On March 14-15, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (“MassBio”) held its Annual Meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Meeting also featured a Keynote from FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. (see related blog here). Key themes at the Meeting were the importance of the Cambridge/Boston biotechnology community for advancing new therapies and the unique resources available in the area that have made it an industry leader. Some of the Cambridge/Boston advantages discussed were the intellectual research capital (local universities such as Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology), venture capital, and local biotechnology businesses, such as Biogen Idec and Genzyme, as well as other biotechnology companies that now have offices in the Cambridge/Boston area and are seeking partnerships to develop new products, such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Merck, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi.
On the second day, Hamburg described here “special affection” for the Cambridge/Boston region dating back to her days at Harvard, saying that she hopes D.C. “would be as efficient and congenial as here.” Hamburg said that the Cambridge/Boston region is a life sciences enterprise fueled by top notch research and medical care with the top five NIH-funded hospitals and a “biotech supercluster second to none” with “a remarkable 500 biotech and pharma companies here, and some thirty venture capital firms.”
Hamburg described FDA as striving for true collaboration and regulatory flexibility with industry, including MassBio, and has been hearing that industry wants more clarity, certainty, transparency with decisions. Hamburg said that FDA is trying to have creative approaches–not a one size-fits-all approach. To this end, Hamburg described approaches that FDA has taken with four new products from the Massachusetts area: 1) Inclusig® for two rare forms of leukemia, 2) Juxtapid® (an orphan drug), 3) Linzess® for irritable bowl syndrome, and 4) Kalydeco® for cystic fibrosis. In addition, Hamburg highlighted new provisions in the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act (“FDASIA”) for expedited approvals, citing 31 breakthrough therapy designation requests, of which 9 have been granted, 10 denied, 11 pending, and 1 withdrawn. To help with more companies taking advantage of this new process, FDA will be publishing a new guidance shortly, Hamburg announced.