Tuesday, March 26 | 6:30 – 9:30 pm

Oligonucleotide-based Drugs for Cancer Immunotherapy

Oligonucleotide-based therapies are now gaining attention as an alternative to antibody and small molecule-based therapies for cancer immunotherapy. In cancers were current treatment options are limited by efficacy and specificity, oligonucleotide-based drug modalities are offering a better alternative. This course will bring together experts who will share their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges underlying the generation of novel, more targeted and effective oligonucleotide-based therapies for cancer immunotherapy.

6:30 Welcome Remarks and Speaker Introductions

6:45 RNAi Therapy to Potentiate Cancer Immunotherapy

Shanthi Ganesh, PhD, Associate Director, Preclinical Oncology, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

  • Steps for effective immunotherapies
    • Understanding the strategies cancer utilizes to evade from immune system (oncogenic pathways and others)
    • Priming non-inflamed tumors to increase T-cell infiltration (β-catenin inhibitors, KRAS inhibitors, STING agonists, TLR agonists etc.)
    • Tuning suppressive tumor microenvironment (IDO1, Tregs, MDSC, TAM, CAFs etc.)
    • Evaluating and removing co-inhibitory signals/ checkpoints (PD-1, PD-L1, CTLA-4 ab)
  • Unique role of RNAi therapeutics in priming tumors and shaping TME
  • Importance of careful selection of combination partners for an effective personized medicine
  • Examples of pre-clinical evaluations and discussion of how that can be translated into clinical settings

7:30 Coffee and Dessert Break 

7:45 TLR9 Stimulatory Spherical Nucleic Acids (SNA): Targeting Tumor Microenvironment for Improved Benefit of Checkpoint Inhibitor Treatments

Weston Daniel, PhD, Senior Director Program Management, Exicure, Inc.

  • Spherical nucleic acids (SNA) for improved cellular delivery
  • Oligonucleotides targeting TLR9 for innate immune response activation
  • Significance of TLR9 activation for immuno-oncology applications
  • AST-008 a novel SNA for immuno-oncology applications
  • AST-008 preclinical and early clinical results

8:30 Targeting Difficult to Drug Cancer Pathways of the Tumor Microenvironment with Next Generation Antisense Oligonucleotides

Robert MacLeod, PhD, Vice President, Oncology Research and Development, Franchise Head Oncology, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

  • Designing antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) to target and degrade any type of RNAs thus offering broader therapeutic opportunities compared to other treatment modalities
  • Next Generation ASOs to produce pharmacological activity in a variety of cells within the TME including tumor cells and tumor associated immune cells
  • Demonstrated clinical efficacy of Next Generation ASOs in several human cancers as both a monotherapy and in combination with check point inhibitors
  • Advancing several programs targeting additional immune cell pathways, including the Treg cell transcription factor FOXP3 with FOXP3rx/AZD8701


9:15 Q&A with attendees

9:30 End of Course

Speaker Biographies

Shanthi Ganesh, PhD, Associate Director, Preclinical Oncology, Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

As an Associate Director, Shanthi Ganesh leads the Oncology platform at Dicerna Pharmaceuticals, where she develops novel RNAi drugs and evaluates them in combination with targeted therapies and checkpoint inhibitors. Before joining Dicerna, as a Research Investigator at Novartis, she focused on utilizing RNAi therapeutics for multiple oncology targets, where she also led a targeted delivery platform to establish delivery of siRNA to tumor metastasis to demonstrate therapeutic efficacy. Prior to joining Novartis, she worked at two major Gene Therapy companies where she designed, developed and evaluated oncolytic viruses for treatment of cancer. Her work also contributed to the discovery of a systemically deliverable novel oncolytic virus and a new biotech company. She published extensively in siRNA and cancer therapeutics area. She also holds several patents and awards for her work in siRNA and oncology area. She has also been a member of ASCO and AACR for the last several years and attended and presented her work at several international conferences.

MacLeod RobertA. Robert MacLeod, PhD, Vice President, Oncology Research and Development, Franchise Head Oncology, Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Dr. MacLeod is currently the Vice President Oncology Research and Development, and Franchise Head at Ionis Pharmaceuticals. At Ionis he has contributed to the discovery and development of clinical drug candidates in several therapeutic areas including, oncology, thrombosis, inflammatory and muscle diseases.  Prior to joining Ionis, Dr. MacLeod was Senior Director Discovery Biology at Takeda Pharmaceuticals and was a founding scientist of MethylGene Inc. (now Mirati Therapeutics), where he directed the efforts of multidisciplinary drug discovery teams that identified several novel experimental therapeutics. Dr. MacLeod obtained his undergraduate degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry from Concordia University in Montreal and his doctoral degree from McGill University. 

Daniel_WestonWeston Daniel, PhD, Senior Director Program Management, Exicure, Inc.

Wes is currently the Senior Director Program Management at Exicure and leads clinical development for the company. Wes has developed a number of clinical drug candidates in dermatology and oncology. Before his clinical development role, Wes held positions of increasing responsibility in Exicure's research group. He earned his PhD in chemistry at Northwestern University pursuing work related to Exicure's spherical nucleic platform and other nanoparticle diagnostics and therapeutics. Wes has 17 publications, 14 issued patents and dozens of patent applications.

Japan-Flag Korea-Flag China-Simplified-Flag China-Traditional-Flag

Oligonucleotide Discovery and Delivery