Register here. Panels include:
Why Birmingham? Why Alabama?
- Once the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement and the epicenter of racial oppression, Birmingham reckoned with its injustices on the world’s stage. A little over 100 miles away, the U.S. performed unconsented medical trials on Black men in Tuskegee—sowing seeds of generational distrust in medical research. It’s no wonder the state of Alabama’s COVID vaccination rate trailed the national average. Now, America’s fourth largest majority Black city seeks ways to heal our community through partnership to combat medical distrust and improve health outcomes for all. But first we must establish trust.
Biotech Beyond the Coasts
- While the vast majority of biotech activity has occurred in traditional coastal centers, the next generation of biotech innovation will be driven in new “middle-of-the-country” frontiers. Market-makers, industry experts, and policymakers are mobilizing historic investments in ecosystems like Birmingham to accelerate the commercialization of previously overlooked intellectual property generated by academic and translational research institutes.
Diversifying Clinical Trials
- In the final days of 2022, Congress passed an omnibus bill that included funding to support the aims of the DEPICT Act, legislation to increase diversity in clinical trials by requiring enhanced data reporting on clinical trial participant demographics and providing resources to underrepresented communities to improve access and participation in clinical trials. For decades, clinical trials have disproportionately benefited white men despite the U.S. being more than 40% non-white. The new guidance provides a mandate for pharmaceutical companies to engage more meaningfully with Alabama’s diverse and disease-burdened population in order to remedy the clinical trial disparities for minority residents.
Solving Inequality in Organ Transplants
- In March of 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration announced an Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network Modernization Initiative that includes several actions to strengthen accountability and transparency in the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). These changes were the result of years of relentless advocacy by a constellation of leaders forged by Organize.org. Meanwhile, with a worldwide organ shortage crisis, innovation is critical. With a substantial gift from United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt in 2016, UAB launched its Xenotransplantation Program. In 2022, their team published the world’s first peer-reviewed research outlining the successful transplant of genetically modified pig kidneys to replace human kidneys. The leaders on this panel will share a stage to discuss how patient advocates and researchers have teamed up to transform a broken system.
Announcing a Transformational Investment to Cure Cystic Fibrosis
- Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a life-threatening genetic disease that affects more than 30,000 people in the United States. While there are no curative treatments for CF, efforts by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) yielded over ten marketed therapies for CF to improve patient lives. In doing so, CFF has become a model for disease foundations around the world in funding and supporting bench-to-bedside research efforts.
Public-Private Partnerships: Innovate Alabama
- As municipalities and states attempt to keep up with the pace of innovation, many are finding new ways to creatively grow regional knowledge economies and support entrepreneurs. Innovate Alabama’s mission is to help innovators grow roots in Alabama, and it’s the first statewide public-private partnership focused on entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation. Since its launch in July 2020, Innovate Alabama has kicked off a suite of initiatives, including the SBIR/STTR Supplemental Grant Program, HBCU Innovation Experience, and a new tax credit for accelerators and economic development organizations.
A Modern Biotech Corridor
- The new nexus for biotech innovation in the Southeast is Birmingham, Alabama. Edgehill at Southtown, a mixed-use development featuring affordable workforce housing, retail space, and commercial wet labs, is the final puzzle piece completing a modern biotechnology innovation corridor that spans across the campuses of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, UAB Medicine, and Southern Research. Within this corridor annually, nearly $1B of extramural research and development is completed and 3.5M unique patients seek treatment from across several states. Few places in the country—including large, coastal metropolitan cities—see the same patient volume and per capita economic impact in the bioscience industry.
New Engines of Drug Discovery
- New tools like artificial intelligence, real-world data, and advanced in vitro models promise to reduce the astronomical time and investment currently required to bring new drugs to patients. Bringing drugs from bench to bedside remains challenging, with 90% of drugs failing in clinical trials and each successful drug requiring an average of $1B and more than 10 years of development time. Researchers and industry experts are looking to next-generation tools to identify and advance new therapeutics and diagnostics; AI tools are already being applied to a majority of biotech and pharmaceutical pipelines. With new tools set to improve the current paradigm, startups are becoming a more important driver of early therapeutic discovery, and the entire industry is poised for evolution.
Harnessing Overlooked IP
- From 2020 through 2021, 72% of Seed and Pre-Seed investments in industrial and biotechnology companies were made in only three states: California, Massachusetts, and New York. However, only 37% of the $30B invested by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) to de-risk the foundational science behind many of these investments goes to those same three states.
Responding to Emerging Pathogens
- The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented need for public, private, and non-profit organizations to collaborate in pursuit of life-saving therapeutics and vaccines. As new potential pandemic pathogens emerge, panelists discuss how their respective organizations are prepared to respond through new infrastructure, data resources, and technological advancements.