Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts from the ‘Immunotherapy’ category

In the style of the film Jerry Maguire where Jerry sets out his manifesto for the “Future of Our Business,” we’re taking an extended look at the Future of Natural Killer (NK) cell therapy through the eyes of one of the leading global translational scientists in the NK field, Dr Todd Fehniger, who is at Washington University in St Louis.

In the second part of the ASH20 interview Dr Fehniger kindly gave BSB around key trials and concepts, we’re offering in a more focused look at engineered NK cells and, in particular, CAR-NK cells, as well as several other key areas to watch out for in this emerging niche…

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National Harbor – Missing the Fall colours!

As we get into the final swing of the Fall cancer conference season, at SITC this weekend there was much to think about in terms of early stage oncology drug development.

Still, it did feel rather surreal not to be in Maryland at the Gaylord National Centre in National Harbor for a live meeting this year, especially considering this particular specialist IO meeting tends to be held in a small jam-packed hall with nary an empty seat to be had!

I thought it would be fun to focus on an area which is slowly receiving more attention, with at least one sub category actually beginning to look quite promising indeed…

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When the boat comes in

Much has been written about new and emerging immuno-oncology targets where we can add new targeted agents to existing immunotherapies – after all, quite a few have already tried and failed in clinical trials to shift the survival curve upwards and to the right.

Can it be done?

I firmly believe so, but this endeavour is going to take the whole field much time and energy, as well as quite a few iterations in molecule and trial design.  No one knows what the next big target is though, but when they do it will be a bit like when the boat comes in – you know it when you see it.

In the spotlight today is a relatively obscure target we have written about perhaps once or twice before and now there is suddenly burgeoning interest in this subniche with a couple of players already active in the space.  Will there be others? Maybe, it will likely depend on how the phase 1 trials pan out.

We have attempted to cover a couple of key questions:

  • What can we learn about the science and research conducted thus far?
  • Why is a big biotech company suddenly interested in this target?
  • Which tumour types look like being important?

Most importantly, though, a long time reader wrote in and asked why on earth is there sudden interest?  Will start a new stampede?  Who are the competition?

Good questions, and now we get to set the scene to explain what’s what and why the target matters…

To learn more from our oncology analysis and get a heads up on insights and commentary emerging on an emerging IO target, subscribers can log-in or you can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.

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The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is to be congratulated on turning their annual in-person meeting into a virtual meeting at short notice.

With over 60,000 registered attendees, the meeting is a success and has set the standard for others to follow this year. While we all miss the opportunity to meet and network in-person, a virtual meeting does democratize access to science for scientists and researchers who can’t afford to travel or attend every year and we hope that live-streaming will continue in 2021 and beyond.

Since the sessions are available to watch for free on demand, we’re not repeating the data but like a postcard are instead focusing on what stood out for us, adding some pertinent commentary or context, as well some of our key take homes from a cancer new product development perspective.

Whether you agree, disagree, or thought differently about the presentations, we’re here to provoke thinking and critical discussion.

In this latest postcard from AACR20, we’re focusing on highlights from the adoptive cell therapy session taking place earlier today.

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In the fourth part of our mini-series in novel targets and agents in development we turn to novel cell therapy approaches that are perhaps under the radar for many observers.

While these might seem bleak times during a pandemic, there’s always a silver lining somewhere

While much attention has been focused on antigen loss or downregulation of the target wih adoptive cell therapies, research continues to evaluate various solutions to the problem.

One obvious way is to develop dual CARs or target multiple antigen targets of relevance to the tumour type being investigated.

There are other potential solutions being looked at, both in preclinical animal models and in translational work using cells from people treated with HSCT or CAR T cell therapies.

Here, we look at an alternative immunotherapy approach, which with time may have utility in both hematologic malignancies, as well as solid tumours…

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There are multiple players in the Magic Roundabout, but are some more important than others and will different culprits turn out to have hidden meanings? You may never see Ermintrude in the same way again 😉

Without a doubt, there are multiple potential ways we can go about improving responses to cancer immunotherapy, not just in terms of targets, combination approaches, different modalities etc, but also by manipulating the tumour microenvironment or thinking about directing different immune cells in positive ways.

In our latest review, we look at one area where emerging work appears to bearing fruit as multiple groups suddenly get one of those, a-ha! moments.

It’s not just happening in one tumour type either, nor is it limited to one type of therapy or modality, which makes it all the more intriguing to think about.

We heard about one example of this mechanism last year and now it’s time to explore things in more detail. This also means companies quick on the uptake could well take advantage ahead of their competitors.

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In our latest expert interview, we depart from the usual focus on one of two particular or narrow topics and indulge in a more wide ranging discussion to explore a variety of issues facing the IO field and look at them from the perspective of a researcher who is experienced in working with antibodies in various forms.

We cover a lot of ground from CAR-T cells to bispecifics to NK cells – while many people in industry may see these approaches as separate modalities in different niches, in the future we may well see a greater convergent and opportunities for regimens and combinations rather than a more nihilistic either/or approach.

I have long been fascinated with design of molecules and how different tweaks or enhancements can change the way something works – for better or worse. Just as we have learned much from immune agonists and their biphasic curves that result from constant stimulation (and ways to fix that too), so too will we see CARs, T cell engagers, and NK cell therapies adapt and improve in terms of how they are constructed.

Who better to talk about these changes and the learnings to be had lately than someone who has built and tested many antibodies for a living and is now running his own company?

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Breathing fire into cancer immunotherapies with novel approaches

It would be all to easy an exercise to pick out our top 10 abstracts of any particular conference and share them, which tends to create a somewhat skewed perspective because there are often many pieces of research that we may wish to highlight for entirely different reasons, making the exercise rather limited in scope.

Instead, how about 10 cool or next generation approaches that could have an impact in oncology in the future?

This approach generated a quite different and really eclectic list that can also have existing approaches referenced in context, so that we can see where the puck is moving towards as opposed to merely following it.

Curious to find out more about these novel ideas or iterations and get a heads up on insights from our ASH19 commentary?Subscribers can log-in or you can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.

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Welcome to SITC19!

National Harbor: It’s time for the first of our daily highlights and review of key data that was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).

The first day is usually taken up by some longer review sessions on key topics, intermingled with some rapid fire oral talks on emerging areas where we get to hear some young investigators talk about their ongoing projects.

This results in some broad updates, as well as some specific areas of early R&D in the IO space that often end up as key areas to watch out for over time. This year is no different in that respect…

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In the enlightened realm of phase 1 oncology trials there generally more unknown unknowns than there are known unknowns, especially with new target approaches.

Who knew it was so beautiful outside of the cold dark halls?!

You could say that makes for a more interesting world, but it also makes for more caution, especially when the FDA is considering agonists that induce stimulatory effects.  What it means is that you start off very low – in this latest example it was 50µg and going up to 1600µg to determine the safety profile of a combination.

We have covered the STING pathway quite extensively over the last four or five years now, so it’s time for a new update and a look at some of the much awaited combination data. What can we learn?

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