Image source: KNECT365

The Biotech Week Boston 2019 event, run from September 9-12 of this year, hit new benchmarks in the size and scope of exhibitors, seminars, and projects on display. Martec has been attending the conference for several years now, first as the separate Bioprocess International (BPI) conference, and then as part of the combined “biotech week”. This event now incorporates BPI, Biopharm America, and Microbiome Therapeutics, and a dozen or so additional conference or seminar groups into one weeklong event, covering a vast array of topics oriented towards R&D, startup, scale-up, and commercialized therapeutics processing. The resulting convention is a sprawling affair, with a huge exhibition hall and a long array of practical and theoretical research sessions, startup competitions, industry addresses, as well as regional meetings and discussions. Later blogs will cover some of these in greater detail, but the following are some overall takeaways from the meeting.

  1. It’s all (still) about commercialization. An old joke in the industry, that personalized medicine and gene therapies are “within a decade” of commercial deployment…and have been since the 1970s or so. However, with 17 cell and gene therapies now approved by the FDA, and close to 300 in the pipeline for approval, “within a decade” is for the first time perhaps too conservative an estimate.  Companies, long approaching CG&T as primarily a research and small-scale clinical production challenge, are now having to consider all the complexities of moving their processes to a commercial scale of throughput.

The topic of commercialization and scale up is not a new one to Biotech Week Boston; previous years have conducted seminars to assist R&D teams to move from bench/pilot to commercial scale.  But this year qualitatively saw an even greater focus on the topic, both in working sessions and in the number of exhibitors advertising assistance in commercial scaling.  A greater sense of urgency in solving scale up problems was present in Martec’s conversation with industry players compared to our talks in previous years.

  1. Risk and Regulation are hot topics. The quickening race to commercialization brings new challenges in throughput and reaching the necessary capacity to serve medical need.  At the same time, in a burgeoning industry where many applications are regulatory new ground, many therapeutics manufactures have tended to be conservative in their processes.  Systems for production and purification, refined over the last 40 years for research and clinical scale production, are not optimized for commercial scale.  In this space, some companies are exploring new (for bioprocessing) approaches in continuous manufacturing and other production intensification steps.  Opinions on the subject were quite mixed at Biotech Week Boston, with some viewing greater innovation in optimizing output as critical to commercial success, while others focused on regulatory risks.  The recent FDA ruling against AveXis was an indication to many that pushing boundaries might carry consequences for commercial producers.
  2. The industry is embracing adjacent technologies. 3D bioprinting is not new to medical science, but its use in biotechnology has ramped up significantly over the last few years.  A common mainstay to many synthetic biology endeavors, to deliver biologic expression in industrial biotech, this year saw an even greater number of 3d bioprinting-related services and products advertised.  The largest segment of use remains, for many of the companies on display, in tackling issues of microfluidics and 3-D cell culture development of organoids for research and regenerative medicine.

3D bioprinting was not the only adjacent technology that Martec observed having a greater presence this year than in previous.  Services and technologies related to diagnostics, analytics, and fast quantification of process results were also present in larger numbers this year.  The emphasis on high speed but precise measurement and quantification of processes seemed to reflect industry pain points in both efficiently capturing data in iterative bench or pilot scale processes and the need to rigorously quantify processes for regulatory scrutiny.  As the industry moves from a primarily R&D footing to a mixture of scales, the need for adjacent technology and analytics partners is likely to only grow in coming years.

Overall, the Biotech Week Boston event demonstrated simply by its sprawling scope and attendance how quickly the biopharmaceutical and therapeutics fields are expanding to redefine medical care. As always, Martec will continue to watch this space and ensure our clients have the most up to date intelligence on the biotech industry. Be on the lookout in the coming weeks for our deep-dives into some of these important topics from Biotech Week Boston.

More News

EMOTION INTELLIGENCE

The Nuances of Fan Emotion and Engagement

by Allison Reck
Read More

The Call to Activism & Advocacy

by Josh Emington
Read More
PRIVATE EQUITY

Private Equity Trends

by The Martec Group
Read More