John Castellani is the CEO and president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) – the 2014 Presenting Sponsor for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Leukemia Ball.
PhRMA advocates for policies that help improve the quality of patients’ lives, increase the availability of life-saving and life-enhancing medicines, and support the discovery of new treatments and cures by biopharmaceutical research companies. As part of this mission, PhRMA shares LLS’s goal of discovering new technologies and treatment options in the fight against cancer.
A leading voice for the biopharmaceutical research sector, Castellani has been involved with LLS and their respective annual Leukemia Ball since taking the helm at PhRMA.
This year’s ball marks the 27th year of the event and seeks to benefit the fight against leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma. LLS’s target is to raise $3 million through the March 22 black-tie affair.
Castellani spoke to WashingtonExec about this year’s Leukemia Ball, the importance of advancing breakthrough therapies for blood cancers, challenges affecting health care today and the importance of partnership between patients, academic researchers, the government and biopharmaceutical research companies.
WashingtonExec: As an advocate for the American biopharmaceutical research industry, how do you think government and industry can work together to advance progress on the life-saving research that is being conducted?
John Castellani: Advancing breakthrough therapies is really a partnership effort. Relationships need to exist between the government, the NIH, the Food & Drug Administration, academic researchers and researchers at the biopharmaceutical companies. From working on basic research to understand the natural history of diseases, to advancing the therapies to bring them to the patients as quickly as possible, and working with patient groups such as LLS to develop the clinical trials and information necessary to empower the health care delivery community with information about available breakthrough therapies – partnerships are critical.
WashingtonExec: How does the Leukemia Ball play a role in advancing life-saving work?
John Castellani: The Leukemia Ball has since 1988 raised more than $47 million for the National Capital Area Chapter of LLS. It raises funds to advance more breakthrough therapies for cancer patients. LLS has invested close to $1 billion for cancer research since it began in 1949. Last year they invested nearly $74 million in research. The Leukemia Ball helps raise the funds to not only support the research, but also to support the patients to make sure that they have access to the fruits of that research.
WashingtonExec: What critical challenges are we currently facing with health care and what changes do you hope to see in the coming years?
John Castellani: The challenge of health care is of course the challenge of the disease first and foremost. The advances that we are experiencing in the research process as academic researchers and our company researchers attack the diseases themselves, such as Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, are very promising, but very challenging. Right now there are 241 medicines in development for blood cancers, including 98 for lymphoma, which include both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. There are about 80,000 Americans affected by the disease every year. There are 97 medicines in development for leukemia, including the four major types that affect about 50,000 people in the U.S. every year. There are 52 for multiple myeloma, which affects 22,000 and 24 targeted medicines that are for other hematological malignancies affecting bone marrow, blood and lymph nodes. The challenge we have as an industry, as a patient community and as a nation is to complete the research and investigation of those medicines, and then ensure patients have the access they need to these life-saving treatments.
WashingtonExec: What are you most excited about for the Leukemia Ball this year?
John Castellani: What’s most exciting is bringing together the whole LLS community in a great event that raises money to help in the fight against blood cancers and highlights the service that LLS brings to people who are suffering from these blood cancers. LLS exists to find cures and ensure access to the treatments that our biopharmaceutical companies are committed to discovering. This event spotlights what they do for the 150,000 Americans who are diagnosed with a blood cancer every year. LLS is a leading example of how you bring together patients, researchers, the biopharmaceutical industry, and the health care delivery system to really go after these horrible diseases.
For Leukemia Ball sponsorship or ticket information, visit www.leukemiaball.org.