Inaugural AACR Oncology Industry Partnering Event Aims to Help Scientists Turn Research Into Treatments  

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is launching a new event that will bring researchers together with industry partners and investors to help foster the connections needed to take innovative science from bench to market. The Inaugural AACR Oncology Industry Partnering Event will be held April 4-5, 2024 in San Diego, immediately prior to the AACR Annual Meeting 2024. However, registration for the two events is separate.  

The event’s cochairs are Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, FAACR, Past President of the AACR and professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope; Christiana Bardon, MD, MBA, comanaging partner of biotech investment at MPM/BioImpact Capital; and William N. Hait, MD, PhD, FAACR, AACR Treasurer and Past President; and executive vice president, chief external innovation and medical officer, and a member of the executive committee at Johnson & Johnson. Supporters of the event include Leerink Partners, Royalty Pharma, MPM/BioImpact Capital, and City of Hope; and presentations will include industry spotlights on discovery and early-stage clinical development from 12 pharmaceutical companies:  

  • Amgen 
  • AstraZeneca 
  • Bayer Pharmaceuticals 
  • Boehringer Ingelheim 
  • Bristol Myers Squibb 
  • Genentech: A Member of the Roche Group 
  • Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine 
  • Loxo@Lilly 
  • Merck 
  • Novartis 
  • Pfizer 
  • Takeda Oncology  
Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, FAACR
Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, FAACR

Caligiuri, an entrepreneur who cofounded several companies (including Pelotonia, CancerBridge, and CytoImmune Therapeutics), shared the goals for this inaugural meeting as the AACR works to continue its mission to accelerate progress in the treatment and cure of cancer.   

Why is the AACR organizing this event? 

The idea for this came when I was AACR President in 2018. We were discussing what more we can do for our members beyond everything the AACR already offers and one of the things we talked about was how to better help scientists get their ideas to patients. While our ultimate goal as researchers is to prevent and cure cancer, many don’t understand the business aspects behind achieving that goal. There are some very large and very small meetings that offer resources and strategies around how to better take an innovative idea through the drug development process, but the AACR wanted to offer something specifically geared to our members’ needs. 

Scientists think very differently from businesspeople, and they may lack a full grasp of the commercialization requirements and hurdles that must be overcome to arrive at an FDA-approved product. And any researcher who is interested in commercializing their product for the masses needs to learn how to work outside of academia since treatments don’t often get FDA approval without the involvement of a very large investment of capital and guidance from venture or private equity firms as well as pharmaceutical companies.

So, learning to work with pharma, the investment community, and regulators is an important skillset for scientists to develop. Likewise, members of the pharma, biotech, and investment community need access to the best science that lies in the hands of researchers within the academic community. Our hope is the AACR Oncology Industry Partnering Event will help both parties connect, learn more about each other’s needs, and further the work the AACR is already doing to advance cancer research and drug development.  

What can attendees expect from the meeting? 

One component of this meeting will be offering “how-to” strategies on the best ways to work with industry partners. For example, we will have a business development strategy session with our cochair Chris Bardon and Robert Radinsky of Johnson & Johnson Innovative Medicine.  

We also asked presenters from 12 of the largest pharma companies in the world to share what they have coming up in their oncology pipelines, what they are excited by, and what they look for in investment opportunities. This will help researchers learn about potential opportunities for them and what areas they may want to focus on that are of interest to pharma. Importantly, the meeting will also be attended by many small and large biotechnology companies and investment firms who, as I noted above, are a key piece to successful commercialization. 

Additionally, Richard Pazdur, MD, director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, will be interviewed by Alexander Gaffney from Politico’s AgencyIQ in a fireside chat.  

Perhaps most importantly, there will be plenty of networking opportunities as well as one-on-one and small group meeting opportunities, so scientists can make important connections with the people who can help make their research a clinical reality.  

What lessons do you hope attendees learn that you wished you knew early in your career? 

When I started 30 years ago, there wasn’t an opportunity like this to meet with oncology-focused pharma, biotech, and potential investors, so I would have loved to be able to make those connections. This is a rare chance to meet with people who can help turn science into solutions for patients, which is what we all aspire towards. For instance, John C. Reed, Executive Vice President, Pharmaceuticals, Research & Development of Johnson & Johnson will be one of the speakers. That is exactly the type of person I would have loved to be able to meet early in my career. 

How would you define the success of this meeting? 

In its first year, we hope attendees come away with the lessons and connections they need to bridge the gap between scientific discovery and commercialization of their science. The goal is for this meeting to grow each year to include more participants from both sides—research and business—to make it easier for exciting and innovative science to reach the patients.   

Editor’s Note: In addition to serving as cochairs of the Inaugural AACR Oncology Industry Partnering Event, Caligiuri, Bardon, and Hait will host two educational sessions related to entrepreneurship on April 6 at the AACR Annual Meeting 2024: ED14 – “The Road to Entrepreneurship” and ED15 -“Entrepreneurship: Interacting with Regulatory Agencies.” Access to these sessions requires Annual Meeting registrants to purchase a separate Educational Program Pass.