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[Report] 2021-01-23 SAPA-NE 22nd Annual Conference: A New Era in Biotech and Life Science

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

Jan 23rd, 2021, Boston, the world’s renowned center for education and innovation in the global medical field, welcomed Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association (SAPA)’s New England Chapter (SAPA-NE) members, world-renowned leaders and regulators to join the 22nd SAPA-NE Annual Conference “A New Era in Biotech and Life Science” virtually. Zoom meeting simultaneously live streamed on YouTube to our show rooms where vendors and attendees networked via the Spatial Chat platform.

The virtual event attracted more than 800 SAPA members, and friends globally to listen to over a dozen outstanding speakers, representing both academic and industry leaders. The conference was opened with remarks from Dr. Lin Lin, Chair of the conference. Dr. Lin shared the mission of SAPA-NE and the progress of the community made during a unique 2020.

Dr. Lin Lin is addressing the mission and various activities in SAPA-NE

The morning session features multiple lectures from academic and business leaders, who shared their views on the development of emerging modalities in drug discovery and development, including proteolysis targeting chimera (PROTAC), gene editing, and CAR-T therapies. After the welcome remark, Dr. Eric Fischer, Associate Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School, and Co-Director of the DFCI Center for Protein Degradation, first discussed his understanding of small molecule mediated protein degradation with PROTAC molecules. Targeted protein degradation (TPD) refers to the use of small molecules to induce ubiquitin-dependent degradation of proteins. TPD is of interest in drug development, as it can address previously inaccessible targets. However, degrader discovery and optimization remain an inefficient process due to a lack of understanding of the relative importance of the key molecular events required to induce target degradation. Dr. Fischer introduced the exciting works from his lab combining structural biology, cell biology, and biochemical reconstitutions to address the molecular mechanism of small molecules targeting multi-component ubiquitin ligases.

Dr. Eric Fischer is presenting "Small Molecule Mediated Ubiquitin Ligase Targeting"

Mr. John Evans, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member at Beam Therapeutics, introduced the platform and vision of Beam Therapeutics. Beam is pioneering the use of base editing, a potential new class of precision medicines, to provide life-long cures to patients with unmet medical needs. Mr. Evans shared the approaches that Beam is taking and an exciting pipeline spun out of ground-breaking technological advances from perspectives of both gene editing and delivery. Mr. Evans also discussed his vision for precision genetic therapies, that can be widespread standard of care in the future.

Mr. John Evans is presenting "Beam Therapeutics: Precision Genetic Medicines Through Base Editing"

The last speaker of the first session, Dr. Zonghai Li, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of CARsgen Therapeutics, shared the landscape, progress, and limitations of CAR-T therapies. CARsgen has conducted comprehensive studies in key technologies in CAR-T cell therapy, including drug target screening and validation, antibody screening and optimization, building next generation CAR-T technology platforms and manufacturing and production techniques, to develop precisely targeted, efficient, safe and high-quality CAR-T cells. Dr. Li discussed CARsgen’s pipeline, recent clinical data from multiple myeloma cell therapy data, as well as various preclinical studies using combination therapeutics to broaden CAR-T therapies’ application in solid tumor.

Dr. Zonghai Li is presenting "Strategies to Increase the Antitumor Activities of CAR-T Cell Therapies in Solid Tumors"

Following the virtual coffee break highlighting virtual network and vendors show, the second half of the morning session was started with an exciting talking from Dr. Liang Schweizer, Co-founder, President and CEO and HiFiBio Therapeutics. Dr. Schweizer focused on the technical breakthroughs from HiFiBio leveraging single cell profiling technology, and its integration into drug discovery as well as its applications in cell therapy, antibody and biomarker discovery. Dr. Schweizer also shared with the audience the exciting progress of HFB30132A, its SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody as a treatment and prevention therapy of COVID-19, which is currently being evaluated in clinic studies.

Dr. Liang Schweizer is presenting "Pioneering “Drug Intelligent Science” a Novel Single Cell Approach for Drug Discovery and Development"

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) contain a disease-receptor antibody and a payload drug connected via a linker. The rate and extent of payload delivery depend on both tumor properties and ADC characteristics. Dr. Dian Su, Sr. Scientist from Genentech, shared how drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics studies paved the discovery and development of Antibody-Drug Conjugations (ADCs) by conjugation site, conjugation chemistry, and linker modifications.

Dr. Dian Su is presenting "Pave the Road to Drug the Undruggable: Driving ADC Discovery from the DMPK Perspective"

The morning session was concluded by Dr. Yan Chen, Founder, President and CEO of Elpis Biopharmaceuticals. Elpis focuses on therapeutics that target and activate the immune response to eradicate tumors and deliver improved outcomes for patients with difficult-to-treat and resistant cancers. Dr. Chen discussed the work at Elpis where mRNA display platform was applied for the development of novel mechanism-driven protein therapeutics across a rich pipeline composed of immuno-modulators, dual targeting tandem CAR-Ts and novel bispecific antibodies.

Dr. Yan Chen is presenting ''mRNA Display Technology Enables Rapid Antibody Discovery and Protein Engineering to Harness Immuno-Oncology Therapeutics"

Virtual Lunch Session featured Brad Warsen, Executive Director of Quality for the Devens Cell Therapy Facility at BMS; Dr. Sanchayita Ghose, Executive Director, Head of Global Downstream Bioprocess Development at BMS; Dr. Ji Li, Principal Scientist, Mechanism of Cancer Resistance TRC at BMS; Dr. Chun Shao, Principal Scientist, Process Development Analytics at BMS. Together with Moderator Dr. Dong Yang, perspectives on communication, collaboration, mentorship and career growth were shared with the attendees.

Panelists are sharing perspectives on Realizing Your Potential in Biopharma Industry during BMS Virtual Lunch Session

Ms. Joyce Chen and Dr. Xue Liang moderated Parallel Virtual Lunch Session, which was centered around Capital Markets and 2021 JP Morgan Recap. Dr. Alex Li, Managing Director of TF Capital, Board Director of SAPA, Past President of SAPA-NE shared An Investor’s View of Life Science Capital Market in China; Mr. Eduardo Schur, Partner in the EY Life Sciences Practice and Dr. Qingcong Lin, CEO of Biocytogen Boston brought their perspectives of 2021 JP Morgan Recap and future trends of life science development and investment.

Parallel Virtual Lunch Session on Capital Markets

Parallel Virtual Lunch Session on 2021 JP Morgan Recap

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has devastated the most vulnerable in our society — adults 65 years of age or older, persons with underlying conditions, and the economically deprived.

The afternoon session Fighting Against Coronavirus started by Dr. Dan Barouch, Member, National Academy of Medicine, William Bosworth Castle Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, BIDMC; Member, Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard COVID-19 Vaccine. A vaccine is urgently needed to prevent Covid-19 and thereby stem complications and deaths resulting from transmission of the disease. The speed of COVID vaccine developed is remarkable by achieving two FDA EUA approval within 1 year of Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA Vaccine compared with a typical timeline of 3 to 9 years as shown in the Figure below (Penny M. Heaton, M.D.N Engl J Med 2020; 383:1986-1988)

Dr. Dan Barouch discussed work on studying the immunology and virology of infection to develop novel vaccine and eradication strategies, including HIV, Zika virus, tuberculosis, and most recently SARS-CoV-2. His lab has constructed adenovirus serotype 26 (Ad26) vectors to evaluate vaccine candidates in preclinical and clinical studies. Dr. Barouch collaborated with Johnson & Johnson’s using the Ad26 vector to the development of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, which is currently in global phase 3 clinical efficacy trials. The efficacy can potentially be available the end of Jan 2021.

Dr. Dan Barouch is presenting "COVID-19: Developing a Vaccine During a Pandemic"

On Jan 23rd, 2021, SpaceX and Tesla Motors co-founder and CEO Elon Musk committed $5 million in support of research on the fundamental mechanisms of the novel coronavirus and two other diseases. Dr. Dan Barouch’s lab received $2.5 million, awarded through the Musk Foundation, to support COVID related research.

The rapid pace of development of vaccines against Covid-19 is enabled by prior knowledge of the role of the spike protein in coronavirus pathogenesis and evidence that neutralizing antibody against the spike protein is important for immunity; , the scientific advancement and evolution of nucleic acid vaccine technology platforms; and global collaboration/investment to derisk the development activities that can be conducted in parallel, rather than sequentially, without increasing risks for study participants.

Dr. Aimin Hui, President of Global R&D, CMO, and Chair of the Scientific Committee of Fosun Pharma shared with the attendees the Journey of COVID-19 Vaccine- from Ten Years to One Year of the BioNTech/Pfizer/Fosun mRNA vaccine development. Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines are a novel technology that stimulates the body’s own immune response. These vaccines contain information from messenger RNA, including the “blueprint” or code of a specific virus trait (virus antigen). The information enables the body to produce this antigen on its own: mRNA transfers the information for the production of the antigen to our cell machinery that makes proteins. Cells in our body then present the antigen on their surface and thus trigger the desired specific immune response. When the body comes into contact with the virus, the immune system recognizes the specific antigen and can fight the virus and thus the infection quickly and in a targeted manner.

Dr. Aimin Hui is presenting the "Journey of COVID-19 Vaccine- from Ten Years to One Year"

Following the two talks on COVID vaccine development, Dr. Robert Flaumenhaft, Professor, Chief, Division of Hemostasis and Thrombosis, BIDMC, Harvard Medical School shared his perspectives on The Prothrombotic Transformation of the Endothelium: Relevance to COVID-19. Blood clots, jelly-like clumps of cells and proteins, are the body’s mechanism to stop bleeding. Some researchers view clotting as a key feature of COVID-19. But it’s not just their presence that has scientists puzzled: it’s how they show up. There is an urgent need to understand the pathogenesis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In particular, thrombotic complications in patients with COVID-19 are common and contribute to organ failure and mortality. Patients with severe COVID-19 present with hemostatic abnormalities that mimic disseminated intravascular coagulopathy associated with sepsis, with the major difference being increased risk of thrombosis rather than bleeding. Dr. Flaumenhaft shared his experience of treating patients on this front.

Dr. Robert Flaumenhaft is presenting "The Prothrombotic Transformation of the Endothelium: Relevance to COVID-19"

The scientific session was closed by Dr. Julia Ding, Director, Global Process Analytical Development at Bristol Myers Squibb, titled Paving the Way for Real-Time Product Quality Attribute and Bioprocess Monitoring in Biologics Development. Dr. Ding shared the BMS PAT technology landscape and vision to integrate the four pillars, 1) Systematic development of technologies; 2) automated data mining, analysis, visualization, and repository; 3) Data interrogation; and 4) Collaboration.

Dr. Julia Ding is presenting "Paving the Way for Real-Time Product Quality Attribute and Bioprocess Monitoring in Biologics Development"

Dr. Guiqing Liang followed our SAPA-NE tradition and awarded two High School Excellence Scholarship to Christina Zhao, a graduate from Newton North High School with a perfect GPA and currently studying at Harvard University; and Andrew Xu, a a graduate from Belmont High School and currently attending Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Dr. Guiqing Liang is awarding High School Excellence Scholarship to Christina Zhao and Andrew Xu

Dr. Qi-Ying Hu continued to highlight professional events hosted by the NE chapter in the past years and acknowledged community leader and volunteers along the way. SAPA-NE first ever virtual annual conference was made successful with hard work of EC members, community leaders and volunteers.

Group photos of speakers, moderators and volunteers in SAPA-NE Annual Conference

Co-chair of the conference Dr. James Cao’s closing remarks highlighted the well-organized scientific program and highly engaged questions and discussions. Special thanks to all speakers, sponsors, volunteers, especially the excellent IT support to make the Zoom conference with Spatial Chat virtual meeting hall interesting and a great success.

SAPA-NE is committed to provide a unique platform through several of our signature events, including Annual Conference, Scientific Symposium, Career Development Forum

As the challenging year 2020 is now behind us, 2021 brings much hope as COVID19 vaccine will drive our life to go back to normal. We look forward to seeing you all in our future events!

Written by Leo Qian, Huijuan Li and Yuan Hu

Proof reading by Chao Zheng

24th Jan 2021


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