Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

It’s Wednesday at the 2017 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference and the last full day of the meeting. 

SF Streetcar at Pine StIt’s also our last day for a rolling blog; we hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage and commentary this year.

If you want to catch up on what we’ve written about, do check out our posts form Day 1 (Link) and Day 2 of JPM17 (Link).

Yesterday also included some thoughts on the latest Merck pembrolizumab filing announcement in 1L NSCLC, which has certainly had a dramatic impact on the market, even for big pharma (MRK +$4.9B, BMY -$3.3B).

Companies we’ve covered so far include: Celgene, Incyte, Seattle Genetics, Clovis, Puma, BMS, Five Prime, Nektar, Juno and others.

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It’s Tuesday at the 2017 JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco.

San Francisco Streetcar in RainEach day of #JPM17 we’re doing a rolling blog post which we’re updating throughout the day with commentary and insights on the company presentations we’re covering.

While we’re not giving a blow-by-blow account, many companies have the slides readily available, we will be commenting on noteworthy news, and what we learn about pharma/biotech corporate strategy going into 2017.

For those of you who like to catch up with the final summary of each day’s highlights, you can read our post around Day 1 here (Link).

Yesterday we also published a thought leader interview we did with Dr Stephan Grupp, Director of the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at CHOP about some of the latest CAR T cell data and emerging issues we heard at #ASH16 last month (Link).  Do check it out!

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It’s Day 1 of the 2017 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco…

San Francisco StreetcarDespite the travel challenges associated with the cold weather hitting much of the United States, many have made [or are in the process of making] the “pilgrimage” to hear leading pharma and emerging biotech companies lay out their strategy and goals for the coming year.

Every company that presents at #JPM17 has made their New Year’s resolutions… and like the ones we make personally, some will work out, while others will fall short.

In light of the success of our rolling blog from last years’ JPM conference (link to #JPM16 coverage), we’ve decided to repeat the concept again this year. Throughout the day (schedule permitting) we’ll be updating the post with commentary around news that catches our attention.

If you want to follow along yourself and listen to the company presentations, here’s the link to the JPM17 webcasts and conference agenda (link).

As an aside, in our coverage we will be using JPM followed by the last two digits of the year of the meeting i.e. #JPM17, last year it was #JPM16. This is how the “BioTwitter” community commonly refers to the meeting, and we will be continuing that tradition, notwithstanding the fact that JP Morgan have announced the “official” Twitter hashtag is awkward and long winded #JPMHC35.

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One of the pioneers of CAR T cell therapy in children is Dr Stephan Grupp, who is Director of the Cancer Immunotherapy Program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Dr Stephan Grupp ASH16

He led the way in developing ways of treating cytokine release (CRS) syndrome through the use of tocilizumab. At the recent American Society of Hematology annual meeting, Dr Grupp presented the results of the ELIANA study, the first global, multi-center clinical trial with CTL019 (Novartis) in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (p-ALL).

What was surprising to many at ASH was that despite the fact that CAR T cell therapy is one of the hottest topics in hematology (if not the hottest), many presentations were in small (tiny) meeting rooms, which many people could not get into. Several overflow rooms were rapidly opened up, but still people were left out. Someone clearly did not get the memo!

If you didn’t make into the meeting room at ASH to hear Dr Grupp, he kindly spoke to BSB about the data he presented and also shared his perspective of what the future may hold for CAR T cell therapy in pediatric ALL.

There’s also additional commentary on some of the other key CAR T cell presentations that caught our attention at ASH.

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Over the last five years the face of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) landscape has changed quite dramatically with the advent of new approvals in several categories. These include anti-CD20 antibodies, BTK inhibitors, PI3K inhibitors and apoptotic Bcl–2 inhibitors.

In yesterday’s wide ranging interview we explored in-depth how these therapies are impacting the broader landscape, as well as emerging trends in how these regimens might be used.

In Part 2 of the ongoing series, we spoke with another CLL expert and explored promising new and earlier agents in development for a different perspective on how outcomes might be improved further.

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Targeted therapy and Chemo-Immunotherapy in CLL

At last December’s 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, one of the areas that attracted attention was the latest clinical data on the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

ASH 2016 in San Diego

In recent years, we’ve seen tremendous advances in the field with several new agents approved such as obintuzumab, ibrutinib, idelalisib, and venetoclax. There are also new treatment options available for CLL patients with high risk disease such as 17p deletions (Del17p).

Other new targeted therapies such as acalabrutinib are now in clinical development, plus we have CAR T cell therapies and combination strategies also being evaluated in the clinic.

So what was the hot news from #ASH16 in CLL?

  • Does chemotherapy still have a role or is it a targeted therapy world?
  • Are we further forward towards a cure?
  • Have we worked out how to identify those at risk of relapse?
  • Will CAR T cell therapy be a game changer in CLL?
  • Is financial toxicity going to be an issue with combination strategies?

BSB interviewed two experts in CLL while in San Diego who kindly shared their thoughts on which CLL data impressed them at the ASH annual meeting and discussed some of the big strategic issues facing the field right now. These interviews are being posted in a two-part series.

Part 1 today answers some of the questions highlighted above and explores the changing face of the broader CLL landscape.

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One of the interesting and exciting parts of major medical meetings such as the ASH annual meeting, held last month in San Diego, is hearing about new compounds in development.

When it comes to the treatment of aggressive lymphomas, there remains a high unmet medical need to improve the response rate to first line treatment, as well as offer better outcomes post relapse.

At #ASH16, we heard more about a novel ADC called polatuzumab vedotin (Genentech/Roche).

Preliminary safety and clinical data for polatuzumab plus obinituzumab in relapsed or refractory Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) was presented in an oral session by Dr Tycel Phillips (University of Michigan).

Three posters were also presented showing early data in combination trials in R/R follicular lymphoma (FL) and diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL), as well as in first line DLBCL.

To find out more about the potential of this novel ADC, BSB spoke with Dr Michael Wenger, Senior Group Medical Director at Roche Genentech.

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The Future of our (cancer research) Business

Happy New Year! No one really wants to spend too much time in the past dwelling on the negatives, what didn’t work, and in some spectacular cases, who’s to blame for it.

What we do want to know is what are the learnings from such endeavours and where are we going next.

Let’s look forward rather than backwards then and see what the Maverick’s crystal ball is showing in terms of fresh clarity and new trends we can learn from …

In today’s post I want to take a moment to look at some of the trends we can expect to see occuring in cancer research in 2017.

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Yesterday sudden and unexpected news from Seattle Genetics caused quite a stir…

“Seattle Genetics Announces Clinical Hold on Several Phase 1 Trials of Vadastuximab Talirine (SGN-CD33A).”

Part of the Seattle Genetics exhibit booth at #ASH16, taken with permission

In short, over 300 patients have been treated with the ADC and six experienced hepatotoxicity, including several cases of veno-occlusive disease, with four fatalities.

We’ve written about AML several times recently and also received a number of reader questions on this latest development, so it’s time to explore the issue in more depth and look at the implications. We also include some expert commentary from a leukemia specialist for their take on the issue.

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The 2016 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology with over 27, 000 attendees, a record high, was the venue for the announcement of a major new initiative by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS), called Beat AML.

It is lead by three well respected researchers in the Hematology/Oncology field:

  • Dr John Byrd (Ohio State)
  • Dr Brian Druker (OHSU)
  • Dr Ross Levine (MSK)

Beat AML is a special project at LLS, who have developed a broad collaboration with academic researchers, pharmaceutical companies, a genomic provider, and a clinical research organization:

 

Source: LLS

Initially, there will be five trial sites, which will each offer all arms of the trial. The centers are:

  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York
  • The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Ohio
  • OHSU Knight Cancer Institute in Oregon
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, both in Massachusetts.

Further sites and (hopefully) also other drugs from pharma companies will be added in due course, so if you’re interested in joining this project, do contact them after checking out more details here!

For our industry readers, this would be a great opportunity to get involved in an exciting and landmark study for AML, whether you are a researcher or a company with a promising drug in early development. These types of trials can help speed up drug development if a therapy graduates in a particular subset.

Here, we offer an in-depth analysis of the scientific and clinical rationale behind this important landmark study and the targets/drugs selected to date.

BSB also spoke with Dr Brian Druker, Director of the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) Knight Cancer Institute in Portland, Oregon, who offers additional insights on the special project.

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