2013 Boston Bioforum: the Fifth CABA Annual Conference

April 27, 2013

By Hao Li, Executive Committee, CABA

On the beautiful spring Saturday of April 27, by the riverbank of Charles River with bright morning sunshine, blue sky and white sails, over 300 company executives, senior scientists, entrepreneurs and investors from the biopharmaceutical industry gathered at MIT faculty club for the 2013 Boston BioForum “Accelerating Drug Development, from Bench to Bedside”,

the annual conference of CABA, the Chinese-American Biomedical Association. People flocked to share new scientific discoveries, leading industry trends and emerging business opportunities. The common conviction to help patients and reduce human suffering deeply shared by the speakers and attendees formed bonds that connected everybody. This was best exemplified by the opening remarks of Dr.Angelika Fretzen, VP of Pharmaceutical Chemistry & Development from Ironwood Pharmaceutical, that we need to push scientific boundaries to create new drugs just as the Boston Marathon athletes who push their physical boundaries. Two companies received “Excellence in Innovation” award from CABA,

Ariad Pharmaceuticals for its successful effort in developing Ponatinib, an FDA approved drug for CML, and Ironwood Pharmaceuticals for its success in developing Linaclotide, another FDA approved drug for IBS.

The morning session was opened by the presentation of Dr. Angelika Fretzen on “The Development of Linaclotide for the Treatment of Chronic Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders”. Following that Dr. Scott Biller, CSO at Agios Pharmaceuticals on the “Science and Strategy at Agios” told a fascinating story on the discovery of a novel metabolite 2HG through collaborations with several Chinese CROs such as Wuxi Pharma, ChemPartner and Viva. 2HG is produced by the IDH mutant enzymes that aberrantly affects epigenome in cancer patients. The session was concluded by the seminar from Prof. Jianzhu Chen, the Ivan R. Cottrell Professor of Immunology at MIT, on the “Humanized Mice for Preclinical Drug Development”.

In the afternoon the meeting resumed with the talk by Dr. Timothy P. Clackson, President of Research and Development at Ariad Pharmaceuticals, on the “Design and Develoment of Ponatinib, a Pan-BCR-ABL Inhibitor for CML”. Dr. Pam Carroll, VP Oncology Scientific Innovation at Janssen, presented Janssen Innovation Centers which present a new collaboration model with biotech companies and academia. The afternoon session also included two panel discussions, one on the alternative careers for biomedical scientists in the legal, investment and business fields, and the other on the achievements and challenges in global integrated R&D collaboration between large pharmas, biotechs and CROs in China and US.

The conference ended on a high note in the evening by the keynote speech from Dr. Roger Tung, President and CEO of Concert Pharmaceuticals on “Building a Biotech Company from the Ground Up”.

Indeed there is no better place to do that than Boston/Cambridge, by the riverbanks of Charles River.