We asked Peter Adamson, Global Head of Oncology Development and Pediatric Innovation at Sanofi, to reflect on an extraordinary year and share his outlook for Sanofi’s oncology R&D landscape in 2021.
Q: How did Sanofi's oncology R&D program change during 2020?
A: Sanofi has increased capacity for immuno-oncology research by adding leading-edge scientific platforms to its programs, including but not limited to mRNA technologies through partnership with BioNTech, and natural-killer cells through our collaboration with Kiadis. When you put these platforms together with Nanobodies™, multi-specific antibodies, Synthorins™, and antibody–drug conjugates, you see a foundational toolkit that accelerates our R&D capabilities. Our scientists are better equipped than ever to continually reinforce the pipeline and identify potential new treatment combinations for some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers.
Q. Such as metastatic breast cancer that claims so many lives each year?
Yes. What we have heard from the community is that patients living with metastatic breast cancer need more effective treatment options, ones that are targeted, have fewer side effects and are less burdensome to administer. We understand patients also need practical solutions and support, so our team is exploring ways to do both.
Q: What has Sanofi learned from the experience of cancer patients who were part of its clinical trials in 2020?
A: In early 2020 our immediate goal was to minimize delays in treatment while prioritizing patient and employee safety during a global pandemic. Sanofi's clinical operations teams swung into action, working with health authorities to secure continuity of care for cancer patients who are particularly vulnerable to infectious disease. They adapted quickly, creating a model to ensure uninterrupted drug supply, for example by delivering to patients' homes where they could be monitored remotely using telemedicine. Clinical trial site staff, patients, and healthy volunteers, and patient organizations all pulled together so that new medicines could be brought to those in need. The knowledge we gained from these experiences will undoubtedly change the way we work, allowing us to be more flexible and efficient.
Q: How is Sanofi making its oncology pipeline more sustainable?
A: Sanofi’s pipeline has broadened considerably in a short time, with candidate treatments being explored at every stage of R&D. We are developing a range of cancer medicines both as stand-alone treatments and in combination with other therapies with the hope of fully maximizing the potential impact.
Strategic partnerships and collaborations are helping us advance this work. For example, our collaboration with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is helping our researchers better identify combinations as well as potential new treatment targets. We are also learning more about the molecular underpinnings of lung cancer, and how different subtypes will increasingly impact treatment recommendations.
Q: What's next for oncology at Sanofi?
A: When I reflect on the perseverance of my Sanofi colleagues and others in the field who helped advance cancer research in 2020, I am optimistic that 2021 will bring us closer to our goal of providing benefit to more patients. There is an incredible depth and breadth of scientific talent at Sanofi, and I believe our internal research capabilities, customized technology platforms, and strategic collaborations will allow us to develop and deliver new medicines for people with cancer.