Can we stop can­cer cells from evolv­ing and de­vel­op­ing drug re­sis­tance? British sci­en­tists take a leaf out of the HIV play­book

British sci­en­tists want to counter can­cer by us­ing an ap­proach that worked for HIV and tu­ber­cu­lo­sis: by cre­at­ing treat­ments to pre­clude can­cer’s abil­i­ty to be­come re­sis­tant to ex­ist­ing drugs and re­cur.

The drug dis­cov­ery pro­gram, or­ches­trat­ed by the In­sti­tute of Can­cer Re­search (ICR) in Lon­don, will be launched at a fa­cil­i­ty in the British cap­i­tal with an ini­tial £75 mil­lion (rough­ly $85 mil­lion) in­jec­tion.

De­spite the ad­vent of im­munother­a­pies in the can­cer ther­a­peu­tic ar­se­nal, the is­sue of re­sis­tance to can­cer drugs — in­clud­ing chemother­a­pies and mol­e­c­u­lar-tar­get­ed ther­a­pies — is ram­pant. For ex­am­ple, the clas­sic ap­proach of em­ploy­ing ag­gres­sive ‘shock and awe’ chemother­a­py can fal­ter be­cause too of­ten it helps fu­el an ‘sur­vival of the nas­ti­est’ evo­lu­tion among can­cer cells, ICR sci­en­tists con­tend.

ICR in­tends to ad­dress the chal­lenge on two fronts. First, is an ap­proach called ‘evo­lu­tion­ary herd­ing’. Us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, re­searchers at ICR can fore­cast how can­cer cells tend to re­act when treat­ed with a par­tic­u­lar drug. There­fore by se­lect­ing an ini­tial drug treat­ment — can­cer cells can be com­pelled to adapt in a fash­ion that makes them sus­cep­ti­ble to a sec­ondary treat­ment, or thrusts them in­to an “evo­lu­tion­ary dead end”.

The sec­ond strat­e­gy is to de­vel­op a fam­i­ly of drugs that thwart the abil­i­ty of can­cer cells to evolve and re­sist treat­ment. This fresh class of drugs are be­ing con­struct­ed to tar­get a pro­tein called APOBEC in a bid to di­min­ish the rate of mu­ta­tion in can­cer cells, slow down evo­lu­tion and de­lay re­sis­tance. Al­though the en­zyme is cru­cial for the im­mune sys­tem to adapt to dif­fer­ent in­fec­tious dis­eases, it has been im­pli­cat­ed in can­cer mu­ta­tions re­cent­ly, af­ter be­ing the fo­cus of vi­rol­o­gy re­search for over a decade.

Olivia Rossanese

Once de­vel­oped, these APOBEC in­hibitors could be ad­min­is­tered in tan­dem with ex­ist­ing tar­get­ed on­col­o­gy ther­a­pies to keep the can­cer at bay for longer pe­ri­ods, or in­deed el­e­vate it to the po­si­tion of a chron­ic dis­ease from an of­ten in­cur­able di­ag­no­sis.

“We be­lieve this will be the first treat­ment in the world that rather than deal­ing with the con­se­quences of can­cer’s evo­lu­tion and re­sis­tance, aims to di­rect­ly con­front the dis­ease’s abil­i­ty to adapt and evolve in the first place,” said Olivia Rossanese, who will serve as head of bi­ol­o­gy at the new ICR fa­cil­i­ty, in a state­ment.

An­oth­er ap­proach tout­ed by ICR is com­bin­ing can­cer drugs to com­bat drug re­sis­tance. In the lab, ICR re­searchers have ob­served that bow­el can­cer cells evolved to re­sist two tar­get­ed treat­ments, but suc­cumbed to the third, they said on Wednes­day.

Francesco De Rubertis

Medicxi is rolling out its biggest fund ever to back Eu­rope's top 'sci­en­tists with strange ideas'

Francesco De Rubertis built Medicxi to be the kind of biotech venture player he would have liked to have known back when he was a full time scientist.

“When I was a scientist 20 years ago I would have loved Medicxi,’ the co-founder tells me. It’s the kind of place run by and for investigators, what the Medicxi partner calls “scientists with strange ideas — a platform for the drug hunter and scientific entrepreneur. That’s what I wanted when I was a scientist.”

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Af­ter a decade, Vi­iV CSO John Pot­tage says it's time to step down — and he's hand­ing the job to long­time col­league Kim Smith

ViiV Healthcare has always been something unique in the global drug industry.

Owned by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer — with GSK in the lead as majority owner — it was created 10 years ago in a time of deep turmoil for the field as something independent of the pharma giants, but with access to lots of infrastructural support on demand. While R&D at the mother ship inside GSK was souring, a razor-focused ViiV provided a rare bright spot, challenging Gilead on a lucrative front in delivering new combinations that require fewer therapies with a more easily tolerated regimen.

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Part club, part guide, part land­lord: Arie Bellde­grun is blue­print­ing a string of be­spoke biotech com­plex­es in glob­al boom­towns — start­ing with Boston

The biotech industry is getting a landlord, unlike anything it’s ever known before.

Inspired by his recent experiences scrounging for space in Boston and the Bay Area, master biotech builder, investor, and global dealmaker Arie Belldegrun has organized a new venture to build a new, 250,000 square foot biopharma building in Boston’s Seaport district — home to Vertex and a number of up-and-coming biotech players.

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Novotech CRO Ex­pands Chi­na Team as Biotech De­mand for Clin­i­cal Tri­als In­creas­es up to 79%

An increase in demand of up to 79% for clinical trials in China has prompted Novotech the Asia-Pacific CRO to rapidly expand the China team, appointing expert local clinical executives to their Shanghai and Hong Kong offices. The company is planning to expand their team by 30% over the next quarter.

Novotech China has seen considerable demand recently which is borne out by research from GlobalData:
A global migration of clinical research is occurring from high-income countries to low and middle-income countries with emerging economies. Over the period 2017 to 2018, for example, the number of clinical trial sites opened by biotech companies in Asia-Pacific increased by 35% compared to 8% in the rest of the world, with growth as high as 79% in China.
Novotech CEO Dr John Moller said China offers the largest population in the world, rapid economic growth, and an increasing willingness by government to invest in research and development.
Novotech’s 23 years of experience working in the region means we are the ideal CRO partner for USA biotechs wanting to tap the research expertise and opportunities that China offers.
There are over 22,000 active investigators in Greater China, with about 5,000 investigators with experience on at least 3 studies (source GlobalData).

On a glob­al romp, Boehringer BD team picks up its third R&D al­liance for Ju­ly — this time fo­cused on IPF with $50M up­front

Boehringer Ingelheim’s BD team is on a global deal spree. The German pharma company just wrapped its third deal in 3 weeks, going back to Korea for its latest pipeline pact — this time focused on idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

They’re handing over $50 million to get their hands on BBT-877, an ATX inhibitor from Korea’s Bridge Biotherapeutics that was on display at a science conference in Dallas recently. There’s not a whole lot of data to evaluate the prospects here.

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Servi­er scoots out of an­oth­er col­lab­o­ra­tion with Macro­Gen­ics, writ­ing off their $40M

Servier is walking out on a partnership with MacroGenics $MGNX — for the second time.

After the market closed on Wednesday MacroGenics put out word that Servier is severing a deal — inked close to 7 years ago — to collaborate on the development of flotetuzumab and other Dual-Affinity Re-Targeting (DART) drugs in its pipeline.

MacroGenics CEO Scott Koenig shrugged off the departure of Servier, which paid $20 million to kick off the alliance and $20 million to option flotetuzumab — putting a heavily back-ended $1 billion-plus in additional biobuck money on the table for the anti-CD123/CD3 bispecific and its companion therapies.

Den­mark's Gen­mab hits the jack­pot with $500M+ US IPO as small­er biotechs rake in a com­bined $147M

Danish drugmaker Genmab A/S is off to the races with perhaps one of the biggest biotech public listings in decades, having reaped over $500 million on the Nasdaq, as it positions itself as a bonafide player in antibody-based cancer therapies.

The company, which has long served as J&J’s $JNJ key partner on the blockbuster multiple myeloma therapy Darzalex, has asserted it has been looking to launch its own proprietary product — one it owns at least half of — by 2025.

FDA over­rides ad­comm opin­ions a fifth of the time, study finds — but why?

For drugmakers, FDA advisory panels are often an apprehended barometer of regulators’ final decisions. While the experts’ endorsement or criticism often translate directly to final outcomes, the FDA sometimes stun observers by diverging from recommendations.

A new paper out of Milbank Quarterly put a number on that trend by analyzing 376 voting meetings and subsequent actions from 2008 through 2015, confirming the general impression that regulators tend to agree with the adcomms most of the time — with discordances in only 22% of the cases.

Norbert Bischofberger. Kronos

Backed by some of the biggest names in biotech, Nor­bert Bischof­berg­er gets his megaround for plat­form tech out of MIT

A little over a year ago when I reported on Norbert Bischofberger’s jump from the CSO job at giant Gilead to a tiny upstart called Kronos, I noted that with his connections in biotech finance, that $18 million launch round he was starting off with could just as easily have been $100 million or more.

With his first anniversary now behind him, Bischofberger has that mega-round in the bank.

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