Biopharma conferences: Insights and experiences during Covid

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The business development team at ValitaCell have been lucky to physically attend biopharmaceutical conferences in North America and Europe over the past few months. We spoke to our commercial director, Brian Murphy (BM) and business development manager, Eligio Iannetti (EI), about attending conferences during Covid and some of the key topics that were discussed by industry experts.

What conferences have you attended over the last number of months?
(BM): After over 18 months of Covid, it’s been great to physically get out and meet our current and potential clients. I’m based in the US and I’ve attended the BioProcess International and Bioprocessing Summit conferences, both of which have been in Boston. Both of these conferences have been hybrid with the option to attend physically or virtually.

(EI): I recently attended the PEGS (Protein & Antibody Engineering) conference in Barcelona and the Festival of Biologics in Basel. Like Brian said, it was fantastic to meet the industry face-to-face and I felt completely safe as an attendee due to the strict Covid-19 protocols.

What major themes were discussed at these conferences and how are they relevant to ValitaCell?
(EI): PEGS in Barcelona is the largest protein and engineering conference in Europe and even in ‘Covid times’, it was a busy conference. The role of monoclonal antibodies in addressing global health challenges was one of the plenary keynotes. This topic is of high interest to ValitaCell as one of our key products is Valita®Titer which is an IgG quantification assay that can be used at any stage in the manufacturing of mAbs.

The Festival of Biologics in Basel had quite a broad agenda with topics from discovery through to development. The speaker line up was impressive with representatives from Roche, Celltrion and Amgen to name but a few. I was interested in hearing about new technologies for the manufacturing of monoclonal antibodies. Covid has demonstrated that we need to optimise manufacturing as global supply chains have been under significant pressure. The automation and digitisation changes underway with industry 4.0 will continue at pace.

(BM): Valitacell creates high-throughput, analytical technologies for biologics & cell therapy, so I was most interested in the conference streams addressing upstream processing, analytics & cell & gene therapy. I was impressed by what I heard from Sanofi on how they are actively integrating analytical instrumentation into their automation workflows, as well Abbvie & GSK who both discussed high throughput methods for biologics lead selection.

Throughout the conferences it was clear there is a real focus on the need for high throughput, simple & rapid analytical tools for a range of target molecules & critical quality attributes, with IgG titer, protein aggregation & HCP highlighted throughout. It gives me great confidence that ValitaCell has a clear focus on providing simple, accurate, high-throughput solutions for all of these areas.

It was also reassuring to me to hear so many experts discuss the incorporation of analytical tools into automation processes to increase speed, reduce costs & enhance workflows. ValitaCell’s high-throughput technologies are designed with automation in mind, and are actively being onboarded into automation workflows globally.

(EI): Similarly to Brian, it was great to see a number of discussions on the use of artificial intelligence in this space & the power of this technology to transform bioprocessing workflows. At ValitaCell we are investing heavily in AI, hiring some real domain experts to help shape CellAi, our revolutionary software, which is powered by AI and delivers label-free, imaging software for biologics & cell therapy. It’s clear that we are on the right path.

What was the most enjoyable part of the conference for you?

(EI): I was delighted to see one of the senior scientists from AstraZeneca, Raj Mistry, present a peer reviewed publication at PEGS wherein ValitaCell’s ChemStress® technology was used for clone profiling. I’ve been heavily involved in shaping the ChemStress® positioning and customer acquisition plan since I joined ValitaCell so seeing our technologies presented on the big stage was a proud moment for me.

During the Festival of Biologics, I had the opportunity during the conference itself to present a scientific poster entitled “Rapid and high-throughput IgG quantification in cell culture supernatant”, it was great to see a positive response from so many of the conference attendees.

(BM): I was struck by how many of the larger biopharmaceutical businesses were already familiar with ValitaCell’s products and technology, even if they were not current clients.. We have a range of new technologies launching in 2022 and it was great to give these potential clients a preview of what we’ve got planned.

How do you think conferences will evolve and what are ValitaCell’s conferences plans for 2022?
(BM): I expect that almost all conferences into the future will be hybrid; we have become used to accessing services virtually during our daily lives. However, I still favour face-to-face meetings wherein we get listen to our customers and explain how our analytical technology can positively affect their workflows. Our business is growing significantly and in 2022, ValitaCell expects to have a physical booth presence and speaker slots to share our experiences in relation to biologics, cell therapy and artificial intelligence.

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