Unlike last year, rain in San Francisco wasn’t a feature in 2019
If there’s anyone who hasn’t got fed up looking for somewhere to sit and chat or have a meeting in San Francisco at the 2019 JP Morgan Healthcare conference this week, then don’t be surprised…
With meeting space continually at a premium and many attendees unwilling to pay exhorbitant table rental prices, you now see people resorting to the lobby steps at the Sir Francis Drake, while the ladies have the advantage over the gents of access to the powder room in the Westin (with plugs!)
There’s also a movement from the chic to the shabby:
JPM is as much about informal meetings, pitches and confabs about new ideas, as it is about the actual CEO presentations, and so this situation is likely to continue in future years.
Meanwhile, we continue to dive in with our latest daily blog and put a bunch of companies through their paces. If day 1 is all about the big pharmas, by day 3 the focus is much more on up and coming or mid sized biotechs…
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It’s time for our new mini-series on a key topic of interest. In this post we take a look at interesting data we came across at ASCO relating to the innate immune system… what’s important here is exploring different ways of jumpstarting the immune system using various approaches. These can range from cytokines to Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and involve both small cap biotechs and big Pharma alike.
There were quite a few examples to be seen and heard in Chicago, something that researchers turned out to be quite enthusiastic and passionate about too, as we learned from numerous interviews.
Dr Adi Diab at the Idera TLR9 poster #ASCO18
This niche is both early, as well as up and coming for many outsiders, although some of the approaches described we first started covering and writing about back in 2015, so regular BSB readers will not be unfamiliar with the concepts.
It’s always good to follow targets and companies over time from preclinical to clinical development and see how the proof of concept stands up to scrutiny. Sometimes though, it’s about finding the right combination partner or patient subset and… boom. Other times researchers need to do additional work to figure out the optimal approach or schedule. There’s no formula for success and the path forward can be one that’s well worn or less well travelled.
Add on top of this ridiculous hype and expectations and you get a recipe for disasters and pratfalls pitfalls along the way. Oncology R&D is a roller coaster, after all.
In the first post of our series, we begin with TLR9 and some encouraging early data with this approach. We explore the data generated through the lens of an investigator in one of the trials and what he and his patients have experienced, which makes for interesting reading.
To be clear, this is quite different from the disappointing results seen in the past with motolimod (VTX–2337), a TLR8 molecule…
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National Harbor, MD
Despite remarkable results with cancer immunotherapy to date, we do need to keep out feet on the ground and remember that response rates are relatively low to modest (10–30%) and the majority of patients do not respond or see a benefit with these approaches.
As we start moving beyond checkpoint monotherapy, the realisation has fast hit many researchers and companies that we really don’t know as much about the tumour microenvironment (TME) as we would like.
No doubt we will learn a lot more about it from the combinatory approaches, but be aware that this also means higher risk associated with such developments – we will likely see a lot of failures – and hopefully, some successes too.
This is where the little biotech companies have an opportunity to shine… they may have some intriguing IO compounds in development but not an anti-PD1/L1 backbone, meaning they can collaborate with a big pharma company to explore novel combinations in small phase 1/2 trials to determine what works or not. This is much lower risk (and R&D costs) for both parties and we get to see more quickly where things shake out.
At the annual Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) meeting last week, there was a whole day devoted to New Immunotherapy Drug Development.
Some of these agents look worthy of watching out for and following their progress. A variety of data in different targets and MOA were presented from big and small companies alike. We selected a few of the promising ones for further review and discussion.
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