A panel of experts in immuno-oncology discussed the challenges and opportunities to develop therapies that can effectively fight cancer.
“I think right now we’re at a second revolution in cancer therapy, which surprisingly is not necessarily driven by technology but perspective, and how we look at cancer,” said Masoud Tavazoie, CEO of Rgenix. His company, based in New York, develops small molecules for immuno-oncology applications.
Tavazoie thinks that by turning from studying the tumor in isolation to thinking of cancer as a systemic disorder, where healthy cells and immune cells interact with the tumor, is driving this second revolution. “This has led to patients with advanced disease to actually, for all intents and purposes, being cured of their cancer.”
But there’s plenty of challenges to make it to the clinic with these new therapies. “You need at least €30M in Europe if you wanna pursue a compound against one of these new IO targets to clinical proof of concept,” said Holger Reithinger, Partner at Forbion. The VC invested in BioVex, a biotech bought by Amgen for $1Bn, and is currently an investor in other 3 immuno-oncology companies.
“The challenge for us is that the authorities are not working at the same speed,” said Carlos de Sousa, CEO of Immunicum. The Swedish company is developing an off-the-shelf cell-based therapy for cancer. Given the novelty of such approaches, regulatory pathways are still under construction. “In addition, the changes are enormous. You might design your study and in 12 months you might need to rethink it.”
Nevertheless, Masoud Tavazoie is confident that “these challenges will actually force biotech companies, investors and pharma to think very carefully about what they’re going to pursue. The solution lies in rational combination and clinical strategies based on strong biological principles. We’ll see the real winners in next years.”
Watch the video to learn more about how biotech is dealing with an ever-changing landscape and what the differences between Europe and the US are when developing an oncology therapy.