Cencora VP & Head of Cell & Gene Therapy Service Line Discusses the ThinkLive Cell and Gene Therapy Summit

PC: Cencora’s ThinkLive Cell and Gene Therapy Summit was an inaugural biopharma event dedicated to exploring the future of cell and gene therapies (CGTs). Could you expound on the goal of this event, and what excites you the most about it?

Cheng: At Cencora, we really believe in cell and gene therapy. There’s so much promise for patients around the world, and we’re just thrilled by what has been achieved in the last five years. There are approvals in the US and Europe, there’s a lot more in the pipeline that are coming. From what we can see, we’re not entering a new era, where you have new modalities, or they’re reaching the markets, and you have other pipeline assets that are targeting larger patient populations. If you think about the green pipeline and the potential, there is so much that’s out there. At the same time, the path to commercialization is quite complex. There’s a lot of barriers and challenges that can really impact the success of the products and ultimately, patient access. So, at Cencora we partner with cell and gene therapy companies to provide what we call end to end solutions to help them bring their therapy all the way from discovery through commercialization.

The goal of the summit was to bring our leaders together from across the industry. We had representatives from biopharma companies, patient advocates, advocacy groups, trade associations, and the FDA to really foster that collaboration. I think best practices that will really support a lot of companies that are out there developing and trying to figure out how to really focus on their commercialization. I am most excited by the level of engagement, and the knowledge sharing that has occurred. I think all of this will ultimately support the growth of the sector and ensure more patients can benefit from these groundbreaking therapies.

PC: What specific trends in the space have been instrumental in driving the commercial success of CGTs?

Cheng: The short answer is early planning. So, I’m a music fan. If you think about the commercialization process, that is cell and gene is like conducting a Mahler symphony, you have a lot of players. The music score is complex, there’s so many moving parts. If you put that framework within the context of drug development, commercialization, similarly, you need to work with a lot of different stakeholders in that planning and execution process. I would say there’s a couple of critical areas including patient access and support, regulatory strategy, supply chain design, market access, and then the overall stakeholder engagement. When we were putting together our meeting, we’re very intentional in building out an agenda that really reflected all these crucial areas, and that we incorporated a different perspective. I know we talked about from pharma companies that participated, we made sure that we have leaders who’ve kind of been there. They’ve navigated through that so that they can share their perspectives.

We continue to really focus on best practices. We talked to a lot of companies. If you think about one example, and that is payer engagement, it is something that really needs to occur way early in that development cycle, understanding the payers’ expectations so that your evidence package can ultimately showcase the therapies benefit, and to justify the cost and to address the payer concerns and priorities.

The last piece I’ll say as part of the early planning and going back to my analogy, being able to work cross functionally, being able to have that perspective as you develop your strategy is critical. That means you need to have crucial conversations around the different parts of the organization and an understanding the interdependencies between research development and commercialization.

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