MacDougall Musings

Recent European Conferences Spur Biopharma Excitement

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In late October, thousands of biopharma professionals flocked to Europe for some of the year’s biggest scientific conferences. The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) and the European Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ESGCT) held their annual meetings in Madrid and Brussels, respectively, and served as a showcase for countless presentations highlighting new data and hypotheses related to the treatment of various diseases, including cancer and genetic disorders. Read more to learn about some of the most exciting news to come out of these events.

Substantial attention for ADCs

  • At the beginning of ESMO’s annual meeting, Merck and Daiichi Sankyo announced a deal offering $4 billion up front in exchange for co-development and -commercialization rights to three antibody drug conjugate (ADC) programs. This news, combined with a significant number of presentations highlighting these therapeutics at the conference, made ADC therapies the center of attention during the event.
  • Seagen and Astellas presented data from two Phase 3 studies on Padcev, their partnered ADC, showing that its use in combination with Merck’s Keytruda substantially extended the lives of bladder cancer patients – the regimen improved overall survival and progression-free survival by 53% and 55%, respectively, compared to chemotherapy. Several experts have speculated that these data are sufficient to establish the combo as a new standard of care for first-line patients.
  • Notably, we’ve seen that safety data has been a concern in several ADC programs. Previous data from a Phase 3 lung cancer study of Daiichi Sankyo’s Dato-DXd program, in co-development with AstraZeneca, showed that seven patients experienced fatal drug-related adverse events, and at ESMO, researchers indicated that existing lung damage likely made these patients more vulnerable to those complications. As ADCs continue to make a splash in the industry, it will be essential to closely monitor further safety concerns.

Landmark data for Prime editing

  • At ESGCT, scientists from Prime Medicine shared the first-ever data on the use of prime editors in non-human primates (NHPs). The data show that Prime’s one-time gene editing therapy repaired the genetic mutation associated with glycogen storage disease Ib (GSDIb), a rare liver disease, in 83% of the key target cells, liver hepatocytes, in NHPs. The company noted that the treatment did not lead to any off-target genetic edits, marking an important milestone for this new therapeutic class.

A new approach for curing HIV

  • At ESGCT, Excision Biotherapeutics shared an update from its first-in-human Phase 1/2 clinical of EBT-101, a CRISPR-based gene therapy, in patients with HIV. While a number of available medications enable effective management of HIV, this treatment is being evaluated as a potential functional cure for the virus. The trial has dosed three patients, only seeing mild side effects thus far.
  • Tabby Therapeutics’ co-founder and CSO also discussed the company’s preclinical work editing B cells in vivo for the treatment of HIV in mice. By editing these B cells, Tabby intends to generate broadly neutralizing antibodies at a faster rate, improving their chances of effectively combatting HIV.

At both ESMO and ESGCT’s annual meetings, numerous presentations signaled exciting progress for new therapies that could improve treatment for patients worldwide. As the end of 2023 approaches, these events have established areas of interest for our industry in the coming year.

Developing a strategy for medical meetings and conferences is a critical aspect of any robust external communications plan – have you prepared your 2024 approach? MacDougall can help you generate interest and discussion by identifying target conferences, publications and opportunities and defining participation – speaking opportunities, panel participation, poster, data presentation, abstract, etc.

Need help refreshing your investor deck or identifying target events as your company begins planning for 2024? Reach out to the MacDougall team here and be sure to reference our continuously updated conference calendar.