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Here’s to New Beginnings

Featuring: Annalisa Jenkins, Chief Executive Officer, PlaqueTec; Markus Thunecke, Founding Senior Partner, Catenion; Steve Arlington, President, Pistoia Alliance; Olivier Loeillot, Senior VP, BioProcess, GE Healthcare Life Sciences; and Elliott Berger, Vice President, Catalent Pharma Solutions.

What were the highs for pharma in 2018?

Annalisa Jenkins, Chief Executive Officer, PlaqueTec

Annalisa Jenkins: I feel very positive about our scientific progress. 2018 was marked by the acceleration of science, approval of disruptive new therapies and significant new capital entering the sector. The promise of advanced therapies, which leverage our enhanced understanding of biology and disease, was realized with the approvals of CAR-T and gene therapy products – which offer potential cures for devastating diseases. We’ve also seen new vaccines for Ebola, therapies for multi-drug resistant TB and new science addressing HIV infection emerge from collaborations between industry and philanthropy. Many major regulatory systems have also evolved to help deliver promising new medicines to patients faster. And then the translation of academic discoveries into new startups – some of which are receiving major funding rounds – has exceeded all previous records.

Markus Thunecke: For me, one of the big highs was the continued success of cell and gene therapies. There are now several products on the market and a rich pipeline of around 300 products. I expect to hear lots of good news over the next years for patients with rare and life-threatening disease, as well as an increasingly positive investment climate given the many large companies that have been “watching and waiting” when it comes to the cell and gene therapy field.

Like Annalisa, I believe it’s been a very good year for scientific progress as a whole. 2018 saw a high number of FDA approvals: 59 as of December 21, compared to 46 in 2017, and a low of 22 in 2016. Alnylam finally brought the first RNAi product, Patisiran for hATTR amyloidosis, across the finish line. After years of ups and downs, this is a crucial sign for the whole field of RNA therapy. The field of checkpoint inhibitors was also recognized, with the Nobel Prize for Medicine honoring the scientific fathers of checkpoint inhibition in cancer, James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo. The explosion of knowledge and clinical advances in the field of immune-oncology is one of the largest science-driven success stories the industry has seen in decades.

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