Innovation Through An Academic Network: Part 3 The Future of Pharma

Looking ahead, our work is cut out for us in terms of R&D as many diseases and conditions are yet to be fully understood. By establishing partnerships with academia, we can further explore disease states, concentrate on early-stage molecule development, and optimize a product candidate. Not only is this relationship beneficial in terms of budgetary benefits (for both industry and academia), but it also increases engagement between pharma companies and the scientific community at large.

Academic institutions face increasingly tight budgets due to funding cuts from overstretched governments, and the contribution in terms of funding from pharmaceutical companies can be beneficial to departments that are limited in their ability to afford cutting-edge research tools. Meanwhile, pharma companies have various cost centers to replenish and optimize along the way in development – once a drug has been developed, it’s costly to get a drug to market due to the need to conduct clinical trials and deal with manufacturing, sales, and distribution.

Years ago, pharma companies did not have an open dialogue with physicians; they simply focused on communicating the performance of drugs and associated risks/warnings. As sources of healthcare information became easily accessible and abundant, companies have shifted and adopted a two-way model to share information. By engaging researchers and experts early on in the innovation cycle, we can obtain medical and scientific feedback from the onset all the way through commercialization – which will ultimately serve the best interests of the patient.

Today, when I look at a collaboration opportunity, I focus on how we can move from a from a “fee for service” to a “fee for value” model, meaning that we establish a collaboration with the right partners that are moving beyond a share of voice to genuine engagement. We want to ensure that we are putting our efforts behind study outcomes rather than the number of tests ordered. At OncoSec, we have several key academic collaborations (Table 1).

It’s time to reframe the industry. We have already seen the excitement of cancer immunotherapy sweep through the oncology, investment, and patient communities. With immuno-oncology successes from Bristol-Myers Squibb’s and Merck’s anti CTLA-4 and PD-1 antibodies, and the media reports of medical breakthroughs associated with Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell (CART) therapy, it appears that cancer research is at the beginning of a potentially transformational new era. It’s by no coincidence we see some of the recent studies in T-cell-based therapies linked to academic institutions (Table 2).
By taking molecules in later stages and trying to fit them to a particular indication, we risk more in the hope that they are successful. Instead, companies need to bring together experts and resources early on to help ensure the best possible outcome is achieved. Starting with basic research and building up from there, we are more aptly equipped to identify and develop novel therapeutics with innovative mechanisms of action, which can later translate into successful molecules in clinical trials. The hope is that one day, these new therapeutics can become the beginning to the end of cancer.

The statements or opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer OncoSec Medical.

Key OncoSec Academic Collaborations (Table 1)

Institution Investigator(s) Research
University of California, San Francisco (and other clinical centers) Drs. Alain Algazi, MD & Adil Daud, MD Phase II Metastatic Melanoma Clinical Trial: pIL-12 & pembrolizumab (KEYTRUDA®)
University of California, Los Angeles Dr. Paul Tumeh, MD Patient Selection Biomarker
University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center Dr. I. Nicholas Crispe, MBBS, PhD Immunological Mechanisms of Intratumoral DNA IL-12 Electroporation
Harvard Medical School/ Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Dr. Sara Pai, MD, PhD Immunological Mechanisms of Intratumoral DNA IL-12 Electroporation in HPV Cancer Vaccine

Current Immunotherapy Industry Collaborations (Table 2)

Company Partners(s) Technology
Adaptimmune GlaxoSmithKline TCRs and CARs
Affimed Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) Tandab – bispecific
Bellicum National Cancer Institute CIDeCar – safety switch
BlueBird Bio Celgene / Baylor ND
Cellectis Pfizer CART
Conkwest NA NK cell CARs
Intrexon/Ziopharm NA UltraCART – RheoSwitch
Juno Therapeutics MSKCC, Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s CARs and TCRs
Kite Pharma National Cancer Institute CD-19 CAR
Lion Biotechnologies NCI / Moffitt Cancer Center TIL
Novartis University of Pennsylvania CART-19
Transposagen Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) Allo-CART