“Striving at Thirty, Moving Forward Together”

 The 2023 SAPA Annual Conference and 30th Anniversary Celebration in New Jersey

From September 29th to 30th, 2023, the Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association (SAPA) held its 2023 Annual Conference and 30th Anniversary Celebration at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, New Jersey. The theme of this year’s conference was “Towards a Shared Vision: Advancing the Pharmaceuticals through Collaboration and Innovation,” drawing over 600 professionals from the industry and academia and nearly 40 sponsors globally, with more than 70 distinguished speakers and panelists. In this pleasant season, attendees explored the development trends of the pharmaceutical industry on a global scale.

After thirty years of hard work, SAPA has become one of the most influential professional associations in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. This Annual Conference marked several milestones for SAPA: 1. the first SAPA-Pharma Executive and Leader Summit, 2. the first jointly held conference by SAPA headquarter and regional chapters, 3. four parallel premium short courses, ten parallel sessions, and 4. a two-day full schedule of job interviews. Election results for SAPA’s new president and executive committee members were also announced during the conference. Dr. David Cragin was elected as the SAPA President-elect (2024-2025), first non-Chinese SAPA president. All these achievements signify SAPA’s commitment to excellence and inclusivity as it moves into the next era.

The Annual Conference was commenced by the opening remarks of Dr. Yongmei Li (SAPA President and Conference Chair) and Dr. Jack Wu (SAPA President-Elect and Conference Co-Chair). Dr. Yongmei Li reviewed SAPA’s achievements in 2023 and emphasized SAPA’s unity. She also expressed great gratitude for the support from all the volunteers, sponsors, and attendees for this conference.

Dr. Yongmei Li delivered the opening remark

Dr. Jack Wu delivered the opening remark


Friday’s conference activities included the Plenary Session and three Parallel Sessions. Before that, early attendees also participated in the SAPA-Pharma Executive and Leader Summit and four premium Short Courses covering the following topics: Business Development; Clinical Development and Operations; Legal and IP; and Commercialization.

The SAPA-Pharma Executive and Leader Summit, hosted by Dr. Xiaodong Chen (SAPA President for 2021-2022), Dr. Yongmei Li (SAPA President), and Dr. John Sun (SAPA President for 2020-2021), brought together 150 industry leaders to discuss current hot topics regarding investment, financing, and leadership in the healthcare field.



The theme of Friday’s Plenary Session was ” Catalyzing Pharma Horizons: Synergies in Data Science, Digital Health, and Integration.”


Friday’s Plenary Session


Dr. Gayle Wittenberg, Vice President at Janssen, delivered a presentation titled “Towards Precision Psychiatry through Data Science,” outlining the development, challenges, and future prospects of precision medicine in the field of mental health over the past two decades. Dr. Yun Mao, Vice President at Bristol Myers Squibb, gave a speech on “IQ Consortium Advancing Pharmaceuticals through Industry Collaboration,” focusing on how the IQ Consortium is committed to technological advancement and collaboration with multiple players in the biopharma industry. IQ Consortium’s mission is to enable its member companies to develop groundbreaking solutions that benefit patients, regulators, and research institutions. In addition, Mr. Rong Yang, CEO of Fosun Pharma USA, introduced Fosun Pharma’s corporate vision, values, and goals. He highlighted significant milestones in Fosun Pharma’s development and expressed the company’s commitment to seek diverse strategic partnerships globally to drive rapid growth for its U.S. subsidiary.


After the conclusion of Friday’s Plenary Session, three Parallel Sessions ensued, including the CEO Forum, CMC Outsourcing, and Career Development. At the CEO Forum, representatives from Middlesex County and the New Jersey state government introduced in detail the variety of incentives and support programs for companies in the life sciences field, attracting many attendees to come for consultation.

Parallel Session A    “CEO Forum I”

Parallel Session A    “CEO Forum II”

Parallel Session B    “CMC Outsourcing”

Parallel Session C    “Career Development”


The theme of Saturday’s Plenary Session was “Empowering Healthcare Innovations: Perspectives from Pharma Leadership and Industry Executives, Regulatory Authority, and Academia.”


Ms. Karin Shanahan, Executive Vice President at Bristol Myers Squibb Company, delivered the Keynote Speech. She discussed the company’s operating model marked by digitalization and cross-department resource integration successfully developed during the COVID epidemic to cope with severe supply chain challenges, so as to meet the needs of global patients better and faster.

Ms. Karin Shanahan, EVP from BMS, delivered the Keynote Speech


Professor Bruce Levine from the University of Pennsylvania, a pioneer in cell therapy, gave a comprehensive talk on the history of CAR-T therapy and recent progress in this field regarding manufacturing, target selection and global advancement. In recognition of his pioneering contributions to the field of cell therapy, the 2023 SAPA Outstanding Achievement Award was awarded to Professor Bruce Levine.

Professor Bruce Levine (right two) received the award

Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the U.S. FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), returned to SAPA after five years. He delivered a speech on “Advancing Biologic Therapeutics for Rare Diseases,” discussing the FDA’s efforts to reassess and innovate its approach to the unique challenges faced by gene therapy products while emphasizing the importance of ensuring safety and efficacy. Dr. Peter Marks has participated in SAPA Annual Conferences twice as a speaker, sharing FDA guidance and new initiatives in drug development. Given his significant contribution to the pharmaceutical industry and regulation, he was awarded with this year’s SAPA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Peter Marks (middle) received the award

Next, Dr. Javad Shahidi, Senior Vice President and Head of Biotech Unit at BeiGene, introduced his company’s efforts to reform its organizational structure to stimulate innovation. He pointed out that the concept of the Biotech Unit was coined in 2013 and is rooted in the desire for continuous innovation in R&D and beyond, accelerating the development of high-quality drugs by introducing an ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurial thinking, streamlined decision-making, and empowerment of cross-functional teams.

Dr. Javad Shahidi, SVP and Head of Biotech Unit at BeiGene, delivered a speech


Seven Parallel Sessions were held in Saturday afternoon, under the following themes: “Drug Discovery: Emerging Technologies and Advanced Therapies;” “Market Access and Commercialization;” “Unleashing the Power – Advancements and Breakthroughs in Cell and Gene Therapy;” “New Frontiers in a Rapidly Evolving Landscape: How Advances in Science Drive Regulatory Reform;” “Shared Vision, Shared Data: Collaborative Innovation in Pharma Clinical Development and Beyond;” “Global Horizons: Driving Pharma/Biotech Value Growth through Investment and Business Development;” and “Precision Diagnostics: Exploring New Frontiers in Disease Detection.”


Parallel Session D    “Drug Discovery: Emerging Technologies and Advanced Therapies”

Parallel Session Ea    “Market Access and Commercialization: Market Landscape Assessment, Strategy and Roadmap”

Parallel Session Eb    “Market Access and Commercialization: Health Economics and Outcomes Research and Real-World Data”

Parallel Session F    “Unleashing the Power -Advancements and Breakthroughs in Cell and Gene Therapy”

Parallel Session G    “New Frontiers in a Rapidly Evolving Landscape: How Advances in Science Drive Regulatory Reform”

Parallel Session H    “Shared Vision, Shared Data: Collaborative Innovation in Pharma Clinical Development and Beyond”

Parallel Session I    “Global Horizons: Driving Pharma/Biotech Value Growth through Investment and Business Development”

Parallel Session J    “Precision Diagnostics: Exploring New Frontiers in Disease Detection”

Alpha Life Sciences hosted the “Lunch and Learn” session

In this Annual Conference, Dr. Jack Wu successfully took over the SAPA presidency from Dr. Yongmei Li, symbolizing the start of another year of progress and innovation for SAPA.

Four SAPA presidents (from left to right): President 2021-2022 Dr. Xiaodong Chen, President 2022-2023 Dr. Yongmei Li, President-Elect Dr. David Cragin, and President 2023-2024 Dr. Jack Wu


At the conference, SAPA announced the recipients of the 2023 SAPA Scholarship and Excellence in Education for Life Sciences, sponsored by Bristol Myers Squibb. These awards were granted to two college freshmen, Katrina Lanese and Julie Liu, to recognize their outstanding achievements in high school and support their pursuit of career goals in the healthcare field.

Julie Liu’s mother (left) and Katrina Lanese (right) received the awards


Hundreds of people from various regions, including California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, Canada, and China, came to these events.

The visit of the SAPA-China team


The lively discussions in the Parallel Sessions and the bustling at the exhibition booths were memorable. Indeed, this conference was well supported by numerous outstanding companies, including strategic sponsor Bristol Myers Squibb, and title sponsors BeiGene and Fosun Pharma USA.


The exhibit booths of sponsors

The conference reached its climax on Saturday evening, with the Red Carpet Ceremony and Reception and SAPA 30th Anniversary Celebration Black-Tie Gala Dinner.

The Red Carpet Celebration was a rare gathering that included Dr. Xiucai Liu, SAPA’s founding president, along with more than 40 past presidents and chapter presidents, as well as board members, advisory committee members, and executive council members. They joined with volunteers for a group photo and sang SAPA’s birthday song.

Group photo of SAPA presidents, chapter presidents, board members, advisory committee members, executive council members, and volunteers


During the Black-Tie Gala, Dr. Yongmei Li delivered the SAPA’s One Year in Review and presented the “ONE SAPA” five year objectives and achievements since 2021. Subsequently, Dr. Yongmei Li, Dr. Jack Wu, and Dr. Xiaodong Chen jointly hosted the award ceremony to recognize the selfless dedication and support from volunteers.



Award Ceremony

Finally, Dr. John Sun, along with two SAPA executive council members, Dr. Yongle Pang and Ms. Yulan Zhang, co-hosted various artistic performances, celebrations, and commemoration activities.


Activities at the Black-Tie Gala Dinner

As we are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of SAPA, let us reflect on the past and look forward to a more prosperous future in the biopharmaceutical industry. SAPA will continue to provide high-quality events for its members and build up an excellent platform for the advancement of science, business, investment, career, and education in the biopharmaceutical sector!

Happy 30th Birthday, SAPA! The future holds great promise!

SAPA 30th anniversary group photo of SAPA ‘s founding president, along with more than 40 past presidents, chapter presidents

SAPA presidents and the Gala attendees sang the “Happy Birthday to SAPA” song together