Amgen recently joined leaders in the healthcare, research, and investment community at the 2016 World Medical Innovation Forum in Boston to participate in a series of presentations focused on developments in cancer research and treatment. The World Medical Innovation Forum was established in 2015, with Amgen as a founding sponsor, in response to the intensifying transformation of healthcare and its impact on innovation.
Investing in cancer research and prevention
As one of the featured speakers at the Forum, Amgen’s chairman and CEO Robert A. Bradway shared his perspective on advances in cancer research, Amgen’s growing presence in oncology and hematology, and the need for greater societal investment in the field. “There continue to be significant opportunities to invest in improvements in cancer therapy and prevention,” he said. “We have not yet reached a point of diminishing returns.” Bradway noted that in order to advance cancer research at the level of basic biology, collaboration among industry, academia, and government is necessary.
Advancing internal and external innovation
On the subject of how Amgen’s oncology innovations are sourced, Bradway commented on Amgen’s balanced approach to advancing internal and external innovation. “If you look at the history of our pipeline you’ll see that roughly half of the molecules we have advanced through the registration process were generated internally and half were generated externally,” he said. “We are active in business development across the spectrum, looking at literally hundreds of oncology opportunities last year.”
Another form of cancer collaboration was touched upon through work being done through the CEO Roundtable on Cancer, a nonprofit organization comprised of CEOs from major American companies and institutions of which Bradway is Chairman. The Roundtable’s Life Science Consortium initiative, Project Data Sphere®, is a broad-access platform where academic, government, and industry data providers share patient-level data from Phase 3 oncology clinical trials with researchers around the globe. “Researchers are essentially able to use the data as a digital laboratory,” stated Bradway. “Over time, it may be one way to improve efficiency in cancer drug development and rethink the paradigm for the drug development of cancer if we have enough relevant data.”
Progress through combination and immunotherapy approaches
While on a panel discussion devoted to “Building a Disruptive Cancer Pipeline” Amgen’s Executive Vice President of R&D Sean Harper commented on the progress being made as an industry through advances in immuno-oncology and through combination therapy approaches. “Cure is starting to feel like something you can get to, not as an exception but perhaps as a rule,” he said.
Harper also highlighted the interplay between Amgen’s work in inflammation and oncology and how this duel expertise at Amgen has led to important insights in immuno-oncology. “We see the cancer problem perhaps through a little different lens because of the breadth of work that we do,” he said. This cross-pollination between the two therapeutic areas within Amgen’s discovery research group, he noted, was one of the catalysts for two immuno-oncology acquisitions that ultimately resulted in the approvals of two of our oncology products. Importantly, he stated, these acquisitions came at a time when many were largely unconvinced of the promise of any immuno-oncology approach.
While a great deal of focus was placed on advances in immuno-oncology research at the conference, better understanding the complexities of this field was identified as a need. “There is an extraordinary amount of investment and attention devoted to the narrow area of immuno-oncology while we are still at a very early stage in the discipline of biology research,” noted Bradway. This sentiment was echoed by David Reese, Amgen’s Senior Vice President of Translational Sciences, during a panel discussion focused on immuno-therapies. “We have spent a lot of time trying to understand tumors at a molecular level but now we know we have to understand the tumor and its host, and that is still in its infancy,” he said.