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By Mark J. Alles, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Celgene Corporation

Americans want and deserve better health care.1  Yet many patients are also concerned about the affordability of health care, including out-of-pocket costs which are rising faster than health care spending.2  When it comes to health care, we should not have to choose between access, quality and affordability. This is especially important for those patients suffering with life-threatening diseases who may only be able to be effectively treated with the newest, most innovative medicines. For the benefit of all patients, we must find ways to ensure that American health care improves access and quality, while becoming more affordable over time.

Mark Alles

Mark J. Alles, CELGENE CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Celgene has long held to a set of principles used to guide our decisions about the pricing of the medicines we discover, develop and distribute worldwide. These principles reflect our commitment to patient access, obligation to provide value for patients and the health system, drive for continuing innovation for the future, and the need for flexibility. Today, we are enhancing these principles by setting forth an approach to price increases reflecting medical inflation and increased value. This approach is intended to continue to provide transparency around the value of our therapies and contribute to policy solutions that support access and affordability for patients.

First, if Celgene increases the price of any individual therapy across our portfolio, the price increase will be limited to no more than once a year and at a level no greater than the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services projected increase in National Health Expenditures for the year. For 2018, this rate is 5.3%. Because value is a guiding principle of our pricing decisions, there may be exceptional circumstances in which additional clinical or health economic evidence demonstrates a clear and significant increase in the value of one of our medicines where this standard would not apply. We believe this action will provide greater certainty for all stakeholders and contribute to limiting the growth of health care spending.

Second, we agree that transparency about value and pricing is important. Patients, healthcare professionals and policymakers are asking for more information, and we are committed to providing it. That’s why earlier this year we introduced Celgene’s first annual Value and Innovation Framework Report, offering comprehensive evidence on the value we provide to patients, the health system, the economy and society, and future innovation. We also plan to provide information related to any increases in price, including enhancements in value, at: www.celgene.com/value.

Third, we are committed to advocating for public policy solutions that will improve patient access and affordability, encourage value-based payment models, and expand competition.

Increasingly, the health care system is pushing more and more of the cost of care to patients, especially those with serious medical conditions, in the form of high deductibles and percentage-based coinsurance.3  We believe that limits on patient out-of-pocket spending will improve access and affordability and lead to greater treatment adherence, better health outcomes and lower overall health system costs. It is positive to see proposals to include a patient out-of-pocket cap in the Medicare Part D drug benefit included in the President’s Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices.4

Celgene supports value-based payment models, which, when properly designed, can provide access for patients, predictability for payers, and incentives for continued innovation by biopharmaceutical companies. The development of new and bolder value-based payment approaches can be facilitated through necessary modernization of government regulations to accommodate value-based arrangements. We applaud the Department of Health and Human Services’ interest in identifying regulatory solutions that would enable the evolution of these new payment models and ensure that access and reimbursement innovation keeps pace with medical innovation.

Finally, Celgene supports the robust balance between incentives for innovation and generic competition. The Hatch-Waxman Act has created a sustainable system where nearly 90 percent of prescriptions every year are generics, representing massive price reductions compared to the original innovator brand.5  Last year, the Food and Drug Administration approved a record-high 1,027 new generic medications.5  Between 2018 and 2022, based on anticipated loss of exclusivity, an estimated $105 billion in price decreases will be realized by the healthcare system.5  Policies that enhance competition after innovators’ patents expire drive the virtuous cycle of incentives for new innovation and the long continuing value from generic competition.

At Celgene, our long-standing purpose is to change the course of human health through bold pursuits in science and a promise to always put patients first. After spending many years and significant resources to discover and develop innovative new therapies, our greatest priority is ensuring that patients have access to them. Affordable access for patients is essential to our ability to reinvest in research and development that will lead to the next generation of treatments — and ultimately cures — for diseases that affect millions of people worldwide.



1 Blendon RJ, Benson JM, SteelFisher GK, and Weldon KJ. Report on Americans’ Views on the Quality of Health Care. Harvard School of Public Health. March 22, 2011. https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2011/03/report-on-americans–views-on-the-quality-of-health-care.html?cid=XEM_807207 Accessed June 2018.
2 Consumers for Quality Care Survey Finds Americans Acutely Worried about Health Care Costs. Consumer for Quality Care. April 25, 2018. https://consumers4qualitycare.org/research/ Accessed June 2018.
3 Commercially-Insured Patients Pay Undiscounted List Prices for One In Five Brand Prescriptions, Accounting for Half of Out-of-Pocket Spending on Brand Medicines. Phrma. March 2017. http://phrma-docs.phrma.org/download.cfm?objectid=C6A51770-0FCD-11E7-ACCC0050569A4B6C Accessed June 2018
4 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. American Patients First: The Trump Administration Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs. May 2018. https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/AmericanPatientsFirst.pdf. Accessed June 2018.
5 Uhl K. 2017 Was Another Record-Setting Year for Generic Drugs. FDA Voice. 2018.
https://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2018/02/2017-was-another-record-setting-year-for-generic-drugs/ Accessed June 2018.

By Mark J. Alles, Celgene Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

A few decades ago, drug discovery was, for the most part, a matter of trial and error. The world’s most successful pharmaceutical companies would often collect dirt from far-flung locales and screen that soil or sand for medically active components. Biology was often a secondary concern. It was the speed of trial and error that was important.

Today, drug discovery is more targeted and intentional, building on a wealth of data that has grown exponentially since the early days of trial and error. Our knowledge of cell biology and genomics is now sufficiently advanced that it is possible to create medicines based on our individual immune cells or genetic profile. These advances promise patient-tailored medicines, such as the new CAR T therapies that “train” the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer, that have the potential to transform how cancer is treated.

This kind of innovation, however, requires investment to be sustained. Both the basic science and the delivery of treatments require investment to foster the next generation of therapies. The challenge is ensuring access to and reimbursement for those new medicines, thereby enabling innovators to reinvest in research and development. This is the virtuous cycle of innovation.

Mark Alles

Mark J. ALLES, CELGENE CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER


If the costs of a new intervention far exceed the benefits, or if patients cannot get access, we’ve failed – as a system – to provide value. Conversely, when we see benefits that far outstrip costs, we can be confident that we are moving the health system in a direction to higher value, with better health and lower costs.

Understanding that balance has never been more critical. The United States spends $3.3 trillion on health care every year, or 18 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). That’s about equal to the entire GDP of Germany. Among the primary drivers of this spending are hospital care (32 percent); physician and clinical services (20 percent); retail prescription drugs (10 percent); and other health, residential, and personal care services (5 percent). We have a responsibility to make sure that those dollars are spent wisely and to define what we – as a company and as a part of the health care system – believe is a good investment in the health of the nation.

Celgene’s Value and Innovation Framework Report is an effort to help meet that responsibility. We have developed a framework that outlines our approach to value and defines our role as a driver of value.

 “We have a responsibility to define what we believe is a good investment in the health of the nation.”

Though spending on biopharmaceutical products remains a relatively small piece of the overall health care environment, the biopharmaceutical sector has had an outsized impact on outcomes, and we are proud of our role in a therapeutic revolution that has cut the cancer death rate by 25 percent since 1991. While overall spending on biopharmaceutical products has indeed increased over the years, it has contributed to significant improvements in health outcomes. In fact, one study found that over 70 percent of recent life expectancy growth is due to the increased use of medicines.

Even with the increasing innovation coming from the biopharmaceutical sector, there are signs that drug spending is stabilizing. In 2017, per-person spending on prescription drugs rose just 1.5 percent across plans covering employees and their families, less than half of the increase reported in 2016 and the lowest increase in 24 years of tracking drug-trend data. Another study found that after accounting for rebates and discounts, spending growth on prescription drugs in the United States slowed to 0.6 percent in 2017.

But we cannot simply proclaim successes, declare that we have provided value, and avoid further discussion. Instead, we must start with a clear definition of our goals and a fair-minded examination of our impact at every level of the health care system. This report is evidence of our commitment to evaluating our performance as “value drivers” so that we can continually refine our role in the virtuous cycle of innovation.

To learn more about how Celgene defines value and measures it through medical innovation, read the 2018 Value and Innovation Framework Report.

Pancreatic cancer is once again an area of focus at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago. New research is increasingly important as estimates show that the mortality rate of pancreatic cancer could surpass that of breast and colorectal cancers by 2030 in some countries. Celgene is at the forefront of the fight against pancreatic cancer, and at this year’s ASCO conference, new data will continue to expand our understanding of emerging investigational treatments.

Celgene continues the fight against pancreatic cancer through our commitment in advancing research, our collaboration with advocacy groups and our support to patients.

Some look. We envision.

Celgene is committed to advancing research to help change the lives of patients with pancreatic cancer. In 2017, more than 20 percent of our revenue was reinvested into R&D, one of the highest rates in the industry.

Part of our research aims to inform today’s treatment choices in pancreatic cancer. Given the availability of more treatment options for patients with metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma, it is time to develop a treatment plan for patients. Celgene is contributing to this important discussion by helping physicians and patients make informed treatment decisions. With an eye toward the future, we are also conducting research and collaborating with researchers around the world on 91 ongoing investigational trials that combine novel agents with the foundation of approved Celgene therapies. These trials involve more than 40 unique novel compounds across more than 30 mechanisms of action and target enrollment of more than 4,500 pancreas cancer patients.

Celgene: Your partner in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Some hear. We listen.

Celgene collaborates with patient advocacy groups to bring hope to the fight against pancreatic cancer. In partnership with 29 international patient groups, Celgene created the first-ever World Pancreatic Cancer Day in 2014 and continues to grow the event. Celgene also supports events such as Purple Stride Walks in the United States, the European Multi-Stakeholder platform on Pancreatic Cancer in November 2014, 2015 Pancreatic Cancer Forum in Milan and grants to help transport patients to their treatment appointments through the CancerCare GetYouThere program.

Some touch. We feel.

Celgene is dedicated to offering compassion and support to patients with pancreatic cancer and those who care for them. To help them, Celgene developed NavigatePanc.com, a personal pancreatic cancer information center. The site provides information about the disease, clinical trials, support groups, finances and communication and allows patients and caregivers to create their own online libraries of relevant information. Celgene also recognizes that pancreatic cancer patients often have special nutritional needs due to compromised pancreatic function. Our response: a source for recipes and meal planning. Lastly, we are committed to increasing the awareness of pancreatic cancer in the healthcare community.

Pancreatic Cancer: Cooking. Comfort. Care.

We support all who fight pancreatic cancer.

Celgene is committed to providing information and support to people with pancreatic cancer, and their loved ones, to help them in making informed decisions throughout their journey.

To learn more:

Last year, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy was recognized as the Advance of the Year in the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Report for its demonstrated benefits in certain blood cancers and its potential in many other tumor types. At this year’s ASCO annual meeting, the interest in CAR T cell therapy remains strong with the availability of more data for approved and investigational therapies.

“So far, the oncology community has greeted CAR T cell therapy with extraordinary enthusiasm,” said Dr. Jeremy Abramson, clinical director for the Center for Lymphoma at Massachusetts General Hospital. “We’ve had few effective treatment options for difficult-to-treat blood cancers like diffuse large B-cell lymphoma [DLBCL]. The newest data from ASCO continues to suggest that CAR T cell therapy may represent an important advance for some patients.”

DR. JEREMY ABRAMSON FROM MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL BELIEVES THAT MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT CAR T CELL THERAPIES WILL BE ADDRESSED AT THIS YEAR’S ASCO ANNUAL MEETING.

DR. JEREMY ABRAMSON FROM MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL BELIEVES THAT MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT CAR T CELL THERAPIES WILL BE ADDRESSED AT THIS YEAR’S ASCO ANNUAL MEETING.

A Long Time in the Making

The first investigational CAR T cells were developed over 30 years ago, using genetic engineering advances with the goal to reprogram a patient’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Early attempts were lackluster; the engineered T cells were slow to reproduce, died quickly and produced weak immune responses that weren’t effective at killing tumor cells.

Advances in genetic engineering tools and techniques, as well as a far better understanding of the human genome, have advanced this type of technology. Over the past five years, the number of clinical trials involving CAR T cell therapies has skyrocketed from just a handful to more than 180.

In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first two CAR T cell therapies — one for children with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia and another for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in adults who have failed at least two other kinds of treatment.

These are just two examples of diseases for which CAR T cell therapy represents a radically different therapeutic approach.

“CAR T cells are specifically engineered to recognize, go after and attack the cancer cells,” Abramson said.

How CAR T Cell Therapy Works

CAR T CELL THERAPY BEGINS BY REMOVING A PATIENT’S T CELLS, WHICH FIGHT INFECTIONS IN THE BODY, THROUGH A BLOOD DRAW. THOSE CELLS ARE THEN SENT TO A MANUFACTURING SITE WHERE THEY ARE GENETICALLY ENGINEERED TO RECOGNIZE AND ATTACH TO ANTIGENS EXPRESSED ON CANCER CELLS AND SOME NORMAL CELLS. PATIENTS THEN RECEIVE CHEMOTHERAPY BEFORE THESE PROGRAMMED CELLS ARE RETURNED TO THEIR BODIES TO SEEK AND ATTACK CANCER CELLS. PATIENTS ARE MONITORED FOR SIDE EFFECTS AFTER CAR T CELL THERAPY.

Exploring Questions in Blood Cancers

While the first two CAR T therapies have been approved, Abramson notes that many questions remain, including CAR T cell therapy production, safety and longevity.

Scientists are still fine-tuning the process of creating CAR T cell therapies. For instance, studies continue around different ratios of two subtypes of T cells—CD4+ and CD8+ T cells— that may behave differently. That’s because CD8+ T cells have a cancer-killing effect, while CD4+ T cells produce chemical messages that boost T cell production. Finding the right ratio of CAR T cells created from these subtypes may impact the efficacy and safety of these treatments, according to Abramson. But the clinical significance of CD4:CD8 ratio remains unknown.

“Even the most effective therapies can only be administered if the toxicities can be identified and successfully treated and reversed,” Abramson explained. “We’re continuing to learn about potential toxicities with the different approved and investigational CAR T cell therapies, and how to optimally manage and prevent them.”

We are studying ways to make these therapies work better, designing more effective CAR T cells that may target different or multiple cancer proteins and combining them with other medications.

Adverse events that have been noted in trials of CAR T cell therapy include cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and neurotoxicity. CRS symptoms include fever, nausea, or headaches, and neurotoxicity symptoms include delirium, headaches and problems speaking. ASCO attendees will get a better understanding of the severity and timing of these and other potential safety issues as well as insight into paths for their prevention and treatment.

As for the durability of CAR T cell therapies, Abramson believes there’s work to be done.

“Less than half of patients with DLBCL who receive CAR T cell therapy are still in remission a year later,” he said. “We are studying ways to design more effective CAR T cells that may target different or multiple cancer proteins and learn how to combine them with other medications like checkpoint inhibitors or immunomodulators to see if we can enhance CAR T cell activity.”

Beyond the Blood

So far, CAR T cell therapies have only been approved for the treatment of blood cancers. The major challenge in solid tumors, such as lung and breast cancers, has been identifying a target that’s restricted to the tumor, so the CAR T cells don’t also attack the patient’s healthy cells.

CAR T cells kill healthy immune cells called B lymphocytes, for instance, as well as lymphoma cells, but patients can often do without those particular cells. But a treatment that attacked an entire organ — or organs — would have catastrophic effects.

According to Abramson, one potential way to get around the problem may be to create CAR T cells that attack only when they encounter a specific combination of targets. While a single protein might be shared by cancer and healthy cells, researchers are searching for patterns of multiple targets only found on cancer cells. Whether or not this tactic succeeds, Abramson is optimistic that scientists can find a way.

To learn more about the advances that will be discussed at ASCO 2018, read “ASCO 2018 Preview: Precision Medicine, CAR T Cells and Immunomodulators.”

Dr. Abramson is a lead principal investigator for Juno and has consultant/advisory roles with Celgene.

The cost and value of medical innovation in oncology is one of the hot topics on the agenda for this year’s American Society for Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting (ASCO). One cancer that has seen an increase in relative survival rates over the past decade is multiple myeloma. So it makes sense that multiple myeloma is at the center of a debate at ASCO on the cost and value of new therapies.

As one of the participants in that debate, Dr. Rafael Fonseca, a hematologist, oncologist and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, will argue that society can’t afford not to provide patients with multiple myeloma access to the best care possible. In this Q&A, Fonseca shares his views about the affordability of cancer therapies, why many doctors hold onto the notion that medications are too expensive and the implications for future multiple myeloma treatment.

DR. RAFAEL FONSECA FROM THE MAYO CLINIC IN ARIZONA BELIEVES THAT SOCIETY CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO PROVIDE PATIENTS WITH MULTIPLE MYELOMA ACCESS TO THE BEST CARE POSSIBLE.

DR. RAFAEL FONSECA FROM THE MAYO CLINIC IN ARIZONA BELIEVES THAT SOCIETY CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO PROVIDE PATIENTS WITH MULTIPLE MYELOMA ACCESS TO THE BEST CARE POSSIBLE.

In the debate, you will argue that we can’t afford not to provide patients with access to the right treatment for them. How did you come to that conclusion?

“Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed so many patients with multiple myeloma increasingly beating the odds for survival. So I wanted to know what exactly was responsible for this. After some research, I concluded—as many of my colleagues have also—that it was the new medications. These innovative therapies provide tremendous value to our patients and society.”

When you discuss this topic with your fellow oncologists, what is the most compelling evidence supporting your position?

“I usually take a stepped approach to presenting my point of view. I ask them to consider the progress that we’ve made in survival in cancers like multiple myeloma and what they have seen in their own patients. I help them understand the value by walking them through all the new therapies that those improvements are attributed to. You can’t just look at the price tag of a specific medication, which they often focus on most.”

The opposing position is that patients and society cannot afford multiple myeloma therapies. Why don’t you believe that argument?

“The data don’t support the argument. One study found that 98 percent of patients paid $50 or less to fill their prescriptions in 2017. While that could be a hardship for some people, it is far different than the list prices of thousands of dollars that make headlines. So we need to talk about what patients are paying in the real world and what’s best for our patients.”

“Beyond that, there are the ethical considerations. Doctors should prescribe the medications they believe will benefit their patients the most.”

Why do doctors continue to say that new cancer therapies are unaffordable if the data suggest they aren’t for most patients?

“I feel like most cancer doctors are concerned about the cost of prescription medications out of their sense of compassion and responsibility for their patients. They see their role as treating patients responsibly. Prescribing a therapy that may cost them thousands seems inconsistent with that mission.”

“But they are so busy caring for patients that they don’t have the time to research the real world data about what patients actually pay for their prescriptions. As we see in other areas of discourse, facts matter. I believe that misunderstood empathy and baseless rhetoric can have real-world consequences for patients.”

Everyone agrees that today’s cancer treatments are simply not good enough and that innovation is key to improving cancer care.

Have you ever had a patient —or many—who could not access treatments that you prescribed?

“I cannot think of a single patient who could not access a medication due to financial reasons. I’ve had patients who have chosen other treatment options but for other reasons—never financial. In a few instances, we have had to go above and beyond to get them financial help from the manufacturer or non-profit groups. But those cases are the exceptions, not the rule.”

What do those on the other side suggest should be done about the affordability of multiple myeloma care and what are the potential consequences?

“When we say that new therapies are too expensive, what we’re doing is calling for price regulations. But without a doubt in my mind, those regulations will kill innovation. Medical innovation is a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that there won’t be consequences; we’ll have fewer new treatments for our patients as a result.”

Is there common ground in this debate over the value of multiple myeloma care that can be used to move forward?

“There is plenty of common ground. I think today’s cancer treatments are simply not good enough and that innovation is key to improving cancer care. So we should make sure that we do not hinder that innovation.”

“Most cancer doctors also agree that clinical trials should be as fast as possible without sacrificing safety, so they cost less and lead to faster approvals. And I think that we all think patients should have access to the best treatment options but have different ideas on how to provide that access.”

To learn more about the how medical innovation has improved the treatment of multiple myeloma, read “A Decade of Progress in Multiple Myeloma, and More to Come.”

Dr. Fonseca has received speaker fees, advisory board fees, travel support in connection with consulting services, and research support from Celgene.

Last year, Americans took more prescription medicines than ever before due in part to efforts to improve adherence. In addition, the number of new medications approved more than doubled from 2016. But if you think the country is paying substantially more at the pharmacy as a result, you may be surprised.

Prescription medication spending increased just 0.6 percent last year, less than the rate of inflation and the lowest growth rate since 2012, according to a report published by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. Murray Aitken, executive director of the IQVIA Institute, explains why prescription spending growth has remained in check, why growth in prescription spending isn’t necessarily a bad thing and what we can expect in the near future.

MURRAY AITKEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE IQVIA INSTITUTE, BELIEVES HIGH GROWTH IN PRESCRIPTION SPENDING CAN REPRESENT GOOD VALUE IN TERMS OF LONGER, HEALTHIER LIVES.

MURRAY AITKEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE IQVIA INSTITUTE, BELIEVES HIGH GROWTH IN PRESCRIPTION SPENDING CAN REPRESENT GOOD VALUE IN TERMS OF LONGER, HEALTHIER LIVES.

Why was the growth rate for prescription medication spending just 0.6 percent in 2017?

“That relatively low rate is due to patent expirations and lower cost generics, which are offsetting the growth from new therapies and price increases. In fact, a record-setting 1,027 generic medications were approved in 2017. If we look at retail and mail-order prescriptions, spending actually declined 2.1 percent last year, as we had more new injectable and infusible treatments than oral treatments last year. The prescription spending growth rate in 2017 is significantly lower than the 9 to 10 percent that we saw in 2014 and 2015, which were historically high levels of growth.”

What happened in 2014 and 2015 that caused those high rates of growth in prescription spending?

“Between 2014 and 2015, we saw the rise and fall of hepatitis C spending, as therapies that cured a significant number of patients were introduced. Since that wave of innovation, spending has grown more slowly.

“When innovative therapies are introduced that address an unmet need for many patients, spending will go up as we saw in hepatitis C. That is not a bad thing. That growth is supported by the value that innovative therapies provide in the form of longer and better lives. When we get an effective therapy for Alzheimer’s, for instance, we will see spending increase as we treat the millions of Americans to improve their lives and reduce other healthcare costs of caring for those with the disease.”

Prescription Drug Spending Increased Just 0.6% in 2017

How are the prescription spending growth rates in your report different from those that we see elsewhere?

“First, we are not basing our analysis on list price. We are looking at the revenue manufacturers receive after all the rebates, discounts, coupons and vouchers have been accounted for. Secondly, we are reporting on the total use of all medicines through all distribution channels, not just individual medications. Individual medication costs tend to make headlines but aren’t necessarily reflective of the overall market.”

Are patients paying more for prescription medications because of price increases?

“Over the past five years, patient out-of-pocket costs have actually declined by 15 percent to $8.69 per prescription on average in 2017. These lower out-of-pocket costs are due to higher usage of generics and manufacturers’ coupons.

“But patients’ out-of-pocket costs remain high for a small number of prescriptions. Patients paid more than $500 for about 0.2 percent of all prescriptions in 2017. These patients are usually those in the coverage gap of Medicare plans or the deductible phase of their insurance plans. They may get the same medicine for less at a different time of year.”

Patient Out-of-Pocket Costs Down 15% Since 2013

What is the outlook for prescription spending and patient costs over the next few years?

“While there are many uncertainties, including government policy, we don’t foresee any major disruptions over the next five years. So we’re forecasting spending growth to average between 2 and 5 percent per year. Growth will continue to be driven by innovation in various disease areas, but especially in oncology. That growth will continue to be offset by expirations of patents, which are designed to keep spending in check over the long term.”

To learn how medical innovation saves lives and has reduced health expenditures, read “When It Comes to Healthcare Costs, New Medicines Are the Solution, Not the Problem.”

More than 32,000 oncology professionals will soon gather in Chicago for the 2018 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. This year’s meeting, with a theme of “Delivering Discoveries: Expanding the Reach of Precision Medicine,” promises to be the most exciting yet because researchers are further unraveling the different mechanisms by which cancer starts, grows and metastasizes, as well as how the immune system responds to it.

This progress is ushering in a new era of precision medicine, according to Wim Souverijns, Corporate Vice President of Global Marketing for Hematology & Oncology at Celgene. Much of the research Celgene will present at this year’s meeting includes updates on its chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy platforms, as well new data related its investigational pipeline across hematologic malignancies and solid tumors.

CAR T Cell Data Continue to Roll In

One area of personalized medicine with incredible potential in cancer is CAR T cell technology. This process involves a patient’s immune cells being collected, modified in a laboratory to recognize cancer cells and reinfused to attack the cancer.

At this year’s ASCO meeting, Souverijns is looking forward to seeing longer-term safety and outcome data for several clinical trials involving investigational CAR T cell therapies in relapsed or refractory patients with difficult to treat blood cancers like multiple myeloma and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

While these therapies come with great promise, their safety profile needs to be properly characterized to ensure appropriate use of these therapies, Souverijns explains. At ASCO he expects further insights about particular side effects such as cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and neurotoxicity.

“These longer-term data will help us to better understand these effects and how to manage them,” he said. “This will be crucial to realize the promise of these investigational treatments for patients.”

Three years ago, most patients were getting doublets, and people were questioning the need for triplets. Today, people are talking about quadruplets.

CAR T beyond Blood Cancers

The big hope is that CAR T cell therapies will be able to go beyond hematological malignancies and effectively target solid tumors as well. Preclinical data of CAR T cell therapies in solid tumors are emerging. The challenge, though, is that solid tumors often aren’t responsive to treatment simply because therapies physically can’t reach the tumor.

“CAR T also holds promise in solid tumors, but it’s going to be a much harder nut to crack from a technological and scientific perspective than with blood cancers,” Souverijns said. “The integration of Juno’s recently acquired CAR T cell science powerhouse with Celgene’s deep disease and cellular therapy expertise provides a great opportunity with these new investigational technologies for cancer patients.”

AT THIS YEAR’S AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CLINICAL ONCOLOGY MEETING, ATTENDEES WILL DISCUSS ADVANCES IN CANCER RESEARCH, INCLUDING ADVANCES IN CAR T CELL THERAPY AND COMBINATION THERAPIES BUILT ON THE FOUNDATION OF IMMUNOMODULATORS.

AT THIS YEAR’S AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CLINICAL ONCOLOGY MEETING, ATTENDEES WILL DISCUSS ADVANCES IN CANCER RESEARCH, INCLUDING ADVANCES IN CAR T CELL THERAPY AND COMBINATION THERAPIES BUILT ON THE FOUNDATION OF IMMUNOMODULATORS.

Triplets Becoming More Common in Multiple Myeloma

At last year’s ASCO conference, clinicians saw data combining immunomodulators with other therapies to treat diseases like multiple myeloma. Souverijns expects to see even more data from trials this year testing combination therapies. While these combinations used to focus on later lines of treatment when patients have exhausted other options, the new data are showing options for earlier patient segments as well.

More seems like it may be better as more triplet therapies are being approved and utilized, while even quadruplets are being tested now. This is something he expects will be discussed at length at the conference as doctors are realizing that adding new therapies to the foundation of an immunomodulator may drive better outcomes.

“Three years ago, most patients were getting doublets, and people were questioning the need for triplets,” Souverijns said. “Today, people are talking about quadruplet therapy. It’s amazing how quickly cancer care is progressing, making each ASCO more extraordinary than the last.”

For all the potential advancements, Celgene’s Vice President, U.S. Medical Affairs Teng Jin Ong, M.D., pointed to precision medicine at this year’s conference.

“Our increasing insight into the biology of cancer drives the discovery of new therapies that are targeting very specific cancer mutations and allow for greater improvements in outcomes for patients with such mutations,” said Dr. Ong. “We’ll remember 2018 as the tipping point for precision medicine and showing how it could work in practice.

To learn more about how CAR T cells may help immune cells identify cancer cells, read “Revealing Cancer Cells to the Immune System.”

 

When Ralph Hills was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia (AML) more than three years ago, his doctor told him to get his affairs in order. He interpreted that statement as a polite way of saying that he didn’t have long to live. But a last-minute phone call from his doctor led him to the right treatment for his disease.

AML is driven by as many as 76 gene mutations. Approved and investigational therapies that target those mutations are opening up the possibility to tailor treatments for individual patients. As a preview to a Facebook Live event hosted by Celgene on Wednesday, April 18 at 9:30 a.m. EDT in recognition of the third annual AML World Awareness Day on April 21, Hills discusses how precision medicine is helping to save lives by sharing his journey with AML.

How did you learn that you had AML?

“In December 2014, I was 70 years old and experiencing back pain. I thought my doctor was going to schedule surgery, but instead, he told me to make an appointment with our local cancer center in Connecticut. A couple days later, my wife and I were sitting in a room with an oncologist who told me I had AML. He said that he was going to prescribe chemotherapy and that I should get my affairs in order. He also suggested that we get a second opinion.”

How did you react to learning you had AML?

“That meeting left me in a haze. I felt like I lost control of everything. We cried. I knew that the prognosis for AML was not good for someone my age, and I lost hope. But a few days later, we took my doctor’s advice about getting a second opinion and went to the leukemia department of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

“Targeted therapy inhibits the activity of specific genes, proteins or antibodies that have mutated and are helping cancer cells to grow. This inhibition can slow or stop the growth of cancer cells.”

Targeted therapy inhibits the activity of specific genes, proteins or antibodies that have mutated and are helping cancer cells to grow. This inhibition can slow or stop the growth of cancer cells.

Targeted therapy inhibits the activity of specific genes, proteins or antibodies that have mutated and are helping cancer cells to grow. This inhibition can slow or stop the growth of cancer cells.

Did your treatment plan change after receiving the second opinion?

“It didn’t, at first. My new oncologist recommended the same decades-old standard of care for AML, which is an aggressive chemotherapy regimen. I knew the treatment would have harsh side effects and would not cure my AML.”

“The week before my treatment was scheduled to start, I visited a friend who was being treated with chemotherapy for his blood cancer. He told me that he was tired of fighting and ready to give up. I imagined that I was going to be in his position in a matter of months.”

What happened next?

“The night before my chemotherapy was going to start, my doctor called during her ski vacation. She asked me if I would consider changing my treatment plan. Apparently, I had a molecular mutation in a gene that might respond to a targeted therapy that was in clinical trials. So I had a choice of being treated with chemotherapy or an unknown treatment. I trusted my doctor and knew that she wouldn’t have offered it to me unless she thought it was the right treatment for me at that time.”

AML Awareness: A Patient's Perspective

Did you know that your doctor had ordered molecular profiling of your disease?

“No, we didn’t know at the time. She took my blood and bone marrow samples when we first met with her, but I thought that was just pretty standard routine tests. I didn’t know that she went the extra mile and ordered molecular profiling to see if I had any mutations. But that test was what qualified me for this trial.”

What was your treatment experience like?

“For six months, I could hardly move. I was in my bed unable to eat regular foods, getting all my sustenance from nutritional supplements. I lost 45 pounds.”

“After that, the bad leukemia cells began to disappear, leaving room for the healthy blood cells and platelets. Every two weeks, I went in for testing and watched the number of bad blood cells drop. Then I was told that I have indiscernible leukemia. The doctor told me to go home because she had sick people to see. That moment was the start of my second life.”

The idea to target the bad guys and avoid affecting other healthy cells makes sense to me.

What kept you going during your treatment?

“My dedicated wife, Dorcas, handled much of the physical and emotional load. She made phone calls and wrote newsletters to keep my friends and family up to date. They sent me get-well cards and flowers. I played card games with my grandchildren for five minutes at a time, which was all I could manage. But little things like that kept me going.”

How do you feel now?

“My life has changed in many, many ways. Like all cancer survivors, I visit my doctor for regular medical check-ups. I’m eliminating all the stuff that wasn’t important and enjoying every moment more. I’m semi-retired now. This summer, I spent a couple of months in Canada. In September, I will celebrate my third birthday after my diagnosis. That’s the way I’m treating all this — as a complete reset on my life.”

What do you hope the future has in store for AML patients?

“The idea to target the bad guys and avoid affecting other healthy cells makes sense to me. I’m delighted that my doctor did the molecular profiling to qualify me for the right clinical trial among the 7,000 that are ongoing in the United States so I could get the right treatment. I hope every person, young and old, rich and poor, gets the right treatment at the right time like I did. I feel like I am one of the very, very lucky ones.”

To learn more about the progress that is being made in the treatment of AML, join us for a special Facebook Live event with AML patient Ralph Hill on Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

When he started his career in medicine over 25 years ago, Dr. Jack Burks had no treatments for his patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). So when the first MS treatment was approved in 1993, he was grateful to finally have something — anything — to prescribe for one of his patients who had a severe form of the disease. Twenty years later, that patient is still doing well on that same medication and has yet to suffer a relapse.

Stories such as this one help demonstrate the impact that progress in research can make on patients’ lives. But Dr. Burks, the chief medical consultant at the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA), knows that there are still many unmet needs. Although 15 therapies have been approved for the treatment of MS, none offer a cure, and, as with all treatments, there are potential risks to consider. In this Q&A, Dr. Burks provides his perspectives on the current state of MS treatment and why he remains optimistic about the future.

DR. JACK BURKS, THE CHIEF MEDICAL CONSULTANT AT THE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, KNOWS THAT THERE ARE STILL MANY UNMET NEEDS IN MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.

DR. JACK BURKS, THE CHIEF MEDICAL CONSULTANT AT THE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, KNOWS THAT THERE ARE STILL MANY UNMET NEEDS IN MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.

What is the treatment journey like for people with MS?

“The MS treatment journey for patients can fall into a pretty broad spectrum. For some patients, treatment goes smoothly. The response is excellent, and everything goes well. But for others, it can be a struggle.

“While we have several therapies available, we cannot guarantee that they will work for a particular patient. So we go with what we think will work best, and if it doesn’t work out, we may recommend switching therapies. That change, of course, can be stressful and confusing for patients. But without treatment, the disease will worsen, and patients will only experience further impairment.”

When should a patient and their doctor consider switching therapies?

“Doctors usually recommend changing therapies for one of two reasons: safety or efficacy. Either the patient cannot tolerate the treatment because of side effects, or the treatment is no longer controlling the disease.

“Patients tend to focus more on the side effects. They might not see the brain lesions in magnetic resonance imaging, but they do know if they get sick every time they take a medication. Side effects scare them.

“But switching therapies should not be an immediate reaction to those side effects. If someone has mild injection site reactions, the doctor can recommend applying a warm compress. If they experience gastrointestinal problems, their doctor might suggest taking the medication at a different time of the day.”

What can help smooth out the journey for people with MS?

“A good doctor-patient relationship is essential to managing treatment expectations and side effects alike. Patients need to know and feel that their doctor is looking out for their best interests. Doctors need to understand a patient’s priorities and communicate in a way that builds trust.

“Patients need to become knowledgeable about their disease before their first appointment. They should prepare a list of questions to discuss with their doctor. There are no wrong questions. Doctors and patients should share treatment decisions, which helps patients own their treatment and can improve adherence.”

We’re doing pretty well even though we don’t know the cause of the disease. The future looks very bright for new MS treatments.

How does patient preference factor into MS treatment decisions?

“Doctors need to talk with their patients about their preferences. Some patients do not mind if their treatment is a pill or an injection, while others have stronger opinions.

“Doctors need to understand a patient’s specific concerns because if not, that’s an equation for poor adherence.”

When should doctors bring up MS clinical trials with their patients?

“One of the first questions my patients ask me is ‘What’s new?’ They want to know about the new options that are approved or being developed. So doctors need to know about the trials that are ongoing. I try to focus on trial results, side effects and contraindications with other medications.

“Patients might not be interested in enrolling in a trial, especially if their current treatment is working for them, but often they just want to know what is in the future of MS treatments and how it may affect their treatment down the line.”

What is your view of the future of MS treatment?

“I’m pretty optimistic. We’re doing pretty well even though we don’t know the cause of the disease. The future looks very bright for new MS treatments.

“When I look at these new medications, I consider not only how well a therapy reduces relapse rates, but also the safety profile. Side effects, as I mentioned, are one of the reasons why patients stop taking their medication. Right now, I am reviewing over 20 new therapies that are in trials and have the potential to help so many more people than we already are.”

To learn more about how researchers are studying new MS treatments, read “Relapse Rates: A Benchmark for Measuring MS Treatment Efficacy.”

February 28, 2018 marks the 11th annual Rare Disease Day, dedicated to raising awareness of the impact of rare diseases worldwide. This year’s theme – research – highlights the many advances that have been made in the treatment of rare diseases, while emphasizing remaining research gaps.

This year, and every year, Celgene joins with the many supporters of Rare Disease Day as we all strive toward the ultimate goal: cures.

A rare disease is one that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States and less than one in every 2,000 in Europe. As a whole, though, rare diseases are hardly insignificant; there are approximately 7,000 different rare conditions affecting more than 300 million people globally.

Over the decades, regulatory initiatives have helped to encourage more innovation and the generation of much-needed therapies for these patients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Orphan Drug Act of 1983 spurred significant progress by creating incentives for research and allowing for expedited approval of new therapies. While fewer than 10 treatments for rare diseases were approved from 1973 to 1983, more than 400 medicines and biologic products for rare diseases have been approved since the Act was passed.

More recently, provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 have helped to streamline FDA review of rare disease therapies. And in December 2017, the Rare 2030 pilot program was adopted by the European Commission to research sustainable policies, address challenges and identify opportunities in the field of rare diseases from 2020-2030.

And yet despite these efforts, approved therapies are available for only five percent of rare diseases. Clearly, we still have a long way to go for these patients.

With clinical trials in more than 45 rare cancers and immuno-inflammatory diseases, Celgene recognizes the significance of medical innovation to address these often overlooked diseases. Celgene’s research efforts center on patient need, including rare diseases.

Clinical trials are key to making progress, but for rare diseases, enrolling a clinical trial can be a challenge, given the limited number of patients. To find the most patients that can participate in a trial, Celgene believes a critical first step involves carefully examining and engaging the appropriate trial locations, for instance, by establishing a presence in countries where a rare disease is more common.

Driven by patient and physician insights, Celgene also leads research efforts that go beyond traditional trial programs. For instance, the Journey Pro app, launched by Sage Bionetworks with financial support from Celgene, uses patient-reported data collected through mobile and wearable technologies to help quantify the daily burden of chronic anemia, which affects patients with rare diseases such as myelodysplastic syndromes, myelofibrosis and beta-thalassemia. The app provides direct and immediate information to research participants to help them manage their health, with a long-term goal of developing a tool to evaluate new treatments.

In multiple myeloma, Celgene has collaborated with the UAMS Myeloma Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to create the Myeloma Genome Project, a global initiative compiling the largest set of genetic profiling data associated with clinical outcomes. The Project aims to develop a genetic classification system, and eventually, relevant tests for genetic mutations that could improve the diagnosis and prognosis of multiple myeloma while driving more personalized, targeted approaches to treatment.

In addition to these and other research endeavors, Celgene’s collaborative efforts with patient and professional advocacy organizations through the Patients’ Partners program, launched in 2011, explore new ways to strengthen patient support from diagnosis through treatment.

As research efforts in rare diseases continue to expand across the healthcare ecosystem, the progress being made drives Celgene to keep pushing forward in an effort to deliver new solutions that may improve patients’ lives.

When doctors evaluate if a treatment is working for one of their patients with ulcerative colitis (UC), an inflammatory bowel disease that causes damage to the mucosal layer of the digestive tract, they will ask their patient about symptoms, such as bleeding, diarrhea and pain. But when researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of potential new treatments in a clinical trial, they need to include an objective assessment of disease activity as well.

So researchers are increasingly using endoscopy, a procedure using a flexible tube equipped with a video camera to look at patients’ digestive tracts, and examining tissue samples removed during a biopsy under a microscope to determine how well the mucosa is responding to an investigational therapy. In this Q&A, Dr. Keith Usiskin, executive director at Celgene, explains how by combining these two measurements, an assessment of mucosal healing can be made.

DR. KEITH USISKIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT CELGENE, BELIEVES THAT COMBINING ENDOSCOPIC AND HISTOLOGIC MEASUREMENTS PROVIDES A DETAILED VIEW OF MUCOSAL HEALING IN ULCERATIVE COLITIS.

DR. KEITH USISKIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT CELGENE, BELIEVES THAT COMBINING ENDOSCOPIC AND HISTOLOGIC MEASUREMENTS PROVIDES A DETAILED VIEW OF MUCOSAL HEALING IN ULCERATIVE COLITIS.

Why is mucosal healing important?

“Ulcerative colitis causes massive damage to the mucosa, weakening blood vessels and, eventually, leading to ulcers. Doctors and researchers are finding that achieving mucosal healing correlates with a better quality of life and other measurable benefits for patients with UC.

“For instance, studies have found that patients with UC in remission and with no signs of microscopic inflammation are less likely to be hospitalized or to experience relapse, in which their UC symptoms return. The data isn’t as strong as we’d like just yet, but we see a definite trend beginning to take shape.”

How is mucosal healing assessed in UC trials?

“Organizations conducting UC clinical trials assess mucosal healing often use both endoscopic appearance — what a gastroenterologist sees regarding redness, inflammation and ulcers during an endoscopy — and histological appearance — what a pathologist sees under a microscope regarding inflammation when they examine a tissue sample from a biopsy.”

Why are both endoscopies and biopsies needed to assess mucosal healing?

“While UC causes mucosal damage continuously, not every part of the mucosa is affected to the same extent. So endoscopies provide researchers with a bird’s eye view of the mucosa throughout the entire rectum and large intestine, including regions that are very inflamed and those that are less so.

“But endoscopic appearance doesn’t tell you everything. Studies have found that up to 24 percent of patients whose mucosa looks good in endoscopic assessments still have evidence of microscopic inflammation when a pathologist looks at a biopsy taken from the mucosa. That inflammation suggests the mucosa still is not fully healed and that the patient is at higher risk for relapses.”

Mucosal Healing: An Increasingly Accepted Endpoint in Studies of Ulcerative Colitis Treatments

What constitutes mucosal healing in these assessments?

“Defining mucosal healing remains one of the biggest challenges in UC clinical studies. The medical community and regulatory agencies have not come to a clear consensus on what constitutes mucosal healing in UC.

“Several scoring systems have been proposed for endoscopic and histologic assessments, but researchers have not decided which should be used. In Celgene’s studies, we use a widely used index for disease activity by endoscopic assessment in UC developed by researchers at the Mayo Clinic and a grading scale for histological assessment in UC developed by Dr. Karel Geboes at the University Hospitals Leuven in Belgium. We classify mucosal healing as a Mayo score less than or equal to one and a Geboes histologic score of less than two.”

What are the challenges in assessing mucosal healing?

“Clinician bias has been one of the most significant limitations in assessing mucosal healing. If the patient says they’re doing great, the clinician is more likely to report that the mucosa looks better, even if it seems the same as before starting treatment. The inverse can be true as well. We use central readers who do not know the patient’s health status to eliminate that bias. They can grade the endoscopies and biopsies based solely on their best judgment and experience.”

“The combination of endoscopy and pathology assessment of biopsies is key to the assessment of mucosal healing.”

Does the invasive nature of this assessment affect patient retention?

“Some patients are hesitant to enter a clinical trial if there are too many colonoscopies or endoscopies. Clinical researchers try to limit that when designing protocols for studies to minimize procedures that patients may find uncomfortable.

“We try to make it clear to patients what is expected of them when they sign up for a clinical trial and limit the burdens as much as possible. But we still have to make these assessments to determine the efficacy of potential new treatment options for UC.”

What could improve the assessment of mucosal healing?

“In the future, we may identify biomarkers that correlate with clinical symptoms, benefits and outcomes for patients with UC. Celgene is participating in an initiative to identify such biomarkers, and one day, noninvasive biomarkers may eliminate the need for endoscopy or biopsies. Imaging techniques such as MRIs and CT scans also may prove useful to assessing mucosal healing in future clinical trials and in the clinic. But right now, the combination of endoscopy and pathology assessment of biopsies is key to the assessment of mucosal healing for both scientific and regulatory purposes.”

To learn more about clinical trials for ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases, read “The Importance of Clinical Trials for Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”


The immune system is the body’s main level of defense against a hostile world. From viruses and bacteria to the bodies’ own sick and dying cells, immune cells search out and destroy the trouble-makers.

But cancer cells can be tricky; they have ways of hiding from the immune system. The ability of tumor cells to evade the immune response is a key reason why cancers can be so difficult to treat. That’s why researchers are creating tools to help patients’ immune cells better detect and then kill tumor cells.

One method that’s recently become available for childhood leukemia is to engineer a patient’s own T cells – a type of white blood cell – to recognize proteins found on the surface of the cancer cells. This type of therapy is called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy.

With CAR T cell technology, doctors remove some T cells from a patient and genetically modify them with a homing beacon for proteins made by tumors. The newly armed T cells are then multiplied into the billions and infused back into the patient to hunt down the cancer.

The type of CAR engineered for a patient depends on his or her cancer. For example, the special receptor might target a protein called CD19, which sits on the surface of many leukemias and lymphomas, including diffuse large B cell lymphoma. Or the CAR might be designed to draw T cells to a protein called B-cell maturation antigen, which is found on tumor cells in up to 70 percent of patients with multiple myeloma.

Researchers are currently investigating ways to enhance this technology by finely tuning the ratio of different kinds of T cells given back to the patient. The idea is to give patients just the right combination of the cells that carry out the killing (called CD8 T cells) and the cells (CD4 T cells) that are thought to help make the assassins more mobile and recruit additional immune cells.[i]

While CAR T cell therapies use markers on the outside of cancer cells to fight them, another immune strategy in development looks inside. In this case, the patient’s immune cells are given an engineered T cell receptor (TCR) that helps it recognize pieces of proteins from within cancer cells. When these protein bits find their way to the surface of the tumor cell, the engineered TCR helps the T cell latch on tightly to the cancer cell.

Whether from within or without, cancer cells make proteins that reveal them as unwanted guests in the body. Harnessing the power of the immune system to better detect these flags may one day offer new hope to patients who currently have few options.



[i] Abbas AK, Lichtman AH, Pillai S. Cellular and Molecular Immunology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012.

New Jersey is well-positioned for strong economic growth, and biopharmaceutical innovation is a significant driver of that potential. In 2011, the biopharmaceutical industry supported 322,049 direct and indirect jobs and created $87 billion in economic output in the Garden State. To ensure a high-growth N.J. economy for the future, the biopharmaceutical industry is helping to strengthen the state’s ecosystem of innovation by supporting emerging companies, job growth and pro-innovation policies.

“Historically, New Jersey has been a powerhouse in the biopharmaceutical industry,” said Debbie Hart, president and CEO of BioNJ, a non-profit that promotes the state’s biotechnology industry. “Because of its strong foundation in life sciences, increasing early-stage medical innovation is one of the greatest growth opportunities in New Jersey.”

One reason for New Jersey’s historical and continued leadership in the global biopharma industry is its highly skilled and educated workforce. The state has skilled biopharmaceutical talent and more scientists and engineers per square mile than anywhere else in the world. This workforce is supported by the five research universities,13 teaching hospitals and four medical schools that call New Jersey home.

Location also makes New Jersey attractive to biotech companies, given its proximity to important collaborators, which include the many established pharmaceutical companies within the state, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health a train ride away in Maryland, and Wall Street and venture capital across the river in New York.

Startups are particularly important in driving medical innovation in New Jersey’s biopharmaceutical industry. The majority of treatments approved in recent years originated in companies outside of the 30 largest biopharmaceutical firms; 2016 followed that trend, with more than 60 percent of approved therapies coming from companies with a significant New Jersey footprint.

Incubators serve an important role in helping startups establish themselves and grow, providing resources that would otherwise be unavailable

While New Jersey has the right ingredients to attract biopharmaceutical startups, its entrepreneurial ecosystem has the opportunity to offer even better support to home-grown startups, through incubators and business accelerators that offer resources such as funding, mentoring, workspace or equipment to young companies. Currently, New Jersey has 15 business incubators and accelerator programs compared with 375 for California and 179 for New York.

DEBBIE HART, CEO AND PRESIDENT OF BIONJ, BELIEVES NEW JERSEY’S BIOPHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY HAS THE POTENTIAL TO DRIVE THE STATE’S ECONOMIC GROWTH.

DEBBIE HART, CEO AND PRESIDENT OF BIONJ, BELIEVES NEW JERSEY’S BIOPHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY HAS THE POTENTIAL TO DRIVE THE STATE’S ECONOMIC GROWTH.

“Incubators serve an important role in helping startups establish themselves and grow, providing resources that would otherwise be unavailable to such young companies,” Hart said. “Looking at the biopharma industry in New Jersey, more incubators can certainly help increase early-stage innovation.”

Recognizing this opportunity, Celgene has launched the Thomas O. Daniel Research and Collaboration Center on its campus in Summit, New Jersey. The new center will provide state-of-the-art facilities and resources for high-potential scientists to build on their preclinical research in the important effort to discover innovative therapies for patients with unmet medical needs.

“With its iconic brand and cutting-edge science, the Thomas O. Daniel Research Incubator and Collaboration Center has the potential to attract, create and support companies that will produce the world’s next generation of therapies and cures,” Hart said. “Those treatments will help cut the overall cost of health care, which will benefit the economy, society and—most importantly—our patients.”

Prospective researchers, entrepreneurs and companies interested in joining the Incubator will submit applications for residency on the webpage within the Collaboration Center, which will be reviewed by a Celgene selection committee.

“The HealthCare Institute of New Jersey (HINJ) congratulates Celgene on the launch of its incubator, which will enhance New Jersey’s expanding innovation ecosystem,” said Dean J. Paranicas, President and Chief Executive Officer of HINJ.  “We look for this exciting initiative to create opportunities for new life sciences companies to develop novel treatments and cures that will benefit patients everywhere.”

To learn more about  the Thomas O. Daniel Research Incubator and Collaboration Center  and find out how you can apply, visit CelgeneIncubator.com.

Measuring the effectiveness of treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) is complicated; the disease biology is not entirely understood, and symptoms vary from person to person. While doctors and researchers continue to explore new endpoints for clinical trials that evaluate MS therapies, measuring relapse rates remains one of the most common.

Neurologist Enrique Alvarez, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Colorado, Denver, discusses the importance of continuing to evaluate potential new therapies based on their ability to reduce relapse rates, along with newer measures that are bolstering these evaluations.

How do researchers measure the efficacy of new treatments for MS?

NEUROLOGIST ENRIQUE ALVAREZ, M.D., PH.D., AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, DENVER, EXPLAINS WHY RELAPSE RATES HAVE REMAINED A BENCHMARK IN MS TRIALS.

NEUROLOGIST ENRIQUE ALVAREZ, M.D., PH.D., AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, DENVER, EXPLAINS WHY RELAPSE RATES HAVE REMAINED A BENCHMARK IN MS TRIALS.

“Relapse rates are a benchmark for measuring the efficacy of new MS treatments in clinical trials. A relapse occurs when a new neurological symptom emerges or an old symptom gets worse for at least 24 hours. MS can cause a variety of symptoms such as vision loss, pain, fatigue or impaired coordination.”

“Signs of a relapse can be reported by the patient, and may have an immediate impact on the quality of a patient’s life. Relapse rates also tend to go hand-in-hand with disability rates; relapses are often associated with some lasting disability.”

How else are researchers measuring efficacy in MS?

“We have set criteria about how to determine a relapse, but these assessments are often subjective and can be ‘noisy.’ This noise can be associated with a pseudo-relapse, which is the return of an old symptom because of factors unrelated to MS, such as stress, fever or an infection. MS symptoms can also fluctuate throughout the day, affecting a patient’s assessment.” 

“The challenge is finding a way to measure clinical events across all the patients in a study. For example, how do you compare a patient who might have bladder function issues with a patient who has vision loss? That type of comparison remains a challenge.”

These newer measurements are valuable, but we still need to look at relapse rates.

How are researchers overcoming the challenges of measuring efficacy in MS trials?

“We have been including more objective, less noisy measures such as MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] metrics in trials. MRI measurements can serve as a substitute for clinical outcomes reported by patients.”

“In MS, the body’s immune system causes inflammation and damage in the brain, resulting in scar tissue, which we call a lesion. MRI can measure new and growing lesions in the brain. The more lesions a patient has, the more likely he or she will experience worsening symptoms and future relapses.” 

SECONDARY MEASUREMENTS SUCH AS MRI BRAINS SCANS CAN HELP MEASURE THE EFFICACY OF NEW MS TREATMENTS.

SECONDARY MEASUREMENTS SUCH AS MRI BRAINS SCANS CAN HELP MEASURE THE EFFICACY OF NEW MS TREATMENTS.

What are some newer measures that are being explored?

“Newer measures are exploding. We’re starting to see a host of cognitive testing measures. Balance is being evaluated more. There are kinetic measures, like those you can find on a smartphone app, to see how much the patient is walking. We’re trying to get a sense of how the patient feels their life is changing on the tested therapy. You lose a little of the objectivity that you get with a measurement like MRI, but you gain a better sense of how the patient feels they’re doing.”

Could these newer measurements replace relapse rates as a benchmark?

“These newer measurements are valuable, but we still need to look at relapse rates. Rather than replace them, we’ll be more likely to see combinations of multiple endpoints used to determine the efficacy of tested therapies in trials. The more measurements, the better.”  

To learn about how relapses can affect the lives of people living with MS, read “World MS Day: MS Doesn’t Stop Me from Living a Life I Love.”

Many of the 1.6 million Americans living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) struggle to find an effective treatment, leaving them with pain, fatigue and other symptoms that directly affect their lives but may not be obvious to others. Although more than 380 active clinical trials are exploring investigational treatment options for the two most common forms of IBD—Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis—many patients either don’t know of these studies or don’t understand the possible benefits of participating.

As patients and advocates work to bring visibility to this disease during this year’s Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week (December 1-7), Dr. Bruce Sands, a gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai Hospital and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, explains why some people living with IBD could benefit from discussing clinical trials with their doctors.

DR. BRUCE SANDS, A GASTROENTEROLOGIST AT MOUNT SINAI Hospital and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai IN NEW YORK, EXPLAINS WHY SOME PEOPLE LIVING WITH IBD COULD BENEFIT FROM DISCUSSING CLINICAL TRIALS WITH THEIR DOCTORS.

DR. BRUCE SANDS, A GASTROENTEROLOGIST AT MOUNT SINAI Hospital and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai IN NEW YORK, EXPLAINS WHY SOME PEOPLE LIVING WITH IBD COULD BENEFIT FROM DISCUSSING CLINICAL TRIALS WITH THEIR DOCTORS.

Why are some people living with IBD unaware that there are clinical trials for their disease?

“IBD clinical trials usually recruit patients who have active, flaring disease. But many patients on existing therapies who may still be flaring are not being cared for by doctors involved with trials. So these doctors may not be prepared to discuss clinical trials as an option. These patients can consider getting another opinion from a doctor at a medical center that offers IBD clinical trials. A good resource for IBD patients to learn more is ClinicalTrials.gov.”

How do you address patients’ concerns about enrolling in a trial?

“Patients feel more comfortable about enrolling when they understand the process. I try to explain the different stages to them. Such as, in Phase 1, researchers focus on evaluating the safety of a new treatment. A treatment doesn’t get to Phase 2 or Phase 3 until we know more about the medication’s safety. At each later stage, more patients take part, and researchers gain better knowledge of the treatment’s safety and efficacy profile.”

“Sometimes, patients hesitate to take part because they worry they will receive a placebo and be left untreated. I tell them that in almost every IBD trial, the investigational therapy is added on top of their existing medication. So they will not be left untreated. Furthermore, most studies allow all participating patients access to the investigational medication after eight to 12 weeks.”

We continue to see progress by studying investigational medications that may provide patients with better symptom relief and disease control.

What do you tell patients who qualify for a clinical trial?

“I explain that there are two big reasons why they should consider enrolling in a clinical trial. First, a clinical study may give them access to a medication that works for them.”

“Second, if people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis don’t enroll in trials, we will never see advances in the treatment of these diseases. Voluntary patient participation has been essential to the development of new treatment options over the last two decades and will continue to be so in the future.”

Why is it important that we continue to explore new treatments for Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis?

“We have yet to find a medication that works for every person with IBD. And while some existing treatments may work for some patients at first, their effectiveness can wear off over time. Meanwhile, the incidence of IBD is rising across the globe—in the developed world and also countries such as India and China.”

“Over time, we hope to understand which patients do better with which medications through clinical trials. But at this point, we simply need more treatment options.”

How hopeful are you about the future of IBD treatment?

“More than 200 genes are thought to contribute to the risk of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Given that complexity, and how the biology differs from person to person, achieving a cure may be very difficult. While we all hope for a cure someday, we continue to see progress by studying investigational medications that may provide patients with better symptom relief and disease control.”

To learn why targeted therapies could be an important therapeutic option for IBD patients, read “Interest Grows in Targeted IBD Research.”