A string of scientific breakthroughs in recent years has made oncology the most-watched corner of the biopharmaceutical industry, and many of those breakthroughs were first presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO) annual meeting.

However, gathering scientists from all over the world and squeezing them into conference rooms isn't going to happen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of canceling the whole show, ASCO recently announced that the 2020 meeting, scheduled for May 29 through June 2, will occur on schedule in a virtual format that doesn't require attendees to travel to Chicago. 

Working from home with a facemask.

Image source: Getty Images.

In the weeks ahead, ASCO will post more details regarding formats, dates, and many other aspects of the annual conference. What we do know is that ASCO plans to publish abstracts online ahead of the conference as is usually the case. Researchers will probably get a chance to deliver some form of an online presentation, but we'll just have to wait to find out how. 

Investment bank analysts permeate scientific conferences like ASCO, which makes them crucial venues for smaller biotechnology companies like Trillium Therapeutics (NASDAQ:TRIL), and Harpoon Therapeutics (NASDAQ:HARP) that need fresh influxes of capital to keep their research moving forward.

At ASCO this year, Trillium expects to present details from an early-stage clinical trial of its experimental treatment TTI-622 in relapsed lymphoma patients. Harpoon is expected to share interim data from a study of HPN424, a potential new treatment for advanced-stage prostate cancer.