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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As we follow the journey of various neoantigen and neoepitope approaches from start-up and preclinical research through to the clinic, it’s been interesting to see how different companies and academic research groups have chosen to consider their R&D strategies.
Some of the companies we’ve interviewed and highlighted in this space include Neon Therapeutics, BioNTech, Gritstone, and newcomer, Achilles Therapeutics, along with various academic programs such as George Coukos’s neoepitope vaccine approach in Lausanne.
After we first spoke with Gritstone a couple of years ago, things seemed to go a bit quiet on the western front while Neon, BioNTech, and Achilles all had news to talk about. It’s always hard to choose from rock-paper-scissors and this may well be another modern twist of that genre until clinical data proves otherwise.
That all changed with more data being presented by the California-based biotech recently, plus patients are also being enrolled into their first neoantigen clinical trial.
At a recent conference, we caught up with their CMO, Dr Raphael Rousseau, to find out more about where they are and importantly, where they’re headed…
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London – last week a half day event at The Francis Crick Institute looked at three UK cell therapy companies that have been spun out of academic research from partner institutions, UCL and King’s College London.
Professor Julian Downward welcomes everyone to The Crick
We heard from the CEOs of Achilles Therapeutics, GammaDelta Therapeutics and Autolus Therapeutics on how they are translating science into new adoptive cellular therapies.
There were also presentations from leading scientists whose research they are commercializing.
All three companies were founded in 2016, so the event was a fascinating snapshot as to where are they now, roughly 3 years on, what have they achieved and where are they going.
They vary in terms of their vision, innovation and their adoptive cellular therapy approach.
Autolus are developing autologous CAR-T cell therapies, GammaDelta Therapeutics are focusing on allogeneic Vδ1 gamma delta (ϒδ) T cells, while Achilles Therapeutics are targeting patient-derived clonal neoantigens.
If you couldn’t make this Medicine at the Crick event, what were some of the take home messages, and how do we think these companies compare to some of their competitors?
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There is a lot of interest of late in targeting neoantigens in cancer therapeutically. If you missed it do listen to Episode 20 of the Novel Targets Podcast, which features several pioneers in the field.
At the recent European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) meeting, we heard Dr Patrick Ott from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute present the latest clinical data for Neon’s cancer vaccine approach (See: interview with Dr Ott).
If you have an interest in neoantigen based cancer treatments, however, then a company on the horizon that we’re excited about is Achilles Therapeutics.
It’s an early stage private UK company, in what is very much still a developing and emerging field. Founded just over two years ago, it has a strong academic pedigree. The scientific co-founders are Professors Karl Peggs, Mark Lowdell, Charles Swanton and Sergio Quezada.
BSB readers will recall our prior interviews with Prof Charlie Swanton FRS (See: here and here), where he talked about the groundbreaking TRACERx study he’s leading, some of the insights it is generating regarding neoantigens, and their importance in cancer evolution.
Achilles Therapeutics was established to commercialise the intellectual property being generated from the TRACERx program.
While in London en-route to ESMO18, the CEO of Achilles Therapeutics, Dr Iraj Ali kindly spoke to BSB about where the company is, and some of its future plans.
From what we heard, it’s definitely a company we can expect to hear a lot more about in the cancer immunotherapy space. Check it out!
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