DDW’s Megan Thomas spoke to experts from the drug discovery industry about their predictions on what 2024 holds for our sector. This is part of a series of predictions based on different themes. Here, experts weigh in on what to expect from cancer research and immunotherapies.
Greg Rossi, Senior Vice President, Head of Oncology, AstraZeneca Europe & Canada
“Advances in science and technology have brought us to an incredible inflection point in cancer management and healthcare delivery. New innovations can attack the disease from multiple angles, and new data and machine-learning AI technology are helping to detect cancer earlier and optimise personalised care pathways. Through early diagnosis and precision medicine, we can improve quality of life and enable more people with cancer to survive. The challenge ahead lies in ensuring that health systems make the right investments and collaborations to embrace the latest technologies, so that all patients, everywhere, have equal opportunities to access advances in cancer care.
Brian Gladsden, CEO, Mosaic Therapeutics
“The industry has already made tremendous strides in targeted drug discovery in oncology, particularly as the industry moves further away from simply looking at tumour histology and relying more on cancer gene sequencing. Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven approaches now offer the promise of improved speed and targeting.
“Although we are yet to see positive clinical outcomes for compounds derived solely from AI-driven drug discovery, we should expect this area to attract further investment in 2024 as computational power continues to increase, and methodologies and data quality improve. The potential is there to transform cancer R&D, and a deeper understanding of cancer biology and integration will be key for improved outcomes.
“At Mosaic, we hope to solve this challenge and create more effective, safer therapies for patients. Utilising our integrated experimental biology and machine learning platform to realise the power of large-scale, systemic data, we are developing a preclinical pipeline of targeted oncology therapeutics in biomarker-defined settings — reinventing the traditional approach to target and drug discovery.
“2024 is poised to bring innovative progress in cancer R&D as the industry strives to address the substantial unmet needs that remain for patients.”
Dr Gen Li, Founder and President, Phesi
“In 2024, we can expect immunotherapy trials to become a driving force for change in clinical development. In the past 10 years, immunotherapy trials have increased by 430%. Due to the precision and specificity of immunotherapies, there are fewer available patients for clinical trials. Already, we are seeing an increase in targeted single-arm trials for certain cancer and rare disease therapies. Immunotherapy trials will accelerate this transformation and encourage sponsors to harness data to develop more precise trials. We can expect to see digital patient profiles, digital twins, and digital trial arms employed in immunotherapy clinical trials to eliminate placebo groups and deliver immunotherapies to patients faster.”
Carole Nicco, CSO, BioSenic
“The use of immunomodulatory drugs has always been limited by their large size, poor stability, modest ability to cross physiological barriers, rapid clearance, etc. To promote the immune response, the posology of biologics is usually high and requires intravenous injection, which raises safety concerns and significantly reduces patient compliance. Small molecules, such as BioSenic arsenic trioxide, that are active at very low doses and act on multiple intracellular pathways have a bright future. The route of administration is critical and topical galenic, dermal, oral, buccal, transdermal, nasal, inhalation and subcutaneous can make the difference. Combined with the development of new drug delivery systems (DDS), this will enable safe transport of drugs to the target site. In 2024, some DDS, including carriers such as liposomes, degradable polymer carriers, cell carriers such as red blood cells, and exosomes, will receive regulatory approval, paving the way for personalised advanced medicine therapies.”
Priya Baraniak, Chief Business Officer, OrganaBio
“We should continue to see promising data in the realm of immuno-oncology, and I believe that AI & ML will play a critical role in this realm (not just in the iPSC realm where it’s currently concentrated). The introduction of AI & ML to immunotherapy development will allow us to more efficiently isolate and expand rare cell subsets that are showing great promise (such as gamma delta T cells and iNKT cells) and to better understand their mechanisms of action. In addition, it may even enable greater success in the realm of immunotherapy treatments for solid tumours.”