This ex­trav­a­gant par­ty dur­ing #BIO18 fea­tured top­less dancers, and in­dus­try lead­ers are not pleased

An in­fa­mous in­dus­try par­ty held dur­ing the BIO In­ter­na­tion­al Con­ven­tion in Boston last week has come un­der fire for fea­tur­ing scant­i­ly clad fe­male dancers with spon­sor lo­gos paint­ed on their bod­ies.

Kate Stray­er-Ben­ton

Af­ter an at­tendee, Kate Stray­er-Ben­ton, pro­vid­ed pho­tos of the Par­ty at Bio Not As­so­ci­at­ed with Bio (bet­ter known as PAB­NAB) to the me­dia and open­ly spoke against it, some spon­sors as well as of­fi­cials of the trade group re­act­ed with a mix of con­dem­na­tion and dis­ap­point­ment.

Stray­er-Ben­ton — di­rec­tor of strat­e­gy at Mo­men­ta Phar­ma — told Bio­Cen­tu­ry, which first re­port­ed the news, that the en­ter­tain­ment was “be­yond tone-deaf.”

“We can talk all we want about di­ver­si­ty on pan­els and in the board­room, but when events like this are com­mon­place, I just think it un­der­mines all the progress be­ing made by in­dus­try groups and drug com­pa­nies,” Stray­er-Ben­ton elab­o­rat­ed to STAT. “I just think we take gi­ant steps back­wards when some­thing like this is con­sid­ered ac­cept­able.”

Mar­ti­na Mols­ber­gen

Now in its 14th year, PAB­NAB is known for its ex­trav­a­gant vibe in di­rect con­trast to the net­work­ing event that it’s in a sense born out of — but em­phat­i­cal­ly not af­fil­i­at­ed with.

C14 Con­sult­ing Group, one of three or­ga­niz­ers of this year’s event, al­so helped or­ga­nize last year’s event and was a spon­sor in 2016, ac­cord­ing to so­cial me­dia records. CEO Mar­ti­na Mols­ber­gen told Bio­Cen­tu­ry that last week’s par­ty was “edgy and art­sy” — and in line with what its spon­sors have come to ex­pect.

She added that C14 has re­ceived “very pos­i­tive feed­back from spon­sors” who “were very hap­py with the par­ty and the way it went, and did not feel un­com­fort­able,” but Bio­Cen­tu­ry not­ed she de­clined to name any spe­cif­ic spon­sors who had been in touch.

An­na Chris­man, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of EBD Group, said she was con­cerned about the dancers’ pres­ence at the par­ty but want­ed to make sure the or­ga­niz­ers were not mis­rep­re­sent­ed (EBD was one of five gold spon­sors of the event):

EBD has sup­port­ed Pab­nab for a num­ber of years. We don’t see it as a cor­po­rate re­cep­tion, but a place that cel­e­brates friend­ships in the biotech com­mu­ni­ty. Un­for­tu­nate­ly, this year we were un­aware of the dancers un­til we ar­rived on site. We do not con­done this el­e­ment of the par­ty, and we voiced our con­cern on­site and af­ter­wards and know that this will not hap­pen again. The or­ga­niz­ers are main­ly women, and among them are suc­cess­ful, out­spo­ken fe­male ex­ec­u­tives who have been trail­blaz­ers for women in this in­dus­try. There are many things that can be said about this par­ty, but it is not run by or for the “old boys club.”

An­na Chris­man

In ral­ly­ing against PAB­NAB’s em­ploy­ment of fe­male dancers, Stray­er-Ben­ton bor­rowed from Bio­Cen­tu­ry pres­i­dent Karen Bern­stein and SV Life Sci­ences Ad­vis­ers man­ag­ing part­ner Kate Bing­ham, who wrote an open let­ter to the bio­phar­ma in­dus­try in 2016 af­ter at­tend­ing “yet an­oth­er cock­tail par­ty in which in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ly clad women served as eye can­dy” at the JP Mor­gan con­fer­ence.

The event ref­er­enced was a LifeSci Ad­vi­sors af­ter par­ty, which hired a num­ber of young fe­male mod­els to es­cort guests. The let­ter sparked con­sid­er­able out­rage, with some 230 sig­na­tures from in­dus­try lead­ers. LifeSci Ad­vi­sors even­tu­al­ly apol­o­gized, and has since launched ini­tia­tives to ad­dress gen­der di­ver­si­ty in com­pa­nies.

John Maraganore

Stray­er-Ben­ton took a sub­stan­tial por­tion of Bern­stein and Bing­ham’s let­ter but rewrote some of it to re­flect the PAB­NAB event. It reads, in part: “We ac­knowl­edged in 2016 that it was time for us, as se­nior women and men in the in­dus­try, to say ‘Enough.’ So, how is it, in this world where #Time­sUp and #Me Too have shown the spot­light on so many in­dus­tries, an ‘af­ter par­ty’ spon­sored by com­pa­nies with­in our own in­dus­try fea­tures top­less [fe­male] dancers?”

Sara De­my, whose firm De­my-Colton al­so spon­sored the event, said she was not in­volved in the or­ga­ni­za­tion of the event and is “sad­dened and dis­ap­point­ed by what tran­spired.”

“It is was ab­solute­ly not okay. Not to­day, not ever,” she wrote in an email. “There was a troupe of 40+ Broad­way wor­thy dancers, who went through mul­ti­ple cos­tume changes while I was there. It wasn’t un­til I was on my way out that I no­ticed the oth­er dancers. Frankly, it made me ill.”

BIO ex­ec­u­tives took note. STAT re­port­ed that the com­mit­tee on work­force de­vel­op­ment, di­ver­si­ty, and in­clu­sion dis­cussed the event on an emer­gency phone call on Tues­day and de­cid­ed mem­bers who con­tin­ue to spon­sor the even would not be wel­come in the trade group. Ken Li­saius, BIO’s SVP of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, lat­er clar­i­fied that since the event con­flict­ed with their prin­ci­ples, they would en­cour­age mem­bers to speak to event or­ga­niz­ers to en­sure fu­ture events fea­ture “more ap­pro­pri­ate en­ter­tain­ment.”

“We can­not stand for an event like that that is de­bas­ing and is frankly not con­sis­tent with our stan­dards around in­clu­sion,” said John Maraganore, BIO chair­man and CEO of Al­ny­lam, to STAT.

Med­ical an­i­ma­tion: Mak­ing it eas­i­er for the site and the pa­tient to un­der­stand

Medical animation has in recent years become an increasingly important tool for conveying niche information to a varied audience, particularly to those audiences without expertise in the specialist area. Science programmes today, for example, have moved from the piece-to-camera of the university professor explaining how a complex disease mechanism works, to actually showing the viewer first-hand what it might look like to shrink ourselves down to the size of an ant’s foot, and travel inside the human body to witness these processes in action. Effectively communicating a complex disease pathophysiology, or the novel mechanism of action of a new drug, can be complex. This is especially difficult when the audience domain knowledge is limited or non-existent. Medical animation can help with this communication challenge in several ways.
Improved accessibility to visualisation
Visualisation is a core component of our ability to understand a concept. Ask 10 people to visualise an apple, and each will come up with a slightly different image, some apples smaller than others, some more round, some with bites taken. Acceptable, you say, we can move on to the next part of the story. Now ask 10 people to visualise how HIV’s capsid protein gets arranged into the hexamers and pentamers that form the viral capsid that holds HIV’s genetic material. This request may pose a challenge even to someone with some virology knowledge, and it is that inability to effectively visualise what is going on that holds us back from fully understanding the rest of the story. So how does medical animation help us to overcome this visualisation challenge?

Alice Shaw, Lung Cancer Foundation of America

Top ALK ex­pert and can­cer drug re­searcher Al­ice Shaw bids adieu to acad­e­mia, hel­lo to No­var­tis

Jay Bradner has recruited a marquee oncology drug researcher into the ranks of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research. Alice Shaw is jumping from prestigious posts intertwined through Mass General, Harvard and Dana-Farber to take the lead of NIBR’s translational clinical oncology group.

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Christine Bunt, Robert Langer. Verseau

Armed with Langer tech and $50M, Verseau hails new check­point drugs un­leash­ing macrophages against can­cer

The rising popularity of CD47 has propelled the “don’t-eat-me” signal to household name status in the immuno-oncology world. But just as PD-(L)1 merely represents the most fruitful of all checkpoints regulating T cells, Verseau Therapeutics is convinced that CD47 is one of many regulators one can modulate to stir up or tame the immune system.

“Macrophages are interesting because we were all educated probably 20 years ago that they are the big eaters in the immune system, but they’re really the orchestrators of the immune system,” CEO Christine Bunt said.

Hal Barron, GSK's president of R&D and CSO, speaks to Endpoints News founder and editor John Carroll in London at Endpoints' #UKBIO19 summit on October 8, 2019

[Video] Cel­e­brat­ing tri­al fail­ures, chang­ing the cul­ture and al­ly­ing with Cal­i­for­nia dream­ers: R&D chief Hal Bar­ron talks about a new era at GSK

Last week I had a chance to sit down with Hal Barron at Endpoints’ #UKBIO19 summit to discuss his views on R&D at GSK, a topic that has been central to his life since he took the top research post close to 2 years ago. During the conversation, Barron talked about changing the culture at GSK, a move that involves several new approaches — one of which involves celebrating their setbacks as they shift resources to the most promising programs in the pipeline. Barron also discussed his new alliances in the Bay Area — including his collaboration pact with Lyell, which we covered here — frankly assesses the pluses and minuses of the UK drug development scene, and talks about his plans for making GSK a much more effective drug developer.

This is one discussion you won’t want to miss. Insider and Enterprise subscribers can log-in to watch the video.

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Mi­rati preps its first look at their KRAS G12C con­tender, and they have to clear a high bar for suc­cess

If you’re a big KRAS G12C fan, mark your calendars for October 28 at 4:20 pm EDT.

That’s when Mirati $MRTX will unveil its first peek at the early clinical data available on MRTX849 in presentations at the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics in Boston.

Mirati has been experiencing the full effect of a rival’s initial success at targeting the G12C pocket found on KRAS, offering the biotech some support on the concept they’re after — and biotech fans a race to the top. Amgen made a big splash with its first positive snapshot on lung cancer, but deflated sky-high expectations as it proved harder to find similar benefits in other types of cancers.

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The FDA will hus­tle up an ex­pe­dit­ed re­view for As­traZeneca’s next shot at a block­buster can­cer drug fran­chise

AstraZeneca paid a hefty price to partner with Daiichi Sankyo on their experimental antibody drug conjugate for HER2 positive breast cancer. And they’ve been rewarded with a fast ride through the FDA, with a straight shot at creating another blockbuster oncology franchise.

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Sean Parker, AP

Sean Park­er helps cre­ate a CRISPRed cell ther­a­py 2.0 play — and he’s got a high-pro­file set of lead­ers on the team

You can rack up one more high-profile debut effort in the wave of activity forming around cell therapy 2.0. It’s another appealing Bay Area group that’s attracted some of the top hands in the business to a multi-year effort to create a breakthrough. And they have $85 million in hand to make that first big step to the clinic.

Today it’s Ken Drazan and the team at South San Francisco-based ArsenalBio that are coming from behind the curtain for a public bow, backed by billionaire Sean Parker and a collection of investors that includes Beth Seidenberg’s new venture investment operation based in LA.
Drazan — a J&J Innovation vet with a long record of entrepreneurial endeavors — exited the stage in 2018 when his last mission ended as he stepped aside as president of Grail. It wasn’t long, though, before he was helping out with a business plan for ArsenalBio that revolved around the work of a large group of interconnected scientists supported by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunology.

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CSL ac­cus­es ri­val Pharm­ing of par­tic­i­pat­ing in a scheme to rip off IP on HAE while re­cruit­ing se­nior R&D staffer

Pharming has landed in the middle of a legal donnybrook after recruiting a senior executive from a rival R&D team at CSL. The Australian pharma giant slapped Pharming with a lawsuit alleging that the Dutch biotech’s new employee, Joseph Chiao, looted a large cache of proprietary documents as he hit the exit. And they want it all back.
Federal Judge Juan Sanchez in the Eastern District Pennsylvania court issued an injunction on Tuesday prohibiting Chiao from doing any work on HAE or primary immune deficiency in his new job and demanding that he return any material from CSL that he may have in his possession. And he wants Pharming to tell its employees not to ask for any information on the forbidden topics.
For its part, Pharming fired off an indignant response this morning denying any involvement in extracting any kind of IP from CSL, adding that it’s cooperating in the internal probe that CSL has underway.

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Eli Lil­ly’s first PhI­II show­down for their $1.6B can­cer drug just flopped — what now?

When Eli Lilly plunked down $1.6 billion in cash to acquire Armo Biosciences a little more than a year ago, the stars seemed aligned in its favor. The jewel in the crown they were buying was pegilodecakin, which had cleared the proof-of-concept stage and was already in a Phase III trial for pancreatic cancer.

And that study just failed.

Lilly reported this morning that their cancer drug flopped on overall survival when added to FOLFOX (folinic acid, 5-FU, oxaliplatin), compared to FOLFOX alone among patients suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer.

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