Summary by Liam Fitzgerald
MBA ’24 Candidate
On November 18, the Kelley School of Business hosted a conference on Curative Technologies and Indiana’s Role in Advancing Them. This was part of a conferences series on Indiana Life Sciences Collaboration held at the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute in Indianapolis. Series sponsors included Commissioning Agents, Inc., Elevance Health, Lab Corp, Reckitt. Primary sponsors partnering for this event were Catalent, Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, Indiana CTSI, IU Office of the Vice President for Government Relations & Economic Development and Pearl Pathways. Supporting sponsors included Blueprint Marketing, Harba Solutions and Miles Printing. Three speakers and two panels reviewing curative technologies developed in Indiana, the state’s role in their development, and the current challenges and opportunities of Indiana’s life science industry.
Opening Keynote – Contributions of Indiana’s Flagship Schools to Healthcare
The conference began with an opening keynote on the Contributions of Indiana’s Flagship Schools to Healthcare. Luis Solorio, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, represented Purdue University. For ten years, Purdue has expanded its biological research and academics through the “Purdue Moves” project, radically expanding the number of drugs in its development pipeline from 18 to 87. Luis highlighted some of Purdue’s exciting research projects underway, including infrared dyes that identify cancerous tissues, sonar guidance for neonate ventilators, wearable devices that detect covid cardiovascular symptoms, smartphone-based pathogen identification, and MRI aneurysm risk assessment models.
Simran Trana represented Indiana University’s Innovation and Commercialization Office, where she serves as Vice President. Simran reviewed IU’s rich history of innovation, including the first fluoride toothpaste and early education technology. Recent developments at IU include a pharmaceutical treatment for hypophosphatemic rickets and a novel therapy for acute kidney injury prevention. Simran emphasized the need for partnerships between scientist faculty and business leaders to drive innovation, saying that translating science into business takes a healthy “ecosystem” of support.
Panel – New/Latest Technologies on the Scene
A panel of business leaders presented new technologies developed in Indiana. The panel included James Kauffman, head of Marketing at Telix Pharmaceuticals, who presented a powerful radiological treatment for cancer cells. Jeff Hanthorn, co-founder of NICO corporation, described their revolutionary approach to minimally invasive neurosurgery. Michael Cobas Meyer, senior vice president, neuroscience pain early and late phase development and LRL COVID-19 therapies at Eli Lilly, spoke to early career attendees and emphasized the importance of cooperation among experts from different fields. Finally, Alyson Norrick, head of business at Catalent Pharma Solutions, shared how her organization built a new facility and manufactured one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses at an exceptional timeframe in response to the pandemic. Together, the panel represented years of experience translating science into effective industry.
The panel agreed that operating in Indiana brought unique benefits, including the central geographic location and a large talent pool. The state also brought unique challenges, such as difficulty attracting talent from out-of-state. They also discussed the increasing speed of development and the challenges of ensuring safety and efficacy while under pressure to develop technology quickly. The pressure to develop quickly has increased with the highly publicized speedy response to COVID-19. They also reviewed challenges in Indiana’s health infrastructure, which is dense in some areas and sparse in others, the rise of remote working, which allows for lower-cost infrastructure but creates opportunities for employee negligence, and the importance of communication between scientists and business leaders. As Michael Cobas Meyer noted, “great ideas are just the start. Making it real is hard work and requires coming together.”
Keynote – Indiana Life Sciences: Look Back, Spring Forward
Patty Martin, President and CEO of BioCrossroads, reviewed the ongoing development of Indiana’s Life Sciences industry. The work is accelerated by BioCrossroads, a non-profit that’s raised $649 million in market capital, philanthropic, and state funding to pursue promising new Indiana life science technology, organized two life sciences venture capital funds, and organized and actively managed three seed funds that have invested in 32 Indiana companies.
Patty reviewed the opportunities and challenges of life sciences in Indiana. The state is especially well-situated to connect medical science with information technology and artificial intelligence. Obstacles to growth include talent constraints and an underfunded economic development toolkit. Indiana is currently unable to staff its own rate of growth. Like the panelists before her, she noted that talent is reluctant to relocate to Indiana due to ignorance of the healthcare opportunities and because of political controversies. She noted that the scorecard for K-12 education measurements does not include STEM categories and that undergraduates often leave the state without knowing how many opportunities are available here. Throughout, Patty emphasized Indiana’s “awareness gap” and the need to build awareness of already existing opportunities.
Panel – Highlighting the Next Wave of Curative Technologies
The second panel of business leaders included Melissa Kacena, founder of Osteofuse, a company developing thrombopoietic agents that improve bone healing. Joe Trebly, founder and CEO of Scioto Biosciences, presented his company’s activated bacterial therapeutic for autism. Dave Wilhite, Executive President of Alliance Management of Genezen, discussed his company’s lentiviral and retroviral vector manufacturing facility and its support of T-cell cancer therapy. Kristin Sherman, CEO at Kovina, presented her company’s novel treatment for HPV-infected cells.
The panel’s discussion centered on maximizing the chance of entrepreneurial technologies reaching the market. Identifying a winning technology necessitates the input from key opinion leaders, addressing an unsolved medical need, and being cognizant cycles in the entrepreneurial space. They agreed that the needs of payers and physicians should be considered from the very beginning, adding “You’ve got to know the end game before you begin.” They discussed the challenges of fundraising, which are best met by passionate networking and a willingness to be transparent and honest. They also discussed communications with regulatory authorities and the benefits of remote versus in-person work. Like other presenters, they acknowledged challenges recruiting talent to Indiana due to ignorance and political controversies. All agreed that during challenging times, their motivation comes from the potential value they can deliver to patients.
Kate Naughton, conference attendee, captured the atmosphere of the day by commenting “It was such a wonderful day of learning and meeting new people. I was amazed to be surrounded by such kind, fun, and incredibly smart people.”
The closing was delivered by George Telthorst, Senior Lecturer at Indiana University and Director of the Life Sciences Academy. He thanked the sponsors and volunteers who made the event possible and noted that the series would include two more conferences: one on “Uniqueness of Healthcare and Life Sciences Marketing” on 21 February 2023 and one on “Digital Health – The Buzz and the Reality” on 21 April 2023.
*Since 2006, the IU Kelley- Center for the Business of Life Sciences (CBLS) has provided a forum for various players in healthcare and life sciences to consider, discuss, and debate key business strategy issues. In presenting the Indiana Life Sciences Collaboration Conference Series, CBLS brings together key players from industry, academia, government, and economic development communities to share ideas and expertise.