Immunotherapy, Global Health & More At Seattle’s Life Sci Disruptors

Xconomy Seattle — 

Our annual life sciences forum in Seattle is coming up on May 2 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and we’re looking forward to an afternoon of discussions that tap into the city’s biotech and public health expertise.

You can peruse the newly updated agenda here, but I’d like to share some of the flavor of what to expect if you join us. The afternoon will start with a group of talks centered on immunotherapy, the practice of training or strengthening a patient’s own immune system to help fight disease. Rob Hershberg, chief scientific officer of Celgene, will talk about the field’s impact on cancer, and where the next opportunities lie for companies like Celgene, which in 2014 opened its immuno-oncology center in Seattle. Since then, Celgene’s local ties have only deepened, as the Summit, NJ-based firm made a significant ownership and collaboration pact with Seattle’s own Juno Therapeutics last summer.

After Hershberg, two Seattle researchers will dive more deeply into immunotherapy. From the Fred Hutch, Cameron Turtle will walk us through a case study of a cancer patient whose own immune T cells, transformed into an experimental treatment, turned a desperate situation into a new lease on life. Turtle has worked on T cell cancer programs affiliated with Juno. We’ll then hear from Andrew Scharenberg of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, a pediatrician and researcher pursuing cutting-edge biomedical strategies to help kids who have inherited immune-system diseases. Cancer has been the front line for immunotherapy, but Scharenberg and his peers want people with other diseases to benefit, too.

Seattle is also ground zero for some of the most important public health groups in the world. The panel “From AIDS To Zika” will gather folks from the public and private sectors who are combating both longstanding and emerging diseases, including former Fred Hutch president Larry Corey, a virologist who is helping run a closely watched HIV vaccine trial in South Africa, and Jim Thomas, CEO of Seattle’s Just Therapeutics, working to make expensive drugs cheap enough for widespread use in the developing world. Jennifer Dent, president of the BIO Ventures for Global Health, will lead the discussion.

To much of the world, Seattle means high-tech. It’s no surprise that healthcare in the digital age is top of mind in the city. We’ll have two sessions dedicated to this convergence. In the first session, on wellness and prevention, we’ll explore services aimed at healthcare consumers (also known as “everyday people”) in two ways. Clayton Lewis, CEO of Seattle’s Arivale, will explain how his company aims to go direct to consumer with services such as genomic analysis, blood workup, and health coaching. Lewis’s counterpart in the session, Molly Moore of Cambia Health Solutions, will describe initiatives to deliver new apps and programs to its customers at its health insurance division, Regence, and beyond.

In the second health-tech convergence session, top data scientists from the local nonprofit Sage Bionetworks and the Fred Hutch will sit down to discuss the public health promise of sharing vast amounts of data, and the challenges of building systems to make it possible.

The final hour of our half-day event is dedicated to Seattle’s startup scene. I’ll sit down with Accelerator CEO Thong Le, who has been scouting and funding local talent for 15 years, to talk about Seattle’s competitive startup advantages and disadvantages, what he’s learned from Accelerator’s recent expansion to New York City, and more. We’ll then hear from M3 Biotechnology CEO Leen Kawas, a native of Jordan and Washington State University grad now tackling Alzheimer’s disease, and one of her first investors, John Fluke. Before we head into the networking and cocktail hour, we’ll feature an onstage discussion with David Baker of the University of Washington, a world leader in protein design, and young scientists from three startups to emerge recently from the U-Dub’s Institute for Protein Design.

We hope you can join us and add your voice to the many conversations. Tickets to the event are available here. We look forward to seeing you in Seattle on May 2.