The 20-Year Outlook for Bay Area Life Sciences, Coming March 16

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Biotechnology was born in the San Francisco Bay Area about 35 years ago, and by most ways of keeping score, it remains the most vibrant cluster in the world for life sciences innovation. But will that still be true 20 years from now?

These are the kinds of deep questions we love to ask at Xconomy. That’s why I’m excited to say we have pulled together a few visionaries with QB3 to tackle the topic at the next big Xconomy event. It’s titled “San Francisco Biotech: 2031” and it will be held from 6 to 8 pm on March 16 at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, in Genentech Hall, Byers Auditorium.

Our all-star lineup of speakers includes people with experience in biotech startups, Big Pharma, diagnostics, personalized medicine, venture capital, and academic research. Here are the confirmed speakers:

Jeff Bluestone. Jeff is the executive vice chancellor and provost of UC San Francisco, which makes him the No. 2 official on campus and its chief academic officer. That means he has an inside view on UCSF’s recent string of collaborations with Pfizer, Bayer, and Sanofi-Aventis, and how they make sense for the university. Jeff is also a star diabetes researcher, familiar with the challenges of new drug development. He’s the director of the UCSF Diabetes Center, the founding director of the Immune Tolerance Network, and a past winner of a prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant.

Randy Scott. Randy is the founder and executive chairman of Redwood City, CA-based Genomic Health (NASDAQ: GHDX), and before that was a founder of InCyte. His latest company, Genomic Health, is one of the trailblazers in using genomics for personalized medicine, through its Oncotype Dx test, which helps breast cancer patients predict their likelihood of relapse after surgery, and predict whether a round of chemo will be useful. As the company has grown into a $150 million-a-year business, Randy has focused less on the day to day operations, and more on the long-term opportunities that come from being an early player in personalized medicine.

Peter Hirth. Peter is the co-founder and CEO of Berkeley, CA-based Plexxikon. Peter was previously the president of Sugen, where he oversaw development of sunitinib (Sutent), a cancer drug on pace to top $1 billion in worldwide sales this year for Pfizer. Peter is at it again at Plexxikon, having developing a new drug that produces unprecedented tumor shrinkage rates, and has been shown to prolong lives, for about half of melanoma patients with a mutated protein. Developing new drugs is still a notoriously long, expensive, and risky proposition, and Peter can talk about how new pressure from regulators, and from insurers, is forcing more drug developers to make personalized medicines this if they still want to have a viable business model 20 years down the road.

Corey Goodman. Corey is the co-founder and managing director of San Francisco-based venBio. Corey has seen it all in his biotech, from the perspective of an investor (venBio is a new strategic venture capital firm), a Big Pharma executive (he ran Pfizer’s biotech drug and innovation center) an entrepreneur (he co-founded Exelixis and Renovis), and an academic (he was a professor of neuroscience at Stanford University and UC Berkeley). Corey is currently the chairman of a handful of local life sciences companies, including Limerick Biopharma, iPierian, and PhyloTech.

All four of these people have deep roots in the Bay Area, and valuable perspectives on what continues to make San Francisco such a dynamic hub for producing innovation in drugs, devices, and diagnostics. They also see what’s happening globally, with the push to outsource more activities to places with lots of smart people, and lower costs of doing business (China, India, secondary biotech hubs in the U.S.).

Following the panel, we’ll have a handful of 3-4 minute presentations from startup companies in the Bay Area with potential to still be shaking up the field 20 years from now. They can’t lean on a PowerPoint—it’s just the CEO and a microphone for a few minutes talking about what they do and why it’s innovative. So far, Bill Newell of South San Francisco-based Sutro Biopharma has agreed to join this group, and I expect to add more to the program as we get closer to the date.

You can get more information on how to register for this event by clicking here. This will be a highly interactive conversation with the audience, with yours truly running around with a microphone-so be ready with your questions. I look forward to seeing you there on March 16.