Biotech CEOs gather in San Francisco to mull 2019 outlook

On the agenda at this year's Biotech Showcase is a panel discussion entitled “Cell and gene therapy: The financing surge” featuring Orgenesis CEO Vered Caplan

scientist in a lab
Industry leaders see the Biotech Showcase as a must-go-to event

When the annual Biotech Showcase kicks off next Monday in San Francisco, the CEOs of prominent biotech companies will outline thoughts on pressing topics ranging from the state of next-generation immunotherapies to how to make a dent in rare and orphan diseases.

High on the agenda at this popular yearly forum, which runs from January 7 through January 9 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, is a panel discussion entitled “Cell and gene therapy: The financing surge” featuring Vered Caplan, the CEO of Orgenesis (NASDAQ:ORGS), a developer of advanced cell therapies.

Caplan has been invited to discuss how disruptive therapeutic products in the area of gene and cell therapy are generating tremendous interest from investors. Her presentation will be held Tuesday, January 8 at 8 am (PST) (Yosemite A room).

Industry chieftains see the Biotech Showcase as a must-go-to meeting as it comes as JP Morgan’s annual healthcare conference starts in San Francisco (Westin St. Francis Hotel).

“The showcase is perhaps the most important investor meeting that we have this year,” pointed out Robert Beckman, director of business development for Orgenesis, in an interview with Proactive. “Everyone will be in San Francisco who either has an interest in investment or raising capital in the biotechnology industry.”

Also on the list of talks is a presentation by Rodney Varner, the CEO of Genprex Inc (NASDAQ:GNPX), the clinical-stage gene therapy company based in Austin, Texas, that focuses on cancer.

At 3:30 pm (PST) on Monday (Franciscan A- ballroom level), Varner will present the case for Genprex’s approach to treating cancer, which includes the company’s flagship immunogene therapy, Oncoprex that aims to fight non-small cell lung cancer. Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston have reported favorable trial results with the therapy which is capable of interrupting cell signaling pathways that cause the replication and proliferation of cancer cells.

READ: How Genprex took an abandoned pipeline drug and turned it into Oncoprex, an innovative treatment for non-small cell lung cancer

“Genprex stands at the forefront of the new age in the fight against cancer, and I am immensely proud to be with a company operating in that position,” noted Varner in a statement sent to Proactive.

Richard Schumacher, the CEO of Pressure BioSciences Inc (OTCQB:PBIO), meanwhile, will provide an overview of the platform technology company’s business and offer an outlook for 2019 on Monday, January 7 at 2 pm (Franciscan A).

The company’s pressure-cycling technology hinges on the use of hydrostatic pressure and its devices are used for drug development and biomarker discovery as well as food science research.

“This is a very important meeting as it gives me a chance to meet in a three-day period with potential investors and customers,” said Schumacher in a telephone interview with Proactive.

READ: Pressure BioSciences' Ultra Shear Technology system may solve the cannabinoid delivery issue

Among the other companies presenting in San Francisco are the UK-based cell therapy specialist ReNeuron Group PLC (LON:RENE), which is gearing up for a busy 2019 thanks to two clinical trials. Patient screening and enrollment have commenced for its most advanced program, a CTX stem cell therapy for strokes, which is entering phase IIb trials. Top-line data from the US study is expected in early 2020.

At the same time, ReNeuron’s scientists have optimized the dosing for the company’s hRPC drug for an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa and a Phase 1/2 assessment has restarted. An initial read-out from the research is expected by the middle of the year.

Flying in from London as well to deliver a lecture is Lisa Anson, CEO of Redx Pharma Plc (LOND:REDX) and the former president of AstraZeneca PLC’s (LON:AZN) UK division. The AIM-quoted biotech Redx specializes in developing cancer and fibrosis-fighting drugs.

Its flagship drug is RXC004, a porcupine inhibitor, a new and potentially breakthrough method of fighting cancer. Porcupine inhibitors work by targeting cancer stem cells that can often lie dormant after traditional treatment and are associated with a recurrence of the illness. Anson’s presentation will take place at 3 pm (PST) on Tuesday, January 8 (Yosemite A – Ballroom level).

READ: ChemioCare gets DEA clearance to introduce dronabinol patch for cancer patients

A presentation is expected too from Pedro Lichtinger, CEO of ChemioCare USA, a privately held biotech company that focuses on cancer care. Based in New York, the company specializes in neutralizing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting through its own transdermal patch technology. Its management is looking to take the company public in the first half of this year.

Additional panel discussions to be aired at the conference include a retrospective look at the biotech sector with former analysts on January 7 at 4 pm (Imperial Ballroom) and a Reexamination of Alzheimer’s: Is it a singular disease? on January 8 at 8 am (Yosemite C).

Contact Ellen Kelleher at [email protected]

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