Tales from the Road – OBN Awards and ESMO Congress

This week, we get a Tales from the Road two-for-one, from Dr. Colin Hayward, our Chief Medical Officer, who went to the Oxford Biotech Network Awards one week, and the ESMO Conference the next. Have a look:

Premier Research had the opportunity once again to support the Oxford Biotech Network (OBN) awards night.

That meant four of us had to dig out our dinner jackets for an increasingly rare outing at the impressive surroundings of Oxford Town Hall. I had the honor of presenting the Best Established Biotech Company and did the dramatic silver envelope thing. With some serious competition from the likes of Psioxus, Immunocore, and Reneuron – “and the winner is[was]” Heptares Therapeutics.

The evening represents a great opportunity to mix with the country’s leading biotechs who have an amazing array of ideas and technology. Judging by the fact I shared the stage with esteemed investor Neil Woodford CBE, Premier isn’t the only one who believes these innovators are the biotech powerhouses of the future.

The ESMO congress created quite a buzz this year rivaling the big U.S. oncology congresses for cutting edge science and groundbreaking clinical trial results. For those of us who managed to find a hotel room albeit with the brutalistic “chic” of a prison cell, we were able to witness presentation upon presentation of ground breaking data with the immunotherapeutics leading the way. The next big questions under investigation are clearly:

  • The best timing of these drugs
  • The best combination therapies
  • Can we do away with chemo altogether?

The atmosphere reminded me of the glory days of rituximab where every data presentation produced a sea-change in treatment. This was also the first congress I’ve seen where bouncers were required for The President’s Symposia because of overfilled rooms.

On a personal note, it was very satisfying to see how far treatment with CLL has come since the “vitamin R” days with the study I originally conceived in 2006 entrenched in the ESMO CLL treatment guidelines.

Of course, the main reason for any congress was to see so many old friends from pharma and academia at the meeting and share the occasional Danish beer.