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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National Harbor, MD
The range of different types of cancer immunotherapies in the clinic now is fairly broad, with many promising approaches being evaluated.
Cytokines, despite their initial challenges with toxicities, are an essential pillar of this approach, along with checkpoint inhibitors and agonists, adoptive T cell therapy, and now even neoantigen approaches and cancer vaccines.
Nektar Therapeutics ($NKTR) are developing two intriguing immuno-oncology compounds based on cytokines, which are in early development called NKTR–214 and NKTR-255.
The idea behind this approach is that they are immuno-stimulatory therapies designed to expand T cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells directly in the tumour microenvironment, thereby increasing expression of PD-1 on these immune cells. Subsequent checkpoint therapy could potentially be made more effective. We already know that those patients with few or no T cells are less likely to respond (cold or non-inflamed tumours) so the hunt is on finding ways to address this particular challenge. Can it be done therapeutically?
Data was presented this past weekend at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC).
Was the data encouraging enough to justify further clinical development or is this a compound headed to dog drug heaven?
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One of the (many) highlights for me at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) was a “Meet the Expert” session presented by Professor George Coukos.
Prof George Coukos AACR 2016
Professor Coukos is Director of Oncology at the University Hospital of Lausanne and Director of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research in Switzerland.
Ovarian cancer is becoming a fascinating battleground for cancer immunotherapy, with multiple challenges that must be overcome before we see improvements in outcomes, especially for women advanced disease.
The interview with Prof Coukos is a follow-on to the one we did on advanced ovarian cancer and checkpoint blockade at ECCO 2015 in Vienna with Dr Nora Disis (Link).
If you missed it, you can still listen to highlights in Episode 7 of the Novel Targets Podcast (Link).
After his AACR presentation, Prof Coukos kindly spoke with BSB and in a wide ranging discussion, highlighted some of the innovative clinical trial strategies he is working on to move the cancer immunotherapy field forward in ovarian cancer.
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