BIO Asia–Taiwan 2021 Conference, Day One Highlights
Day one of Asia’s premier biomedical gathering BIO Asia–Taiwan 2021 Conference kicked off Wednesday with four online sessions and 20+ speeches and panel discussions featuring an expert lineup of international and local key opinion leaders.
The Plenary Session, Global Perspectives: A Brave New Era for Biotechnology, examined how the biomedical industry is reinventing itself as it emerges from COVID-19. With new market conditions, upended policy and regulatory environments, novel ways to nurture platform technologies, and fresh collaboration and investment models, the industry is under the spotlight as worldwide attention and resources are newly focused on healthcare. Speakers in this session included Nobel Laureate Michael Houghton, and World Prize and Breakthrough Prize Laureate Robert S. Langer, and Graham Lewis, Vice President, Global Pharma Strategy, IQVIA.
Opening the event was President and CEO of the global Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), Michelle McMurry-Heath.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the world what biotech and modern science can achieve. In the last year our industry has developed 17 vaccine candidates in late-stage clinical trials. And since January 2020 we have launched nearly 1,000 covid vaccine, therapeutic and diagnostic programs,” she said.
“We now expect the world to emerge from the pandemic into what we would call a ‘new normal’ during 2023,” said IQVI’s Graham Lewis, “but there needs to be greater efficiency in the entire management of healthcare chain. There will be a tightening of budgets, and digital health and telemedicine solutions will be brought into play to yield some benefits from a budgetary perspective.”
With partnership the lifeblood of this industry, Session Two, entitled Pharma-Biotech Partnering & Collaboration, examined the full spectrum of collaboration models, including big companies partnering with small, cross- discipline collaborations, and public-private partnerships. During the lively panel discussion, Taiwan’s Chern-Chyi Chen, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Economic Affairs explained why Taiwan is an attractive partnership prospect. “Taiwan’s biotech industry has a revenue of USD21 billion and last year the industry grew by 7.4%, probably because of COVID-19 [attracting investment attention to Taiwan]. In 2020 investment in Taiwan’s biotech industry reached USD2.5 billion,” adding that the biomedical industry was one of the ‘Six Core Strategic Industries’ for national development.
Session Three, Growth with Exit Strategy, was a panel discussion co-organized by PwC with Vivo Capital, featuring major investment bankers, corporate fund managers of multinational companies, leading VC’s, finance and experts, and pharma deal makers, discussing investment and exit options and spotlighting recent significant biotech IPOs, mergers, acquisitions and licensing deals. Speakers included Michael Brinkman of Jefferies LLC, Donna Martin and Matthieu Merlin of Sanofi Pasteur, Sinclair Dunlop of Epidarex Capital, Darren Carroll of Polaris Partners, Grace Yeh of Onward Therapeutics, and Lee-Cheng Liu of Eirgenix. One takeaway from this session was that despite COVID the industry is booming at least from a financial perspective, with an almost record-breaking 70 IPOs in 2020 and 2021 on track for the most biotech IPOs ever.
Session Four, Data-driven Precision Health, introduced 'Precision Health' as the new healthcare paradigm. With preventative healthcare at one end and post-treatment and long-term care at the other, bio-data, data management and artificial intelligence is essential in powering this new model. Speakers in this session included Kung-Yee Liang, President of Taiwan’s National Health Research Institutes (NHRI), Wenn Sun of Precision Medicine Asia, Laura Chu of Genentech, and Mark Effingham, Deputy CEO of UK Biobank.
Crunching biodata and analyzing biosamples from more than 500,000 participants in a multi-year longitudinal study, UK Biobank is an excellent model of precision health in action. “We’re generating a resource that allows researchers to investigate why some participants go on to develop a particular disease and others don’t,” said Mark Effingham. “As a richly curated resource, it is well placed to understand the interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental exposures to the development of disease.”