Reflecting on a Year of Innovation, Strength, and Leadership

May 25, 2021

By Laura Rudberg, Director of Events, Massbio

Last week, MassBio convened more than 800 industry leaders for its annual State of Possible Conference. This event, though virtual, was one of the best we’ve hosted to date, amassing a record-breaking number of registrations and bringing together some of the most world-renowned leaders in the life sciences.

MassBio’s President and COO Kendalle Burlin O’Connell kicked off the event, reflecting on the industry’s profound leadership in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and celebrating the role of Massachusetts’ small and emerging biotechs in creating new tomorrows for patients everywhere. The State of Possible Conference took place mere weeks before the Massachusetts economy opens without COVID-19 restrictions, and it is because of the life sciences that normalcy is within arm’s reach. But, as MassBio Board Chair Chuck Wilson pointed out in his remarks, the onus is on the industry and its stakeholders to create the opportunities that will best support the sustainability of the life sciences cluster in Massachusetts.

One of the most well-known companies in Massachusetts’ life sciences ecosystem was featured during the Conference. And in a remarkable keynote address, Tal Zaks, CMO of Moderna, discussed the factors that led to the successful development of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, how he and his team persevered in a virtual world, and the towering strength of the Massachusetts life sciences cluster in cultivating the best possible ecosystem for biotech companies to thrive. Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel, was later awarded the 2020 Henri A. Termeer Innovative Leadership Award for his contributions to the growth and success of the life sciences industry. Bancel epitomizes what is possible in our industry and it was truly an honor to present him with this award. In his remarks he revered the significance of industry collaboration and discussed why the extraordinary feats the industry has accomplished in the last year are only the beginning.

To better explore the patient experience, we heard Possible Talks® from Sebastian Lefebvre, Senior Director of Data Sciences, Genomics, and Bioinformatics at Alexion, and Loriana Hernandez-Aldama, Chief Warrior of ArmorUp for Life. Lefebvre shared painful statistics around the number of children affected by rare disease and underscored the critical importance of early diagnosis and how data science can play a pivotal role in shortening the diagnostic journey. Hernandez-Aldama, a two-time cancer survivor, shared her personal experience as a patient and how her three P’s – Prepare, Present, Prevail – can make better patient outcomes possible.

The State of Possible Conference also featured two panels that looked at the life sciences industry more broadly. The first explored how the industry’s response to the pandemic and clinical trial disruptions may have helped accelerate innovation and transform the future of clinical trials. The conversation focused largely on the role of diversity in clinical trials, what can be done to better reach minority populations, and why diverse trial participants will be critical to future breakthrough therapies. And, on the heels of a record-breaking year for biopharma funding, we heard from a panel on what the funding landscape looks like for 2021 and beyond, and the potential impact of SPACs.

Finally, to close out a day of though-provoking content, Dr. Charlotte Jones-Burton, Founder & President of Women of Color in Pharma, delivered her keynote on how the biopharma industry can address health inequities and positively impact patients and communities of color.

This event would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors. Once again, I’d like to thank Astellas, Bayer, BeiGene, Biogen, Corealis Pharma, Ipsen, KPMG, Marsh & McLennan Agency, Mispro, Morgan Stanley, PTC Therapeutics, Rothwell Figg, Sanofi Genzyme, Sunovion, Takeda, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and Vertex

The future is bright for our industry and we look forward to the day we can meet in-person again – stay tuned for updates from MassBio on that.  Until then you can relive the 2021 State of Possible Conference, with our on-demand sessions here.

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