Immunotherapy has made a breakthrough in cancer treatment, but forecasting its course as the potential cure for cancer remains difficult.
On June 21, 2019, scientists, healthcare investment analysts, and media gathered at the New York Academy of Sciences for an intimate discussion of the future of immuno-oncology. Hosted by the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), “Immuno-Oncology: A Future Look” provided new insights into the direction and promise of immunotherapy research and drug development.
The event was recorded in full and you can view the opinions and predictions of eminent scientists and industry leaders below.
Andrew K. Tsai, co-founder and chief investment officer of Chalkstream Capital Group, welcomed attendees and gave personal remarks on his belief in CRI’s mission to save more lives and why he serves as co-chairman of the CRI Board of Trustees.
Next, CRI’s CEO and director of scientific affairs Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., provided an introduction to the current landscape of immuno-oncology and to the Cancer Research Institute, remarking how the field has evolved over the decades and how CRI has supported that evolution. She noted the work of the CRI Anna-Maria Kellen Clinical Accelerator in providing a new model for efficiency and collaboration, backed by venture philanthropy funding. Finally, Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey argued that in a rapidly changing field, basic science is essential to progress and the next great breakthroughs are dependent on seeking and understanding new immune system components and pathways .
Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey then shifted to the role of moderator and introduced our academic expert panel: James P. Allison, Ph.D., of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 2018 Nobel Laureate and director of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council; Philip Greenberg, M.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and member of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council; and Robert H. Vonderheide, M.D., D.Phil., of the University of Pennsylvania and member of the CRI Scientific Advisory Council. Now that we have proof of principle that immunotherapy works, they discussed smarter approaches to research and immunotherapy development. Panelists focused on applying immunotherapies to difficult-to-treat cancers (prostate and pancreatic cancers in particular), progress in cell therapies, the role of biomarkers, and questions around the microbiome.
After a short break, Meg Tirrell, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals reporter at CNBC, moderated an industry fireside chat with Awny Farajallah, M.D., FACP, vice president, head of U.S. oncology at Bristol-Myers Squibb and George D. Yancopoulos, M.D., Ph.D., founder, president, and chief scientific officer at Regeneron. In addition to new therapies, they focused on creating new combinations, building the next-generation of current drugs, and finding ways to control immune response and toxicity.
Finally, after two hours discussing the future, Dr. O’Donnell-Tormey introduced five scientists who will drive it. She announced the first five recipients of a new funding program of the Cancer Research Institute, namely the Lloyd J. Old STAR Award (Scientists Taking Risks): Yvonne Y. Chen, Ph.D., of the University of California, Los Angeles; Amanda W. Lund, Ph.D., of Oregon Health & Science University; Alexander Marson, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco; Andrea Schietinger, Ph.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and Gregory F. Sonnenberg, Ph.D., of Weill Cornell Medicine. As this new generation of researchers turn their attention to how the immune system will fight cancer, the future of immuno-oncology looks bright.