Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Rick Young’

Padstow, Cornwall – It’s May Day or ‘Obby ‘Oss, as it’s known locally in this little corner of south west England.  The quaint festival means that it’s the biggest day of the year as over 30,000 people crowd into the tiny fishing village.

Obby Oss Blue

Centuries old traditions are still alive and well in this part of the country and the big question of the day (are you red and white or blue and white?) is a far cry from the complex high tech world of cancer research.

Still, with all the time and attention focused on immunotherapy and targeted therapies of late, it is all too easy to forget what’s happening on the epigenetics front, which is quite a bit in practice.

We often see random allcomer approaches to clinical trials, which are find for phase 1 studies where you want to gather data on responders and non-responders in order to conduct PK/PD and immune profiling, as well as biomarker and signature development, but a potential recipe for disaster in phase 3 if you have no idea exactly what’s driving the efficacy since you can all too easily end up with unbalanced arms that you didn’t control for and thus skew your survival curves in a way you didn’t anticipate.

Why on earth would you use a targeted therapy in an untargeted fashion? Hmmm obvious question and yet, many companies still do this all the time.

There are some biotechs out there, I’m pleased to say, who do conduct extensive translational and biomarker research.  Obviously finding those markers is a lot more tricky than choosing red or blue.

One biotech company we have been keenly following for a while is Syros.

We first wrote about them in Spring 2014 and now, five years on, I thought it would be a nice idea to catch up with one of their founders and learn more about the science underpinning what they’ve done and where they’re going with future projects. Not only do they invest in smart medicinal chemists, profiling and translational research, but they also seek to identify rational reasons why people respond to their compounds.

The answers were rather interesting and there’s quite a bit that readers might be curious to learn more about…

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Sometimes you get lucky before a conference and catch an interview with a thought leader ahead of time when it’s more relaxed and less fraught with all the demands of meetings etc while there.

rick young

Dr R Young, Source: WI

That good fortune happened to me on the Friday before the recent AACR conference in San Diego, when I recorded an interview with Dr Richard Young, (Whitehead Institute & MIT and scientific co-founder of Syros), who was giving a plenary talk on the Sunday at AACR entitled, “Transcriptional and Epigenetic Control of Tumor Cells.”

Epigenetics and transcriptional changes are fascinating concepts to me because they get right to the heart of what’s going on deep in the oncogenes and how they control processes in cancer. Clearly, in simplistic terms, if we can understand how things change and evolve, then we can potentially devise better strategies to overcome them. Instead of targeting a protein kinase with a small molecule or a cell surface antigen with a monocloncal antibody, this is an altogether different approach. Protein-protein interactions such as MYC, RUNX1, p53/TP53 etc have long been the bugbear and frustration of many good researchers, precisely because they are challenging to target with conventional approaches.

So what’s new and why am I really excited about these new developments?

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