Plenary Keynotes

Tuesday, June 2, 4:25 - 6:05 pm

PANEL DISCUSSION: Driving Entrepreneurial Innovation To Accelerate Therapeutic Discoveries

Investing in drug discovery and development continues to face inherent challenges:

  • Scale and duration of investment required;
  • Risk and attrition in drug discovery and development;
  • Uncertainties around pricing and reimbursement of new medicines;
  • Leveraging the intersection of life-sciences and technology

Several novel business and investment models have been explored, and continue to be developed, to meet these challenges, and ensure medical breakthroughs continue to be delivered to address unmet patient needs. This session will explore such models, and potential new opportunities, with leaders within the biopharma, investment and related sectors who are at the cutting-edge of driving entrepreneurial innovation for therapeutic discovery.

Moderator: Nadeem Sarwar, PhD, Founder & President, Eisai Center for Genetics Guided Dementia Discovery (G2D2), Eisai, Inc.

Panelists: Anthony Philippakis, Chief Data Officer, Broad Institute; Venture Partner, GV

Barbara Sosnowski, Vice President and Global Head, Emerging Science & Innovation Leads, WWRDM, Pfizer

John Hallinan, Chief Business Officer, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council

This panel discussion will focus on novel collaborative business models in biopharma. The purpose of this panel will be to highlight examples of innovative investment and collaborative models being used to accelerate the discovery and development of game-changing new medicines, and discuss future opportunities in this space.

Wednesday, June 3, 1:45 - 3:15 pm

Keynote Introduction:


Lgr5 Stem Cell-Based Organoids in Human Disease

Hans Clevers, MD, PhD, Principal Investigator of Hubrecht Institute and Princess Máxima Center, CSO of HUB Organoids Technology

Organoid technology opens a range of applications in fields such as physiology, study of disease, drug development and personalized medicine. Human organoids represent excellent disease models, be it infectious, hereditary or malignant  Eventually, cultured mini-organs may be used to replace transplant organs from donors. I will describe how we originally created ‘mini-guts’ via 3D culture systems of stem cells of the small intestine and colon, and then expanded the technology to virtually all human organs.

Bio: Hans Clevers obtained his MD degree in 1984 and his PhD degree in 1985 from the University Utrecht, the Netherlands. His postdoctoral work (1986-1989) was done with Cox Terhorst at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of the Harvard University, Boston, USA. From 1991-2002 Hans Clevers was Professor in Immunology at the University Utrecht and, since 2002, Professor in Molecular Genetics. From 2002-2012 he was director of the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht. From 2012-2015 he was President of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). From June 2015-2019 he was director Research of the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology.

Systematically Drugging Ras

Stephen Fesik, PhD, Professor of Biochemistry, Pharmacology, and Chemistry; Orrin H. Ingram II Chair in Cancer Research, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

K-Ras is a small GTPase that is mutated in pancreatic (90%), colon (50%), and lung (30%) carcinomas. Downregulation of activated Ras reverses the transformed phenotype of cells and results in the dramatic regression of tumors in murine xenograft models. Thus, K-Ras inhibition represents an attractive therapeutic strategy for many cancers. In this presentation, I will discuss our efforts to directly target Ras at two sites and target SOS, a molecular partner of Ras, with activators and inhibitors. 

Bio: Dr. Fesik’s research focus is on cancer drug discovery using fragment-based approaches and structure-based drug design. Prior to joining Vanderbilt in May 2009, Dr. Fesik was the Divisional Vice President of Cancer Research at Abbott (2000-2009) where he built a pipeline of compounds that are showing promising anti-cancer activities in early stage clinical trials. While at Abbott, he also developed new NMR methods, determined the three-dimensional structures of several proteins and protein/ligand complexes, pioneered a method for drug discovery called SAR by NMR, and applied this method to identify and optimize ligands for binding to many protein drug targets. Dr. Fesik has published more than 285 papers, trained 59 postdoctoral fellows, has been a reviewer for several government funding agencies and has served as a member of the Editorial Boards of many peer-reviewed journals. He won numerous awards including the Life Time Achievement Award in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance from Eastern Analytical Society (2003), the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2010), and the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry in Cancer Research (2012).

Thursday, June 4, 8:30 - 9:40 am

Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Drug Discovery – Separating Hype from Utility

Patrick Walters, PhD, Senior Vice President, Computation, Relay Therapeutics

Over the last few years, there has been tremendous interest in the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning in drug discovery. Ultimately, the success of any predictive model comes down to three factors: data, representation, and algorithms. This presentation will provide an overview of these factors and how they are critical to the successful implementation and deployment of AI methods.

Bio: Pat Walters heads the Computation & Informatics group at Relay Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA. His group focuses on novel applications of computational methods that integrate computer simulations and experimental data to provide insights that drive drug discovery programs. Pat is co-author of the book “Deep Learning for the Life Sciences”, published by O’Reilly and Associates. His work in AI began with expert systems in the late 1980s, moved to machine learning in the 1990s, and has continued through 25 years in the pharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining Relay, Pat spent more than 20 years at Vertex Pharmaceuticals where he was Global Head of Modeling & Informatics.

Special Events


Wednesday, June 3, 6:00 – 6:45 PM

Life science researchers in Massachusetts, and especially the Boston/Cambridge areas, are world renown for their ability to revolutionize drug discovery and development. Come and visit the Innovation Station, now a part of World Pharma Week on Wednesday, June 3 from 6:00 – 6:45 pm to chat with local venture capitalists, accelerators, entrepreneurs, start-ups and small companies to see what new ideas are brewing in this thriving ecosystem.


Thursday, June 4, 12:00-1:00 PM

On Thursday, June 4 from 12:00 – 1:00 pm join your peers for a Women in Pharma Luncheon Panel Discussion. This session will create a forum to share thought-provoking questions, inspiring stories, practical advice, and networking opportunities with influencers in the field.