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Diverse Debate at ASCO 2014

June 09, 2014

by David Nolan

Chicago ASCO Conference

Recently returned from the ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) conference in Chicago, I was struck by the Risk vs. Reward balance of developing meaningful oncology therapies. The decks are stacked precariously high for some players and there is enormous pressure for these huge investments to deliver. Talking with many senior industry leaders at the event, it seems that there is a huge difference of opinion as to how much the industry is adding value for patients. Better technology is finally allowing personalised medicine to enter the next paradigm and there was more evidence of results that will be game-changing for certain patient populations.

Immunotherapy stole much of the limelight but not entirely. Many of the smaller firms in this space will find it difficult to stand alone as the bigger players seek to acquire external assets. It is of some concern that we may be developing a ‘Child-Bride’ syndrome where the very Talent who have fostered the ideas are unable to develop them as their businesses are acquired. This will not necessarily provide the right environment to develop innovative treatments and value for patients. I’m not convinced the intense passion for innovation born in these smaller businesses will be maintained as assets are traded for investor return.

I didn’t stay on for Tuesday’s sessions for fear I’d be bought by Google or Apple…I jest but investors would do well to consider the great minds that have gotten us this far in the fight against cancer. The event was a clear reminder that the war for Oncology Talent is global and intense. The right people and motivation mean the difference between success and failure. Our investment should start here.

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