Pictured above, left to right: Robert Coughlin, President & CEO MassBio; Kathy Giusti, Founder & Executive Chairman, MMRF; David Lucchino, CEO, Entrega, Board member, MMRF & MassBio
It was an incredible honor to be part of the MassBio Annual Meeting and truly humbling to deliver the keynote address to so many of my esteemed colleagues working in the Massachusetts biotechnology industry. My greatest hope is that my address, which focused on the power of collaborative research models, may inspire others to emulate similar approaches in other cancers and diseases for which cures remain elusive.
Since I founded the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) in 1998, we have made it a priority to collaborate with the best partners in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry, academia, and the cancer community at-large to inject speed and efficiency into the drug discovery and drug development process. Together, we have launched seven new treatments that have almost tripled patients’ lifespan. We are now taking this same approach toward precision medicine—getting patients the right treatment at the right time—and its promise of a cure. How?
We began by building a robust data ecosystem. This allowed us to sequence the myeloma genome and launch the largest long-term genomic research study ever conducted in myeloma. Deeper insight into the disease’s biology revealed important new drug targets, like BRAF, that had previously never been linked to myeloma but for which treatments have already been approved for other cancers or are now in clinical trials. Today, our team is tracking the progress of more than 850 patients, analyzing their genetic and clinical data to better understand how certain factors influence response to treatment and disease progression and to generate hypotheses for genomically-informed clinical trials.
We then openly and freely share these data through a global learning network so that brilliant minds from all corners of the scientific community—such as experts and the brightest minds at GNS Healthcare—can collaboratively decipher patterns for further exploration. An all-for-one-one-for all approach to this massive dataset will allow us to rapidly explore new and potentially more effective ways of treating myeloma.
At the same time, we built a worldwide network of research institutions and cancer centers that are working collectively to test an arsenal of new drugs and combinations. Almost 30 have been in clinical trials within our network, including immunotherapies that harness the power of patients’ own immune systems, targeted therapies that attack patients’ specific genetic mutations, and drugs that work in entirely new ways to stop cancer in its tracks. We are also working closely with partners in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries and regulatory officials to leverage new clinical trial designs that speed these new treatments to patients.
Finally, we’re building a massive community of patients who are every bit a part of curing the disease as scientists. These patients are stepping up to share knowledge they have gained on their cancer journey with fellow patients, learn which kind of myeloma they have, and share their data to advance research.
Though ours is just one approach, the myeloma community’s successes to date speak to the incredible power of what is possible when we work collaboratively. I look forward to drawing insights from one another as we work urgently toward a cure.