Following on from last year’s event in Brussels, Thursday 13 November saw key opinion leaders, life science investors, analysts and advanced therapy companies gather in central London for the 2nd Annual EU Advanced Therapies Investor Day. Hosted by the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) in cooperation with GE Healthcare Life Sciences, Bryan Garnier & Co and Cell Therapy Catapult, the one day event provided attendees with an insight into the latest technologies and therapies for a variety of indications.
Morrie Ruffin, Managing Director, ARM opened the event followed by a keynote presentation from Kieran Murphy, President and CEO, GE Healthcare Life Sciences. In his presentation, Kieran outlined the huge potential of the field due to the sheer number of patients affected by diseases that advanced therapies have the ability to treat, such as cancer and diabetes. He described how ‘bringing regenerative medicine to the mainstream’ will require more than biopharmaceutical companies alone – including global academic collaborations, government input, gaining the confidence of regulators, investment and sophisticated novel supply chain processes.
Throughout the day there were presentations from 14 advanced therapy companies, including BIA member companies Oxford BioMedica and ReNeuron.
The rationale behind investment in immuotherapies was discussed in a ‘fireside chat’ between Usman (Oz) Azam, Global Head, Cell & Gene Therapies Unit, Novartis and Keith Thompson, CEO, Cell Therapy Catapult. Oz explained how compelling clinical data underpinned Novartis’ decision to create a dedicated business around cell and gene therapies and discussed the progress of their CAR T cell therapy candidate CTL019. The potential of CAR therapies to treat solid tumours was also indicated and the panel agreed that announcements such as the ‘one stop shop’ for regulation of regenerative medicine products show that regulators are receptive to these technologies.
The day continued with a session on targeted immunotherapies for oncology. Discussions covered how the ‘science is ripe’ in regenerative medicine, which will lead to big returns on investment and how scale up of processes and an enabling ecosystem will be key to success. The panel suggested that genome editing platforms such as CRISPR and zinc finger nucleases could revolutionise the cancer immunotherapy field. UCL’s Emma Morris identified funding for phase I studies from global research councils as key to advancing the regenerative medicine field.
Steve Bates, CEO, BIA chaired a session on therapies for ophthalmologic disorders featuring panellists from Sanofi, UCL, QMUL and NightstaRx. They discussed how the eye presents an attractive target for cell therapies due to its accessibility and suggested that the ophthalmologic space has the potential for developing blockbuster therapies to treat diseases such as choroideremia, age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. It was questioned what expertise and infrastructure would be required to successfully implement these therapies in a clinical setting.
The final panel reviewed the use of cell and gene based therapies to treat cardiovascular disease. This brought up many interesting ideas, including the possibility of ‘cell free therapy’ – providing the proteins and substances that cells secrete at the right time and in the right quantities to treat diseases. Methods of achieving better delivery and retention of cells in cardiac tissue were also discussed.
If you’re interested in catching up on the day’s events, a webcast of all talks, panels and company presentations will be available within the next two weeks on the event website.