Drug delivery seems to be a major theme here this year. I hope Light Sciences Oncology CEO Llew Keltner will forgive my stretching the concept to include the technology his company has developed which is promising to make light-activated therapy for cancer a clinical reality. The traditional approach to light-activated therapy uses a laser to deliver the light, which is not really practical in the clinic. The LSO product, Aptocine ™ is a combination of an LED array delivered to a tumor via biopsy and a non-toxic water soluble photosensitive compound, talaporfin sodium. Phase III results in hepatoma are due soon and a Phase III in metastatic colorectal cancer is recruiting patients. Changing the way the light is delivered has actually altered the way the therapy works. The ‘old’ light-activated therapy kills cancer cells by necrosis but Aptocine triggers apoptosis which, in turn, raises an immune response to the tumor. Or, as Keltner puts it ‘We have found a way of turning light-activated therapy from a way of merely destroying tumor tissue into a two step therapy.’
Turning to more traditional – but still innovative - drug delivery, Ivan Coulter, CEO of Sigmoid Pharma made a few observations. ‘ Drug delivery, with increasing product lifecycle pressure on portfolios, pipeline dearth and patent death has never been more obvious as a way forward. There is a growing need to unblock pipeline potential and extend patent life. The underlying technical need is for a flexible technology that simultaneously address solubility, permeability and controlled release capability that can ensure that the drug reaches its target intact, in the right concentration and at the right time, somewhat analogous to always-on broadband, a 24-7 solution. ‘ It’ll come as no secret that Dublin-based Sigmoid has an answer to this – but I’ll hold back on that till the December issue! Coulter adds ‘In biologics, there is a need for alternative delivery formats, including oral. The next 2-5 years will see a revolution in this area. Sigmoid addresses the stability issues and will enhance bioavailability. Other companies are developing advanced conjugation approaches, based on PEGylation, HESylation and others which will further enhance half-lives.’
On the last point Almac Group just launched its site-specific PEGylation technology. This should be a significant advance in delivery of drugs like interferon – because conventional PEGylation introduces PEG (which is there to increase half-life) in an uncontrolled manner that may impede the drug’s activity. Site-specific PEGylation should improve potency of the drug compared with conventional PEGylation (and the Almac team showed me some nice data on this).
A final thought – BIO-Europe moves back to Germany next year, to the excellent location of Munich. BIO-Europe is like the Olympics – everyone wants it in their city, not least because it’s a fine way of showcasing your local facilities and talent. I’ve met people from Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Russia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic here this year. So how about moving the conference east of Vienna one year soon – to give these countries a chance to get themselves a better place on the biotech map?
Susan Aldridge November 5 2009