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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In our latest thought leader interview from the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) Dr John Leonard (Weill Cornell) provides a lesson on how to interpret key lymphoma data such as ECHELON–1, CAR T cells, and other topics at ASH, as well as what he’d like to see more of in lymphoma clinical trials.
In this hard-hitting interview, Dr Leonard reminds us that the media should not be a mere extension of the PR of companies. Instead he offers his real world insights into what may or may not be practice changing, and how we should interpret CAR T cell therapy data.
Dr John Leonard (Weill Cornell)
It’s a must read for anyone with an interest in lymphoma… here’s an excerpt to give you a flavour of the wide ranging discussion:
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As we continue rolling out our ASH coverage, we now move on to the in-depth analyses and thought leader interviews post meeting… What do experts really think about the critical questions that arise from new data? What is practice changing versus a nice to have in a small subset of people?
Someone said to me recently, “You seem very picky about who you interview. Why’s that?”
You betcha we are!
ASH17 in Atlanta
There are hem/oncs, thought leaders, and true experts whose opinions we value and know are solid and fair balanced in their commentary. There are also others who have major COI and will say whatever needs to be said about a particular individual study they are involved in, but are not reliable in a strategic perspective of the broader landscape or the impact of a study in terms of future trends.
I’d rather talk to people in the first category and learn from them – they don’t have to know everything or even agree with our own viewpoint, but they do need to be independent and fair balanced.
In the first of our ASH interview series, we posed some tough questions to a CLL expert and here’s a snippet on what he had to say:
Hah, at least we are thinking along the same lines!
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For the last couple of years at every annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference, I have posted an extensive Preview of the CAR T cell therapy landscape and looked at which abstracts piqued my interest.
The roaring 30s CAR
This year the review is the most extensive to date, with more companies, more research groups, more tumour types and way more preclinical research coming through. It’s like a kaleidoscope of ideas cascading through R&D.
The other thing to take note is how fast the field is moving – it’s warp speed now and so much comes through the literature every month on top of that.
So here we go – hold onto your hats as there is a LOT to contemplate this year!
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No ASH pre-conference coverage would be the same without a shout out to Dr John Leonard (Weill Cornell). For 10 days prior to the annual meeting he counts down each day with a lymphoma study that caught his attention and tags it #LeonardList. The first one went up yesterday:
Do follow Dr Leonard and his lymphoma selections on Twitter – there are usually surprising ones in the middle that are quirky or interesting that makes you stop and think more carefully. He also appeared on the #ASH16 Novel Targets podcast in Season 2 explaining his choices and why they mattered if you want to get a flavour.
Our #ASH17 series we have already covered aggressive lymphomas and also developmental therapeutics.
Atlantic Olympic Sculpture
Up next in our third ASH17 Preview, we take a broad look at the wealth of abstracts available and highlight ten key presentations, irrespective of tumour type, which readers should be watching out for.
Some of these ‘Champions’ may not be immediately obvious and include interesting preclinical findings, intriguing new products in development, as well as eagerly awaited mature data from recently approved therapies. It’s an eclectic mix, to be sure.
There are definitely some early trends and interesting new molecules emerging from company R&D pipelines that are worthy of further consideration in this year’s batch of abstracts.
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Dr Stephan Grupp at SITC17
National Harbor, MD – SITC 2017 wouldn’t be the same without an in-interview with Dr Stephan Grupp (CHOP) on the issues surrounding the Juno ROCKET trial and CAR T cell therapy safety.
This data has been eagerly awaited and anticipated by the field since the news of a cluster of lethal cerebral oedemas hit Juno in the summer 2016, seemingly out of the blue.
Yesterday, we reviewed the salient points from Dr Mark Gilbert (CMO) presentation highlighting their findings from the in-depth analyses performed to date.
In the second part we turn to a CAR T cell therapist with experience in treating children and young adults for his perspectives and candid reactions to the information presented.
We also talk about where the field is headed and some of the new developments we can look forward to hearing more about in the near to medium term future.
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SITC 2017 at the Gaylord Hotel, MD
It’s that time of year already and it has come around so fast in 2017… yes it’s the annual meeting for the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (aka SITC).
This year there are several eagerly anticipated presentations, one of which is Juno’s ill-fated ROCKET trial in adult ALL using their JCAR015 CAR T cell therapy.
While Novartis and Kite both successfully made it to market recently in pediatric ALL and aggressive lumphomas, respectively, Juno were left languishing in a poor third place after a series of lethal cerebral oedemas scuppered the program. In the meantime, Novartis are relentless chasing Kite with their JULIET trial in DLBCL and could well have the third CAR T cell therapy indication.
Finally, we heard for the first time today what the company learned from the recent analysis of the deaths, which they shared with the field this morning. BSB was on the spot to hear more about what the CMO, Dr Mark Gilbert had to say and we also have some thought leader sentiments on their perspective of the findings.
That’s not all though, as there was also new data on checkpoint blockade and other immunotherapies that are in early development as well as developments on the biomarker front.
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Before we move on to the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) meeting later this week, it’s time to wrap up the exciting AACR-NCI-EORTC molecular targets conference, which along with the CRI-CIMT-EATI-AACR international cancer immunotherapy conference in Mainz, have been my two favourite oncology meetings of the year so far.
Who would have predicted that back in January?
A scoot around the narrow #Targets17 poster hall…
It would be hard not to close out coverage without a popular Gems from the Poster Halls post.
Typically, we have focused this theme from cancer conferences around the following:
- A new target
- An interesting molecule
- Intriguing basic or translational science of note
- A particular tumour type
- Insightful sentiments from thought leaders
In this latest version, we have examples of each. We also have my favourite quote and discussion from the meeting, which perhaps not surprisingly, comes from a CAR T cell therapy discussion.
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Coney Island Roller Coaster
In the roller coaster of life that is oncology R&D, molecules come and molecules go… a rare few reach blockbuster heights while many others are quietly packed off to dog drug heaven, never to be seen or heard of again.
This is also very true of targets as well…
What about the in-between space?
Unfortunately, that’s where most molecules and cancer targets end up – into a deep black nothingness where we seek the high affinity targets with low grade side effects – and fall short in some way. It’s a frustrating place to be, to be sure.
One of these conundrums is compounds against CD123 (IL3Rα), which have been in the spotlight on and off this year and are turning out to be a rather mixed bag.
After our recent update on Cellectis and their CD123 direct CAR T cell therapy (UCART123), I wasn’t expecting to write any more on this until ASH in mid December. How wrong that prediction turned out to be!
Today we have quite a few things to discuss on this topic, so if interested in CD123 in hematologic malignancies and going beyond that to find better targets in AML then this is the poster for you…
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We have long argued that by the time 2nd Generation CAR T cell therapies hit the market they will almost be obsolete and next generation versions will already be in advanced clinical testing. The product life cycle in this niche is likely to be a very rapid one, much more so than in other areas of cancer research.
The critical question isn’t when these new constructs will be available, but rather what form will they take? What will they look like, and which issues will they address?
Several researchers are leading the way in the CAR T cell therapy space, but a recent presentation by one expert in this field reinforced how he is making a transition from pioneer to disruptor.
In this post we explore some of the issues and ideas he discussed in a vision for the future.
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