Nice Long-Form Forbes Story — The History Of Pembro- lizumab/Lambrolizumab: From Organon, To Schering-Plough… To Merck

I suppose we should expect that — when Kenilworth put in play more studies on one candidate than it ever had in its history (and plunked down, into one giant program, multiple billions — more again than it ever before had in its history) — and in such a wide array of often notoriously difficult cancers, there would be a few disappointing null-results.

BMS saw theirs, last summer — Merck saw one about a month and a half ago, and another, just Monday. That reflects the vagaries of the science of human biology — or perhaps more precisely, the vast amount that is still unknown, about the subtleties of the mechanism(s) of action, in immuno-oncology. It is as much art, as it is science, at the cellular/molecular level. Which may in fact be what makes the story so compelling — the mystery of the still alluring unknown (Sweet Will’s “undiscovered country“). . . .

[We might also add a humorous and now trivial side-car, not repeated in the Forbes telling — about how the candidate was originally named “lambro-” not “pembro-” — because back then the focus of the program was melanoma, or skin cancers, in part contracted by convertible Lamborghini driving, gold chain wearing, open silk shirted, balding Southern California movie moguls, not wearing baseball caps in that strong sunshine,] Do go read it all, from Forbes (I won’t quote any of the juicier parts):

. . . .The team set to work on a validation package for the most promising asset in this program, a humanized version of a highly potent and selective antibody, [then known as lambro-] which would come to be known as pembro-, in anticipation of new drug filing (known as an investigation new drug, or IND, application). Unfortunately, as work was continuing, Organon was acquired by Schering Plough in 2007, reportedly to plug a gap in Schering’s phase 2 pipeline. . . .

And while we might quibble with some of Dr. Peter Kim’s less prescient decisions, as to the womens’ health candidates in old Organon’s portfolio — the narrative holds up: both he and Dr. Permutter should be proud of the story behind pembro- (now branded as Keytruda).

IF one is interested, there are nearly 100 separate posts on this blog, tracing other aspects of the arc of the narrative of what became Merck’s current immuno-oncology juggernaut. Feel free to poke around, using the search terms “PDL-1”, “Organon”, “Kim”, “Perlmutter”, and “Cancer” — among others.

I am off-grid most of day, starting at Noon — taking various plaintiffs/witnesses statements in some rather complex potential securities litigation (involving a hapless little public Chicago “software as a service” company). So do go out and enjoy the warm clear air, for me. Onward!

नमस्ते

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