Dr. Carl June studies mechanisms of lymphocyte activation that relate to immune tolerance and adoptive immunotherapy for cancer and chronic infection. In 2011, his research team published findings detailing a new therapy in which patients with refractory and relapsed chronic lymphocytic leukemia were treated with genetically engineered versions of their own T cells, CAR-Ts. The treatment has also now been used with promising results to treat children with refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His work led to the development and commercialization of tisagenlecleucel, the first FDA-approved gene therapy. In the 1980s, his lab discovering the CD28 molecule as the major control switch for T cells. Read his full bio.

Interview with Carl June, University of Pennsylvania, PMWC 2019 Honoree: The Driving Force Behind The First FDA Approved Gene Therapy – Kymriah

Q: The track theme is on the topic “How do we accelerate and deliver on the promise of cancer immunotherapy?” What are some key promises regarding immune-oncology, that we can build upon and translate into reality and how can we expedite delivery?

A: The use of the immune system to fight cancer holds a promise as a general solution to cancer therapy. At this point there are about 600,000 deaths every year in the United States from cancer in about 10% of those are from blood cancers and the other 90% from solid tumors

The key issues are how to raise the response rate from currently 20% in most cancers so that nearly everyone responds? This is a daunting challenge because of the diversity of different kinds of tumors. The tumor microenvironment is extremely complex and varies from patient to patient and even within patients, different metastasis can have major differences in the nature of the tumor microenvironment

Q: What are some of the difficulties of clinical implementation of cancer immunotherapy and how can we overcome them?

A: There are number of issues and challenges with the implementation of new therapies. A major issue is that the tumor needs to be more precisely diagnosed. This has traditionally been done by pathologists and a microscope. Nowadays, a tumor needs to be fully characterized by sequencing at the DNA and RNA levels. At this point this can be done, but only a minority of patients have their tumors fully characterized. The technology to do this is just becoming generally available however there are numerous bioinformatic challenges that have not been solved.

Q: You have been working on CAR-T cells to treat B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. What were some of the challenges you needed to overcome to make CAR-T cell therapy a reality?

A: Well as of 2018 CAR T-cell therapy is a reality! It was approved by the US FDA in August 2017. The challenges faced by CAR T Cell therapies are like many of those when a new industry is launched. At this point there are infrastructure issues in that the manufacturing centers need to be established to make the complex logistics less challenging.

The major issue we faced with the launch of CAR T-cell therapy was to convince the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries that this could be a new modality of therapy. There has never been an ultra personalized therapy such as CAR T Cell therapies. Perhaps the most closely related process is bone marrow transplantation, and this is something that the pharmaceutical industry has not traditionally been engaged in developing. New forms of bone marrow transplantation have been developed by academic centers and not the pharmaceutical industry.

Q: What will next generation immunotherapies to treat cancer look like?

A: The next generation of immunotherapies need to be curative. A major problem with many of the current therapies is that they convert cancer into a chronic disease. Patient would rather be cured rather than have a chronic disease, although this is much better than the alternative which has been previous to immunotherapy, the rapid progression and death of most patients! But the realization that patients now live longer with cancer has caused a major emerging issue of financial toxicity. The recurrent cost of current immunotherapies and targeted therapies is not sustainable. In the past when patients rapidly died, the cost per patient was much less! So affordability has emerged as the major issue in the next generation therapies: they need to be curative rather than converting cancer into a chronic disease. The average annual cost of new cancer therapies that were approved by the FDA in 2017 was $150,000 per year.

Q: What is required to make breast cancer amenable to immunotherapy? Do you believe an immunotherapy-like approach to treat breast cancer is in the future?

A: There is exciting progress in the treatment of breast cancer with immunotherapy therapy. At a recent conference (ESMO 2018), the combination of chemotherapy and immune checkpoint therapy caused responses in approximately one-third of patients with triple negative breast cancer, the worst form of breast cancer.

Q: What else is important in the context of where we are in accelerating adoption of immune-oncology? Where do you see relevant themes in the context of the upcoming PMWC 2019 Silicon Valley conference?

A: Precision Medicine is evolving rapidly. It is important that the research, medical, and pharma communities collaborate to maintain momentum to accelerate progress so that we are able to deliver cutting-edge care and clinical trial opportunities to all patients. This requires the integration of diverse new technologies including bioinformatics, genetic editing, and cellular immunotherapy, to name a few. It is critical that the medical research community communicate effectively with congress so that prioritization at medical research remains at a high level. We are at the threshold of major advances for cancer therapy, however they will not be realized unless there is continued and coordinated research at the federal level.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with the PMWC audience?

A: We need to take great care not to overhype the progress that we’ve had: this is really just the end of the beginning

Interview with Lingbing Zhang of Yinuoke Ltd

Q: The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded recently to James Allison and Tasuku for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options. The Nobel committee hailed their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” What is your first-hand experience the impact that those new drugs had on patients?

A: Although I don’t have first-hand experience with those new drugs, several of my friends asked me for suggestions because they know I have been studying cancer immunotherapy for 15 years.

Read More

Interview with Anton Iliuk of Tymora Analytical Operations

Q: What need is Tymora Analytical Operations addressing?

A: Virtually all of the current liquid biopsy assays are based on genomic information. But the active molecules in the body that are doing the work and undergoing changes during disease progression are actually proteins.

Read More

Interview with Pamela Munster of UCSF

Q: The Nobel Price in Medicine was awarded recently to James Allison and Tasuku for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options. The Nobel committee hailed their accomplishments as establishing “an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.” What is your first-hand experience the impact that those new drugs had on patients?

A: Immunotherapy has completely changed the lives of many patients with melanoma, lung cancer and other type of cancers with tumors that have historically been difficult to treat.

Read More

Interview with Stephane Budel, Partner of DeciBio Consulting

Q: NGS is enhancing patient care through improved diagnostic sensitivity and more precise therapeutic targeting. Prominent examples include cystic fibrosis and cancer. What other clinical areas NGS will most likely to change the standard-of-care in the near future?

A: NGS has most drastically impacted the standard of care in non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) and oncology.

Read More

Note from Dr. Kim Blackwell, PMWC 2019 SV Immunotherapy Track Chair to PMWC Admin

Hi PMWC, The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded on October 1st to Dr. James Allison (MD Anderson) and Dr. Tasuku Honjo (Kyoto University) for their work on unleashing the body’s immune system to attack cancer, a breakthrough that has led to an entirely new class of drugs and brought lasting remissions to many patients who had run out of options.

Read More

Interview with Bastian Greshake Tzovaras of Open Humans

Q: Patient healthcare data aggregation and analysis is seen as both the panacea for tremendous breakthroughs in precision medicine and as one of its biggest challenges. Are both true and how so?

A: The promises and challenges around personal health data aggregation are two sides of the same coin: There is definitely a lot of potential in the aggregating all these data, especially as we are now collecting so much data about ourselves.

Read More

Interview with Feng Zhang, PMWC 2019 Honoree- Neurobiologist Who Led the Development of Optogenetics and CRISPR

Q: What research are you or your lab focusing on and why, and what problem(s) are you trying to solve?

A: Our overall driving goal is to improve human health, and we do this largely through the development of new tools to study basic biology and the discovery of novel therapeutic approaches to treating human diseases.

Read More

Interview with Clifford Reid of Travera

Q: What need is Travera addressing?

A: The cancer community is suffering from a lack of biomarkers that match drugs to patients. The NCI-MATCH study reported in 2016 that fewer than 10% of cancer patients could be matched to a therapy.

Read More

Interview with Michael Abramoff of IDx

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

A: There will always be a need for human physicians, if only for the often raised issue of the need for human interaction.

Read More

Interview with Carl June, University of Pennsylvania, PMWC 2019 Honoree: The Driving Force Behind The First FDA Approved Gene Therapy – Kymriah

Q: The track theme is on the topic “How do we accelerate and deliver on the promise of cancer immunotherapy?” What are some key promises regarding immune-oncology, that we can build upon and translate into reality and how can we expedite delivery?

A: The use of the immune system to fight cancer holds a promise as a general solution to cancer therapy.

Read More

Questions for Sharon Terry, Genetic Alliance- PMWC 2019 Honoree

Q: You are the CEO of Genetic Alliance. What is your role as the CEO and why is this organization so important?

A: I actually try to avoid formal roles as CEO; instead, I practice showing up fully for our community: our staff and all of the organizations under our umbrella. I strive to hold the space for others to be fully themselves and meet their full potential.

Read More

Q&A with Itai Kela of Israel Innovation Authority

Q: Israel is known as a leader in hi-tech innovation. Can you tell us about some of the breakthrough companies in digital health and precision medicine?

A: The Israeli life sciences industry continues to grow and improve its global position. Israeli entrepreneurs’ ability to take advantage of the excellence in academic research, wide government support and innovative ecosystem, contributes to the industry’s success.

Read More

A Traverse of the Elements of AI/Machine Learning Across Healthcare

AI and machine learning are poised to create a paradigm-shift in many areas of the healthcare sector. A recent Accenture report predicted that the AI/Machine Learning healthcare market could see an ELEVEN-FOLD INCREASE in value in less than a decade

Read More

Jessica Mega of Verily Discusses AI in Healthcare

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

A: In addition to the science, the art of medical practice is a critical dimension of patient care and that part of the human experience can’t easily be replaced by AI.

Read More

Interview Questions For Gertjan Bartlema of Celularity, Inc.

Q: Artificial intelligence (AI) techniques have sent vast waves across healthcare, even fueling an active discussion of whether AI doctors will eventually replace human physicians in the future. Do you believe that human physicians will be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future? What are your thoughts?

A: In my opinion, physicians will not be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future.

Read More
Johns Hopkins
University Of Michigan

The Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC), in its 16th installment, will take place in the Santa Clara Convention Center (Silicon Valley) on January 20-23, 2019. The program will traverse innovative technologies, thriving initiatives, and clinical case studies that enable the translation of precision medicine into direct improvements in health care. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn first-hand about the latest developments and advancements in precision medicine and cutting-edge new strategies and solutions that are changing how patients are treated.

Agenda highlights:

  • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
    • AI & Data Science Showcase
    • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
    • Clinical Dx Showcase
    • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
    • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
    • Digital Phenotyping
    • Diversity in Precision Medicine
    • Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Early Days of Life Sequencing
    • Emerging Technologies in PM
    • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
    • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
    • Gene Editing
    • Genomic Profiling Showcase
    • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
    • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
    • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
    • Microbial Profiling Showcase
    • Microbiome
    • Neoantigens
    • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
    • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
    • Pharmacogenomics
    • Point-of Care Dx Platform
    • Precision Public Health
    • Rare Disease Diagnosis
    • Resilience
    • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
    • Wellness and Aging Showcase

Agenda highlights:

    • Five tracks will showcase sessions on the latest advancements in precision medicine which include, but are not limited to:
      • AI & Data Science Showcase
      • Clinical & Research Tools Showcase
      • Clinical Dx Showcase
      • Creating Clinical Value with Liquid Biopsy ctDNA, etc.
      • Digital Health/Health and Wellness
      • Digital Phenotyping
      • Diversity in Precision Medicine
      • Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Early Days of Life Sequencing
      • Emerging Technologies in PM
      • Emerging Therapeutic Showcase
      • FDA Efforts to Accelerate PM
      • Gene Editing / CRISPR
      • Genomic Profiling Showcase
      • Immunotherapy Sessions & Showcase
      • Implementation into Health Care Delivery
      • Large Scale Bio-data Resources to Support Drug Development (PPPs)
      • Microbial Profiling Showcase
      • Microbiome
      • Neoantigens
      • Next-Gen. Workforce of PM
      • Non-Clinical Services Showcase
      • Pharmacogenomics
      • Point-of Care Dx Platform
      • Precision Public Health
      • Rare Disease Diagnosis
      • Resilience
      • Robust Clinical Decision Support Tools
      • Wellness and Aging Showcase
  • Luminary and Pioneer Awards, honoring individuals who contributed, and continue to contribute, to the field of Precision Medicine
  • 2000+ multidisciplinary attendees, from across the entire spectrum of healthcare, representing different types of companies, technologies, and medical centers with leadership roles in precision medicine
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