Biotech Week Boston is a festival of conferences and networking dedicated to fostering an environment of new ideas and collaboration in science, technology, and pharma with the end goal of advancing effective therapies and drug delivery technologies for patients. Combining 12 events, 300+ vendors, and over 5,000 attendees from 37 different countries, Biotech Week Boston is a place where productivity and inventiveness thrive. The Thursday afternoon Xcelerate keynote presentations were a highlight of this year’s event that took place at Hynes Convention Center. Inspiring industry leaders shared insights on how their areas of life science and healthcare are evolving in tandem with the constant and progressive changes in the industry overall, along with what other disruptive forces they see on the horizon. [Read about another Xcelerate keynote speaker MIT professor, Robert Langer]
The speakers for the final Xcelerate keynote were US Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, Alexis Borisy of Third Rock Ventures, Susan Hockfield of MIT, Elizabeth Nabel of Brigham Health, and George Yancopoulos of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. Collectively, they spoke from a balanced set of perspectives, ranging from venture capital and government to healthcare and academia. They discussed topics such as facing adversity in biotech entrepreneurship, critical factors that contribute to sustainable innovation, and the value of strategic partnerships.
Alexis Borisy gave context to the modern biotechnology investment landscape, advising that “these are the good times; one should be cautious and certainly not complacent.” He discussed the combination of advancements and modern resources that have contributed to the recent boom of high impact medicines, the cyclical nature of the biotechnology economy, and ended on a positive note, advising a collective focus on “making these medicines that really matter for patients. And as long as we do that, the long term is going to be great.”
MIT’s Susan Hockfield gave an eye-opening speech about how humanity will need the combination of physics, engineering, and biology to navigate and “figure out what the path to the future is.” For Hockfield, this means focusing on sustainability to support the projected population numbers in the future and federal investment into the world of research and science. She cited fellow researchers as examples of how scientists can use the integration of multiple types of science and engineering to continue to pioneer invention. Hockfield closed by highlighting that, although it doesn’t feel like the most efficient use of time or funds, whether one would like to admit it or not, “federal investment in basic research is the only route to the new technologies.”
The Surgeon General Adams delivered an inspiring message on the impact biotech has on both health and healthcare. Adams emphasized the difference between health and healthcare, spoke on the urgency of healthcare accessibility, and also touched on education and awareness with regard to suicide rates and drug addiction. He elaborated on the important areas of focus for him as the nation’s doctor, which includes enacting policy that is conscious of the roles both economics and health play in finding a future solution, in raising awareness on the connection between health and national security, and in addressing the opioid crisis, in general. Toward the end of his talk, Adams reminded the audience that there is no better time to pursue the creation of opioid alternatives than now, as the FDA is approving them at a record rate.
George Yancopoulos talked about the history of Regeneron, the disease burden on the world, and how modern resources can be used to revolutionize the drug discovery and development landscape. Though it took Regeneron 20 years to achieve FDA approval, that time was used to develop a foundation that has allowed them to receive six approved drugs in the past 10 years. Using their own pipeline as an example, Yancopoulos demonstrated what is possible through the use of “genetically humanized” lab animals to invent new medicines, which according to him “is amongst the most important but also most difficult challenges facing mankind.”
Finally, Elizabeth Nabel presented her insight on how academic health centers make contributions to the innovation economy. She discussed the differentiating success of the merger between Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital which is a partnership that has grown since 1994. She emphasized the importance of interaction among all facets of the industry, and how the intersectionality of the contributions they all make is a critical key to progress.
In summary, Biotech Week Boston brought together thousands of life science professionals, their research, and their technology to create a cornucopia of knowledge and networking while celebrating the advancements that have been made to date. EBD Group’s BioPharm America™ was one of the key events. Now that Biotech Week Boston is over for 2018, it isn’t too early to save the date for next year’s event in Copenhagen, Denmark, BIO-Europe from November 5-7!