-long maternity leave, was good enough to come into the office for a day so that we could interview and film her as well. In fact, when we first arrived, her co-workers were cooing over her adorable little boy Oscar, who accompanied her. Oscar even sat in—behaving impeccably—as we filmed a team meeting.

This is emblematic of the feeling at Arctic, where the team seems a bit like family. At lunchtime, everybody pitched in, pulling out plates and bread, bottles of juice and jars of jam, meats and cheeses, fresh vegetables and cutting boards, spreads and condiments, and much more as they settled in to a cheerful, unhurried meal together in OCC’s common cafe area alongside other cancer companies doing the same.

Diverse in age, nationality and expertise, the scientists at Arctic Pharma exhibit great teamwork and camaraderie whether they are enjoying some downtime or working together in the lab to create better cancer therapies. We look forward to sharing the video with you soon, so you too can get to know this group of biotech innovators and learn more about their important research.

Until then, visit The Hive to learn more about our hub for innovation.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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