At the start of the New Year, Dr Carl June (@carlhjune) who needs no introduction as one of pioneers of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy tweeted that, “2020 will be the decade of cell therapy and genome engineering.”
So what does the next decade hold for CAR T cell therapy?
At the recent 2nd European CAR T cell meeting, jointly organized by EHA and EBMT, we asked the man himself to tell us more about his vision.
In Sitges, Dr June kindly spoke to BSB and shared his thoughts on where he sees the CAR T field going, some of the key challenges that will need to be overcome, as well as some of the opportunities to watch out for.
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It was only five years ago that the number of abstracts on CAR T cell therapies at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) ran to a dozen or less. Fast forward to 2016 and we now have tens of them, almost too many to count, let along review quickly and easily.
A scene from ASH 2015…
To give you an idea of the staggering speed of progress, in 2010 it took me less than half an hour to search and read all the CAR T cell abstracts, now it takes nearly a whole day to peruse and review them carefully.
We can’t resist a challenge…
As usual, we will write in more depth from the meeting as the data emerges in real time since many of the abstracts are often placeholders with updated information provided at the conference itself.
For now, here we provide an in-depth preview of the CAR T cell landscape in terms of the players, the products, new scientific research, biomarkers, emerging trends and more in a handy What to Watch For (W2W4) guide on key areas to expect at ASH to enable better enjoyment and awareness as the data rolls out next month.
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One of the fun aspects of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) conference last month was interviewing several thought leaders and CEOs about the latest developments that were emerging rapidly almost every single day. Now, some medical meetings can be rather dreary if there’s no new or exciting data to pique the interest of the foot weary attendees, who tend to run on coffee and adrenalin for four days, but this ASH was rather different.
Looking at the program the first morning, I realised that I hadn’t felt so much anticipation since the 1999 meeting, when the phase I imatinib (Gleevec) data was presented in the plenary session by Brian Druker. This time around there was a lot of buzz in so many areas from CLL and NHL to myeloma and ALL, it was pretty exciting to run from session to and see many packed rooms filled with an air of expectancy. One evening, I hesitated at the top of an escalator and dithered over which of three very interesting sessions to dash to, as a bunch of researchers crashed into me all distracted by the exactly same dilemma!
If many of us could have made one request of the ASH organising committee it was clearly start offering a virtual meeting for all the oral sessions, something ASCO do incredibly well.
At ASH if you miss a presentation, it’s gone forever.
This is quite a pain if you really wanted to see the data from Agent X in CLL, Compound Y in CAR T cells and Drug Z in myeloma, as well as the one you actually attended. All those sessions ran simultaneously. It also means the sessions are still running at 7pm (yes, they were still packed even at that hour!) and many of us had an early start with 7am sessions or meetings.
The huge distances between rooms (#blisterruns), coupled with a stubborn insistence in putting almost all the oral sessions on Monday and Tuesday, together with long waits between interesting sessions over the weekend, makes for a very frazzled and disjointed schedule. Patience and stamina are the name of the game here.
Here we highlight our latest thought leader interview on CAR T cell therapy.
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Last night Luke Timmerman of Xconomy posted a nice article on the formation of a new Seattle startup, Juno Therapeutics, which aims to develop the chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy (CAR-T) based on autologous T cells developed by Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) in New York, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (FHCC) and the Seattle Children’s Hospital, both in Seattle.
Juno secured $120M in Series A funding, which is pretty good for a two month old startup and shows how much excitement there is for this exciting technology.
How does this new development impact the CART landscape and in particular, the U Penn and Novartis partnership?
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