By Dr. Karen Ring, Big3Bio Events Correspondent
The theme of CALBIO 2015 was “Turning Challenges into Opportunities,” and this year’s keynote speakers — Bob More, senior advisor of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Gregory Simon, CEO of Poliwogg Healthcare Investments — both followed that theme thoroughly, discussing the varying ways how opportunities are coming to play for California and the industry as a whole.
While More focused how to mobilize the life sciences industry to bring innovation to the developing world (“This is biology’s century,” he said. “Markets do not serve the poor adequately. Charity needs to fill the gap.”), and Gregory Simon discussed how to democratize investment in health care to boost innovation and support promising emerging companies (“Let’s consider health not as a cost you insure, but as an asset you own. The cost of health is never as big as the cost of disease.”), the rest of the conference featured panels on various topics that detailed the various challenges and opportunities in the state.
Panels included: Regenerative Biologic therapies, the Biotech IPO Window, Gene Therapy, Digital Health and Drug Discovery, Build-to-Buy Biotechs, the Genomics Revolution, Women in Biotech, Entrepreneurship, Cybersecurity, and Innovation. Johnson & Johnson Innovation also hosted two “Powerful Ideas Series” which featured top thought-leaders and industry executives and their opinions on how we can overcome current challenges facing the life sciences industry (from a scientific, business, and health standpoint) and ultimately provide better care and outcome to patients.
Below are highlights from a few panel talks:
Behind the Scenes: The Untold Story of Dealmaking
- Industry veteran Lesley Stolz explained why Big Pharma is so slow with deal-making: Pharma needs buy in, and that everyone has to say yes for a deal to go through.
- Bob Baltera from Amira Pharmaceuticals said that you need stamina and determination when making deals because they take a long time, and
- Jennifer Cayer from Rempex gave a small company perspective on deal making with pharma by saying that you should start a relationship long before you want to make the deal.
No Guts, No Glory! Turning microbiome science into disruptive medicine
- Jessica Richman of Ubiome said that consistency with microbiome data is hard. The field needs a set of standards to refer to when analyzing big data in order to achieve consistent results and accurate conclusions.
- James Knighton of AvidBiotics discussed why studying the microbiome is important. He mentioned that it’s now possible to manipulate the microbiome to improve health and outcomes in human disease. He gave C. Diff infections as an example, citing how fecal transplants are 94% effective in C. Diff patients.
- Karim Dabbagh of Second Genome talked about how the microbiome should be viewed as an organ. Similarly to how we study human organs, scientists should understand the functionality of the microbiome and how to restore it in cases of disease.
- Microbiome pipeline: Therapeutics are in early-stage clinical development and include live biotherapeutics (like VSL#3) and engineered bacteria. Indications include recurrent UTI and acne.
- Needs in the field: More people getting their microbiomes sequenced and better tools to analyze big data. Also very necessary are systems to validate results from these studies.
Breaking out of the rut: the next era of therapeutic antibodies
- Bassil Dahiyat of Xencor explained how Xencor’s engineered antibodies boost immune function and are safer, more effective, and longer lasting.
- Gary Woodnutt of Lpath said, “antibodies are still growing, but they are growing up.” He discussed how his company is thinking outside the target box and is pursuing monoclonal antibodies against bioactive lipids for indications including Irritable Bowel Disease, wet AMD, and renal cell carcinoma.
- Sean McCarthy of CytomX said that antibodies aren’t in a rut. “There is great innovation in the space, but still a lot of work to do.” He mentioned how Cytomx is generating antibody prodrugs that are specifically activated in a disease microenvironment.
- Anil Singhal of AbbVie discussed AbbVie’s pipeline, which includes bispecific antibodies and antibody-drug conjugates for various diseases. They have already entered into Phase 3 studies with Daclizumab (CD25) for multiple sclerosis and Elotuzumab (SCAMF7) for multiple myeloma.
- Next generation antibodies: CAR-T cells, T-cell bispecifics, checkpoint inhibitors, combination therapies, antibody-drug conjugates.
- Most transformational antibodies: The panelists mentioned Factor 8 deficiency (hemophelia), CD3 bispecifics (cancer), PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitors (cancer).
Media coverage of CALBIO 2015:
Xconomy: “Voice for Everyone” – Life-Sci Women Talk Venture, Pharma Gender Gap
BioSpace: CALBIO2015: “Health is the New Asset Class”
BioSpace: CALBIO15: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Exec Says Ebola Vaccine Will Arrive in 2016
BioSpace: CALBIO15: Gene Therapy in “Second Honeymoon” Phase as Companies, Investors Swarm
BioSpace: CALBIO15: Investors Will “Set Higher Bar” for Biotech IPOs in 2015 As Market Corrects