By the end of this year, for the first time, patients with certain deadly types of blood cancer might have a new option, CAR-T cell therapy, to prolong their life. Immunotherapy could further entrench itself as a mainstay of cancer treatment. Newer drugmaking methods—RNA interference and gene therapy—could get their first ever FDA reviews. Multiple human trials of a new gene editing technology sure to win the Nobel Prize someday may have begun.
These are the types of scientific innovations that challenge norms and change the lives of millions of people across the globe, not to mention the way we think about healthcare. An idea made material years ago in a lab by someone daring enough to take a risk becomes a major research effort, garners investment, and eventually becomes a commercial product that saves a life or slows a disease.
These innovations often take place right here in Boston, one of the birthplaces of biotechnology that, over the past two decades, has emerged as one of the world’s top life sciences hubs. Treatment for multiple myeloma was forever changed by a discovery at Harvard University that later became the drug bortezomib (Velcade). In 2003, a nonprofit group invested in a research project at the University of Massachusetts; in 2016, that research became the first ever approved drug for the rare disease spinal muscular atrophy, sold by Biogen, of Cambridge, MA. A Boston company, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, sells the first drugs to treat the underlying molecular abnormalities in cystic fibrosis. The three publicly traded companies harnessing CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology all reside in Cambridge.
Xconomy has been covering these types innovations for a decade—their long, difficult journeys from bench to bedside, their rise and sometimes spectacular fall, and the stories of the scientists, entrepreneurs, executives, and investors risking it all along the way. Now, with your help, we want to celebrate the gambles, the bold ideas, and ultimately the critical role that the Boston life sciences community plays in shaping the present and future of healthcare.
On Sept. 26, during Biotech Week Boston, we will announce the first recipients of the newly minted Xconomy Awards. It’s not your typical awards program—you’ll see some categories you haven’t elsewhere—and we want to hear from as many of our readers as possible to make sure we’re not choosing typical winners.
What new scientific advance are you blown away by? Who is unafraid to challenge norms? Who are the young rising stars already making a difference? Who isn’t just talking the talk about boardroom diversity, but committing to it?
These are just a few of the topics we’ve got in mind, you can get a look at the full list here. If you know of a person, company, or other organization worthy of recognition (yes, including yourself or your organization) make your case here. We’ll evaluate the nominations with the help of a top panel of judges, which includes Boston-area scientific and biotech industry pioneers like Phil Sharp, Vicki Sato, Bob Langer, Deborah Dunsire, George Church, and Jim Collins. Nominations are due by June 28, and we’ll unveil the winners at a gala dinner on September 26.
We look forward to reading your nominations and hope to see you in September in Boston.