BIO Asia–Taiwan 2021 Conference, Day Two Highlights
BIO Asia–Taiwan 2021 Conference continued Thursday with five online sessions of expert presentations and lively panel discussions.
With COVID-19 still the world’s number one health concern, it was fitting that BIO Asia–Taiwan 2021 would focus significant attention on the pandemic, with Sessions Five and Six combined into a super session entitled Pandemic Control after Vaccination. With 11 presentations and a panel discussion featuring a stellar lineup of leading public health, COVID-19 and pandemic experts, a wide range of COVID-19-related issues were covered including the most promising vaccine and therapeutic developments from Taiwan, Asia and the rest of the world. Speaker highlights included Chunhuei Chi, Professor and Director of Center for Global Health, Oregon State University, with his presentation The Path Towards a Post-Pandemic Era; Asher Yeshaihu Salmon, Head, Department of International Relations, Ministry of Health, Israel, with Israel and COVID-19: Have we learned how to overcome the pandemic; and Jaime E. Hernandez, Executive Medical Director, Syneos Health with Accelerating Drug and Vaccine Development During Outbreaks.
“We are racing against time,” stressed Chunhuei Chi. “It’s the time to vaccinate the vast majority of the population to achieve heard immunity, versus the time the virus takes to develop more variants that are more contagious.”
Israel’s success in vaccinating its population was a result of both starting early and of strong organization. “We went with a single type of vaccine and decided to vaccinate as fast as possible to reduce morbidity and mortality,” said Asher Yeshaihu Salmon, adding that a world-leading 75% of Israel’s population has been fully vaccinated.
Session Seven, Public Private Partnership for Precision Health, was a deep dive into Taiwan’s all-new Precision Health Initiative, a 2021 blueprint to develop and integrate precision health's essential elements including Taiwan's unique bio-data resources such as the National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD) and BioBank. Speakers included Hong-Chen Chen, Director General, Department of Life Sciences, Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST); Chung-hsiun Wu, President, Development Center for Biotechnology (DCB); and Chii-Wann Lin of the Industrial Technology Research Institute.
“We hope through the integration of biomedicine with ICT industries we will be able to establish [strong] biomedical industries in Taiwan and benefit people with healthier and happier lives.” said Hong-Chen Chen, while stating that the implementation of precision health in Taiwan will be a three-step process. “First is perfecting the precision health ecosystem. Second is fostering the precision health supply chain. Third is integration with the global health community.”
During Session Eight, Unlock the Hidden Value of Research in Asia, an expert lineup of VC and finance specialists introduced how to best identify value in Asian biomedical research offerings, how to pick early-stage company targets, and covered investment entry and exit best practices. Speakers included Yoshitake Maeda of Bristol Myers Squibb, Rick Tsai of LUCA Science and Axil Capital, and Roger Pomerantz of ContraFect.
“It’s a long game,” said Roger Momerantz, referencing an example of ContraFect investing in a biotech in China. “There will be bumps in the road. It’s important to have investors that don’t bail out the first time there is a problem,” he stressed. Government support, common for the industry in Asian countries, while welcomed, should not be intrusive. “This can lead to hierarchy, and hierarchy destroys biotech innovation,” he stressed.
Session Nine, AI-enabled Smart Healthcare, was a spotlight on the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. AI has exploded onto the medical scene, impacting diagnostics, the prediction of future diseases, genetic analysis, reducing clinical error rates, and accelerating pharmaceutical and medical device research and development. Speaking on this cutting-edge topic included Najat Khan of Janssen, Johnson and Johnson, Olivier Delannoy of AstraZeneca, and Ann Aerts of Novartis.
“Data science and digital health in R&D is evolving rapidly, accelerated by the pandemic,” said Najat Khan. “It’s not ‘potential’ anymore. It’s here and now.” Data science is having significant industry impact, both on the drug discovery and clinical development phases. “An example is that AI enhances the likelihood that a compound or molecule will be a medicine.”