Cancer in the family led Bjørn Rune Gjelsten into ownership in the cancer vaccine company Ultimovacs

Dagens Næringsliv

Cancer in the family led Bjørn Rune Gjelsten into ownership in the cancer vaccine company Ultimovacs. The company is now attracting interest from “big pharma” players and the company valuation is approaching 1 billion NOK.

Bjørn Rune Gjelsten had a personal reason to go into Ultimovacs. Now, the company that develops cancer vaccine based on immunotherapy can also prove to be a very good investment.

“The reason I entered was that I had cancer in my family. My father got sick and I got in touch with an environment around the Radium Hospital, says Gjelsten, who lost his father with prostate diagnosis a couple of years ago.

The company was in an early phase and faced a capital tire. So far, Gjelsten has invested NOK 30 million.

“Although I had a personal entrance, it’s no more money than it would be okay to lose,” he says.

As the development of the vaccine goes through different phases, the value of Ultimovacs also rises. Gjelsten Holding holds 35 percent of the shares.

“Now there is interest from large industrial players from big pharma and the Norwegian investor communities.

Strengthens the immune system

By means of immunotherapy, the body will be equipped to to fight the cancer cells.

One of the unanswered questions is how the vaccine works in combination with other medications in order to attack the cancer cells. This has aroused the interest of pharmaceutical companies with well-established cancer medicine. Immunotherapy and traditional medicine can attack the cancer from two angles, so-called duo treatment.

“The traditional medicine may weaken and passivate the cancer, while immunotherapy activates the immune system so that the body may attack the cancer by itself.

A real breakthrough will be if the vaccine can be used preventively against vulnerable groups.

– US authorities are now looking into whether the vaccine can be used proactively, Gjelsten adds.

Stock exchange for similar company

Ultimovacs is compared to another fast-growing immunotherapy company, Targovax, which has already reached a face value of NOK 1.1 billion on the stock exchange. The share price of Targovax has risen 120 percent since January last year.

Jonas Einarsson, Managing Director of the Radium Hospital Research Foundation, believes the two companies have clear resemblances and confirm that immunotherapy vaccines developed in Norway have become interesting for drug giants.

– The Vaccines that these two companies develop are made on the same platform, but have different types of attacks. I have to say that the clinical results are encouraging, but it takes time. I am an optimist for both companies, says Einarsson, who is in the board of both companies.


Ultimovacs will give a presentation in the Conference Program at 37 °C,

on June 6th.