Eight Lessons from Hans Bishop (Juno Therapeutics)
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Hans Bishop is the former CEO of Juno Therapeutics and GRAIL. He is the Chairman of Sana Biotechnology and is a director of Lyell Immunopharma. With over 3 decades in biotechnology, Bishop helped lead Juno to its $9B acquisition by Celgene and recent FDA approval of its lead product, liso-cel.
1.“Our research is focused entirely on cellular therapy and cells of the immune system to battle cancer. We are working on multiple fronts to build on what we have done to date, including focusing on keeping engineered T cells active in the body for a longer period of time; controlling elements of cell expansion in order to improve tolerability; and better understanding what types of cells work best, cell signaling, and how to better equip cells to find cancer.
Juno believes that the type of cell we use is important, and we believe a defined cell product can better impact patient outcomes. Our first defined cell product candidate, JCAR017, which uses a manufacturing process that influences the phenotype and metabolic profile, and directly controls the number of CD8 and CD4 cells in the final product, is in development now. A defined cell product uses a controlled process, which has the potential for a better tolerability profile and to get a greater percentage of patients into durable remissions.”
2. “We believe that we're right at the beginning of a brand-new industry”
This quote is from 2015 just as CAR-T was emerging. Now it’s become a standard in early-stage biotechnology.
3. “Absolutely. Cell and gene engineering is a potentially disruptive technology in how products are conceived, developed, and manufactured. Juno is a smaller company, and our ambition is to change medicine. Smaller, nimble biotech companies have a rich history of developing innovative and disruptive medicines. Monoclonal antibody therapy, for example, wasn’t developed by big pharma, but by smaller biotech firms. The capabilities we need to succeed are new, and that means that companies without entrenched infrastructure and people have the potential to move faster and be more innovative than larger, established companies. It does not mean that we will automatically win, but the environment is right.”
New modalities like CAR-T, mAbs, and AAVs are often developed and validated by smaller companies that are closely associated with inventors and more flexible R&D teams.
4.“Checkpoint inhibitors have been a real step forward for patients. But it is worth noting that they only help 25-35% of patients. We think we can do better than that. Cancer has a remarkable ability to adapt and evade treatment, and we are relatively early as a field in learning how to harness the potential and adaptability of the immune system to combat this disease. Many tools will allow us to better engineer cell T cells. Gene-editing is one of the important tools that we expect to utilize, and we are delighted to be partnering with Editas on a number of gene-edited technologies.
Five years is a short time in drug development, but our understanding of these products will grow exponentially over the next few years. In five years’ time we expect to begin implementing next-generation strategies that expand the number of patients we can treat, the number of cancers we can target, and the depth and duration of the remissions we can begin to expect. We not only expect to have our first products on the market, but to also be making substantial progress in bringing better medicines to a broader group of patients suffering from a multitude of cancers.”
5. “This is a humbling experience. No doubt it is difficult for the physicians who are looking after these patients and their families. Clearly these therapies are potent, that’s why they offer the potential for cures. We’re still learning to use them in the safest, most efficacious way.”
This quote comes after a series of patient deaths from Juno’s trial on its lead asset. The problem was ultimately found to be with the chemotherapy and dosing, and the company got itself back on course.
6. “We continue to look at all sorts of opportunities to improve efficacy, to improve safety.”
This is from ASCO 2017 where Kite Pharma was in the lead in CAR-T cell therapy.
7.“This is a new area of medicine. It offers tremendous promise for leveraging the incredible learnings in biology and creating targeted, patient-specific drugs to optimize outcomes. We need to build the capabilities to reliably produce these drugs at scale with a distribution and reimbursement framework that fosters access to broad populations across the globe.”
8. “For much of my career, I’ve been involved in the fight against cancer, and during that time, I have seen real progress for patients. However, cancer is still the second leading cause of death globally, and I believe early detection is key to changing that.”
After Juno, Bishop become CEO of GRAIL to transform early cancer detection.