Earlier this year, Caris Life Sciences, a leading molecular science and technology company, and HotSpot Therapeutics, Inc., a biotechnolgy company pioneering the discover and development of allosteric therapies, announced a partnership to advance precision medicine development.

DocWire News spoke with Brian Lamon, PhD; Chief Business Officer, Head of BioPharma Business Development, Caris Life Science, about this important partnership and about the future of this exciting company with respect to developing precision therapies to combat cancer.

DocWire News: Can you tell us about Caris Life Sciences, and your role with the company?

Dr. Brian Lamon: Sure. So I’m the Chief Business Officer here at Caris Life Sciences. I’ve been here a little bit over a year, joined from the pharmaceutical industry where I spent seven plus years in clinical development and BD. Prior to that, I was on the faculty at Cornell, where I started my career in the Department of Pathology.

Can you elaborate on the goals of the Caris and HotSpot Therapeutics collaboration – what advantages does each company bring, and what are the main challenges the respective companies are looking to solve?

Yeah, absolutely. So maybe the challenges are a good place to start, right? So drug development is fraught with challenges and unfortunately, lots of potentially good medicines and molecules don’t make their way through. So for me, the underlying principle behind this collaboration is about maximizing the success and the opportunity for the medicines and the HotSpot pipeline that can come through and actually reach patients and help them battle their cancer. So the partnership is set up in a way that we’ve been partnering over the last couple years in what we call precision partnering. So it’s really around, how do we leverage all of the tools that Caris has, at Caris Life Sciences, to advance these therapeutics?

So, you can probably divide this into three different areas. One it’s about HotSpot is bringing to the table, what is really a new type of approach, it’s called targeting hotspots. These are [inaudible 00:01:45] areas on proteins, meaning you’re not targeting the active site. You’re targeting another portion of the protein to have that same biological effect. With that, comes a lot of unknowns, in terms of the biology and of excitement. What Caris brings to the table there is we assess every gene, all 22,000 genes, via our whole exome and all of the RNA via our WTS, whole transcriptome. Every patient that we profile gets both of those assays completed. So we have the most comprehensive information in the industry, and this provides an opportunity for a company like HotSpot to know everything there is to know about what’s going on in these tumors.

So I saw that you did a piece recently around EGFR and how other resistance mutations may pop up like Met or others. Well, the beauty of the Caris assay is that we test all the genes. So it doesn’t really matter what pops up along the way. We’re going to have all of that comprehensive content, every gene, every piece of information from the RNA to maximize the development of that asset or maximize the treatment options for a given patient. The collaboration itself is built on really two main pillars beyond the biology. It would be the data and then the profiling. So the data is reflective of what we have in house. So Caris Life Sciences has the largest matched clinical molecular dataset in the industry. So this is, if you think about the value of one piece of molecular information or one piece of clinical information being 1X each, if you combine them, the values 10X or 50X.

So, that’s what we do. We take the most comprehensive molecular data set and pair it up with the clinical information from patients, and then we leverage that information to inform drug development. It’s around which patients should we be treating, which patients should we not be treating? What are the different resistance mechanisms that might pop up? What are the different combinations of drugs that we might want to be providing to patients? And this is critical information to HotSpot because they want to maximize the success of their assets. Within that collaboration, there’s initially two molecules, but this is potentially a broader pipeline deal as well. It is, we refer to it as a preferred portfolio partnership. So it’s about bringing all of that data and biology to bear throughout their entire pipeline.

The last piece, just to quickly wrap up would be the profiling that we’re doing on the clinical trials that they will run. So once they start entering the clinic with their molecules, traditional drug development, you put it into first set of patients, you make sure it’s safe and you start to look for early signs of efficacy. Then it’s around, well, how do you expand? Which tumors do you go into? Which patient populations? How do you select individual, molecularly defined patients in those different tumor types to again, maximize the success of that molecule and get it to regulatory approval as soon as possible?

So they will be profiling and this is pretty unique. They will be profiling every single patient on every trial that they run. They will be looking at both tissue biopsies, as well as liquid biopsies, that Caris will be performing for them. So the amount of data that they’re generating per patient on every single patient on this trial is going to be pretty unprecedented. And I think to me, that is a commitment that will position them to maximize the success of all of their programs.

What are you most excited about regarding President Biden’s Moonshot 2.0 as it relates to Caris’ mission?

Yeah, well, I think it goes hand in hand with what we’re trying to achieve. I think we join millions of Americans in terms of our support for Biden’s Cancer Moonshot, his pledge. And we applaud the mission. This is something that’s near and dear to our hearts, right? Accelerating the progress of the fight against cancer. More specifically, there’s been a lot of reports lately, and I think we’re still, acquiring data as to the impact of COVID. I think President Biden announced somewhere around 9 or 10 million cancer screens have been missed since the pandemic. What does that mean in the long run? Well, that means a lot of patients are going to have their cancers diagnosed at a later stage, which is not a good thing, right? The earlier you can detect cancer, the better chance you’re going to have at survival, it doesn’t really matter what type of cancer it is.

So, we are eager to work with the administration and provide support. Our focus over the past 14 years as a company has been about empowering the patient and the physician with the most comprehensive information that they can possibly have through whole exome and whole transcriptome, all of the DNA, all of the RNA, everything I spoke to on the drug development side and the partnership with HotSpot, it’s all relevant to patients that come in to see their provider today, to see their oncologist today, get a biopsy, get the bad news that they might have cancer and need to find the optimal treatment for their individual cancer. We’re about precision medicine and President Biden’s goal to reduce the death rate from cancer by over 50% in the next 25 years is absolutely where Caris Life Sciences is committed to as well.

Where do you see Caris Life Sciences in 5 years?

Yeah, I think the sophistication of oncology and we’ve been hearing about precision oncology and precision medicine for many years. I think the idea of it is embraced by everyone. I think we haven’t always had the tools to necessarily deliver on it, whether it be the ability to test for all these different types of mutations and alterations that drive cancers or the ability to have enough tools in our tool chest to meeting therapies, to target all of the different types of cancer that we are seeing. So the ability to provide every single doctor and every single patient with that comprehensive blueprint is where we are going. We’ve been doing it in tissue for many years. We want to work more and more with bio pharma to accelerate the development of that next wave of therapeutics.

Today, a patient comes in, gets a biopsy and a physician orders a test. They can use whatever they have again, in that tool chest today. But unfortunately we know that even some of the best targeted therapies and the most exciting revolution in the last 10 plus years has probably been immunotherapy. Most patients don’t respond, even in tumors that are pretty sensitive to immunotherapy or to a biomarker selective population. So we need to have more medicines. We need to have more targeted therapies. We need to be more thoughtful about how to combine different medicines. We also need to think about the patient journey over time. How does their tumor evolve? How do we come in with different treatment options to maximize the chance that any given patient has to survive?

So, our belief is that having most comprehensive information, leveraging our data set, as I mentioned, it’s the largest in the industry. It’s 275,000 patients that we have that molecular and clinical match. Every one of those patients has over a million data points. So there’s a rich amount of data, a rich amount of ability to leverage artificial intelligence, to maximize the development of novel therapies, to get us to a point where we believe we can be the leading molecular and tech company in this space. And by doing that and achieving that goal, we will be helping a lot of patients.

So today we’re doing it in the tissue, we’re moving into liquid. There’s advantages, certainly, to having liquid biopsies. So you can monitor patients over time. It’s less invasive. We have what will be completely unmatched offering in the liquid space to match the comprehensiveness that we’re delivering in the tissue space. So if you think about the next five years, it’s about sophistication in biomarkers, maximizing the comprehensiveness of the information and data that we’re generating from patients to help treat individual patients, as well as, broadly across cancers and helping the next wave of therapeutic development.

Any closing thoughts?

Yeah, I think just that this is a critical time in history. We’re at a point where we’ve had a wave of years where chemotherapy was the only option, then a wave of targeted therapies and a lot of excitement there, immunotherapy. All of these things are coming together. We’ve never been able to sequence tumors and get… The idea of having 22,000 genes measured in one small little biopsy is kind of mind blowing, but we can do this now at a scale that is completely unmatched, and we can do it at a cost that is not billions of dollars, which is probably what it would’ve cost if we were talking 20 years ago. So, pivotal time in history, we have the best in class assay, the most comprehensive content in tissue and liquid. And we want to get that into the hands in as many physicians and patients as needed, to be smart and to be sophisticated as we enter the next era of molecular medicine and precision oncology.