BIO Investor Forum Session on Advancing Immuno–Oncology


BIOtech Now
Stacey Matusko

At the 2016 BIO Investor Forum, the first session held was titled “The Intersection of Inflammation and Immuno-Oncology: Risks and Opportunities.”

Moderated by Michael King, Managing Director and Senior Research Analyst at JMP Securities, panelist included:

  1. Jay Venkatesan, MD, President & Director, Alpine Immune Sciences
  2. Pablo Cagnoni, MD, President & Chief Executive Officer, Tizona Therapeutics
  3. Alex Szidon, PhD, Executive Director, Business Development & Licensing; Head of West Coast Innovation Hub, Merck & Co. Inc.
  4. Paul Biondi, Senior Vice President, Head of Business Development, Bristol-Myers Squibb
  5. Shawn Iadonato, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Kineta, Inc.

The session opened with the question if making cold tumors hot would be the next frontier:

For Paul, he realized combination therapy would be the best approach to treat as many patients as possible. Even so, there’s was still a large number of unmet needs as not all patients respond. He noted while there’s still a lot to be learned, there’s hope because there is a lot to discover and find those answers.

Alex, focused on solving this scientific problem, looks to patient response as rich sources of information guiding fundamental biology. In a sense, working backward to solve clinic issues. By investing to understanding interactions, it can help unlock other areas of biology which could be a future direction of inflammation.

So, while we’ve come very far in the immuno-oncology world, Michael noted how complex this field is at times. He followed up by asking panelist for their views on how the future plays out from here and what needs to be the focus.

For Jay, he believes there is a lot of imperial work that has to happen. At the end of the day, it simply needs to boil down to the science. This will result in a lot of partnering because there’s just too much to be done.

The most import thing you can do when you’re doing this work is to focus on innovative science that will dramatically change outcomes.

Paul agreed that this is something that must be done. Noting that the advancement in technology now requires less tissue for testing, but there still needs to be collaboration because it can lead the way to unlocking areas of unmet need. The focus should always be on getting results regardless of anything else.

It doesn’t matter if you’re small or big company, you need to be focused on transformational medicines. You need to have those dramatic treatment therapies.

Pablo wasn’t far behind agreeing that until there is a fundamental shift in additional investment, all great scientific ideas will take too long to come to fruition.

Collaboration is going to be necessary. The focus needs to be on getting the science right.

Any investment that makes cross-company collaboration and academic-industry collaboration more efficient is really important and a good thing.

As Shaun simply summed up, something needs to be done to accelerate this process so more patient’s with tumors respond fully and permanently resulting in everyone’s goal – more lives saved.

All in all, panelist agreed that there is a lot to learn, a long way to go, and collaboration is necessary to get the science right – because it’s all about the science. So whether it’s a small company without enough samples or larger company with more access and resources, their optimistic attitudes were focused on the work ahead that could be done together through the power of partnership, collaboration, and investment – these are the things that will make advancements in the biomedical industry possible.

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