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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Gates and Doors

Important discoveries have enabled continued progress in biopharmaceutical sciences; the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded jointly to Frances Arnold for the directed evolution of enzymes and to George Smith and Sir Gregory Winter for the phage display of peptides and antibodies. This work will accelerate the pace of biopharmaceutical drug discovery and open up opportunities for new agents. The Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to James Allison and Tasuku Honjo for the discovery of cancer therapy by the inhibition of negative immune regulation. The result of their research, immune checkpoint therapy, is recognised as the fourth pillar in the fight against cancer, supplementing surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. It has fundamentally changed the outcome for certain groups of patients with advanced cancers.

At the same time, much work remains to be done in the quest to mitigate chronic diseases. The war on cancer persists as steady progress is made in precision medicine. The majority of recent drug approvals have received breakthrough therapy designation by the FDA. These focus mainly on targeted therapies, reflecting greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms. Among the major tumour types, biomarkers help specify patient treatment protocols and to distinguish different cancers, beyond more than just tissue types.

Cancer immunotherapy studies number in the thousands. The enthusiasm for this approach relates to the stunning success achieved in just a few years – alone or in combination protocols. After initial tissue-specific experience, the field has quickly evolved toward a tissue-agnostic paradigm, based on genetic biomarkers.

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