How Collaboration Drives Innovation

Today's guest blog comes from Symantha (Sam) Melemed, Ph.D., Global Product Team and Novel Target Leader, Oncology at Lilly

In my area of research, it feels like I witness history every day.

Oncology research is transforming from a “one size fits all” approach to driving therapeutic advances that can be tailored to individual patients based on the characteristics of their disease. Today, we have a deeper understanding of cancer biology and can better determine what makes each tumor—and each patient—unique. Insights gleaned from comprehensive diagnostic testing can help guide individualized treatment decisions, which improves our ability to pinpoint a beneficial therapy.

Yet like any shift in paradigm, several challenges remain. For example, a rapidly growing volume of digital health care data has helped catalyze the field of precision medicine; however, these data remain diffuse, inconsistent and difficult to access and integrate. Not only do the data themselves need greater levels of standardization, the very ways we generate them—through genomic sequencing, clinical trials, and electronic medical records (“real-world evidence”), etc.—could be better aligned across the field.

I recently joined a panel of experts at the 2019 Biopharma Congress to discuss these topics and their relationship to precision oncology. During the event, I was reminded of the extensive cooperation that takes place throughout our sector. We often refer to the network of academia, government and industry as a “drug-development ecosystem,” because every organization has a unique but interdependent role to play in discovering and delivering safe and effective new medicines to patients.

Lilly’s acquisition of Loxo Oncology is a great example. Lilly researchers are working closely with the Loxo team to leverage their pioneering scientific approach to help us continue to transform our oncology portfolio. As we work together to bring new targeted therapies forward, our teams maintain regular contact with officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help ensure alignment from the earliest phases of research. Loxo’s previous partnership with regulators about whether a potential treatment should be pursued as tumor-specific or tumor-agnostic, for example, followed the biology of a genetic alteration that predicted benefit across multiple types of cancers.

A long history of collaboration has been crucial to Lilly’s success, and we value our relationships with stakeholders across the oncology ecosystem. As we head into the era of precision medicine, these partnerships will become even more important, particularly as we continue to resolve issues of data standardization, grow our understanding of patient experiences and translate basic science into new medicines that help people living with cancer fight their disease.

The challenges in precision medicine are daunting, but as an oncology researcher, I’ve faced challenges my entire career. Moreover, I don’t face these challenges alone, which makes witnessing this historic period even more rewarding. Each new breakthrough is a win not just for me, but also for the thousands of people who played a role, and, most importantly, for the millions of patients and their families who now have more options in the fight against cancer.