26.09.2018 – Immunotherapy and artificial intelligence, two of the most expanding and technologically developed areas, at BIOSPAIN 2018
- On the second day of the 9th International Meeting on Biotechnology, BIOSPAIN 2018, discussions encompassed market access, the circular economy, antimicrobial resistance, AI and immunotherapy
- Spain ranks alongside France in scientific production, but only alongside Belgium in private R&D investment
- Formulas for the use, management and reuse of resources in the session ‘Industrial Biotechnology & Circular Economy Forum’
- Artificial intelligence can play a leading role in the advances made by the biomedical sector and in health sciences
Seville, 26 September 2018.- The challenges of the processes of collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and biomedical research, the different perspectives on industrial biotechnology and the trends in the circular economy, the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and the use of therapies with monoclonal antibodies and CAR-T cells. All of these were covered during the second day of the 9th International Meeting on Biotechnology, BIOSPAIN 2018, which is taking place in Seville on 25-27 September.
Immunotherapy is one of the key developments in recent years in the field of oncology and it has also shared the limelight at BIOSPAIN 2018. In fact, according to Dr. Luis de la Cruz-Merino, the Head of the Medical Oncology Department at the Virgen Macarena University Hospital (Seville), it is “very sensible” to include a session like this one as it is one of the areas undergoing the greatest expansion, growth and technological development. “It has supposed a total revolution in recent times and it is one of the cornerstones, together with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery and targeted therapies” the moderator of the session said.
Specifically, Dr De la Cruz-Merino highlighted that the results obtained in different solid neoplastic and haematological tumour types have had a clear impact on the increase in survival of patients with melanoma, lung cancer, kidney cancer, lymphoma or leukaemia but, despite this, “development continues to occur in a highly accelerated form”. However, the specialist says that “the journey has started”.
Dr De la Cruz-Merino underlined that there are a highly acceptable number of clinical trials conducted in Spain and stressed that it is necessary to provide a greater incentive for academic research.
For his part, Dr. Ignacio Melero, the Co-Director of the Immunology and Immunotherapy Department of the University Clinic of Navarra (CUN), summarised the milestones in the development of cancer immunotherapy with strategies based on laboratory antibodies, immunostimulant monoclonal antibodies. “These treatment strategies have met with unprecedented success in medical oncology and this means that a large number of people from a very wide spectrum of cancerous diseases respond to treatment. We are talking about responses to treatment in 15%-25% of patients, responses that are usually long-lasting and of great interest”, the doctor said.
Along the lines of this session, Marta E. Alarcón, Head Medical Genomics, Genyo and Head Managing Entity PRECISESADS IMI Project, said in her plenary address that molecular studies will help to specify the molecular channels by which patients develop autoimmune diseases or outbreaks and thereby select the best treatments. “Autoimmune diseases have been barely studied despite being suffered by young people, mostly women. In many cases, they are deadly and their cost is extremely high. In fact, in the United States lupus erythematosus is the fifth cause of death among Hispanic and Afro-American women. They are very heterogenous, difficult to diagnose and treatment is based on trial and error”, she said.
She also reiterated that public-private collaboration can prove “very fruitful and produce mutual learning and benefit.” By way of an example, she mentioned the PRECISESADS project funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) of the European Union.
The circular economy in Spain
Ending the dependence on fossil fuels and ensuring food in a sustainable manner are two of the greatest challenges that humanity faces today. What is called the circular economy proposes to link the solution to these two challenges through the improved use and reuse of resources.
The session Industrial Biotechnology & Circular Economy Forum, moderated by Manuel Laínez, the Coordinator of the National Institute of Agricultural Food Research and Technology (INIA) and of the Spanish Bioeconomy Observatory, addressed some of the many fronts that have now been opened up by biotechnology in the field of the circular economy.
Biotechnological developments may be classified into those based on biomass from agriculture, food, forests and from solid urban waste, as Mr Laínez outlined. He emphasised that in all these fields, “biotechnology is developing productive processes that will enable transformation of these biomasses into diverse bioproducts, from bioplastics to cosmetics, including energy”.
Given that the biotechnological sector is undertaking some of the most promising initiatives with a view to this more efficient use of resources, the session boasted national and international speakers who presented successful cases and projects in progress. In this regard, Mr Laínez, who highlighted the role of public-private collaboration in these initiatives, said that in the four successful cases that were presented “there is now something specific”; from the use of biomasses for producing compostable bioplastics to the use of algae for producing composites for agricultural or energy use.
In fact, in Mr Laínez’s view, the characteristic that links all the developments is applicability. “These are products that are in the scale-up phase. They are still not on the market but they are very close and they are beginning to make the circular economy a reality, on the basis of biotechnology”, he said. Within projects linked to public policies, Mr Laínez spoke of the role of urban solid waste, which is receiving a major boost, “due to the fact that there is a time horizon (2024) in which they are going to have to be managed differently”.
Spain versus Belgium and France
During the Plenary Session, there was discussion of the opportunity it would suppose for Spain if private investment in science were brought up to the level of scientific production, in which our country is a leader. Philippe Monteyne, a partner of the Belgian investment fund FUND+, and a member of several biotechnological companies in which his company has invested capital, drew a picture of the Spanish biotechnological sector that is notable not only for its talent and its opportunities for investors but also for the fact that there is much left to do.
“In this country, the level of publications is impressive. Spain ranks alongside France in the number of scientific publications; but with regard to private investment, it is level with Belgium, a much smaller country”, said Monteyne, who expressed his commitment to reinforcing the relationship between companies and Belgian and Spanish institutions in the field of biotechnology. “We can help start-ups to grow, not only with money but with our experience”, added Monteyne, who said that one of the aims of the fund is to help innovative initiatives to overcome the “valley of death” into which many innovative initiatives fall before they can find success.
Optimisation of the results of AI
If there is one thing agreed upon by the experts who participated in the session Artificial Intelligence: how your company can take advantage of it, it is that everything and everyone is connected. There is no doubt that the amount of data handled today is enormous and that the key lies in knowing how to transform and manage it. To do so, it is important to have professionals who know how to manage this data and understand that people and computers have to work in tandem, as noted by Carlos Galmarini, Head Cell Biology and Pharmacogenomics of Pharmamar and moderator of the meeting. “Using AI, it will be possible to resolve issues that today are impossible to resolve and enable new research to be conducted”, he added.
Focusing on the health sector, Mr Galmarini said that the area of medicine is flooded with data and that it possesses “valuable sources of information” that can be used for pre-clinical and clinical research. Moreover, AI makes it possible to generate information with an “extraordinary” degree of detail about a person’s health and “handle massive amounts of data and distinguish between important patterns and ideas so that its application to everyone’s particular situation is possible”, he said.
Meanwhile, Ciriaco Maraschiello, Global Head Drug Development Aptuit, led the presentation Intelligence applied in Drug Discovery & Development: a dream or a reality?, in which he said that this situation responds to a simple concept, which is that we are in continuous and constant evolution. “AI consists of collecting data, eliminating the part that is not wanted, analysing it and selecting the most appropriate model to achieve the aim and, finally, interpreting it or, in other words, drawing conclusions and making predictions”, he said.
By following these steps, it will be possible to achieve important improvements in the health sector. This will be a key tool for optimising clinical outcomes as well as for responding to some of the most complex problems that surround this area, as the specialists indicated.
The Platinum sponsors of BIOSPAIN 2018 are PharmaMar and Gilead.
Head of Communication ASEBIO and BIOSPAIN 2018
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