By Dr Rajan Jethwa, CEO, Ellipses Pharma.
If only there were more Professor Gordon McVies. I’m sure that’s what most of us were thinking when we gathered last week to honour the late renowned oncologist and founding chair of the Ellipses Scientific Affairs Group.
Eminent figures from the international oncology community convened in the Gordon Museum of Pathology at King’s College London as the Gordon McVie Research Leaders Fellowships were launched. At Ellipses, we are proud to support these fellowships. Gordon, who passed away early last year, would have been pleased. He was passionate about ensuring people had access to the best cancer treatment and also the need for creating research opportunities. The aim of the fellowships is to do just that for oncologists from low to middle income countries.
He was also a man in a hurry. As his wife Claudia said when launching these fellowships, he simply wanted to ‘get on with it’ and would urge everyone else to do the same. That sentiment strikes a chord with all of us striving to accelerate better cancer treatments for patients.
At King’s, we listened attentively to leaders from the World Health Organisation, International Atomic Energy Agency, world-class hospitals and clinics highlight the challenges in the provision of radiotherapy across the world. Those of us working in the development of new cancer medicines and therapies share many of the same frustrations. We all want to provide more useful treatments to more patients – and faster.
Of course, there is no magical answer and that’s why Gordon and all of us at Ellipses are committed to maximising the options for patients through the creation of an innovative drug development model that combines unbiased vetting of asset selection with an uninterrupted funding flow minimising the time it takes to advance lead products through clinical trials and reach patients.
This process is underpinned by the blind review process undertaken by a growing body of over 170 specialist scientists and clinicians worldwide, who comprise our Scientific Affairs Group. This approach generates a validated consensus around the science, eliminates group-think and clinical bias, whilst being singularly focused on identifying the science with the clearest path toward translation into the clinic. As its founding chair, Gordon would say it enabled us to ‘get on with it’.
This approach has already enabled us to in-license nine assets, with four active clinical programmes and several in pre-clinical development moving towards the clinic – a disruptive drug development proposition that has been turned into reality at pace. The need to increase the speed and scale of cancer treatment and the deployment of new medicines has never been greater nor more evident. The backlogs of patients awaiting diagnosis and treatment tell their own grim stories. What is on offer to patients is just not keeping up with demand.
To contribute to the development of innovative new medicines and treatments, we have to be bold and ambitious. That does not signal a devil-may-care attitude. Far from it. What can be done though is to eliminate delays in funding drug development, improve asset selection processes, limit operational risks and reduce the hurdles that are so often in place during drug development. And that can be done at speed. There will never be another Gordon McVie, but he has left a substantial legacy and we can, in turn, live by his mantra and ‘just get on with it.’