Biotech Strategy Blog

Commentary on Science, Innovation & New Products with a focus on Oncology, Hematology & Cancer Immunotherapy

Posts tagged ‘oncolytic viruses’

We first wrote about this innate pathway back in early 2015 – before it became famous and controversial – when things seemed much simpler then.

Imagine the basic concept… add an immune agonist – this targets the innate immune system to jumpstart or wake up the immune system in colder tumours – to an established adaptive immune therapy such as checkpoint blockade and see whether any magic happens. In practice, this turned out to be much easier said than done, because in reality mouse and man have quite different immune systems and do not react in the exactly same way, which makes extrapolation from one to the other challenging at the best of times.

Still, back in 2015 there were barely a handful of STING agonists that anyone could really put a name too, now there’s 18 compounds in early pipelines and counting.

Not all the players are small biotechs either, as big Pharma is certainly paying attention to the smaller biotechs (both private and public) generating molecules, especially now that early clinical data (alone and in combination) is beginning to dribble out.

Aside from collaborations and licensing deals, there’s also an increase in patents in this niche, which is often a sign of competitive activity.

Four years on, how has the landscape changed, what does the data look like and what sort of issues need to be addressed?

In the first of our latest three-part mini series, we look at the competitive landscape and how it has changed (quite drastically since 2015, I can assure you!). In parts two and three, we look at two different up and coming players in the STING space with very different approaches.

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In this post, it’s time to put your thinking caps on and empty your minds of any pre-conceived bias in order to play the modern version of Star Trek tridimensional chess aka IO combination trials.

Gems from the Poster Halls

Here we weave now together some important themes and highlight intriguing ideas that at first seem dissimilar, but actually have much more in common than many realise.

Data from bone chillingly cold poster halls of conferences in the distant past can come back and reviewed afresh in the light of new developments. The seasoned observer discards neither these findings or thought leader snippets of insights within nor forgets them in an instant, as many do after the hum of instant live reactions passes.

With oncolytic viruses and cytokines being much in the news of late, what can we learn about where things are likely headed?

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Like the Battle of Britain, the cancer immunotherapy landscape is a dynamic one where tactical decisions can make the difference between “winning” and “losing.”

As Bristol Myers recently found out in first-line NSCLC, if you choose the wrong trial design or adopt an overly-aggressive strategy, you can end up losing badly (see post: Detailed thoughts on BMS CheckMate 026 1L trial in NSCLC)

A recent trip to the operations bunker at former RAF Uxbridge, from where the fighters of 11 Group were directed, shows how close we came to losing the Battle of Britain.  Had the German Luftwaffe continued to target RAF airfields instead of diverting their efforts on London, the outcome of the war is likely to have been quite different.

History provides a valuable lesson that strategy and tactics can and do matter; in R&D the targets you choose and how effectively you execute on a plan can make a big difference to outcome.

Battle of Britain Bunker Plot

Pictured: the RAF 11 Group Operations plot as it looked on September 15, 1940.

In Part 2 of the BSB interview with PsiOxus Therapeutics CEO Dr John Beadle, we discuss corporate strategy, and some of the challenges faced by an emerging Biotech company, many of which are likely to be shared by other small companies in the field.

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William Coley first used live bacteria as an immune stimulant to treat cancer way back in 1893. Since then, however, progress with innate immunotherapy has been surprisingly very slow.

English Roses

Queen Mary Rose Garden, Regents Park, Summer 2015

Indeed, to date only one therapeutic cancer vaccine has actually been approved by the FDA (Sipuleucel-T, Provenge, Dendreon), one oncolytic virus was approved in China back in 2006 (H101, a direct derivative of the E1B55k-deleted Onyx-015 that had modest activity at best) and another could soon be approved by the FDA later this year (T-VEC, Amgen).

In today’s review, we take a look at the oncolytic viral space and explore the issues, challenges and companies involved. Is this all set to be a bed of roses, or is a thorny future predicted?

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