Biotech Strategy Blog

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

San Francisco

The first cancer conference of 2018 is now upon us and after enjoying last year’s event in San Francisco, I wanted to take some time to explore some key abstracts of interest at the ASCO GI meeting, which begins tomorrow.

This conference covers various updates on new developments in oesophageal, gastric, colon, pancreatic and colorectal cancers.

Are there any trials or new developments to get excited about at this year’s GI18 meeting?

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After writing about the 1L NSCLC landscape every quarter last year, I was thinking the other day that we were due another update and discussion on this riveting topic again soon and added it to the editorial calendar of topics to write about on BSB.

It was therefore no surprise to hear Merck’s announcement this morning that their phase 3 trial KEYNOTE-189 exploring pembrolizumab plus chemotherapy hit its co-primary endpoints and is now the second study to do so after Genentech/Roche’s announcement for atezolizumab plus chemo plus the VEGF inhibitor, bevacizumab was a success.

Are we at a crossroad for lung cancer?  With many more readouts yet to come competition in this space is certainly heating up dramatically!

Meanwhile, there are a few important implications to consider here, so we sat down and penned an update based on the emerging data and highlight some key insights to consider…

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Dr Michael Gilman, Obsidian

To get started in the New Year, we decided to roll out a new mini series on small cap and private biotechs, as seen through the lens of their dynamic CEOs.

This will run throughout January, with plenty of different products and perspectives to consider.

The honour for the very first CEO to be in the hot seat in 2018 went to Dr Nancy Simonian of Syros earlier this week during JPM18, who talks about their small molecule program and why they are excited about 2018.

When we first talked to Syros, they were a privately held start-up, now they’re listed on Nasdaq.

We now move on to the second one in the series, with a look at a new start-up called Obsidian Therapeutics in an interview with Dr Michael Gilman (right).

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It’s Wednesday at the 2018 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference and the last full day of the meeting. 

San Francisco Cable Car

It’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 JPM18 (Link).

We’re also continuing our series of CEO interviews. Check out the latest with Michael Gilman, PhD from Obsidian Therapeutics (Link).

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It’s Tuesday at the 2018 JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco…

Rain in San Francisco

Each day of #JPM18 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, we will be commenting on noteworthy news, and what we learn about pharma/biotech corporate strategy going into 2018.

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

We’ve also posted a new interview with the Syros CEO, Dr Nancy Simonian, as part of our ASH/JPM18 crossover series.  Syros are presenting on Thursday but had data last month at both SABCS and ASH.

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As part of our #JPM18 coverage we like to feature up and coming companies to watch out for, one of these is Syros Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: SYRS). In this post we take a look at what’s on the horizon for the company in 2018?

Myelofibrosis has certainly been in the news this week with Celgene acquiring Impact Biosciences for fedratinib and both Celgene and Incyte presenting their annual update at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco.

Yesterday at JPM, Syros and Incyte announced a new collaboration to explore myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN):

“… The companies have entered into a target discovery, research collaboration and option agreement. Under the agreement, Syros will use its proprietary gene control platform to identify novel therapeutic targets with a focus in myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), and Incyte will receive options to obtain exclusive worldwide rights to intellectual property resulting from the collaboration for up to seven validated targets. Incyte will have exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize any therapies under the collaboration that modulate those validated targets.”

Given the need to find new targets and potential combination agents to partner with JAK2 inhibitors such as ruxolitinib (Jakafi), this deal makes a lot of sense.

It also leaves Syros and Incyte with space to continue developing their existing pipelines in the usual fashion without any undue commitment or conflict.

Syros are a company we have been following for three years now, with several updates on BSB, including thought leader and C-suite interviews.

With new data presented at ASH and SABCS last month, it was a good time for an update on this topic, so we sat down with Dr Nancy Simonian (CEO) for a chat about where they are and where they are going with their current small molecule pipeline ahead of their presentation at JPM18.

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

San Francisco Trolley CarIn light of the success of our rolling blog from last years’ JPM conference (link to #JPM17 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 from San Francisco that catches our attention.

If you want to follow along yourself and listen to the company presentations, here’s the link to the JPM18 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. #JPM18, last year it was #JPM17, and the year before that #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 a different “official” Twitter hashtag.

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During the month of January, we’ll be looking at several key themes that will likely have some impact during 2018. This is the first post in the series and each one will entail a different approach.

Ideas from the lab notebook…

We should start to see various ideas begin to overlap across different tumour types. Rather than look at things in isolation, there will be a greater push to explore concepts and how they intersect and come together in a more useful fashion so that a more strategic picture can emerge.

Looking through my lab notebooks from the last 12 months, I decided to highlight some emerging themes that we can expect to see or hear more about during 2018 and came up with a handy list.

Here’s one such example – tomorrow we will take on another topic of interest…

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Over the last five years we have followed the trials and tribulations of CAR T cell therapies in ALL and aggressive lymphomas as Novartis, Kite, Juno, Cellectis, Unum and others have undertaken the road less travelled towards filing and approval.

The ASH DASH in action!

Now that we have seen the first two CAR T cell approvals in pediatric ALL (Novartis) and aggressive lymphomas (Kite), with tisagenlecleucel widely expected to be the next one in aggressive lymphomas following presentation of the 6-month JULIET data at the recent American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in Atlanta, a key question remains to be addressed:

Is there a threat on the horizon that might be potentially used prior to CAR T cell therapy in refractory lymphomas?

We say ‘yes, there is’ and thus it was interesting to see where this approach might go… including discussion with an expert.

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Happy New Year!

Immunotherapy treatment for multiple myeloma has been around for several decades, first in the form of stem cell transplantation, then augmented by the addition of IMiD immune modulation drugs such as thalidomide, lenalidomide or pomalidomide. In due course, along came immune checkpoint blockade in solid tumours and it was only a matter of time before they would be evaluated in hematologic malignancies, albeit with mixed results.

The proteasome inhibitors and IMiDs are unlikely to go away any time soon, but other targets have also emerged including CD38, SLAMF7/CS1, BCMA/APRIL, PD–1/L1 and a few others that are being currently investigated in the clinic.

Where does this leave us and what looks really promising?

In our latest thought leader interview undertaken at the recent American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in Atlanta, we asked a global expert for his candid views and were not surprised at some of the hard hitting comments that emerged from the in-depth discussion of several key issues…

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