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New faces for COVID-19’s next phase, ASCO’s hot topics: a BioCentury podcast

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In the latest edition of the BioCentury This Week PODCAST, BioCentury Editor in Chief Simone Fishburn talks to Washington Editor Steve Usdin about the appointments of Michelle McMurry-Heath as CEO of BIO, Moncef Slaoui as vaccines czar in the U.S., and veteran biotech investor Kate Bingham as the chair of the U.K.’s Vaccine Taskforce. Fishburn also speaks with Associate Editor Karen Tkach Tuzman about the hot topics in cancer she’s following at this year’s annual ASCO meeting.

McMurry-Heath will lead the biotech trade group at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has focused the world’s attention on the biopharma industry, and the public is craving leaders who speak about science and medicine with credibility, empathy and authenticity, says Usdin.

He discusses how McMurry-Heath has the opportunity and skill set to achieve the kind of stature that NIAID Director Anthony Fauci and former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb have garnered during the outbreak. If she can do so, she could shape the national conversation about biomedical innovation during and beyond the pandemic (see “McMurry-Heath to Focus on Patients and Innovation”).

Usdin spoke with McMurry-Heath last week in a BioCentury This Week Special Report PODCAST.

For Slaoui, the vaccine veteran who was named head of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, the challenge is managing public expectations. Vaccines will do no good if they are shunned by a public that is confused about the efficacy or disappointed by anything less than complete protection.

Bingham fills a similar role in the U.K., where she builds on years of experience in the industry, which included the launch of the Dementia Discovery Fund, where she corralled pharma companies, non-profits and the government to back a fund dedicated to creating drugs for Alzheimer’s disease that go beyond the amyloid hypothesis (see “Bingham to Lead U.K. Push for a COVID-19 Vaccine”).

Turning to the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s meeting, Tkach Tuzman points to next-generation checkpoint inhibitors and targeted protein degraders as being among the hot topics making waves at this year’s meeting.

The conference, which will be held virtually May 29-31, will feature highly anticipated data from Genentech Inc. on its anti-TIGIT antibody tiragolumab in first-line non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), and Arvinas Inc. (NASDAQ:ARVN), which will present the first evidence that targeted protein degraders can benefit patients (see “TIGIT Emerges as a Standout”; “First Efficacy Signal for Targeted Protein Degradation").

All of BioCentury’s podcasts are available via our website, at, in addition to Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Stitcher.

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