By Punit Dhillon, CEO and President of OncoSec Medical Incorporated
After the conclusion of several conferences this past month, I’ve had time to reflect on key takeaways and principal trends emerging in the healthcare sector. Despite less than stellar market conditions, speakers at conferences (such as J.P. Morgan 2016 and Bio CEO) and ancillary events remained optimistic and highlighted important insights into the future of healthcare. After a busy schedule with non-stop meetings and presentations, I returned home confident in OncoSec’s place in the burgeoning cancer immunotherapy landscape.
Progress > Volatility
Much was said about grim market conditions ahead of each conference, but once the lights dimmed and presentations began, the focus rightfully shifted to progress being realized in healthcare today. Compelling data and a range of promising new therapies demonstrated that despite market volatility, innovative science still remains a top priority. While market conditions might pose a challenge as these therapies march toward approval, it’s reassuring to see that the industry remains committed to advancing the state of medicine and healthcare today.
I noted a few principal trends that are anticipated to be particularly relevant in the healthcare sector this year. I believe these will be increasingly relevant and look forward to exploring them further. Important topics include:
- Drug Pricing: price ceilings, pharmacoeconomics/reimbursement, and the economic realities of drug pricing in the U.S. healthcare system
- Commercialization Challenges: launching novel drugs in a highly genericized marketplace, incentive vs. innovation drugs, market penetration, and pace of approval in the U.S. vs. global markets
- Regulatory Outlook: receptivity to novel technologies and drug classes, accelerated approval pathways
- Cancer Treatment Innovations: Moonshot 2020, neo-antigen platforms, and allogeneic vs. autologous cell therapies
One overarching theme was the therapeutic potential of combination approaches. Regulatory pathways have historically favored the approval of single-agent therapies. Looking at the evolving clinical landscape, it appears this narrow focus is broadening in recognition of the potential of combination approaches. We, at OncoSec, have recognized the importance of combination approaches. As discussed in our recent presentations, our current pipeline is focused on priming the immune system to respond to anti-PD-1 checkpoint therapies. Clinical data to date supports ImmunoPulse™ IL-12 and anti-PD-1 as a rational therapeutic combination, and our clinical pipeline is aligned to focus on combination approaches.
Own Your Story
Investor outlooks appear less confident given the developing complexities on the macroeconomic front, including uncertainties posed by an economic slowdown in China, declining oil prices, the U.S. presidential election, and continued weakness in global commodities markets. While there are several reasons investors viewed the biotech sector as risky in 2015, the recent market downturn may have created some compelling opportunities … indicating that a stock picker’s market could return this year. I believe the fundamentals of the healthcare sector remain attractive and there will be several potential generators of “portfolio alpha” within this segment in 2016.
I returned from these conferences with a reinforced belief that our Company’s core competencies are the strongest driver for long-term success and tomorrow’s healthcare valuations will be more closely correlated with a clear product pathway and market opportunity. OncoSec was founded on the belief that our intratumoral immunotherapies could play an important role in cancer therapy. Since our formation, we have expanded the applications of our ImmunoPulseÔ platform, secured key industry and academic collaborations, and developed a pipeline focused on addressing a great unmet need in oncology. My biggest takeaway from this year’s conferences was not that innovation can survive in poor market conditions, but that innovation can survive because market forces cannot change company fundamentals. We will continue to build on our Company’s accomplishments and advance our clinical pipeline to fulfill our mission to deliver a new standard of cancer care.