Date: October 17, 2023

Location: Madison, Wisconsin

Venue: Overture Center for the Arts

The Wisconsin Biohealth Summit is an annual event that brings together some of the brightest minds in the healthcare and biotechnology industry. This year, on October 17th, the summit occurred at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin. The theme for this year’s event was “The Next Generation of Personalized Medicine,” it was evident from the get-go that this event would leave a lasting impact on the healthcare industry.

A Sold-Out Affair:

The buzz around the summit had been building for months, and it was no surprise that the event was sold out well in advance. This was a testament to the importance and anticipation surrounding the discussions on the future of personalized medicine. Wisconsin was at the forefront of this transformation, with local companies pushing the boundaries of technology to revolutionize healthcare, offering patients a truly personalized and seamless experience.

Opening Address by Lisa Johnson, BioForward CEO:

The summit opened with a warm welcome from Lisa Johnson, the CEO of BioForward. Her speech set the stage for what would be a day filled with groundbreaking initiatives. With a deep understanding of industry trends and a passion for innovation, she unveiled exciting projects, partnerships, and strategies that would not only shape the future of Wisconsin but also revolutionize the healthcare industry as a whole. One highlight was a video (put together by NorthCoast Media Group) showcasing how the entire workflow of personalized medicine was being developed right here in Wisconsin.

Session 1: Innovations in Personalized Medicine

The first session delved into the innovative contributions made by Wisconsin biohealth leading organizations. Anjon Audhya, Senior Associate Dean for Basic Research at UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, wowed the audience with a presentation on “Catalyzing the Future of Personalized Health and Medicine.” He emphasized that personalized health focuses on what makes an individual unique, incorporating their molecular data, health information, family history, and social circumstances. The goal is to integrate this unique, personalized data into health research and clinical care, ultimately leading to better health and well-being for everyone.

Audhya introduced a paradigm shift towards personalized solutions for individual health problems, using genomic approaches, quantitative biomedical imaging with AI and ML, and fluid biomarkers. One fascinating example was Theranostics, a technology that combines diagnosis and treatment. The UWCCC Institute for Theranostics and Particle Therapy, with substantial investments, aimed to develop superior cancer-targeted molecular imaging and radiotherapy agents.

Ulrich Broeckel, MD, Founder and CEO of RPRD Diagnostics, spoke about “Pharmacogenetics in Precision Medicine.” He highlighted the variability in drug response and the importance of optimizing drug regimens for each patient. He discussed how pharmacogenetic genotyping could enable tailored treatment by maximizing drug efficacy and minimizing adverse reactions. Shockingly, 34% of significant adverse drug reactions were found to be caused by a patient’s genetics. Broeckel advocated for more comprehensive and precise genetic profiling to facilitate accurate and personalized prescriptions free from racial and ethnic biases.

Leslie Lemke-Boutcher, VP of Nonclinical Toxicology at Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals, presented “RNA Interference in Action.” She introduced the RNA interference (RNAi) mechanism, which targets mRNA to regulate protein production. This approach was being used to address diseases where protein levels were either too high or too low, often challenging to tackle with traditional therapeutics. Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals’ TRiM™ Platform was leading the way in precise and effective RNAi therapies. Their cutting-edge research aimed to unlock previously “undruggable” targets and accelerate drug development, making treatment more accessible and affordable.

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals also gained recognition for its breakthrough therapy designation for ARO-AAT, a treatment for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency Associated Liver Disease. This rare genetic condition results in severe liver disease and was previously untreatable.

Fast Track designation was granted by the FDA for ARO-APOC3, another Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals project targeting severe hypertriglyceridemia, mixed dyslipidemia, and familial chylomicronemia syndrome (FCS). FCS is a genetic disorder that leads to dangerously high triglyceride levels, which can result in pancreatitis. This was a significant step towards providing much-needed therapies for patients with these conditions.

Chris Riley, VP & Group Executive at Danaher, highlighted the company’s vision to reduce time-to-market for life-saving therapies by 50%. Danaher’s strategy focused on being an indispensable partner to the biopharma industry, increasing pipeline yield, and delivering a 50% reduction in time and cost. Beyond monoclonal antibodies, they were working on genomic medicines, tackling the complexity of manufacturing multicomponent modalities.

Their efforts encompassed DNA sequence generation, amplification, gene and cell therapy manufacturing, and analytics. They created precision diagnosis and treatment selection tools, particularly in detecting rare and unknown fusion mutations. By overcoming traditional NGS technology limitations, they were making a significant contribution to advancing precision medicine.

The summit also showcased their advancements in gene editing efficacy and safety, partnering with the Innovative Genomics Institute to develop optimized cell-penetrant Cas9 RNP. Their work demonstrated higher editing efficacy and lower endotoxin levels and immune responses.

Danaher’s dedication to advancing therapeutics in Madison was evident in the expansion of their facilities. They were increasing their manufacturing capacity to support cell and gene therapies, investing in talent acquisition, broadening engagement with the innovation community, and accelerating internal investments in precision diagnosis, optimization, amplification and purification technologies, and advanced analytical capabilities.

In conclusion, the Wisconsin Biohealth Summit on October 17th, 2023, was a remarkable gathering of industry leaders and innovators at the forefront of personalized medicine. The summit showcased the groundbreaking work happening in Wisconsin, pushing the boundaries of healthcare and providing a glimpse into a future where medicine is truly personalized and integrated. Stay tuned for more insights from the summit in the next part of this blog post.