Focusing on “Accelerating Drug Development”, Boston BioForum 2013

April 28, 2013

By David Li and Dongyu Chen,

BCambridge, Mass., April 28, — Boston Bioforum 2013, the annual conference of Chinese American Biomedical Association (CABA), was held on April 27 at MIT Faculty Club. Many attendees traveled from the West Coast or even from China to show their support for Boston and CABA, in less than two weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings.

The theme of this year’s Boston Bioforum was “Accelerating Drug Development – From Bench to Bedside.” Over 300 attendees from US, Canada and China attended this year’s conference. Jun Han, the founding president of CABA, traveled from Shanghai and told me that he marked Boston BioForum 2013 on his calendar months ago.

A number of awards were handed out at Boston Bioforum 2013. Ariad Pharmaceuticals and Ironwood Pharmaceuticals won the Excellence in Innovation awards during the day sessions. These two companies’ innovative and cost-effective drug research and development processes were applauded by conference attendees.

During the evening reception, Dr. Shiwen Lin, chairman of the board of CABA, handed out the prestigious award of Excellence in Community Service to “three beautiful young ladies”: Zhe Tian, Ellen Fan and Jo Lee, who are all CABA members.

Dr. Phil Zhang, the current president of CABA, gave a brief overview of CABA’s major events over the past year. Shiwen thanked Phil service over CABA’s six-year history, and especially over the past 12 months being the president of CABA. Dr. Shiwen Lin announced at the dinner reception that Dr. Xiang Yu became the new president of CABA, and Dr. Phil Zhang became a member of the 10-person board of directors of CABA. Dr. Phil Zhang was also awarded the Excellence in Community Service Leadership Award.

Dr. Xiang Yu was the chairwoman of Boston BioForum 2013 Organizing Committee. She thanked Phil for his mentorship over the past year and countless volunteers who helped make the conference a huge success.

During the day-long conference, the following major topics were discussed at the main conference hall:

  • Industry Trends and Key Technology Innovations
  • Globalized R&D: Resourcing & Collaborations
  • Career Development and Entrepreneurship
  • Networking Receptions and Vendor Exhibitions
  • Experts from leading companies and research labs delivered in-depth speeches and panel discussions around the major topics at the Boston BioForum 2013. In the first session, speakers talked about deuterated drug, associated business development and its challenges. As we know, some drugs are metabolized quickly by our body so that the drugs’ effects are not so “long-lasting”. By replacing the hydrogen atom by deuterium, the drug’s in vivo half life can be extended by decreased metabolism, thus the patients can receive more drug exposure and longer treatment time. However, the challenge is that only 3% of patented drugs can be made into deuterated forms which indicates one of the challenges and limitations that drug companies face.

    During the second session, the talk about humanized mice was very interesting. Pharmaceutical companies face the challenge that some drugs that work great on mice models could fail in clinical trials due to lack of efficiency. Furthermore, some infectious diseases don’t develop in mouse at all. By introducing the humanized mice model, one can hopefully solve these problems. The procedure of producing a humanized mouse involves injecting the human stem cell into the immuno-deficient mice, and you can even target specific organs to make them “human”.

    The discussions at the first afternoon section brought in the ideas of personalized cancer therapy. It’s well-known that patients’ responses to certain anti-cancer drugs vary a great extent because of their genetic polymorphism. One of the speakers told a story about a young boy who was diagnosed with cancer. His tumor sample was taken from his body, planted in different mice which were subsequently treated with different anti-cancer drugs. The efficacies were compared, and the best therapy was selected and applied to the little boy. Attendees were asked to think about the possible opportunities of cancer treatment, provided that no “all-purpose” anti-cancer drug ever exists.