Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Pharma CI’

We’re continuing our series of posts from the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS) with an expert interview on how circulating tumor DNA could change breast cancer treatment.

There has been a noticeable increase in attention and focus on the application of liquid tests – especially from blood – over the last five years, culminating in a spinoff company called Grail from the deep sequencing giant, Illumina, announcing a massive funding round earlier this month.

At the time of the BSB expert interview in San Antonio, we had no idea that the Grail news was going to hit just a couple of weeks later!

While much of the media attention surrounding Grail has focused on the early detection of cancer in apparently healthy individuals, there’s actually a much more useful application where it could be more immediately applied to great effect.

Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) or cell free DNA (cfDNA) has the potential to revolutionise and improve monitoring over time for people with cancer who are receiving therapy.

This is the third in our series of expert interviews from the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (#SABCS16).

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View of Cambridge and Charles River

Neon Therapeutics is based in Cambridge, MA

One of the much anticipated cancer immunotherapy presentations at the 2017 JP Morgan Healthcare conference was by Neon Therapeutics CEO Hugh O’Dowd.

As readers know we’re riding the Immuno-Oncology wave on Biotech Strategy Blog, and one of the exciting new topics to emerge is whether we can target neoantigens to create personalized immunotherapy.

Our mini-series last year on neonatigens received a lot of attention. It included a primer and three interviews. We were very much of the opinion that Neon Therapeutics is a company to watch out for.

In case you missed them, here are the links:

I highly recommending reading these articles as background on the science and new product development as a prelude to the latest commercialisation update we will cover in today’s post.

What did we learn from the 2017 JP Morgan presentation of the Neon Therapeutics corporate strategy?

If you didn’t make it to the presentation at JPM17 in San Francisco (it wasn’t webcast), you may be interested in this post. This is the latest update in our on-going series on neoantigens and why they matter in cancer immunotherapy.

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At the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (#SABCS16) one of the mini-symposia that caught my attention was on “Harnessing the Immune System in Breast Cancer.”

A line-up of top researchers and clinicians shared the latest on breast cancer immunotherapy:

  • Laurence Zitvogel MD PhD (Gustave Roussy), “From Breast Cancer Surveillance to Immunotherapy
  • Leisha Emens MD PhD (Johns Hopkins), “Breast Cancer Immunotherapy: Building on Clinical Success”
  • Andy Minn MD PhD (Univ of Pennsylvania): “Identification of Resistance Mechanisms to Checkpoint Blockade for Cancer”
Dr Laurence Zitvogel SABCS16

Dr Laurence Zitvogel at SABCS16

Readers of the blog will recall we last spoke with Dr Emens at the AACR 2015 annual meeting (is it really that long ago?!) where she presented the first data for the PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor atezolizumab in Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). See post: “Checkpoint data rocks AACR 2015.”

You can also hear Dr Emens talk about the data on Episode 1 of the Novel Targets Podcast.

What’s new in breast cancer immunotherapy and how have things advanced since then?

At SABCS16, we heard about a novel immunotherapy strategy targeting adenosine in breast cancer, and the trial with an adenonsine antagonist, CPI-444 (Corvus Pharmaceuticals, NASDAQ: CRVS) that’s now underway.

Last September, Corvus senior scientist Stephen Willingham, PhD and Chief Business Officer, Jason Coloma, PhD spoke to BSB about the data they were presenting at the 2016 CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR Cancer Immunotherapy Conference in New York. See post: “Corvus moves fast to target the tumor microenvironment and improve checkpoint responses.

Corvus had a presentation at the 2017 JP Morgan Healthcare conference (#JPM17) yesterday, and we’ve included some additional commentary on that in this post.

After the SABCS16 cancer immunotherapy mini-symposium, Dr Leisha Emens, Associate Professor of Oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, kindly spoke to BSB.

Dr Leisha Emens SABCS16

Dr Leisha Emens at SABCS16

She’s one of the rock stars of breast cancer immunotherapy, and it was truly a pleasure to catch up with her again in San Antonio.

This is the second in our series of expert interviews from #SABCS16. In case you missed the prior posts and want to bookmark for the upcoming ones, you will find them on the conference page (Link).

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We’re kicking off the first in a mini-series of expert interviews from the 2016 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium #SABCS16 with a leading researcher who has discovered a first-in-class compound that shows preclinical promise in several cancers including multi-drug resistant metastatic breast cancer.

It has a novel mechanism of action: 

“Interestingly, it was the only molecule, out of the 150,000 we screened that seemed to work through this pathway.”

To go from “bench to bedside,” and take this drug into the clinic now requires funding beyond what academia can provide.

If you’re at #JPM17 and into early stage VC funding or are in pharma/biotech business development BD&L and are on the look out for an innovative new licensing/investment deal, this post is for you.

What makes this a great story is I heard that one “missing piece of the jigsaw” in working out the pathway through which the drug worked came from unrelated research presented at a seminar on wound healing in zebrafish!

As a 2013 article by Robin McKie in The Observer notes, zebrafish (Danio rerio) share 70% of our genes, which makes them pretty cool research models. They are also transparent.

Hearing this anecdote reminded me of my conversation with Dr William Pao that you can hear on Episode 3 of the Novel Targets Podcast where he astutely said:

 “You never know where things are going to lead, you just have to be able to take advantage of them.”

That could also be a metaphor for life.

Science is about making sense of connections and patterns, which is why funding of basic science is so important. A piece of work by one researcher can unlock a breakthrough by another in a totally unrelated area.

While I was doing this SABCS16 interview, I was also reminded of the story behind the development of enzalutamide, and how AACR past-president Dr Charles Sawyers pitched his UCLA drug discovery work to several major pharma companies, without success, until Dr David Hung at Medivation took the risk… and the rest is history.

What makes that story so surprising is at the time Dr Sawyers already had a track record of success with his work on the development of imatinib!

It was a privilege to talk with a senior scientist at #SABCS16 who has thought outside of the box, made scientific connections, and in the process developed a new drug that shows exciting preclinical promise.

Improving the outcome for cancer patients requires the translation of basic science into new products that enter clinical trials.

I do hope funding will be forthcoming to move this first-in-class drug into the clinic so that’s its potential can be fully evaluated.

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If you’re at #JPM17, it’s a great time to buy a sub to BSB and put it on your expenses!

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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