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[Report] 26th SAPE-NE Annual Conference - Pioneer a New Era of Pharmaceutical Industry with Innovation of Emerging Modalities

1. Introduction

SAPA-NE 2024 Annual Meeting On June 8th, 2024, the Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association–New England/Boston (SAPA-NE) held its 26th annual conference in the Epicenter of Biotech, Cambridge, MA. The conference, themed “Pioneer a New Era of Pharmaceutical Industry with Innovation of Emerging Modalities,” gathered over 400 scientists, industry leaders, and regulatory experts to discuss the future of the pharmaceutical industry.

2. Event Overview

Opening Remarks Dr. Huijuan Li, VP at Moderna and President-Elect of SAPA-NE, delivered her enthusiastic opening remarks. She expressed her heartfelt gratitude to all speakers, participants, sponsors and volunteers and introduced SAPA and SAPA-NE, highlighting the rich history and commitment to building vibrant scientific communities.

3. Presentation Summaries

Session I: Exploration, Innovation, Persistence, and Challenges

Chairs: Yi Zhang, Ph.D., Tao Long, Ph.D., Larry Cai, Ph.D.

Dr. Melissa Moore: The Twin Powers of Persistence and Serendipity Dr. Melissa Moore, Former CSO of Moderna, Professor and Entrepreneur, began her talk by honoring Dr. Katalin Karikó for her groundbreaking contributions to RNA vaccines and therapeutics. Dr. Karikó's work has been vital in advancing mRNA technology, notably in the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines, exemplifying the powers of persistence and serendipity in scientific discovery. Highlighting female leadership in science, Dr. Melissa Moore delivered a captivating presentation titled "The Twin Power of Persistence and Serendipity: 20 Years of Meandering Through RNA Medicines." She shared her entrepreneurial journey, emphasizing the significant roles of persistence and serendipity in advancements in RNA interference (RNAi) therapeutics. Dr. Moore discussed her team's development of CBP-4888, an siRNA therapeutic for preeclampsia, showcasing its potential to benefit the patients.


Dr. Feng Zhang: Exploration of Biological Diversity Dr. Feng Zhang from MIT gave an intriguing presentation titled "Exploration of Biological Diversity." His talk attracted a large audience and showcased his engaging and approachable demeanor. He delved into the development of non-viral delivery technology and the extracellular Contractile Injection System (eCIS), highlighting their transformative roles in genomic medicine. After his talk, Zhang was notably down-to-earth, spending extra time mingling with the audience and participating in photo sessions which made the event memorable for the attendees.​


Dr. Peter Marks: Advancing Gene Therapy Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, discussed the agency's efforts and progress in advancing gene therapy, particularly for rare diseases. He highlighted the potential and challenges of gene therapy and the rapid advancements in CRISPR technology. Dr. Marks made a call for industry experts to collaborate and join the regulatory agencies to enhance their capabilities. This collaboration is crucial for improving operational efficiencies and fostering better engagement with stakeholders.  


Dr. Art Taveras: Targeted Treatments in Rare Disease Dr. Art Taveras, Chief Scientific Officer at X4 Pharmaceuticals, presented on the approval of XOLREMDI™ (Mavorixafor) for WHIM syndrome. He provided an overview of the disease's pathology and the significant impact of Mavorixafor, a CXCR4 antagonist, on treating this rare condition.


Mr. Jianxin Chen: Development of Chinese CDMOs Mr. Jianxin Chen, CEO of Zencore Biologics, provided a comprehensive overview of the development, advantages, and challenges faced by China's Contract Development and Manufacturing Organizations (CDMOs). He emphasized the critical role of Chinese CDMOs in the global pharmaceutical supply chain and highlighted several successful cases.

Session II: Frontier Research and Drug Development

Chairs: Mingde Shan, Ph.D.; Tracy Zhang, Ph.D.

Dr. Jianzhu Chen: Reprogramming Macrophages for Treating Chronic Diseases Dr. Jianzhu Chen from MIT presented a promising approach to treating chronic diseases by modulating macrophage function. His lab employed a high-throughput screening method on a vast library of approximately 4,000 compounds, identifying around 300 that could influence human macrophages. About 30 compounds could reprogram M1 macrophages to the beneficial M2 state, and 20 compounds could do the reverse. Additionally, activating the GPR3 receptor in Kupffer cells (liver-resident macrophages) with diphenyleneiodonium (DPI) showed protection against fatty liver disease and obesity.


Dr. Kate Zhang: Lung, Immune Cell and Liver-Targeting Lipid Nanoparticles Dr. Kate Zhang Chief Science Officer from Hopewell Therapeutics showcased results using lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) for tissue/cell-specific targeting in disease models and non-human primates. The ttLNP platform demonstrated high specificity and efficient delivery, showing potential in genomic medicine. She presented data on lung-specific, tumor-specific, and immune-specific targeting LNPs, emphasizing their safety and efficacy.


Dr. Tamer Coskun: The Development of Incretin Therapies in Metabolic Disease Dr. Tamer Coskun Associate Vice President from Eli Lilly discussed Retatrutide (Ly3437943), a next-generation incretin tri-agonist targeting GLP-1, GIP, and GCGR receptors. Despite feeling a significant level of uncomfortableness earlier, Dr. Coskun ensured his participation in our conference, demonstrating his dedication to sharing his valuable insights. He highlighted the drug's potent agonist activity, its impact on weight loss and energy expenditure in obese mice, and promising Phase II clinical data showing reductions in HbA1c and body weight in patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity. Adding a light touch to his presentation, he joked about his heritage, saying, 'I am from Turkey, I am authentic south Asian,' bringing a moment of levity to the session.


Dr. Ted Suh: Monovalent Molecular Glues—Cereblon and Beyond Dr. Ted Suh Vice President of Chemistry from Orionis Biosciences introduced the Allo-Glue™ platform for discovering and designing small molecule molecular glues with broad therapeutic applications. He emphasized the platform's ability to target multiple proteins, enabling selective degradation and offering new drug development opportunities.


Dr. Andy Tsun: Unlocking the Potential of 4-1BB Agonism for Treating Cancer Dr. Andy Tsun Co-founder and Chief Science Officer from Biotheus presented data on PM1032, a bispecific antibody targeting CLDN18.2 and 4-1BB. PM1032 showed strong anti-tumor efficacy and immune memory in preclinical models, with promising early-stage clinical results in CLDN18.2+ pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients.


Echo Yuan: Advanced Molecular Interaction Profiling with MetaSPR Echo Yuan, VP of Marketing and BD from LifeDisc, presented their next-generation Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) technology, MetaSPR.This innovative technology boasts enhanced sensitivity, a cost-effective design, and compatibility with crude samples. Additionally, she showcased its versatile applications and high consistency with mainstream molecular interaction platforms.


Dr. Dian Su: DMPK Insights into ADC Drug Development: When Traditional Mindsets Don’t Fit New Modalities

Next Dr. Su, Leader in DMPK, delivered an insightful presentation titled “DMPK Insights into ADC Drug Development: When Traditional Mindsets Don’t Fit New Modalities”. Dr. Dian Su's innovative DMPK insights offer promising solutions to address these challenges. These key insights include: 1) Optimizing factors like PK, efficacy, and toxicity to select the most promising ADC candidates; 2) Reform and optimize the PK/PD translation and Dose prediction/optimization/selection towards IND filing and early development. 3) ADC-payload mediated DDI poses relatively lower risk in general compared to small molecule drugs.4) Physiologically based pharmacokinetic modeling enhances DDI assessments, resulting in more accurate drug labeling.


4. Business Development and Industry Collaboration

Panel Discussion:

The Business Development panel discussion focused on the essential role of BD in transforming scientific breakthroughs to blockbuster therapies. The panel featured distinguished experts: Jens Bitsch-Norhave, Ph.D., MBA from Johnson & Johnson Innovation, James Hu, J.D. from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP, Aimin Hui, M.D., Ph.D. from EnCureGen Pharma, Jeff Kutok, M.D., Ph.D. from Ensem Therapeutics, and Leon ‘Jun’ Tang, Ph.D. from InScienceWeTrust BioAdvisory. Each expert contributed unique perspectives and invaluable insights.


Vendor Interview Insights:

Key insights from sponsor and vendor interviews focused on their goals, feedback for improvement, and long-term support expectations from SAPA-NE. Vendors emphasized the need for expanding networking opportunities to foster research collaborations and business ventures, opening new customer channels, especially in CRO and CDMO sectors, and staying updated with industry trends and regulatory changes. Long-term support from SAPA-NE should focus on fostering collaboration, adapting strategies to the changing global pharmaceutical landscape, and supporting in-person and virtual networking opportunities.

5. Networking and Award Ceremony

Following the full day scientific and BD panel discussion sessions, over 100 attendees participated  our dinner and award ceremony. The 2024 SAPA-NE High School Scholarship awarded two outstanding High School graduates Annabelle Zhang, a recent graduate of Wayland High School, and Cayden Xia, a recent graduate of Wellesley High School. Both Annabelle and Cayden are committed to pursue biological and medical related disciplines.

In Memory of Jun Zhao, whose life was testament to the power of selfless service and dedication to the SAPA-NE community, we were proud to have presented our inaugural JUN ZHAO volunteer award to six of our own executive committee members Wenyu Wang, Yi Zhang, Yuan Hu, Bo Yan, Yan Tan and Tao Long, for their continued outstanding service to the SAPA-NE community.

The evening concluded with the applaud of a great 2023-2024 under the leadership of our immediate past president, Peng Sun and welcomed our newly formed team with high hopes for 2024-2025. (

6. Conclusion and Outlook

The SAPA-NE 2024 Annual Meeting not only showcased the latest scientific advancements and technological innovations but also provided a valuable platform for attendees to discuss the future direction of the industry. Thanks to all sponsors, volunteers, and participants for their support and involvement. We look forward to continued progress and collaboration in future events.



Text Edit:Li Gong, Shawn Xiang, Xiaofeng Li

Blog Edit:Shizhe Hui, Joyce Chen, Huijuan Li, Kejie Li

Photo: Zhiyou Deng, Benjamin Cheung

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