Biopharma and Life Science companies in the BioHealth Capital Region are known for their work with cutting edge technologies such as gene and cell therapies. Those strengths were on display at the 6th annual BioHealth Capital Region Forum.
The Strengths of our Region: Cutting Edge Therapies panel, which was moderated by Mark Cobbold, vice president of Discovery in Early Oncology at AstraZeneca, brought together leaders from three other companies to discuss their disruptive pipelines, the strength of the region and challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cobbold touted the work performed by the three companies joining him on the panel, Cartesian Therapeutics, Adaptive Phage Therapeutics, and Ziel Bio. Pointing to the work being done by those three companies and AstraZeneca, Cobbold said they are representative of why the BioHealth Capital Region has become one of the most successful BioHubs in the United States.
“You’re really pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in treating patients,” Cobbold told the panelists.
Murat Kalayoglu, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gaithersburg, Md.-based Cartesian Therapeutics, noted his company’s attempts to develop CAR-T treatments for autoimmune diseases, a first-of-its-kind attempt, as well as for respiratory diseases, including acute respiratory distress syndrome, which is associated with COVID-19. Kalayoglu said the concept for the ARDS CAR-T program went from concept to the clinic in a matter of about seven months, making it the first engineered cell therapy in respiratory disease. He said that would not have happened had the company not been flexible in its attempts to combat COVID-19.
Over the past few years, CAR-T treatments have become promising therapies for some hematological cancers, however, they come with a certain safety risk due to toxicity issues. Kalayoglu said Cartesian’s assets have been engineered with a predictable half-life in order to mitigate those concerns. Because of increased safety, Cartesian’s RNA-based programs have the potential to become front-line treatments for some diseases.
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