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Boston Chamber of Commerce Innovation Forum – The Next 25 Years of Biotech

Last week several leaders of Boston’s innovation community joined for a lively early morning discussion for the Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Innovation Forum to discuss what the next 25 years holds for the biotech industry in our city. As the panelists gazed into their crystal balls to see the future, they also discussed the current state of Boston’s biotech economy and some of they key factors that have helped shape what it is today. Check out the summary below to learn what these all-stars have to say about value-based medicine, big data and Boston’s unique biotech ecosystem.

Meet the panelists (from left to right):

Katrine Bosley, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT

Michelle Dipp, CEO & Co-founder of OvaScience

Robert Forrester, President & CEO of Verastem


The discussion was moderated by Rob Weisman, healthcare business reporter at The Boston Globe, who started the discussion with a quote from Yogi Berra: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

What will Boston’s biotech landscape look like in 25 years?

Katrine and Robert contributed that the biotech landscape in 25 years will be totally unrecognizable from what it is today, just as our current state looks nothing like what it was 25 years ago. Many of the small companies, such as OvaScience and Verastem, may not be around – the science will survive, but they would likely be part of another company. Michelle added that constant innovation will be a theme, and companies like Cubist are finding ways to reinvent.

How has Boston’s infrastructure played into the success of the area?

The panelists concluded that everything – from the top-notch academic institutions to the breadth of companies, and especially the people, are key for Boston. Robert emphasized that top talent from across the globe is coming to here for school, then staying and contributing to the region. Collaborations, such as between medical and academic institutions, as well as from a financial, mentorship and investment standpoint, have also been paramount.

Value-based medicine is a hot topic today. What are some of the big drivers going forward?

Katrine contributed that in the U.K. and other countries, a pharmacoeconomic assessment is included in the regulatory assessment along with safety and efficacy. Essentially, they are seeking to answer the ‘should we pay for it?’ question. Hence, in the U.K., the newest drugs are often too expensive to be utilized. In the U.S. our current pricing levels are not sustainable, so we need to think about both care and payment.

Big data also plays a role in terms of approaching a way to process all of the medical data that we currently have at our fingertips. By getting computer scientists and biologists to have a conversation, we will discover new pathways of disease and prevention and understand how technology is impacting patients. Michelle noted that if you’re not obsessed with big data and you’re in healthcare you will be left behind.

 How  is government funding changing the landscape?

Today, research funding is brutal for young investigators where only 8% of RO1s (research proposal to the NIH) are funded. While this is tough in the short term for our researchers, Katrine also pointed out that this is a generational concern. We are benefitting today from what we invested in decades ago. While translational research should certainly be encouraged, Robert added that discovery research also plays an important role in the breakthroughs. At the same time researchers with bold ideas are seeking out private funds when they may not be able to win them elsewhere, according to Michelle.

Many thanks to the panelists for a great discussion!


Article written by Shannon Moore, PhD @ShannonMoorePhD

Shannon Moore

Shannon Moore

    Shannon is an Associate Consultant at DRG Consulting, where she helps clients in the life sciences approach strategic problems. As a new-comer to Boston, she's very excited about all of the medical innovation happening in her neighborhood, and loves learning about the people and resources that make it so vibrant. Shannon also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering where she studied the biomechanics of bone regeneration. She can be reached at shannon@medtechboston.com.

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