Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts from the ‘Glioblastoma’ category

PLA General HospitalThe announcement earlier this week that Cellular Biomedicine Group (NASDAQ: CBMG) has acquired rights to the Chimeric Antigen Receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy of the PLA General Hospital in Beijing (pictured right) should come as no surprise to industry watchers. (Link to Press Release).

The share price in $CBMG has risen from $16.31 on February 4 to $23.60 as of close of business on Feb 10, 2015 in what looks like a poorly kept secret!  It looks like most of the rise in share price took place immediately prior to the company’s formal Feb 9, 2015 announcement of the Chinese deal.

CBMG Share Price

 

Those following the cancer immunotherapy space have known for some time that several Chinese groups are working on CAR-T cell therapies that could be a threat if licensed or acquired.

Given the significant investor interest in this space, which is almost bordering on “tulip mania,” it’s entirely foreseeable that companies looking to share in this opportunity would go looking towards China.

One investor on Twitter in response to this news asked should Chinese data be trusted?

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We spend a lot of time in the poster halls at scientific and medical meetings such as European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress in Madrid because that’s where the action is in terms of finding nuggets of promising preclinical and early clinical data. You can also spot new trends emerging earlier this way.

ESMO 2014 Poster Hall

At large meetings run by the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and American Association for Research (AACR) there are literally thousands of posters, all of which have passed the grade to merit presentation.

Gaining insights from posters, and in particular, picking those that really matter is often an art rather than a science – a lot of intuition is involved.

This post discusses a few of the posters presented in the developmental therapeutic session at ESMO this year. It focuses on non-immunotherapy topics, i.e. traditional TKIs and monoclonal antibodies to specific mutations or other targets.

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Until the end of October we are offering a discounted 2 year subscription – sounds a lot of money, but it’s not when you look at it in terms of cost $ per post, or how expensive it is go to meetings. Thanks for your support!

One of the interesting new developments at AACR was the return of FGFR inhibitors with more enthusiasm and encouraging data compared to the past. Recall that previous small molecule inhibitors such as brivanib (BMS) and dovitinib (Novartis) didn’t fare particularly well, despite a multitude of clinical trials in different tumour types where FGFR was thought to matter.

This begs several key questions:

  • Does the target matter to the tumour?
  • Do we have enough therapeutic index to shut down the pathway?
  • Is it better to be a specific or a pan-FGFR inhibitor?
  • Does having multi-kinase effects offer off-target adverse events to the detriment of efficacy?
  • Do we need an antibody or an ADC rather than a small molecule to improve potency?

And many other questions that cannot be addressed or answered on the basis of two chemical entities.

Interestingly, and perhaps even surprisingly, new data emerged in San Diego that might help us answer some of these questions.

In this review, a number of anti-FGFR compounds are mentioned including brivanib (BMS), dovitinib (Novartis), lenvatinib (Eisai), ponatinib (Ariad), BGJ398 (Novartis) and BAY 1179470 (Bayer).  

Here, we take a particular focus on promising new FGFR compounds with new data at AACR from Novartis (BGJ398) and Bayer (BAY 1179470, BAY 1163877, FGFR2-ADC).

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Biotech IPOs were a pretty hot topic in 2013, with some of the young stars in oncology seeing very good uptake and prices. Two companies that come to mind are Foundation Medicine and Agios Pharmaceuticals.  Last week, we covered Foundation Medicine (FMI) and their progress with genomic testing, which is used by a number of Pharma companies including Novartis, in their clinical trial program. Interestingly, another company using their platform is Agios (AGIO), a start up biotechnology company focusing on metabolism and its errant mechanisms in cancer related areas. Both Foundation Medicine and Agios are based in Cambridge, MA.

Agios have an impressive Founder list in Lew Cantley, Tak Mak, Craig Thompson, all strong scientists with an interest in biochemistry and metabolism. The Scientific Advisory Board is equally impressive and includes Charles Sawyers, Jeff Engelman, Pier Paolo Pandolfi and David Sabatini, to name a few luminaries. The last two are well known metabolism researchers who have published extensively on the PI3K pathway, as has Lew Cantley. Craig Thompson has published significant research on IDH metabolism and his lectures on the topic are always fascinating and educational.

You can imagine that board meetings at Agios could well be rather different from the average biotech if the founders or the advisory board decided to brainstorm or riff on the science… Whoa, who wouldn’t want to be a fly on the wall and learn from the experts?  For a CEO, though, it might be akin to herding cats!  That said, I’m impressed that the company has such a clear, focused approach.

The company have a number of industry partnerships, including a recent extension last month to their existing agreement with Celgene.

With my background in biochemistry, I’m naturally drawn to follow metabolism-based approaches including the PI3K-AKT-mTOR pathway and anything that involves the TCA cycle.  It’s a highly complex area, not least because most cancers have a high demand for metabolic inputs such as glucose and glutamine in order to constantly drive tumour proliferation and survival.

David SchenkeinAt the recent ASH meeting, they presented interesting preclinical data for AG-221 using IDH2 mutant AML xenografts. While in New Orleans,  I had the opportunity to sit down with the Agios CEO, Dr David Schenkein, and discuss their approach, challenges and direction in some detail. He is also presenting at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference today and giving a business update on the company’s progress.

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