The conference portion of BIO Asia–Taiwan 2020 opened today from the event’s onsite base at TaiNEX 2 Exhibition hall in Nankang, Taipei.
With ‘Finding Cures in the Crisis’ the theme, the first day featured two sessions on ‘Global Trends in Biotech Industry’; one on ‘Accelerating Biomedical Innovations’; the first of two covid19-focused sessions ‘Combating Pandemics (A)’; and a finance-focused session, ‘A New Paradigm in Biotech Innovation and Investment’.
With short presentations to cater to the online format, the conference moved at a fast pace; the five sessions featuring over 25+ international speakers and panelists. With the pandemic leading to BIO Asia–Taiwan’s unique ‘online plus live’ format, most of the presentations were delivered via pre-taped video on giant display screens. While all sessions were accessible in real-time online to registered viewers around the globe, many of the presentations given by Taiwanese experts were held live at the conference venue; as such hundreds of participants congregated onsite to soak in the live conference experience.
One highly anticipated presentation was from Nobel Laureate Tasuku Honjo with his presentation on the future of cancer immunotherapy. In it he compared the progress of cancer therapy to that of infectious disease treatment.
“We expect phases of improvement of cancer therapy, just as we had more phases of antibiotic therapy.”
“Our hope is that we can reach the chronic phase of cancer therapy. It means we don’t have to eliminate the tumor, but we can coexist with it. I hope this can come with in this century; Just as we [largely] conquered infectious diseases in the 20th century, we hope that in the 21st century that we can live with this disease,” he said.
Another highly-anticipated speech was from Taiwan’s former vice president, Chen Chien-jen. The subject of a recent New York Times article with the headline “Taiwan’s Weapon Against Coronavirus: An Epidemiologist as Vice President”, Chen’s onsite presentation on the country’s success to date in combating the pandemic was particularly well received.
One of the key factors for this success has been Taiwan’s openness when it comes to communicating about the pandemic with the public, according to Chen.
“As such, people trust us and follow government mandates and instructions well,” he said.
Also important among a list of six major factors was the government-led effort to ramp up the production of face masks; from an initial 3.8 million per day to May’s figure of 21 million.
“It’s not only adequate for Taiwan, we can now donate to other countries around the world.”
BIO Asia–Taiwan 2020 is probably the first and biggest such gathering in Asia since the onset of the pandemic, certainly the first in the world to utilize the online plus live format. Chairman of event’s organizing committee Johnsee Lee was pleased with the response to the new format from both Taiwan and the overseas biotech community.
“For the conference we’ve had more than 1,400 registrations, with 30 percent being from overseas and at least 100 of those from the US. This is one of the benefits of having our event online, it removes the burden of travel and encourages wider global participation,” said Lee.
Which is why this new format may be the way forward for an industry so dependent on global interaction. The pandemic is already slowing down critical clinical trial progress, for example.
David Flores, President and CEO of BioCentury in his presentation ‘Today’s Money Magnets in Biotech’, mentioned the wider impact going forward.
“An even bigger challenge remains in the financing ecosystem. It’s the ability for companies to build new investor networks, and the ability of companies to find new assets. We know investors who are worried that Covid is a roadblock to finding new entrepreneurs and innovation,” said Flores. As such ‘Series A’ financing deals are down on expectations, which will affect downstream progress such as drug pipeline development, he added.
Johnsee Lee believes that to keep the industry wheels turning, industry stakeholders are trying to be more proactive in finding ways to stay connected.
“For example, VC firms are doing more to broker connections and broker deals. Traditionally, VC firms were very local; now there’s more cross-border interaction,”
But he concluded that the new format of the conference is just the ticket to address the need for better industry engagement in these troubling times. “That’s exactly what BIO Asia–Taiwan is for,” he stated.
Tomorrow (23 July) the event will feature the official event opening with President Tsai Ing-wen, as well as announcing of the winners of the annual Taiwan BIO Biotech
Industry Awards. Tomorrow also sees the onsite exhibition over two floors of the TaiNEX 2 hall open to registered attendees. Other features of BIO Asia–Taiwan 2020 already open include the online Exhibition, the Company Presentation program, the Entrepreneur Pitch sessions featuring presentations from start-up teams, BIO One-on-One Partnering™. Day 2 of the Conference will feature sessions entitled ‘Sharing Biotech Successes’, ‘AI for Therapeutic Innovations’, ‘Combating Pandemics (B)’, and ‘Biotech Business Models & Financing Strategy’.
We look forward to reporting on tomorrow’s excitement. See you all at BIO Asia–Taiwan 2020 Online + Live! Check out the event website at www.bioasiataiwan.com for full activity, session and presentation details.
Ms. Daisy Tsai
Taiwan Bio Industry Organization (Taiwan BIO)