Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘cancer vaccines’

Some of the upcoming coming small biotechs caught our attention and may turn out to be future stars

National Harbor – There were quite a few gems in the poster halls and oral presentations from up and coming small cap biotechs at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) meeting this year.

Who were they and what did we learn from them?

In the latest part of our latest SITC coverage we highlight 13 presentations – 11 from small biotechs and 2 academic abstracts – that caught our attention, explain what’s intriguing about them and why they matter.

There’s not a single big Pharma included (unless as a reference point or given in combination) since the focus is mainly on up and coming companies with their novel approaches.

The list is quite selective and not at all random from a list of over 850 abstracts.

So what stood out and what was special about them?

Some of the selections are likely hidden sleepers that few will be familiar with… they also cover a wide range of approaches, targets, different modalities and even strategic intent.

Even if you were at the SITC 2019 meeting, increasingly there were more business meetings taking up valuable time than sessions attended, so this is a great way to catch all the highlights for your trip report 😉

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We’re starting our review of the program for the forthcoming 2019 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (Twitter hashtag to follow: #AACR19) with a look at the cancer immunotherapy program.

One of the challenges of a large meeting is that it’s like a smorgasbord or buffet in a hotel that’s resplendent in choices, but you can’t possibly eat it all.

Choices!

Some choose to follow a research area, others a target or tumor type. There’s a lot of ways to segment the program depending on your specific interests.

However, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place ahead of a large conference such as AACR, even if you modify it as you go to take into account evolving needs.

Seasoned conference goers will be familiar with the maxim known as “the law of two feet” – if a session you are in doesn’t live up to expectations or meet your needs and something else looks more to your taste from the tweets, then simply dash off to another!

In our latest conference preview, we’ve taken a careful look at the cancer immunotherapy track.

What are some of the key sessions to put on your calendar if you’re following this track or have an interest in this area?

In Part 1, we review the IO sessions from Friday to Sunday then tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll review the schedule from Monday to Wednesday.  Yes, it’s that intense this year! Just think, five years ago you had to search the program really quite hard indeed to even find much on immuno-oncology, as it was very much in its infancy then.

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Imagine being becalmed on boat in the doldrums patiently waiting for the wind to pick up…

Just as experienced sailers learn to make best use of the available knowledge on sea breezes, tides, tidal winds, catspaws, headsails, heels, genoa etc, so immunologists are experimenting with various modalities.

This enables them to develop a more extensive knowledge base before they can use all the available tools more effectively at their disposal in order to chart a course in each tumour type and setting.

That’s a tremendous amount of information and skills that needs to be gathered before we can even consider racing against competition. So it is with cancer immunotherapy, with all its different approaches that are available to combine or sequence in a multitude of tumour types. We are still largely in the unknown unknown stage of figuring things out.

That said, each cancer conference brings new nuggets and gems that on their own do not appear to offer much, but added together in the broader picture can contribute more than many observers realise.

That was certainly the case with our latest update on IO therapies, as you will see…

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Last week we reviewed some of the promising oral late breaking abstracts and highlighted what to watch out for (W2W4) from our key selections.

National Harbor, DC

This week, it’s the turn of the poster late breakers to be in the spotlight.

There are several approaches worthy of highlighting, but as always, there are also some potential pitfalls for readers to be aware of.

After all, life in the oncology R&D fast lane is as never easy or predictable as the changing of the seasons.

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Mainz – At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference in Germany, one of the underlying themes of the conference that attracted considerable attention from speakers and poster presenters was neoantigens, and how to generate cancer vaccines directed against them.

One of the European leaders in the field is Professor George Coukos who is Director of the Department of Oncology at the University of Lausanne Hospital and Director of the Lausanne branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.

Lausanne is an exciting place for innovative translational oncology work with the Swiss Cancer Center, that Coukos also directs, creating synergy between partner institutions co-located in the Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV).

Mainz, Germany

We last spoke to Prof Coukos 18 months ago and much has happened since then. In Mainz, he kindly agreed to speak to BSB again and provide an update on progress.

This time we talked about the cancer vaccine research that he and collaborators such as Dr Lana Kandalaft are pioneering in Lausanne, and how this could best be applied in ovarian cancer.  It was exciting to hear him discuss his vision and some of the ambitious goals he hopes will be possible within the field.

Here’s a short excerpt from the interview – he has an interesting story to tell:

This expert interview is part 5 of our onging mini-series on the Future of Cancer Vaccines.

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Mainz: At the third CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference held in Mainz recently, one of the emerging themes from an exciting and interesting meeting was novel cancer vaccines.

Despite the announcement last month that the Bavarian-Nordic phase 3 PROSTVAC trial in prostate cancer was futile (See post: PROSPECTing for nuggets with PROSTVAC in CRPC), therapeutic cancer vaccine research is experiencing a renaissance.

In this new mini-series, we’re featuring interviews with leading scientists and clinical researchers at the forefront of cancer vaccine research.

Mainz, Germany

It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list of the “good and great,” as not all leaders in the field were actually in Mainz, but nonetheless we hope this series, like a series of postcards, captures some of the excitement along with challenges and opportunities facing researchers at present.

Up next is Professor Cornelius “Kees” Melief, who is Emeritus Professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands and Chief Scientific Officer of ISA Pharmaceuticals – where ISA stands for Immune System Activation.

Earlier this year, Professor Melief received a lifetime achievement award from the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT) for his work in research in this niche.

He’s a global expert on cancer vaccine research.  Ironically, back in July he published an editorial in Nature entitled, “Cancer: Precision T-Cell therapy targets tumors” that discussed some two letters on neoantigen cancer vaccine research from other thought leaders we have interviewed in this current mini-series, namely Dr Cathy Wu (Link) and Prof Ugur Sahin (Link).

While, in Mainz, Professor Melief kindly shared his thoughts on the field, where it is going, and how ISA Pharmaceuticals are looking to make a difference.  Here’s an audio postcard for those interested in hearing a sample of what he had to say…

This is the fourth interview in our mini-series on the Future of Cancer Vaccines.

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Dr Ira Mellman is a leading cancer researcher, familiar to many in cancer immunotherapy for his work on the Cancer-Immunity Cycle and Cancer-Immune Set-Point with Dr Dan Chen.

Prior to joining Genentech, he spent 20 years as a faculty member at Yale, publishing extensive research on dendritic cells.

River Rhine, Mainz

Last year, Genentech announced a strategic collaboration with Mainz based BioNTech in Germany to develop and manufacture personalized mRNA based cancer vaccines.

At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR cancer international cancer immunotherapy conference in Mainz, Dr Mellman kindly spoke to BSB about the underlying biology/immunology, the rationale behind the BioNTech collaboration, and his vision on where he sees the potential for therapeutic cancer vaccines going forward.

This is the second post in our series on the Future of Cancer Vaccines.

Here’s a snippet of the interview with Dr Mellman to get you warmed up…

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One of the leaders in the field of neoantigen based cancer vaccine research is Dr Cathy Wu. She’s a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a scientific co-founder of Neon Therapeutics.

Mainz Cathedral

Personalised cancer vaccines are showing exciting promise, and are at the vanguard of what many think of as a renaissance in the field, one that is now attracting the interest of many companies and researchers.

We posted on Neon Therapeutics approach and progress at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference in January, followed by an update on the clinical data from Dr Wu at AACR.

Much has happened since then, however, so it’s a timely juncture to continue the story.

At the recent CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference in Mainz, Dr Wu kindly spoke to BSB about her research, where it’s at, progress to date, and importantly, where things are heading.

This is the first part in our latest mini-series on the future of cancer vaccines.

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Wiesbaden, Germany – Last night Bavarian Nordic dropped the unfortunate news that the phase 3 PROSPECT trial exploring the PROSTVAC vaccine in combination with GM-CSF in asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) was futile.

Source: Bavarian Nordic

Once you miss the overall survival (OS) endpoint, that’s it folks – there’s no other choice but to say the therapy failed, harsh though that may sound.

There are, however, a number of important points to consider from here that are worthy of further discussion.

Here, we post an analytical review and look at a number of factors that could have impacted the outcome.  It’s rarely one simple thing because the immune system is highly complex and multi-faceted.

Hopefully there will be important learnings from this study that will advance the IO and prostate cancer fields.

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Greetings from continental Europe!

ESMO Madrid Conference Center

We have a LOT of data to discuss today from ESMO and have also included an interview with one expert that was conducted under embargo on an important topic.

Of course, the usual in-depth analyses on new targets and early compounds in development will duly follow in the post-meeting output, but there’s plenty of practice changing data to consider and also some results that may trigger alternative thinking from where we are now.

We also received questions from BSB readers on certain trials and some of these are answered in today’s update on the road…

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