Note from Ira Mellman (Tal Behar) How To Bring Cell-Based Therapy to the Patient

“We need to make cell therapy affordable and scalable…It’s not sustainable… the failure rate is too high…it’s too labor intensive and it’s too slow!” -Ira Mellman, PhD, Vice President, Cancer Immunology, GenentechPMWC Jan. 26-28, 2022 Silicon Valley Track 1, Day 2 Chair

Cell-based therapies promise to be highly effective in certain indications. Following the introduction of their much-hyped early approvals, they’re starting to emerge as potential powerful complements to immunotherapy-based cancer treatments. While there is an ever-increasing array of immunotherapies being developed, some more promising than others, the focus on cell-based therapy should be affordability and scalability. This will ensure that we can bring these therapies to a much broader patient segment, and at an affordable cost.

Some promising cell-based therapies that provide opportunities toward affordability and scalability include those built on induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs), alternatives to T cells or myeloid cells (both macrophages and dendritic cells), which play an active role in shaping the tumor micro-environment and anti-tumor immune response. There’s also significant interest in immunotherapies that use both TILs (tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes) to treat head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, for example, and NKT cells, regulatory T cells that bridge the innate and adaptive immune system.

While these technologies have garnered a lot of attention, they are still early in development and are not yet scalable, being too time and cost-intensive. While still challenged with these therapeutic development issues, we need to address an underlying long-term question: “Can we think of these new therapies as not just drugs but as living, manipulated cells that function as permanent anti-cancer agents that can be turned on and off?” If successful, this advance would change our conventional understanding of disease therapy, particularly when the therapeutic agent is a biologic substance that could be generated via living cells inside the patient’s body versus in large scale fermenters or bioreactors. Envision T cells secreting insulin in response to a spike in glucose, functioning outside the pancreas!

“We should certainly invest in these forward-looking technologies as it completely changes how we think about drugs.”

This could certainly represent an intriguing paradigm shift, and while I personally see the biggest promise in IPSCs, we need to look broadly on how to exploit the various advancements in cell-based therapies. For this reason, I will host the Immunotherapy Track on Day 2 as part of the Emerging Therapeutics sessions at the PMWC January 26-28, 2022 SV conference. While we are still developing the detailed program, here are the currently committed contributors to this session:

Recent Advances in Cell-based Therapy
Chair: Ira Mellman, Genentech
Nick Haining, AresnalBio
Elliot Norry, Adaptimmune
Sarah Cooley, Fate Therapeutics
Cell-based Therapy Challenges
Chair: Lawrence Corey, Fred Hutchinson
Arati Rao, PACT Pharma
Sharon Benzeno, Adaptive Biotechnologies
Supply Chain 2.0
Chair: Sharon Benzeno, Adaptive Biotechnologies
Biomarkers to Guide Immunotherapy
Chair: TBD

Additional Emerging Therapeutics track themes focus on COVID Therapeutics on Day 1

The COVID Therapeutics Track (Day 1)
SARS-CoV-2 vaccines: different vaccine strategies and robustness to viral evolution
Chair: Alessandro Sette, La Jolla Institute for Immunology
Katalin Kariko, BioNTech
Albert Bourla, Pfizer
Najat Khan, Johnson & Johnson
COVID-19 testing: who, when, what? The challenges of testing during the pandemic
Chair: Alan Wu, UCSF
Updates in COVID-19 drug development
Chair: George Karlin-Neumann, Bio-Rad
Mark Dresser, Gilead
Past, present, and future: how will we manage the next pandemic?
Chair: Monica Herrera, Bio-Rad
Lawrence Corey, Fred Hutch

And the Cell and Gene Therapeutics Track (Day 3)
Advances in Gene & Cell Therapies
Chair: Jane Grogan, Graphite Bio
Peter Nell, Mammoth
Laura Sepp-Lorenzino, Intellia Tx
Amy Simon, Beam Therapeutics
Eric Ostertag, Poseida Therapeutics
Translating CGT to the Clinic
Chair: Nicole Paulk, UCSF
Eric Crombez, Ultragenyx Gene Therapy
Matthew Porteus, Stanford
Peter Francis, 4D Molecular Therapeutics
Future of CRISPR (PANEL)
Chair: Janice Chen, Mammoth
Fyodor Urnov, UC Berkeley
Kiana Aran, Cardea Bio

Please join me and leaders in the field of immunotherapy and cell-based therapies in-person on January 26-28 for PMWC 2022 Silicon Valley in these crucial discussions that have the potential to shape future thinking on disease treatment approaches and paradigms.

Yours sincerely,
Ira Mellman, PhD
Vice President, Cancer Immunology, Genentech
PMWC 2022 Silicon Valley Track 1, Day 2 Chair