ASGCT Virtual: We are thoroughly enjoying the “live” annual meeting of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT).
Unlike other virtual meetings that have recorded presentations, ASGCT are running a live format, with presenters giving their talks in real-time from wherever in the world they may be. By and large this has worked well, and it definitely felt as though you were at the meeting.
We are also enjoying the ePoster hall, and in particular, the short audio tour that many presenters have made to take you through their poster. Obviously, it’s not a substitute for in-person contact, but who would want to be in a crowded poster hall or meeting room in these uncertain times with the potential for the coronavirus lurking about?
Earlier today we “attended” a virtual ASGCT20 scientific session with oral presentations organized by the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) on Engineering Immunity.
Four speakers focused on CAR T cell therapy in non-B cell malignancies – what did we learn? It turns out the answer was quite a bit!
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Part of the next wave of early immuno-oncology agents are focused on addressing the tumour microenvironment and inhibitory factors that dampen down immune responses.
As we look at all the options available, there are a few obvious ones such as physical barriers and inhibitory cytokines or chemokines, but beyond that are a vast array of other potential targets we can aim at therapeutically.
We have covered quite a few of these already, but here’s a new one to add to the list.
One particular advantage is that because it is early in development, few competitors have cottoned on to the concept yet. First mover advantage can have quite a few benefits, after all.
Here’s an important question to consider in terms of oncology R&D – would you rather explore a blue ocean strategy or follow the lemmings off the cliff and be 14th to market in a highly competitive red ocean?
To learn more from our oncology coverage and get a heads up on insights emerging our latest analysis and commentary, including a company interview subscribers can log-in or you can click to gain access to BSB Premium Content.
We get to chat with many leading oncologists and cancer researchers on Biotech Strategy Blog – it’s truly one of the perks of the job to meet experts and hear them discuss their early research.
Like a tutorial, we have the opportunity to ask questions and improve our own understanding, but where it becomes really interesting is when they talk about promising translational opportunities, because this is what we are about.
How do you translate basic research into oncology new products and figure out where are the viable opportunities?
In this post, we spoke with one of the world’s leading immunologists – someone we’ve never spoken to before – who a few weeks ago spun-out a company to commercialize one of their early research areas and while we were doing the interview told us about another commercial opportunity they had in mind. This was very much “under the radar” and in a relatively earlier stage of commercialization. Both targets have potential for synergy in our view, particularly in combination strategies and cancer immunotherapy regimens.
With one company in stealth mode and the other only incorporated a matter of weeks ago (at time of writing they don’t yet have a website), it’s exciting to see science translation in action.
This is one of the reasons why one of the many tribes that read BSB are those in business development and licensing (BD&L) or investment roles.
In this post we interviewed the delightful Prof. Akiko Iwasaki from Yale. We’ve also put together commentary on the opportunities and the science behind them, as well as some recent anecdotes gleaned from another expert in one of the fields discussed.
If you are part of a BD&L team then do consider purchasing a group or team license. We’d be happy to have our group sales department discuss this further with you.
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If the best way to predict the future is to invent it then the poster sessions at the AACR annual meeting are frequently a window into the next generation of cancer drugs and therapies. Regular attendees at AACR will know that there are gems to be found in the posters, and that preclinical research on display may end up being translated into the clinic not long afterwards.
Like wearing a new set of clothes for lunch and dinner, with the exception of the first and last days, there’s a different set of posters in the morning and afternoon – that’s a lot of posters one can get through during a conference!
Indeed, MSKCC Chief Analytics Officer, Ari Caroline, noted on Twitter, “I may have spent more time at AACR this year at the posters than at the sessions.”
One story that we continue to follow this year is the emerging interest in unconventional T cells. The good news was that there was new data at AACR19.
We covered Puretech Health and their posters last week while another related one in the same niche that caught our attention was presented by Dr Lawrence Lamb (right).
On April 1, 2019 Incysus announced that the FDA had approved their IND application for a novel gamma-delta T cell therapy for treatment of patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma (link to press release).
At AACR19 we met up with Dr Lamb, who is now Chief Scientific Officer of Incysus Therapeutics, to find out more about his research and how Incysus plan to translate it into the clinic.
This is a continuation of our series on gamma delta (𝞬𝝳) T cells exploring the multitude of different ways that illustrate their potential for cancer immunotherapy in hematologic malignancies and solid tumours.
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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.
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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Long time attendees at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) know that there are usually interesting posters and sessions buried on the last day of the meeting.
This year was no exception, with a major symposium on “CAR T Cell Cancer Immunotherapy” chaired by Michael Jensen MD (pictured right).
BSB readers will recall we interviewed him at the 2016 BMT Tandem meeting in Honolulu (See post: Optimizing CD19 CAR T cell therapy). Excerpts from this interview also featured in Episode 14 – Cell Therapy Pioneers of the Novel Targets Podcast.
The CAR T symposium on the last day of AACR was one of my highlights of the meeting. The three speakers were:
- Michael Jensen, MD (Seattle Children’s) Engineering Next Generation CAR T cells using Synthetic Biology-Inspired Technologies
- Terry J. Fry, MD (National Cancer Institute) Defining and overcoming limitations of CD19 CAR immunotherapy in pediatric ALL
- Christine E. Brown, PhD (City of Hope) Progress and Challenge in CAR T Cell Therapy for Brain Tumors
Each of these presentations would merit a full blog post in their own right, but in this particular post we’re focusing on CAR T cell therapy targeting glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).
GBM is the most common primary malignant brain tumor, and one with a dismal prognosis – the 5-year survival rate is only around 5%, so there is also a high unmet medical need for new effective treatment options. This devastating disease has proven to be a miserable graveyard for Pharma over the last decade, with many agents unfortunately ending up in dog drug heaven.
After her AACR17 presentation, Dr Brown kindly spoke to BSB.
This post is part of our series of thouight leader interviews from AACR17. It also continues our ongoing posts on the adoptive cellular therapy landscape, and in particular, CAR modified T cells.
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My theme for blog posts this week has been the diagnosis and detection of Alzheimer’s Disease, a therapeutic area I was first introduced to while working as a Global Project Director at the Canadian CRO, CroMedica before it was acquired by PRA. The then CEO of CroMedica, Erich Mohr Ph.D is now Chairman and CEO of MedGenesis Therapeutix Inc. in Victoria, BC.
This privately held biopharmaceutical company is working on developing new products for neurological diseases and the treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) and Intractable Epilepsy. I have added MedGenesis to my list of emerging biotechnology companies to watch, and look forward to writing further as their pipeline develops.
Which brings me back to Alzheimer’s disease (AD), an area which I think will touch many of us as we and our parents become older. Last week, I was visiting my elderly mother in England who struggles to remember when I am visiting, and has little or no short term memory. It’s sad to see her in a restaurant have a completely blank face when she goes up to a buffet, then cannot remember where she was sitting.
While we all have age-related decline in our memory as we get older, how do you know if it may be something more such as AD? The Alzheimer’s Association have published a useful list of 10 warning signs, that may suggest seeing a doctor:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar task at home, at work or at leisure
- Confusion with time or space
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
While there is no cure for AD, early diagnosis using biomarkers (see my blog post on Lilly’s florbetapir and blog post on Novartis’ Aß40 oligomers), could lead to slowing disease progression as new therapeutic agents come through development to market.
Dementia, AD and other cognitive disorders are challenging for caregivers and family’s to deal with. In many ways a tangible, physical illness is easier. Not knowing the rate of progression and the future, it is difficult to plan ahead. Helping my elderly mother maintain her independence in the face of the mental challenges she faces is something that we as a family have to face up to, as I am sure many others will too.