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BCLA's 8th Annual Biotech Summit: The Future of Biotech in LA

On Saturday, October 15th, 2022, BCLA hosted our 8th Annual Biotech Summit: The Future of Biotech in Los Angeles at the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UCLA. With 8 event sponsors, 12 speakers, 24 mentors, and over 150 attendees, BCLA successfully explored what is in store for the local biotech landscape.

The morning started off with a brief introduction and welcome by Justin Overhulse, President of BCLA, who talked about BCLA’s growth since 2014 and how BCLA is facilitating the growth of the LA biotech ecosystem. Dave Whelan, CEO of BioscienceLA, followed by speaking on how LA will be a strong player in biotech given its geographical reach to the entire world. Keynote speaker Dr. Summant Ramachandra, President, and CEO of ImmPACT Bio, then took over to share his experience across biotech while traveling the world. Dr. Ramachandra made a point to emphasize the fact that Los Angeles is more than just a home for the big screens of Hollywood, it is on track to be the next global biotech hub. Dr. Ramachandra shared with the audience a remarkable Arthur C. Clark quote “the only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.” By this quote, Dr. Ramachandra hopes to instill the idea of challenging young scientists to explore their interests and to find ways to make an impact in their communities in order to fuel the growth of biotech. Dr. Ramachandra goes on to mention the importance of soft skills necessary to grow as a person and to grow ideas. Having the ability to build relationships, effectively communicate, and find mentorship is essential for personal growth; as important as results are, it is just as important to be kind.

Following our engaging keynote address, BCLA hosted our first panel of the summit, titled “Biotech Outside of Healthcare.” This panel featured Siobhan Braybrook, Assistant Professor Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology at UCLA, Amanda Schaible, Director of operations at Mozza Foods, Taissa Maleh, CEO of Bluefin Foods Inc., and Jim Cooper, CTO & Managing Partner at Braid Theory, which was moderated by Llewellyn Cox, CEO of LabLaunch. Our panel set out to explore what biotech looks like in the larger sense outside of human well-being. With the rapid growth of biotech, the traditional concept of medicine and healthcare has also expanded to include new areas of interest like climate and sustainability—there has been a lot of funding placed towards developing artificial meats, exploring methods of farming seaweed to be used as a biofuel feedstock, and creating accelerator companies to support drug discovery from the ocean space. With considerations towards sustainability and ethics, our panel posed the question, what really saves the planet and makes the world a better place for us and the generation to come? Fundamentally the answer is to engage with people and educate the world around us.

Taking a quick break from our discussions during the day, the Biotech Summit broke for lunch for attendees to have a chance to network and join various breakout sessions featuring mentors from diverse backgrounds. The breakout sessions were split into two tracks. Start-Up Studio, where mentors shared experiences and advice on ideation, commercialization, team building, accelerator/incubator programs, and funding, and Career Choices in Industry, where attendees could connect with professionals who worked in R&D, business development, medical science liaison, marketing, academia, law, and as a start-up founder. Attendees were free to move between tables and tracks to receive advice on launching their start-ups or gain insights on the many career options in the biotech industry.

Our second panel was titled “Homegrown CEO’s.” This session was moderated by Brian Varnum, CEO of Armata Pharmaceuticals. We were joined by panelists Shu Li, CEO of Petri Bio, Andrew Gray, CEO of Karma Biotechnologies, Bryan Yoo, CEO of Nuanced Health, Ian Akash Morrison, Co-Founder & CEO of Avesta76 Therapeutics, and Jason Varughese, Co-founder & CEO of Pink Cloud. The goal of this panel was to explore what the industry is like and gain insight into the process of founding a company. Considering that LA is in development to be the next global biotech hub, our panel remarked that there is a multitude of opportunities for anyone to explore their scientific curiosity and learn, regardless of educational background. The panel shared that within founding a start-up there is no such thing as failure, only learning experiences. Along with this, it is essential to surround yourself with people who know what they are doing and share the same drive as you. In closing remarks, the panel mentioned that their desire to be successful comes from the desire to make an impact and to learn every day. The summit concluded with an open networking session and happy hour powered by Nucleate, where attendees had opportunities to continue discussions with speakers and mentors, build connections, and learn about biotech career opportunities in Los Angeles. Thank you to all BCLA team members, speakers, mentors, sponsors, and attendees for making this event a success!

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