In our ESMO 2017 Preview series so far we covered our Top 5 immuno-oncology and targeted therapy abstracts to watch out for (the latter has been updated since it first posted so do check it out).
Now it’s time to turn to something completely different.
Castle Manzanares el Real, Madrid
Here we look at hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), including Blueprint Medicines FGFR4 molecule, BLU–554.
We first covered Blueprint back in February this year with a particular focus on GIST. Quite a bit has changed since then, so it’s a good time for an update, especially in HCC now that they have data in Madrid.
In the context of the HCC landscape, what’s changing in this niche, what should our expectations be, and how is this market evolving since our last update?
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At the recent Triple (EORTC-NCI-AACR) and ASH meetings, Blueprint Medicines (Cambridge, MA) presented data on some of their targeted compounds in early clinical development including data in KIT, PDGFα and FGFR4 driven cancers.
While many observers attention is currently distracted on cancer immunotherapies, let’s not take our eye off the ball and forget that when we do find driver oncogenes in rare tumours, the activity of TKIs can still be superior in these situations and offer exquisite sensitivity, leading to exceptional responses.
Here, we take stock with a look what Blueprint are doing, where they’re going and also offer some perspectives from senior company executives, whom we interviewed last month.
Which reminds me, someone recently asked why we do so many interviews, “You do a prodigious amount of interviews on BSB, why is that?”
The answer is very simple – to learn faster and share that knowledge with other like minded souls. Charlie Ambler, author of Daily Zen, sums it up well in an essay about Talk Less:
“In Zen tradition, I’d like the kill the Buddha that is Lao Tzu and revise his ancient saying. It’s not that those who talk don’t know and those who know don’t talk— it’s that talking often inhibits us from knowing.”
Thus, the corollary here is that if you undertake interviews with scientists and researchers regularly then you have the pleasure of talking less – the person in the hotseat naturally talks more – and you learn faster.
What’s not to like? We all learn different things depending on our perspective and knowledge base. Sometimes, I even find re-reading old interviews a year or so later while preparing for a new one a related topic teaches me something new I didn’t see or realise before, simply because my own understanding has improved. Hopefully that is also true for subscribers!
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The Boston Globe today reported that Blueprint Medicines had received $40M in Series A venture funding.
The VC funding from Third Rock Ventures to the Boston/Cambridge based company is reported to be the largest early-stage funding for a New England life sciences start-up.
Many thanks to @rndubois for his tweets about this that drew it to my attention. You can read more about the financing in Blueprint’s press release.
What makes this exciting news? First it adds to the growing reputation of Boston/Cambridge as a hot-spot for cancer research. Blueprint Medicines will be focused on translational medicine and the development of new kinase inhibitors for the treatment of cancer.
Secondly, it confirms what is taught at business school, that investors back management expertise and their belief in the entrepreneurs ability to execute. In the case of Blueprint Medicines the scientific co-founders are Dr Nicholas Lyndon and Dr Brian Druker, who were instrumental in the development of imatinib (Gleevec/Glivec), a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that revolutionized the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Blueprint Medicines is a company to watch for the future and Biotech Strategy Blog wishes it well in the quest for personalized medicine and more effective cancer treatments.
The launch of the company in Boston/Cambridge adds to my view that Boston is emerging as the premier biotech region on the East Coast for start-ups interested in oncology and translational medicine.