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Five trends powering the biotech rebound in 2022

Combatting cancer

Oncology very much remains an area of unmet medical need within the biotech space. However, there are several exciting events expected during the first quarter of 2022 that could mark significant progress in fighting deadly forms of cancer.

An IBT portfolio holding, Mirati Therapeutics, is expected to file its drug for KRAS-mutated lung cancer, which affects 10-15% of lung cancers and is a well-known driver of many solid tumours. Mirati’s drug hopes to be the best-in-class therapy, competing with Amgen, which launched its KRAS inhibitor last year. We also expect to see the final clinical results from Trodelvy, an asset acquired by Gilead Sciences. Trodelvy is a prescription medicine used to treat a sub-set of breast cancer patients, and evidence of success in its clinical trials would expand the patient pool and constitute major progress.

Clinical breakthroughs await

Alongside advances in tackling cancer, 2022 could see potentially revolutionary clinical trials complete. We are anticipating critical data from gene editing companies, which could provide new avenues for treating diseases in highly precise ways by altering human genomes. For example, Intellia Therapeutics expects to present early clinical results for numerous gene editing programmes. The company is utilising the technology to treat rare diseases including transthyretin amyloidosis, hereditary angioedema and hemophilia, as well as to deliver a beneficial therapeutic effect for diseases such as sickle cell and acute myeloid leukemia.

We are also expecting further advances in the field of cellular therapy, whereby a patient’s immune cells are engineered to enable them to identify and kill tumour cells.  Initial cell therapies are highly effective against specific cancers such as blood cancer, but their side effects mean patients often require intensive care treatment. Moreover, the treatment process is prolonged, cumbersome and expensive. There are many programmes in development attempting to address these issues. One example is allogeneic cell therapy, which removes the need for patients to supply their own cells to be engineered. Instead, “off the shelf” donor cells may be used, dramatically reducing the lead time to effective treatment and expanding the pool of potential patients.

Scientific innovation abounds

Scientific innovation continues to expand in an exponential fashion and with terrific pace, largely unfettered by the pandemic. Despite challenging clinical trial recruitments and approval processes due to pandemic restrictions, the US Food and Drug Administration still managed to approve 50 new drugs in 2021, illustrating the continued productivity, resilience and adaptability of the sector, despite moving to a virtual world. Moreover, the number of ongoing clinical trials is still growing and has already surpassed pre-pandemic levels, with 37,033 trials registered globally at the end of December 2021, up from 30,957 at the end of 2018.

On the demand side, the expected doubling of over 65s during the next 50 years, combined with the developing world insisting on better access to healthcare, underpins strong demand for the sector going forward.

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