Kern CHANG, Ph.D., Janssen R&D, USA
KASBP Public Relations Director, Directors@kasbp.org
On November 1-2 (Friday, Saturday), 2019 KASBP Fall symposium was held at DoubeTree by Hilton Hotel Boston-Andover (123 Old River Road., Andover, Massachusetts 01810 UA) with the help of sponsors, Daewoong Pharmaceutical, LG Chem, Korea Pharmaceutical and Bio-Pharma Manufacturers Association (KPBMA), Korea Research Institute of Bioscience & Biotechnology (KRIBB), Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) and University of Ulsan. The event began beneath a sunny autumn sky without clouds, a transformation from the last day’s storm. Like last year, Korean scientists from pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, faculties, students leading in life sciences at undergraduate and graduate schools and researchers leading start-ups in Korea attended to discuss the theme, “Current Trends in Key Therapeutic Approaches”.
On the first day of the symposium, before the main event, a forum was held in collaboration with KHIDI. As a part of the program, “Future Talent Development for the Growth of Korean BioHealth Industry,” KHIDI Team Manager Seung Wook Hong, KASBP President K. Stephen Suh, KASBP Boston Branch Head Soo-Hee Park, and many speakers discussed on ways to nurture talents of younger generation. Also, the job fair, which was held at every symposium, was conducted to offer applicants interviews with Korean pharmaceutical companies and research institutes for job opportunities.
Dr. Soo-Hee Park, the president-elect of KASBP, hosted the opening ceremony. It began with a welcome message from President Stephen Suh. Hee Mok Won, the president of KPBMA and whose first time attending the symposium following the current MOU, delivered the congratulatory remark. Seung Ho Jeon representative from Daewong, one of KASBP’s long time sponsor, also made the congratulatory remark.
The opening was followed by KASBP-Daewoong Award ceremony, the highlight of the night. Dr. Woosuk Han from Novartis, the First Vice President of KASBP, introduced this year’s winner, Professor Kwang-Soo Kim from McLean Hospital of Harvard Medical School. Professor Han congratulated Professor Kim on the research on molecular pathology of Parkinson’s Disease its drug development.
Professor Kim delivered a keynote speech on 30 years of his research under the title, “Novel therapeutic development of Parkinson’s disease”. Professor Kim earned his Ph.D. degree from KAIST, Korea. He talked about his long journey that started in 1980s when he came over to the United States, where he became a professor at Harvard Medical School, and finally publicized NURR1, the cause of Parkinson’s Disease. He explained that his success had its basis in continuous questioning and urge to solve ‘burning question’.
After the keynote speech, two stream of networking sessions were held. First, the attendees were divided into 8 groups, based on their interest areas, and shared their work, research topics and knowledge. Computational biology/data science/machine learning/AI group was very popular as it was newly assembled at this symposium based on emerging interest in the area. The second networking session, Young Generation (YG) group, was carried out in an effort to support the next generation of professionals. Through mentor-mentee program that started last year, KASBP members were able to give advices to YG members considering paths to biotechnology or pharmaceutical industry.
Symposium Main Session
The Saturday event began with welcoming speech by Dr. Hyun-Hee Lee, the Second Vice President of KASBP and the chief executive of the symposium. Dr. Sung-Kwon Kim of Alexion and the current KASBP Connecticut Branch Head introduced the outline of today’s event. The first session was consisted of three presentations. First, Dr. Dae-Shik Kim, from Eisai, a Japanese pharmaceutical company, described STING pathway, an emerging target for immuno-oncology, and its ligand MBSA. Dr. Sunhwa Kim, an expert on Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) who is currently working in Merck, presented the second speech on Pirfenidone and other commercially available products. She also discussed about their pharmacological limitations and her anticipation on future drug products. As the final speaker, Dr. Ji-Young Min from GSK introduced her researches on vaccines across NIH, Institute Pasteur Korea and GSK. She also announced strategies for developing new vaccines, including Mosquito Saliva Vaccine which has recently been gaining attention.
The second session in the afternoon was conducted by Dr. Nam Cheol Kim of United States Pharmacopeia who is also a current KASBP President of Washington DC Chapter. Just as the morning session, there were total three research presentations. Dr. Hyunjin Shin of Takeda, the first speaker, presented on machine learning and artificial intelligence used in the development of new drugs. Dr. Shin introduced the basics of AI and the importance of data perspicuously, which was easy to comprehend despite it still being an unfamiliar area to many. The second speaker, Dr. Janghee Woo of Novartis, illustrated the genetic heterogeneity of AML, a type of blood cancer, with machine learning and statistics and suggested that these new tools can be used to build hypothesis. The final speaker of the second session was made by Dr. Ji Yun Song of pH Pharma, who published a case on the application of gene therapy in ophthalmology. She described the interesting development history of Luxturna, the first gene therapy for a rare eye disease called LCA, and its preclinical study.
The title and speakers of each session are as follows:
1. Discovery of E7766: A representative of a novel class of macrocycle-bridged STING agonists (MBSAs) with pan-genotypic activity : Dr. Dae-Shik Kim (Eisai)
2. Drug Discovery and Development in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: Dr. Sunhwa Kim (Merck)
3. Strategies to tackle Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases: Dr. Ji-Young Min (GSK Vaccine)
4. 4. Gene therapy in the Eye: Dr. Ji Yun Song (pH Pharma)
5. 5. The present and future of Data Science, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in Drug Discovery and Development: Dr. Hyunjin Shin (Takeda Pharmaceuticals)
6. 6. Machine Learning to facilitate understanding of Disease Biology and Drug Discovery: Dr. Janghee Woo (Novartis)
Scholarship Award Ceremony and Sponsor Introduction
Scholarship Award Ceremony was held after the first session. A total of 10 postdoctoral researchers and Ph.D. students received KASBP-Daewoong (3), KASBP-LG Chem (2), KASBP-KRIBB (2) and other fellowships (3). Scholarship winners also were granted opportunities to summarize and organize their research and present them to the audience. At a poster session following a lunch break, symposium attendees and postdoctoral researchers and students from leading universities and institutes were able to exchange questions and advices, creating a more professional and beneficial environment.
The introduction of various sponsors also attracted the attention of many who attended. At this fall’s symposium, sponsors from institutes and organizations such as Daewoong Pharmaceutical, LG Chem, KPBMA, KRIBB, KHIDI, and University of Ulsan shared their history, vision, and current development of new drugs with the audience. More sponsor groups have expressed their interest in collaborating with KASBP compared to previous years, thanks to the increased interest in the pharmaceutical industry, investment and KASBP’s expansion of scope. Thus KASBP has a great responsibility to further encourage exchange between the United States and South Korea.
After the symposium, there was a special session with dinner. The theme of this special session was technology transfer and IND submission. Dr. Hyunghul Kim of KRIBB explained three products and technologies that can be licensed out, along with the current licensing out status of KRIBB. Finally, Dr. Heimo Scheer, VP of Celerion, came to an end at the symposium, explaining the process, lead time and effective tips in the submission of IND filing.
What stood out at the symposium was an increase of approximately 25% in participants compared to the previous year, and five new sponsoring organizations. What does this mean? The promising future for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry may be the first reason why researchers in the U.S. are more interested in the industry than ever before. Secondly, it may be that not only Korean pharmaceutical companies, but also public institutions and associations are now proposing collaboration with foreign associations through MOU to join the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. The two-day event was a great success with new faces and new research outcomes. The attendees left the symposium, looking forward to meeting again in spring, 2020 in Washington, DC.