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Advancing Research to Therapies for Brain Tumors Conference Connects Academic Scientists to Industry Investors

2013-07-23

National Brain Tumor Society’s inaugural event draws over 100 brain tumor researchers, biopharma executives, government officials, and venture capital investors

National Brain Tumor Society, the largest nonprofit in the United States dedicated to the brain tumor community, recently hosted the inaugural Advancing Research to Therapies (ART) for Brain Tumors Conference in Washington, D.C. The ART Conference brought together more than 100 leading experts from academic research labs, government agencies, biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and venture capital firms to increase communication and collaboration, as well as discuss licensing and investment criteria for new drug candidates to speed the discovery of new treatments for brain tumor patients.

“With very few exceptions, the different stakeholders involved in brain tumor drug development don’t discuss the barriers they face, their particular needs and wants, and thus what needs to, and can, happen to get new and better therapies to patients,” said N. Paul TonThat, Executive Director, National Brain Tumor Society. “This was an unique opportunity to get everyone in a room, get all the issues on the table, and plot a course forward.”

Sponsored by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and BioHealth Innovation, the Conference engaged attendees, as well as participants, in a discussion surrounding the issues and criteria for advancing discoveries from academic labs, through the commercialization process, and into the hands of clinicians and patients. Specifically, audience and panelists sought to better understand why more treatments for brain tumors aren’t available despite recent gains in research.

To address the issues effecting brain tumor therapeutic development, three panels of experts shared their distinct perspectives on the R&D process:

  • VC Panel: Venture capitalists shared their conditions for determining whether to invest in a company, academic asset, or drug candidate
  • BioPharma Panel: Biotech and pharmaceutical company executives shared their criteria for determining whether to license and develop an academic asset or drug candidate
  • Federal Government Resources Panel: Employees from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke outlined resources available for brain tumor researchers, in terms of both funding and advice, to translate discoveries into therapies

The panels discussed issues ranging from creating data packages big enough to show translatability and reproducibility (close to 70% of research fails to reproduce outside the original academic lab), to de-risking and simplifying the market for brain tumor drug development. Panelists also offered candid advice for researchers.

“If you’re an academic looking to potentially take a program or an asset from your lab and trying to spin it out into a company, it’s important as you begin to look at possible investors that you understand what their investment strategy is,” said Michael Gutch, PhD, MD, and Managing Director of MedImmune Ventures.

“We invest in people we like to invest with,” added Neil Exter, Partner, Third Rock Ventures. “It’s good to develop relationships with your friendly VCs in the nearer term, or over time.”

Following the advice and subsequent discussions from Industry and government’s perspective, National Brain Tumor Society-funded academic researchers showcased their latest drug candidates in hopes of obtaining funding to move their asset toward clinical trials. Out of the four drug candidates presented, two of the corresponding researchers have already been in deeper discussions with Industry representatives that were on hand to seek licensing and development partnerships.

Nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. are living with a brain tumor, and close to 14,000 people will die because of the disease this year alone. Only one out of three adults diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor today will be alive in five years. More so than any other cancer, a brain tumor can have life-altering psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and physical effects. Yet, there are only four FDA approved drugs to treat brain tumors; only one is used in standard of care.

Panelists at the event included executives from SR One, Third Rock Ventures, MedImmune Ventures, Genentech/Roche, Pfizer, and Health Advances.

Medical academics presenting drug candidates included researchers from MD Anderson Cancer Center, Duke University, and University of Alabama Birmingham.

To learn more about the event and view/download presentations, please visit: www.braintumor.org/ART

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