Two inches of snow in Barcelona made BioEurope Spring 2010 a memorable event for many participants. For us oncolytic virus enthusiasts it was even more memorable, thanks to the growing interest.
I was really excited to notice a clear change compared to previous similar conferences. When making new friends in partnering meetings, or over a glass of Spanish wine, I didn’t need my usual “what-is-an-oncolytic-virus” -pitch that often. People already knew.
Flying home to Finland – with much more than 20 inches of snow awaiting – I started thinking about the reasons for this change. What’s new after several years of steadily growing promise?
There is a lot taking place to build up the momentum:
- Several good companies in the field are becoming more visible. BioVex closed significant funding in the middle of a financial meltdown; FDA approved a phase III trial of Jennerex; and Viralytics is shifting focus in the US, to mention a few.
- The EMEA has provided formal guidance on oncolytic viruses.
- Safety data has been consistently excellent, regardless of the type of oncolytic virus. Pick an early trial in Australia with coxsackie virus, a phase II HCC trial in the US and Asia with vaccinia virus, hundreds of late stage cancer patients treated in Finland with adenovirus based therapy, or an earlier product with market authorization in China.
- Strong efficacy data keeps cumulating including cancers, which are difficult to treat with established therapies such as HCC, mesothelioma, and metastatic melanoma.
- Early results of the first ever phase III oncolytic virus trial launched in western countries are expected already this year. BioVex will help the entire field take a giant leap forward if the results are anywhere close to what we expect.
The questions “if” or “when” an oncolytic virus reaches market authorization are becoming irrelevant. “How many” and “how fast” are the new big questions.
Back home from BioEurope Spring, I’m really looking forward to an exciting 2010 and reports from ASGCT, BIO Chicago, BioEurope Munich, and others.