Biotech Strategy Blog

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

Posts tagged ‘Synthetic Biology’

Salt Lake City, Utah – The CAR T cell therapy niche has certainly provided plenty of controversy, highlights and lowlights over the last decade or so, although much of the mainstream attention has really only surfaced in the last couple of years.

Gone skiing?

For those interested in this space, there is a short synopsis of the BMT Tandem 2018 plenary session that took place this weekend and simultaneously published in the ASBMT journal (See: Perales et al., 2018):

“Building a Safer and Faster CAR: Seatbelts, Airbags, and CRISPR” 

While no one doubts that we have a need for safer CARs to reduce or ameliorate severe toxicities (the debate here is what are the best ways to achieve that in the clinic), it remains unclear whether a fast or slow approach is the optimal way forward in terms of efficacy.

In this post, we take a look at new clinical and scientific findings that may pave the way forward for the future in the CAR T cell space through the lens of several different academic institutions…

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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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Coney Island Roller Coaster

In the roller coaster of life that is oncology R&D, molecules come and molecules go… a rare few reach blockbuster heights while many others are quietly packed off to dog drug heaven, never to be seen or heard of again.

This is also very true of targets as well…

What about the in-between space?

Unfortunately, that’s where most molecules and cancer targets end up – into a deep black nothingness where we seek the high affinity targets with low grade side effects – and fall short in some way. It’s a frustrating place to be, to be sure.

One of these conundrums is compounds against CD123 (IL3Rα), which have been in the spotlight on and off this year and are turning out to be a rather mixed bag.

After our recent update on Cellectis and their CD123 direct CAR T cell therapy (UCART123), I wasn’t expecting to write any more on this until ASH in mid December. How wrong that prediction turned out to be!

Today we have quite a few things to discuss on this topic, so if interested in CD123 in hematologic malignancies and going beyond that to find better targets in AML then this is the poster for you…

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The audience of Biotech Strategy Blog is a broad “church” (no pun intended) of professionals associated with cancer drug development.

Oxford Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford

Some readers with a research focus noticed I was in Oxford recently then contacted me to ask what scientific papers I was reading and catching up on over the lazy summer months?

This got me thinking as I was vividly reminded of my days as a PhD student at King’s College London, where the department would regularly meet to discuss key papers and recent research.

If your work has a narrow focus, and that applies to industry too, it’s sometimes difficult to see what’s on the horizon or be stimulated by ideas outside your immediate field, yet cross-fertilisation is an important pillar of learning. That’s one of the advantages of BSB, we cover a wide range of topics, at varying levels of complexity.

Welcome to the BSB Journal Club!

In this inaugural post, I’ve selected several recently published cancer immunotherapy papers that caught my attention, also a couple of books for your summer reading.

In case you worry that the science is above your ‘pay grade,’ for each I’ve written a brief summary and highlighted what data means from a commercial/new product development persepctive. You are of course most welcome to agree/disagree and reach your own conclusions… I hope it will stimulate your thinking.

Science often moves forward and develops as people make connections from a broader perspective.  I’m planning on running the “Journal Club” as a monthly ad hoc post to dovetail with the Reader Q&A Mailbag.

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Dr Michel Sadelain AACR 2016

Dr Michel Sadelain at AACR 2016

Dr Michel Sadelain, Director of Cell Engineering at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York is a pioneer in the field of adoptive cell therapy.

Without his contribution, it is unlikely CAR T cell therapy would be where it is today.

He’s also President of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT), whose annual meeting is currently underway in Washington DC from May 4 to 7 (Twitter #ASGCT16).

Recently at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), Dr Sadelain gave an outstanding presentation on turbo-charged CAR T cells, and shared some of his ideas on how to move the field forward.

In New Orleans, he also kindly spoke to BSB, and discussed how he thinks cell therapy researchers may obtain the “holy grail” of getting CAR T cell therapies to work effectively in solid tumors.

Dr Sadelin is someone who wants to break the immunology rules!

Not surprisingly, Dr Sadelain is optimistic and doesn’t share the view expressed by Dr Steven Rosenberg on CAR T cell therapies being limited to mostly hematologic malignancies when we interviewed him a year ago at last year’s ASGCT meeting.  There’s nothing like a friendly controversy to spice the field up!

If you haven’t already done so, do listen to Dr Rosenberg on Episode 5 of the Novel Targets Podcast (@TargetsPodcast).

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