How to Make Sure Cancer Research Breakthroughs Make It To Patients
Posted April 2022
A collaboration between Emerson Collective and Takeda offers a new model for helping scientists turn their discoveries into treatments.
There have perhaps never been more academic resources focused on fighting cancer, and advances are being made at a historic pace as researchers leverage breakthroughs in fields like immunotherapy and equip themselves with new techniques like those enabled by the gene-editing tool CRISPR. Nevertheless, many intriguing lab observations fail to become treatments, as researchers face a gauntlet in moving their findings from the bench to the clinic. The hard work of proving the effectiveness, human safety, and scalability of a discovery requires time, money, and expertise—each of which can be daunting for a full-time research scientist to secure.
That’s why Emerson Collective and Takeda, a leading biopharma company, recently announced the creation of The Oncology Innovation Accelerator. The initiative will bring together academic investigators, Takeda drug development experts, and venture capitalists with a goal of getting the most promising research to the clinic—and to patients in need—as fast as possible. “This partnership with Takeda offers academics at the forefront of discovery an unparalleled opportunity to cultivate collaboration across the ecosystem, and collectively pursue the best path towards delivering effective cancer therapies to patients,” said Reed Jobs, Emerson’s Managing Director of Health.
Kathy Seidl, Head of Oncology Drug Discovery Unit, Takeda
We want to make medicines that really make a big difference to patients.
At Emerson Collective’s recent Cancer Research Summit, Kathy Seidl, the head of Takeda’s Oncology Drug Discovery Unit, joined a panel discussion about the translation of academic innovations to industry. She pointed out that limited support for new breakthroughs pushes scientists and drugmakers toward incremental developments of research that has already navigated the gauntlet, as evidenced by the many treatments targeting B-lymphocyte antigen CD19, a protein whose relationships with some types of leukemia and lymphoma are well understood. If you take a global viewpoint of oncology, that may not be the best approach, she argued. “We’re not really doing the patients a favor by creating 100 different flavors of CD19,” she said. “We’ve got to think broader than that, and think about the other kinds of patients.”
Therein lies the value of building closer, more supportive relationships with academics. In such a fast-moving field, being innovative and competitive is crucial, and being able to cast a wide net on academic research and bring novel approaches to patients, invaluable. “We’re not trying to make incremental medicines,” Seidl said. “We want to make medicines that really make a big difference to patients.”
Watch the full discussion, moderated by Emerson Health’s Dan McHugh and featuring co-panelists Charles Gersbach, who co-founded Tune Therapeutics based on his research in epigenetics; and Max Krummel, co-founder of “immunotherapy venture studio” Foundery Innovations, which helps commercialize research breakthroughs.