By Harsh Sancheti
The 2014 AAPS National Biotechnology Conference (NBC) was held in the picturesque city of San Diego, a biotechnology and pharmaceutical hub on the West Coast of the United States. To make our stay comfortable, the weather was perfectly tuned for the San Diego Marina! NBC covered scientific advances in biotechnology and tackled some of the major issues faced by the biotech community with a common goal of creating innovative medicines for the betterment of human health. More importantly, there were extensive discussions on the path ahead and ample opportunities for networking. This meeting provided a lot of food for thought.
The theme of NBC was “Advancing Health through Innovations in Biotherapeutics,” featuring lectures by some of the most innovative biotechnology leaders. Several biomanufacturing topics were discussed, including process validation for biologic drugs, challenges in enabling patient-centric biotherapeutic delivery systems, discussion of the case studies linking critical quality attributes to patient outcomes for biologics, recent advances in downstream processing of biotherapeutics, challenges associated with CMC in accelerated development of breakthrough therapies, use of process analytical technology, and implementing multivariate statistical process controls in bio-pharmaceutical manufacturing. Many biomarkers and pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics (PK/PD) topics were also discussed, such as the covariates impacting PK/PD of monoclonal antibodies, pediatric PK of small molecules, the best practices for conveying exploratory biomarker data to FDA, connecting PK and PD, methods for visualizing and quantifying biodistribution of large molecules, and the effectiveness of biomarkers in impacting patient outcome.
I found the session on career development led by Raman Venkataraman, Ph.D., Pravin Chaturvedi, Ph.D., and Harshvardhan Mehta, Ph.D., very helpful and interactive. In the session, we discussed several aspects of career development, such as finding your first job, important considerations for the workplace, how to advance your career after landing your first job, changing jobs, and key attributes of successful individuals. This session seemed helpful not only for recent grads but also for midlevel working professionals. Additionally, there was a session for getting résumés reviewed by experienced professionals from the biopharmaceutical industry and academia. This certainly helped several younger colleagues to remove glaring mistakes from their current résumé and carve out the perfect résumé.
The poster sessions did a good job discussing the cutting edge science displayed at this meeting and provided ample time for Q&A. Meeting with the members of the Biotechnology section was especially helpful for me, as I recently took over as the chair of the Biotechnology Section Student Committee (BSSC). Tapan Das, Ph.D., led the reception for Biotechnology section members by announcing the progress of the entire group over the last year; outlining some of the goals for the next year; and presenting several awards.
Some of the other topics discussed at this year’s NBC included focusing on research and development strategies with respect to proteins, vaccines, fusion proteins and peptides, oncology, and probiotics in addition to the discussions on immunogenicity and administration routes. Overall, this was a stellar meeting put together by Raimund Peter, Ph.D., and the NBC Programming Committee with help from several section chairs and members and the support of AAPS President Marilyn Morris, Ph.D., and AAPS staff. I truly enjoyed this meeting and look forward to the 2015 NBC in San Francisco, June 8–10.