Second Regional BioCamp dedicated to contemporary approaches in treatment of cancer and neglected diseases
From 20–22 May 2012, the Regional BioCamp is once again hosting in Ljubljana 35 selected best and most promising undergraduate and postgraduate natural-science students from the Alpe–Adria region. The event, which is unique in Slovenia, has this year brought together the participants and renowned experts from home and abroad with a common denominator of commitment to broadening access to the most advanced therapies in the field of malignant and neglected diseases to as many people as possible. The Regional BioCamp will close tomorrow evening in Ljubljana Castle with a presentation of awards for the participants with the best business plan for starting up and developing a biotechnology company.
»The Regional BioCamp offers a first-hand insight into the work, research and development within the pharmaceutical industry to the most promising students who will make an important contribution to the development of science and industry in the future. In a modern and innovative manner it presents trends and the most advanced approaches, fosters collaboration between academia and business, and, above all, offers the participants an insight into opportunities for career development in the field of their chosen studies. This also gives them the opportunity to meet and interact with top established experts from Slovenia and abroad and at the same time network with other talented students,« said Vojmir Urlep, President of the Lek Board of Management, who addressed the participants upon their arrival on behalf of the organizer of the Regional BioCamp.
Key topics of this year’s BioCamp – contemporary trends in diagnostics and therapy for cancer and development of medicines for rare, under-researched diseases – presented by leading researchers from the academic world, sparked many interesting debates and exchange of opinions. This year’s focus is primarily on the importance of including patients and their needs in the treatment and drug development.
Drug development and access to the most advanced therapies are important
Prof. dr Uroš Urleb, Chief Scientific Officer at Sandoz global product development spoke to students about trends in the development of the generic pharmaceutical industry: »At Sandoz, knowledge, innovation and development have a special place. As a part of Sandoz and as one of the most successful business companies in Slovenia we have been for many years striving to co-create an atmosphere where knowledge and innovation are key drivers of progress,« said prof. Urleb. The foundation for Sandoz success is a high level of investment in development and research and a clear focus on global markets where as a part of the second largest generic pharmaceutical company in the world, it successfully competes in one of the most challenging industries. »Sandoz is a global leader in complex differentiated generics and plays a pioneering and leading role in biosimilars which due to cost-effectiveness enables a broader accessibility of the most advanced therapies,« stressed prof. Urleb in his lecture.
Biological medicines are becoming an indispensible part of a modern approach to the treatment of both cancer and rare diseases. Unfortunately the most advanced therapies which, among others, are based also on biosimilars, are often very expensive or not available. In the European Union, biosimilars have made an important contribution toward significant savings in health system spending in recent years. In 2011, global sales of Sandoz biosimilars reached 261 million USD and Sandoz has almost a 50% market share in biosimilars globally.
Dr. Anandhi Johri, Head Global Program Oncology Development at Novartis, talked at the Regional BioCamp about the advantages of biosimilars in oncology and highlighted, apart from quality and accessibility of such medicines, also their efficient elimination of therapy’s side effects. »A certain biosimilar medicine can overcome severe side effects of chemotherapy, prevent major infections, protect the patient from secondary complications and shorten hospitalisation. Effective and early cancer treatment with high quality biosimilars leads to major national healthcare system savings,« added dr. Johri.
Early diagnosis facilitates quick and effective treatment
A lecture on the challenges for modern biomedicine in the future was given to the participants of the BioCamp by prof. dr. Boris Turk, Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular and Structural Biology at the Jozef Stefan Institute, who pointed out among other considerations: »Drug development requires an understanding of the molecular mechanisms of diseases. There are more targets for every disease but we have to ask ourselves which one is the best. By targeted drug delivery we can significantly improve their bioavailability and reduce toxicity. Early disease diagnosis is the first process which can contribute significantly to the effectiveness of treatment.«
At the roundtable, the importance of early diagnosis was described also by dr. Marjeta Terčelj, Head of the Clinical Department for Pulmology at the University Medical Centre, Ljubljana. Referring to diagnosing malignant diseases prior to treatment, she stressed the importance of a good and early clinical assessment and of the assumption that the patient may have cancer. Later on in the process, rational diagnostics, a good assessment of the stage of the disease and spread of tumour are invaluable, followed by a team decision on the most appropriate method of treatment for an individual patient, she explaines. »Diagnostics with all investigations, especially invasive ones, is carried out only to the extent which benefits the patient in the sense of further appropriate treatment. Some patients, due to failing organs, the toxic effect of oncology treatment and medicines such as cytostatics, biological medicines and also radiotherapy, are sometimes not eligible for specific oncology treatment.« As the most advanced methods for diagnosing malignant diseases, dr. Terčelj specified diagnostic imaging, underlining radiology imaging, computer tomography, isotopic diagnostics and magnetic resonance. Indispensable are also a cito-histological verification of organ disease and an assessment of the functional condition of individual organs with regard to the potential justification for surgical treatment, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. She also highlighted the importance of establishing a mutual personal trust between the patient and the doctor, first in diagnostic methods and in the later stage also in the treatment itself and expertise of the medical staff. »An important element in the treatment are also close family members and of course the patient’s partner,« added doc. Terčelj.
Systemic treatment of malignant diseases and cooperation with patients have become essential
»Systemic treatment with chemotherapy, hormone therapy, target treatment and imunomodulators is after surgery and radiotherapy the most recent method of cancer treatment,« said dr. Simona Borštnar from the Division of Medical Oncology at the Institute of Oncology Ljubljana in her lecture on systemic cancer treatment, repeatedly mentioning that in order to eradicate all cancer cells it is essential to have an effective systemic therapy with medicines which reach all parts of the body.
Dr. Mojca Senčar, president of the Europa Donna Association, in her subsequent lecture, added to the points made by dr. Borštnar by stressing the importance of collaboration between the profession and cancer patient associations and highlighted the following: » Development of novel, more advanced and efficient medicines for cancer treatment is of major importance, and an important part in the process of treatment are patients who today no longer play a passive role but are increasingly taking an active part. They want to know more about their disease and course of treatment, and in particular hope that scientists will develop even more effective medicines which will enable longer survival and a better quality of life.«
More research in the field of rare diseases will help in the development of new medicines
As many as 80% of rare diseases, among them pulmonary arterial hypertension, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy, are a result of genetic defects. Diagnostics is therefore often carried out by genetic testing. Focusing on rare and under-researched diseases is an important part of Novartis innovation strategy. Patients who suffer from a rare medical condition are, due to their uniqueness, often isolated and often also their personal doctors do not know how to help them. »A disease is considered rare if it affects less than 200,000 people in the world, and as we know of approximately 7,000 rare diseases, the number of patients is relatively large. Novartis as a leader in the development of medicines for rare diseases promotes the raising of awareness about these people and their specific needs by publishing advanced research work results in particular,« said prof. Paul Herrling, Chairman of the Board of the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, Novartis in his lecture on searching for medicines for rare diseases. Prof. Herrling endeavours to bring as many new drugs as possible to the market and at the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research there are projects for over 40 rare diseases in progress.
The Regional BioCamp will continue on Tuesday, May 22, when the participants will finalise case studies in break-out sessions, visit one of the Sandoz development centres in Slovenia and view the Lavička apothecary collection. In the last part of the professional programme they will also learn about opportunities for career development within the pharmaceutical industry, this year presented by Samo Roš, Head of Human Resources and member of the Lek Board of Management, and Dr Violeta Gabrijelčič, Global Head Pharmaceuticals and Device Development, Global Biopharmaceutical Development, Sandoz. Dr Gabrijelčič said before meeting the students tomorrow: »Sandoz demonstrates its social responsibility regularly by transferring knowledge to the young, in this case young scientists. Special emphasis is given to their career development, therefore the challenge that we can offer, as a part of a global company, can be an important step to business success. Involvement in such a large system opens up numerous employment opportunities, stimulates broader development in many areas, while at the same time requires the exceptional capabilities of each individual.« Samo Roš, Head of Human Resources and member of the Lek Board of Management, added: »We appreciate the contribution of new knowledge, competences and abilities of successful students. Already last year we witnessed the outstanding potential of the participants therefore I am sincerely pleased to host for the second year in a row such talented young hopefuls for whom I believe that in the future they will build on the recognition for their work. Of course we will help them to achieve this. The future of our business is also based on talent development.«
The Regional BioCamp will close on the evening of 22 May in Ljubljana Castle, with the presentation of awards to the best case studies from the competition part of the Regional BioCamp. The winners will earn a place at the now-annual Novartis International BioCamp 2012, which will be held at the end of August in Basel, Switzerland.
Lek, a Sandoz company, is one of the pillars of leading world generics company Sandoz. Its role within Sandoz is to act as: a global development center for products and technologies; a global manufacturing center for active pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines; a competence center for the development of vertically integrated products; a Sandoz competence center in the field of development and manufacturing of biosimilar products; and, a supply center for the markets of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), South East Europe (SEE) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and it is responsible for sales on the Slovenian market. For further information please visit http://www.lek.si/eng/.
Sandoz, a Division of the Novartis group, is a global leader in the field of generic pharmaceuticals, offering a wide array of high-quality, affordable products that are no longer protected by valid and enforceable third-party patents. Sandoz has a portfolio of approximately 1000 compounds and sells its products in about 130 countries. Key product groups include cardiovascular medicines, anti-infectives, treatments for central nervous system and alimentary tract disorders, oncology and respiratory therapies, as well as medications for blood and blood forming organ disorders. Sandoz develops, produces and markets these medicines along with pharmaceutical and biotechnological active substances. In addition to strong organic growth in recent years, Sandoz has made a series of acquisitions including Lek (Slovenia), Sabex (Canada), Hexal (Germany), Eon Labs (US), EBEWE Pharma (Austria), and Oriel Therapeutics (US). In 2011, Sandoz employed more than 24,000 people (full-time equivalents) worldwide and achieved net sales of USD 9.5 billion for the full year. For more information, please visit www.sandoz.com.
Sandoz is on Twitter. Sign up to follow @Sandoz_global at http://twitter.com/sandoz.
Novartis provides innovative healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, eye care, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools, over-the-counter and animal health products. Novartis is the only global company with leading positions in these areas. In 2011, the Group’s continuing operations achieved net sales of USD 58.6 billion, while approximately USD 9.6 billion (USD 9.2 billion excluding impairment and amortization charges) was invested in R&D throughout the Group. Novartis Group companies employ approximately 124,000 full-time-equivalent associates and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit www.novartis.com.
Novartis is on Twitter. Sign up to follow @Novartis at http://twitter.com/novartis.
This press release contains statements and conclusions based on projections of Lek’s future business operations. These estimates are derived from the best information currently available. In case these forecasts prove unreliable, the actual results could prove different from those projected.
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