In our current mini-series exploring emerging biotech companies with early pipelines and novel targets, we investigate some interesting approaches that are not common place. As large cap Pharmaland companies seem overly focused on hunting for the next checkpoint target, smaller biotechs are more nimbly coming up with some fresh ideas that might have solid merit down the road.
This is one of those such innovative companies.
What if there was a different approach where we can learn from the immune system’s response to a cancer? Sounds obvious and intuitive when put so baldly, yet few companies are actually doing that in practice.
What would such a process and pipeline look like?
Come and find out for yourselves – you may well be surprised because some ideas that seem crazy at first blush, could turn out to be rather useful indeed…
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It’s time for an update on TLRs – Toll-like receptors – as a way of igniting the fire of the tumour microenvironment. We have repeatedly seen how only a minority of patients respond to immune checkpoint blockade and how there are a multitude of reasons for why this is the case.
In some patients, the immune response is stalled in some way, thereby necessitating a jumpstart. Reasons for this might include lack of recognition of the cancer cells, poor antigen presentation, immunosuppression, immune escape and so on.
In other words, we need more firepower and novel rational combination approaches to stimulating both the innate and the adaptive immune systems in order to derive a more potent and durable response in a larger number of patients. That’s where TLR agonists come in.
As always in oncology R&D, there have been some failures already but we have also seen more promising compounds emerge as well as improved understanding of the science behind the immune system defects that occur in cancer.
Armed with this knowledge, will the current crop of molecules produce better results? To find out, we took at look at some of the recently available data and also interviewed an emerging new company in this niche to learn more about their quite different approach to the challenges…
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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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Sunset in Puerta del Sol, Madrid
This is the last of our conference previews for #ESMO17 – after this we move on to the emerging data coming out from Madrid.
Most of the attention is rightly focused on the big phase 3 trial readouts that are eagerly expected, but what about some of the hidden gems from smaller companies?
What new IO and immunotherapies are looking interesting this year?
We have five such highlights for readers to watch out for. Things should get quite interesting over the next week or so.
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