On June 17, 2017, the 16th SABPA San Diego Bio-Pharma Conference and the 4th Pacific Bio-Partnering were held at the Hilton Del Mar in San Diego. This conference also coincides with the SABPA 15-year anniversary and the 2017 BIO international conference and it attracted over 500 attendees. The Bio-partnering event also hosted more than 100 of one-on-one meetings between entrepreneurs and investors.
In the opening remark delivered by the SABPA president Stephanie Shi, she showed that since launched on June 8th, 2002, SABPA has come a long way. Right now SABPA has over 4000 members and has hosted many successful and influential events. It is all thanks to the support from the volunteers and sponsors.
The chairman of the Bio-Pharma Committee Yi Liu introduced keynote speaker Dr. Craig Venter. Dr. Venter is an extraordinary and visionary pioneer of the biology field. He started sequencing of the human genome in 1998 and had since made significant contribution to genomics and synthetic biology. For his great contribution, Dr. Shi from SABPA presented him the 2017 Bio-Pharma achievement award.
In Dr. Venter’s keynote speech, he noted that there is substantial difference between everyone’s genome sequences. Therefore we need a large amount of data to better understand the human genome. Nowadays, the sequencing cost for a single human genome has reduced to under $2000, and the tremendous increase in the cloud computing and machine learning capability has made large scale analysis of the human genomes possible. Dr. Venter’s Human Longevity Company wants to use the latest technologies to prevent major diseases and conduct precision medicine.
In Human Longevity, Dr. Venter’s team has accumulated 41686 complete human genomes. Using these data, we will be able to answer some questions that used to be impossible to answer.
One of them is about longevity. According to current statistics, many people will die before the age of 75 due to cardiovascular diseases and cancer. If we can use early diagnosis to prevent these two major diseases, we can prolong human’s life. Dr. Venter’s ambitious goal is to allow human to live longer than 140.
In his talk, Dr. Venter gave several examples that by using the newest technologies, his team can diagnose cancer and Alzheimer’s disease much earlier and save patients live. In his closing remark, Dr. Venter believes that in the past, medicine is a clinical science supported by data. Nowadays, medicine is a data science being implemented by the clinicians.
After a short break, Dr. Richard Geary from Ionis Pharmaceuticals introduced the company’s success story. Two new drugs from Ionis have received FDA approval in the past year. In his talk, Dr. Geary explained the basic principles of RNA therapy and how to optimize the RNA molecules. He also shared with the audience how the design of the clinical studies can influence the outcome. Currently Ionis has 39 new drugs in its pipeline and many are in the phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trial. The future holds great promise for this company.
The CEO of Jecure Therapeutics Dr. Jeffrey Stafford followed by introducing the company Quanticel Pharmaceuticals and Jecure Therapeutics. Dr. Stafford used to be the CEO of Quanticel. It is a startup company based on research from two outstanding scientists from Stanford University. Quanticel tries to use single cell sequencing technology to further understand cancer stem cell and develop new cancer therapy. It has since been bought by Celgene and resulted in a win-win situation for all sides. The Jecure Therapeutics is a company focusing on non-alcoholic hepatic steotosis (NASH). Although the term NASH was only known to the general public more recently, scientists at Jecure have started research on this disease 15 years ago. Their vast experience has given Jecure a leading position in the NASH market.
The last speaker in the morning session is Dr. Tong-tong Xue, CEO of the Kelun Pharmaceutical from Sichuan, China. Dr. Xue shared with the audience that Kelun is one of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in China. Currently, Kelun has over 300 research projects. 93 programs have applied to conduct clinical trials in China and 31 programs are already in clinical trials. Kelun has four R&D sites across the Pacific, including sites in the state of New Jersey, US and in Chengdu, Tianjing and Suzhou, China. Kelun is looking for talents in biologics, small molecules, clinical trials, as well as business development and licensing to join the company.
After lunch, Dr. Ming Guo, president of Ascentage Pharma gave a talk on the business models for pharmaceutical companies in today’s global environment. Dr. Guo first reviewed the global drug discovery environment and noted that while the US is rebounding from challenges of lost productivity, patent cliff and economic crisis, China’s life science industry is entering its “golden age” due to governmental support and better financial and regulatory environment.
Dr. Guo then introduced the unique business model of Ascentage Pharma, which is a regional mid-size pharmaceutical company with the ambition to compete in the global market. By forming a two-way R&D collaboration with US collaborators at the University of Michigan, Ascentage is able to get access to the cutting edge discoveries focusing on protein-protein interactions in the apoptosis field while limiting the associated risk. In addition, Ascentage balances the development of novel drug candidates with first-in class potentials with me-too/me-better projects in kinase inhibitors. Dr. Guo also gave several successful drug-development stories from Ascentage.
Dr. Peng Chen from Morrison Foerster share with the audience the changes in patent regulations that affect both the innovators and the companies that want to make generic drugs. Dr. Chen introduced the patent regulations that govern the protection for novel small molecule drugs and biologics and gave tips to innovators on how to protect their novel drugs from generic competition, as well as practical advice to companies that want to make generic drugs on how to accelerate entry into the market. He also used a recent case on biologics generics to explain the latest Supreme Court decision on patent regulations for biologics.
Dr. Tong Xu from Chia Tai Tianqing Pharmaceutical Group (CCTQ) shared with the audience the growth strategy of CCTQ and the trend in Chinese pharmaceutical industry. CCTQ is one of the leading integrated pharmaceutical companies in China with a stronghold in liver diseases. In the future, CCTQ plans to put more emphasis on innovation and diversify therapeutics areas beyond the liver diseases. CCTQ is rapidly expanding its pipeline, including 38 innovative projects. In China, the focus on innovation has spread to quite a number of top pharmaceutical companies with sizable annual increase in R&D spending. In addition, the pharmaceutical companies are pursuing specialization and M&A as ways to compete in the market.
Mr. Xiang Deng, general manager of International Board Management, department of QianHai Equity Exchange (QHEE) introduce QHEE to the entrepreneurs who would like to find access to funding in China. QHEE is the Chinese SEC authorized exchange with almost 15000 companies listed and displayed. The advantages of getting listed in QHEE include getting access to financing and investors while having reduced disclosure requirements. QHEE offers startup companies a one-stop service that gives them flexibility, efficiency, confidentiality and reduced cost.
After a short break, Mr. Joe Panetta, president and CEO of BIOCOM, gave a succinct summary of the current status of biotech and pharmaceutical industry in the state of California. Using concrete numbers on jobs, establishments, economic output etc., he compared the life science industry in San Diego with Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and noted their strength and weakness. While the Bay Area is noted for its high economic output and mature biotech and pharma companies such as Genentech, the San Diego and Los Angeles areas actually generate more jobs and are the hotbeds for early startup companies.
With healthcare reform and drug pricing a hot topic in many people’s mind, Dr. Robert Popovian, VP of US Government Relations from Pfizer gave his take on the drug-pricing dilemma faced by a global pharmaceutical company. He noted that although the drug price has increased by double-digit percent lately, the consumer spending only increased 2%. This difference illustrate one of the major issues in drug pricing in the US because there are many middlemen including pharmacy and doctors who all profit from the drug price. This drug-pricing model needs to be address to resolve the current issue with high priced drug. In addition, Dr. Popovian shared with the audience a variety of policy initiatives from the government aimed at reducing healthcare cost including medicare drug price negotiation, drug importation, price increase notification, pharmacy benefit manager reform and so on.
In the panel discussion titled “outlook in the new global environment” moderated by Mr. Panetta, a diver group of experts including Dr. Popovian from Pfizer, Dr. Lisa Haile from DLA Piper, Mr. Daniel Kleeburg from Ernst & Young, Mr. Greg Scott from ChinaBio group and Dr. Yongzhong Wang from Simcere Pharmaceutical Group discuss the changes in the political and regulatory environments in both the US and China. Topics include how to navigate different regulatory environment from different regions in the world in order to best protect intellectual properties, the golden opportunity to access the venture capital investment from China and the rise of China as a force to be reckon with in the global pharmaceutical market.
After a busy and fulfilling day of talks and panel discussion, Dr. Peter Huang, the executive VP of SABPA gave the closing remark thanking all the speakers, sponsors and volunteers.