Takeaways from Bioprocessing Summit 2021

About the Summit

From August 16th through 19th of 2021, Cambridge Healthtech Institute (CHI) hosted the 13th Annual Bioprocessing Summit in Boston, MA. With seven conference streams, a poster session, an exhibition hall, and a myriad of networking opportunities, this summit lived up to CHI’s billing as the “premier forum for industry leaders to share the latest research in bioprocess R&D, scale-up, quality, and analytics”.

This year’s event was both in-person and virtual, with the online attendees being hosted on CHI’s “Pathable” virtual platform. Over a thousand participants from across the globe partook in the event. With seven unique streams, there was something for everyone in bioprocessing:

  • Upstream Processing
  • Downstream Processing
  • Analytical & Quality
  • Stability & Impurities
  • Gene Therapy
  • Cell Therapy
  • Vaccine Manufacturing

As one of the first industry events to include an in-person option during the pandemic, many live speakers shared their gratitude for the return to in-person events, a sentiment shared by most of the audience. We estimate that 40-50% of the total participants chose to attend in-person, while the remainder were present through Pathable. The virtual speakers pre-recorded their talks to be streamed at the summit and also made themselves available for a live Q&A through chat.

Streams centered on gene and cell therapy were some of the most heavily attended at the entire event.

A wide range of topics was covered in the various programs. Unsurprisingly, there was an entire stream dedicated to vaccine manufacturing, where discussions were held on manufacturing capacity constraints, supply chain challenges, and pandemic response lessons. There were also talks centered around characterization and stability in development, as well as updates to the latest upstream and downstream technologies to improve manufacturing efficiency. One of the hottest topics in bioprocessing today is the intriguing progression of cell and gene therapies; in fact, the cell and gene therapy streams were some of the most heavily attended of the entire event.

Program Snapshot

We viewed talks from six different programs to get a balanced overview of the Summit. One highlight was a presentation by Alex Brinkmann of Biogen about their ongoing progress towards building a truly continuous processing platform for mAbs. On the economic front, we enjoyed the talk by Andrew Sinclair, Founder of Biopharm Services, on the clear cost benefits of intensifying the N-1 seed train. Richard Anderson, Sr. Director of MSAT at Fate Therapeutics, spoke on the topic of buttressing their allogeneic induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-based therapies by applying a multiplexed gene engineering strategy into their product design. Every talk we attended revealed new ideas or promising new developments. To see more detailed takeaways on these talks and the rest of the event proceedings, please download our full Event Recap report here.

Plenary Sessions

The Plenary sessions offered a wide range of contemporary topics. Day 1’s speakers focused on the shifts and changes in both therapeutic modalities and workforce management brought about by the pandemic. Sudha Chivukula, PhD and Head of mRNA Technology at Sanofi Pasteur, emphasized the growing significance of mRNA vaccines at Sanofi, evidenced by their recent acquisition of Translate Bio. Darrin Cowley, PhD and Vice President & Head of Lead Covid-19 Vaccine at AstraZeneca, reflected on his company’s efforts to combat the pandemic while at the same time keeping their hardworking staff’s mental well-being in mind by thoughtfully managing the remote and in-house workers during such a high-intensity period.

The second Plenary Session took place on Day 3, led by Martha Rook, PhD and CTO of Sigilon Therapeutics. She focused on Sigilon’s novel encapsulated gene-modified allogeneic cell therapy platform. Dr. Rook was followed by Krisiti Budzinski, PhD and Principal Product Stewardship & Green BioPharma Manager at Genentech, who gave a moving speech about sustainability in the bioprocessing industry. Hapatune especially appreciated this informative presentation and hopes that other companies follow the steps she outlined.

Exhibition

Though expectedly smaller than usual, the summit still had over 50 bioprocess suppliers and service providers exhibiting. The energy in the exhibition hall was high as everyone was very excited for the opportunity to engage face-to-face again. While many of the larger bioprocess suppliers were absent from this year’s summit, many of the smaller and mid-size suppliers did well to fill the gap. Here are a few exhibitors who caught our eye:

  • Teknova and their custom pre-filled buffer bags
  • Texcell and their focus on viral clearance studies for viral vectors
  • PAK BioSolutions’ novel continuous downstream processing system

Poster Presentations

The poster session was a mix of virtual and in-person poster presentations. About 27 in-person poster presentations were in the exhibit hall, and 17 virtual posters were uploaded. While there were many excellent posters, two of the in-person presenters stood out. Dr. Laura Philips, PhD, presented an especially interesting poster on Spheryx’s Total Holographic Characterization technology which can be used to discriminate protein aggregates. Dr. Ashlee Sun, PhD also had an informative poster about Polypus-transfection’s Next-Gen AAV Transfection Reagent which reduces plasmid DNA requirements while increasing full capsid percentage during AAV production.

The supply chain issues that need to be overcome, the growing importance of speed to clinic, and the overall incredible efforts of everyone who works in this critical industry. 

Final Thoughts

One of the intangibles of attending this summit was simply the face-to-face engagement. This was the first event many of us were able to attend in over 18 months. At the same time, CHI’s flexible registration policy allowed for more attendance than had the event been exclusively in-person—or exclusively virtual. Many presentations also remain available on-demand, allowing for attendees to hear the talks they didn’t catch “live”.

As we reflect on the event, we noticed several themes emerging. A big one, of course, was the pandemic’s impact on the bioprocessing industry—the supply chain issues that need to be overcome, the growing importance of speed to clinic, and the overall incredible efforts of everyone who works in this critical industry. There is no doubt much for our industry to improve upon. But for four days, it was a time to modestly be proud.

To read a complete account of Hapatune’s insights from the summit, you can download a PDF of our complete Event Recap, including our Event Ratings.

A full agenda of the event with all the programs and speakers can be found here.

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