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Conference Recap: Drug Delivery Conference

The first Drug Delivery conference organized by Fusion was chaired by Niren Murthy and Cameron Lee.  The conference was memorable for the superb quality of science and the beautiful setting, but likely it will be most frequently remembered for the snakes.

The conference goal was to “bridge the gap between basic science and unmet medical needs”, meaning that the organizers wanted the conference-goers on both sides of the aisle – academia and industry – to leave the event with an appreciation and awareness of the recent progress and challenges  experienced by each.  The organizers sought to invite speakers whose research was not “trendy”, but truly addressed unmet medical and technical needs.  The thematic sessions ranged from the mature to the emerging, including: new strategies for nucleic acid delivery; polymeric delivery vehicles, new protein therapeutics, targeting tumors, controlled/sustained release, immunoengineering, and new drug delivery strategies.  The quality of research presented was very good, with many presenters sharing unpublished results.  The audience seemed particularly engaged by the presentations on nucleic acids delivery (a field that is seeing major technological advances in delivery and human clinical validation) and immunoengineering (an established field that is being reinvigorated by recent clinical successes in immunooncology and new methodologies for targeting and modulating the human immune system).

The conference received sponsorship from Polypure, and recruited a eight media partners.  The organizers were fortunate to obtain commitments from many leaders in the drug delivery field as oral contributors, and there was an excellent breadth in research area, geography and age amongst the speakers.  Our presenters included: Mano Manoharan (Alnylam), Omar Khan (MIT), David Rozema (Arrowhead), David Schaffer (UC Berkeley), Ashtush Chilkoti (Duke), Craig Duval (Vanderbilt), Jianjun Cheng (U of Illinois), Adah Almutairi (UC San Diego), Patrick Stayton (U Washington), Thomas Barker (Georgia Tech), Christopher Jewell (Maryland), Kunwoo Lee (UC Berkeley), Gerrit Storm (Utrecht University), Glen Kwon (University of Wisconsin), Suzie Pun (University of Washington), Adam Renslo (UC San Francisco), Frank Szoka (UC San Francisco), Jason Burdick (U Pennyslvania), Eric Appel (MIT), Ravin Narain (U Alberta), Scott Grayson (Tulane), Richard Darcy (U Manchester), Kaushal Rege (Arizona State University), Kathryn Whitehead (Carnegie Mellon University), Darrel Irvine (MIT), Benjamin Keselowsky (U of Florida), Scott Wilson (EPFL), John Wilson (Vanderbilt), Kristy Ainslie (U North Carolina), Andrew Geall (Avidity Nanomedicines), Krishnendu Roy (Georgia Tech), Christoph Brauchle (University of Munich), and Millicent Sullivan (U of Deleware).  Four confirmed speakers had to cancel shortly before the conference.  Even with these cancellations, the agenda was very full and probably could have been shortened to accommodate more discussion time or longer presentation times.

The small size of the conference, and the high presenter:non-presenter ratio made for an excellent opportunity to network.  Students or early career attendees who made the effort to engage with the established faculty and industry representatives between sessions, over meals, or on the excursion will have benefitted immensely.  The feedback received anectodatally by the organizers was very positive, where the most common comment received related to the quantity of high calibar faculty present: the conference might have been a success, from a scientific perspective, even if only half the speakers had shown up!  If the organizers are able to attract a similar quality speaker lineup at a second Drug Delivery conference it should be very easy to attract a larger audience and repeat the success of the first installment.

 

The 2nd Drug Delivery Conference: Bridging the Gap Between Basic Science and Unmet Clinical Needs will take place from 20 - 23 July in Portugal. View details and register here.