CABS 2023 BioPacific Conference RECAP and HIGHLIGHTS

Date: October 28, 2023 @ 12:00 am – January 1, 2024
Location: South San Francisco Conference Center

The 2023 Biopacific Conference, alternatively recognized as the 24th Annual Conference of the Chinese American Bio/Pharmaceutical Society (CABS), took place on October 28th, 2023, at the South San Francisco Conference Center in California. This exceptional gathering, commemorating the 25th anniversary of CABS, featured a notable lineup of speakers, panelists, and moderators, enjoyed generous support from 58 sponsors, and drew the participation of over 700 attendees. The remarkable success of this event owes its existence to the invaluable contributions and active engagement of our esteemed speakers, sponsors, attendees, members of the organizing committee, and dedicated volunteers.

The theme of the Conference was ‘Collaboration, Acceleration, Breakthrough, & Success - 25 Years of CABS’. The conference comprised 2 keynote addresses, a speech for the K. Fong Award, 5 scientific presentations, 3 dynamic panel discussions, and two interactive breakout workshop sessions, all led by prominent figures from both the industry and academia.

The conference commenced with an opening speech by Jessica Sun, MD, PhD, President-Elect of CABS and Chair of the Organizing Committee, who offered a warm welcome and an overview of the conference agenda. Kate You, JD, PhD, President of CABS, delivered the State of the Society address, spotlighting the society's activities, growth, and achievements over the past year. 

Morning Session 1 – Session Chair: Yanan Wang, PhD, CABS Executive Council

This session featured three insightful talks. Dr. Ray Deshaies, Senior Vice President of Global Research at Amgen, a member of National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, delivered a keynote presentation on the emergence of the fourth wave of Transformative Innovation, which follows the advent of molecular drugs, rational drug design, and the biotechnology revolution. He provided an insightful analysis of the challenges and opportunities in developing the next generation of multispecific small molecule and biologic medicines, and shed light on Amgen's pioneering approaches to multispecific medicine. His presentation illuminated the exciting frontiers of medical innovation, inspiring the audience about the future of medicine. Dr. Bianxiao Cui, Professor at Stanford University, presented the latest data showing that membrane curvature promotes the formation of a new type of integrin-mediated cell adhesions, termed as ‘curved adhesions’. These findings unveiled the fascinating mechanism of cell anchorage to soft protein fibers, offering insights into potential therapeutic targets for fibrosis diseases. Finally, Dr. Wei Huang, President of Henlius and Chairman of Aton Biotech, provided a comprehensive overview of the drug development process, covering CMC activities and key considerations from clinical to commercial stages.

Morning Session 2 – Session Chair: Lu Lu, MS, CABS Executive Council

Dr. Kenneth Fong presented the 2023 CABS K. Fong Award to Dr. Corey Goodman, Managing Partner at venBio and Adjunct Professor at UC Berkeley.

Dr. Corey Goodman, a member of National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, emphasized the significance of a transformative ecosystem, which is comprised of pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms, academic institutions, strategic capital, and capital-efficient models, including incubators. Dr. Goodman underlined the strategic advantage gained by pharmaceutical companies when they leverage early discoveries and innovations from academia and biotech, resulting in substantial reductions in internal research and development expenditure. This strategy often involves the acquisition or licensing of proof-of- concept projects, followed by progression into late-stage trials, manufacturing, and commercialization. 

The panel discussion, titled 'Ask the Investor: Glimpsing the Future of Life Science Innovation' and moderated by Dr. Ella Li, brought together a distinguished group of panelists, including Dr. Ronjon Nag, Dr. Ted Hou, Mr. Mike Ryan, and Mr. Tao Fu. They offered a comprehensive exploration of the dynamic landscape of the life science sector. The discussion illuminated a promising trajectory that hinges on investment, innovation, and collaborative efforts to propel the next wave of transformative breakthroughs in healthcare and life sciences.

Dr. Phillip Patten, CSO at Initial Therapeutics, gave a talk that provided insights into the remarkable journey of DiCE Therapeutics, from its inception in 2013 to its acquisition by Eli Lilly in 2023. Dr. Patten's presentation left the audience with key takeaways, emphasizing the importance of tackling difficult yet valuable problems with novel approaches and embracing high technical risk while maintaining a practical and strategic outlook when selecting target objectives. 

Concurrent L & L Session I, Chair: Denna Kwang, CABS Executive Council

During the first ‘Lunch & Learn’ session, Dr. Liyu Wu, Senior Director of Business Development of Pharmaron, emphasized the company’s extensive manufacturing capabilities, designed to meet the diverse needs of clients at every stage of R&D. Following Dr. Wu's presentation, Bill Glencross, Director of Sales of Mispro, outlined their all-encompassing vivarium services and facilities, covering everything from animal husbandry to assisting clients with IACUC protocols. The session concluded with Yifu Liu, Executive Director of JJlake, who provided a historical overview of JJlake and spotlighted their cutting-edge facilities and innovative business model, which includes venture capital initiatives and potential partnerships.

Concurrent L & L Session II, Chair: Katherine Guan, CABS Executive Council

In the second ‘Lunch & Learn’ session, Dr. Karen Han, Field-Based Account Manager at GenScript, elaborated the extensive array of life science research services and products, highlighting their upgraded US facility for gene synthesis and their newly launched Singapore facility to support both gene synthesis and protein production. Next, Dr. Jiyong Zhang, Head of Business Development at Nona Biosciences, introduced Nona's proprietary Harbour Mice transgenic platform. He emphasized its integrated capabilities, particularly in the discovery and production of fully humanized heavy chain-only antibodies. Concluding this session, Dr. Yujiao Zhang, Product Marketing Scientist at Kactus, shared insights into the company's remarkable growth over the last five years. She highlighted Kactus' pivotal role in providing research-grade and GMP-grade products that drive innovation in the fields of biopharma and cell & gene therapy. 

Afternoon Session 1 – Session Chair: Shicheng Guo, PhD, CABS Executive Council

This session consisted of two talks and one panel discussion. Dr. William DeGrado, a member of National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a professor at UCSF, presented a keynote speech on the design approach for proteins binding to small molecules and their potential biomedical applications, such as drug delivery and drug reversals. To address another challenging aspect of de novo protein design - membrane proteins, Dr. DeGrado showcased the design of semi-synthetic membrane proteins acting as ion channels and their applications in DNA and RNA sequencing. Dr. Dinesh Patel, CEO of Protagonist Therapeutics, discussed the development of oral IL-23 receptor antagonists at Protagonist. They discovered of PTG-200, an oral gut-restricted IL-23 receptor antagonist peptide, led to a partnership with Janssen. Protagonist's platform has expanded treatment options for inflammatory or autoimmune diseases with the first oral IL-23 receptor antagonist peptide drug, marking a significant innovation in the field.

The panel discussion, Leveraging Artificial Intelligence in Drug Discovery and Development: Opportunities and Challenges’, was moderated by Dr. Cheni Kwok, joined by Dr. Nicolas Tilmans, Dr. Stephanie Sharron, and Dr. Pek Lum. The panelists underscored the profound potential of AI to revolutionize and expedite drug discovery. The panelists also discussed numerous opportunities offered by this emerging frontier, including sifting through vast datasets to unearth novel drug targets, predicting drug-target interactions, constructing molecular structures with specific properties, emulating intricate biological systems, and refining the design of clinical trials. 

Afternoon Session 2 – Session Chair: Liang He, PhD, CABS Executive Council

This CABS special session, which marks the celebration of CABS' 25th anniversary, commenced with a presentation by Dr. Cheng Liu, the Founder, President, and CEO of Eureka Therapeutics, and former President of CABS (2004-2005). Dr. Liu shared insights on the topic of "Developing Cell Therapy with the Capacity to Cure Solid Tumors." Dr. Liu's presentation demonstrated the superior safety and efficacy of ARTEMIS T cells, representing a significant advancement in the field of cell-based therapy for solid tumors.

The CABS special panel discussion, titled "To Stay Or To Go – Navigating Career Growth in an Ever-Changing Environment," featured a distinguished group of six former CABS presidents, including Dr. Jen Majeti (moderator, 2015-2016), Dr. Jennifer Hu (2006-2007), Dr. Shichang Miao (2009-2010), Dr. Janet Xiao (2011- 2012), Dr. Zhonghua Pei (2013-2014), and Dr. Alex Zhang (2017-2018). The discussion covered a range of career-related topics, such as the influence of their CABS experiences on their career trajectories, strategies for building and maintaining professional networks, the challenges of navigating careers in both big pharma and biotech startups, etc. The panel not only provided valuable insights and creative perspectives for young professionals but also resonated with the overarching theme of the 25th anniversary celebration. The session concluded with a memorable group photo featuring over ten past presidents, adding a touch of nostalgia and camaraderie to the event. 

The conference concluded with a closing address by Dr. Keting Chu, the Founding President of CABS, followed by a fun iLOVE CABS Draw. In her closing remarks, Dr. Chu introduced the history of CABS, tracing its evolution from its inception to its current state and elucidating the mission that continues to drive CABS forward. She highlighted the pivotal role of collective dedication, expertise, and unwavering passion, emphasizing their instrumental role in advancing the biopharmaceutical industry. Dr. Chu also encouraged the audience to look ahead with optimism, as the future holds promising prospects for collaboration and innovation.

In closing, we wish to extend our heartfelt gratitude once more to all the distinguished speakers, enthusiastic sponsors and attendees, the hardworking organizing committee, and the dedicated volunteers who contributed to the resounding success of this conference. It was your unwavering commitment and boundless passion for CABS and the broader biopharmaceutical community that truly propelled this event to greatness. We are deeply appreciative of your collective efforts and look forward to the prospect of reconnecting with you in future events. Together, we will continue to drive collaboration, acceleration, breakthrough, and success within the field, shaping the future of the biopharmaceutical field. 

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