16 December 2020

Biotech Wednesday – Spotlight on Cancer Treatments for the 21st Century

When life gives you lemons you make lemonade, and perhaps there is opportunity in that. The second edition of Biotech Wednesday, an event organized by Oncode Institute in collaboration with HollandBio, switched locations, from Pakhuis de Zwijger to the online. What seemed at first a limitation turned out to be an opportunity. With a line-up of top speakers from both research and industry, and participants joining the event from 14 countries spread on three continents, this year’s digital edition of Biotech Wednesday was a success. (Scroll to the bottom of the page for links to the recording of the event).

Bianca-Olivia Nita

The goal of Biotech Wednesday was to bring together researchers, clinicians and industry that are developing and utilizing next generation diagnostics for precision medicine – from early stages to the market. In the current context of cancer treatments moving away from the ‘one biomarker-one drug’ scenario towards a more integrated approach with multiple biomarkers and drugs, the underlying thread of this second edition was to take a close look at this ‘new paradigm’ that will most likely pave the way for the introduction of multiplexing strategies in the clinic using companion diagnostics and patient stratification methodologies.

In its selection of speakers, the organizers aimed to answer big questions. What are the current state-of-art technologies? What are the key processes and indicators of true clinical utility and impact? How to best bring such methods and technologies from the lab to enable decision making for patient care? – are some of the questions that drove the organization of the event this year.

Edwin Cuppen (UMC Utrecht, HMF) during Biotech Wednesday, 2020.

Research and industry

The lectures spread over a whole afternoon, were divided into two sections. The first one focused on research – looking into the fast changing landscape of Molecular Diagnostics and how whole genome sequencing is suitable for this (Oncode Investigator Edwin Cuppen, UMC Utrecht & HMF), the importance of molecular surveillance of cancer for finding novel target therapies and how Learning Health Care systems can drive medical and scientific progress (Oncode Investigator Emile Voest, NKI-AVL) followed by a look into the need for highly sensitive detection methods (Oncode Investigator Jeroen de Ridder, UMC Utrecht & Cyclomics).

The second section gave the stage to the industry, looking into how the Mammaprint test identifies patients with low risk versus high risk of distant metastases, detecting active metastatic process before clinically detectable metastasis (Caroline van der Meijden from Agendia) and the Hi-NL initiative built to support innovators in developing medical technology – affordably and with a proven patient benefit (Maroeska Rovers from Hi-NL). It also offered a deep dive into Organoplates, which can mimic the complex nature of cancer (Jos Joore, the CEO of Mimetas). And last, looking into how foundation medicine and Roche oncology meet for a comprehensive approach in transforming medical knowledge to improve treatments – a lecture revealing how data, technology and analytics can accelerate R&D and improve outcomes, while arguing that personalized medicine requires collaboration across different healthcare stakeholders (Sophie Dusoswa from Roche Foundation Medicine).

The chance to connect

Each lecture started with an interactive poll and at the end, provided the participants the chance to ask questions. The event also gave the opportunity to meet and network. Through more than 130 one-on-one conversations and 55 separate meeting sessions spread over the course of the afternoon, the event was successful at bringing researchers, clinicians and industry together to connect and discuss state of the art issues in the field.

Sophie Dusoswa from Roche Foundation Medicine speaking during Biotech Wednesday, 2020.

Biotech Wednesday 2020 took place on the 25th of November. The event was recorded and is now available to watch in two sessions:

Biotech Wednesday 2020: Part I
Biotech Wednesday 2020: Part II
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