SAPA 29th Annual Conference: “Building a Healthier Future” — Plenary Session

Plenary Session 1: Beyond the Trend and Landscape of New Drug Development: Breakthrough Discoveries and Technologies

Dr. John Sun, SAPA President, gave a brief opening remark welcoming all the speakers and guests at the Friday session. He introduced SAPA and summarized SAPA main events during the past year. He gave special thanks to the SAPA collaboration partners and corporate sponsors for their continued support and generosity. Together, we will indeed build a healthier future for our research and development ecosystem and will make SAPA stronger as well.

SAPA President, Dr. John Sun, gave a brief introduction on SAPA.

Event agenda overview


Dr. Shishir Gadam gave a presentation on reimagining manufacturing strategy for cell therapy.

Dr. Shishir Gadam, Vice President of Cell Therapy Manufacturing Science and Technology from Bristol Myers Squibb, shared his insight of reimagining manufacturing strategy for cell therapy. Cell therapies are a relatively new type of biotherapeutic in the marketplace. Their commercial manufacture poses unique challenges in biomanufacturing that necessitate the need for new thinking and innovative solutions. One such unique challenge that cell therapies face is the variability in donated cells that form the starting material of the therapy; this greatly influences how one approaches the commercial manufacturing design and control strategy. Dr. Gadam shared his learnings related to the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Control (CMC) strategy from the first-generation autologous CAR-T and reflect on the aspirations of the future cell therapy manufacturing platforms.



Dr. Alberto Grignolo talked about building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive future where everyone belongs

Dr. Alberto Grignolo, Corporate Vice President from Parexel addressed the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). Pharma and Biotech have taken affirming public positions on DE&I; in a number of biopharma companies, women are now better represented at all levels compared to other industries, but more work is still needed to achieve greater parity. The pandemic undeniably had a negative impact on many aspects of life, but it has also turbocharged the journey towards better health equity with more intentional and thoughtful listening to the voice of the patient and through more diverse and more decentralized clinical trials.



Dr. Kenneth Kaitin described the evolving landscape for new drug development and trends in pharmaceutical R&D

Dr. Kenneth Kaitin, Professor and Senior Fellow in Center for the Study of Drug Development at Tufts University School of Medicine is a leading scholar in R&D trend analysis, and he shared with the audience on his precious insights for the landscape and trend of pharma R&D. Over the past two decades, there has been an explosion in our understanding of the pathobiology and genetic determinants of many diseases for which there are currently few or no adequate treatments available. This growth in scientific knowledge has fueled a marked shift in the pharmaceutical industry toward the development of precision medicines, targeted therapies, and drugs to treat rare genetic disorders and other orphan diseases. Yet, the development of new pharmaceutical medicines remains a slow, expensive and risky process, and the shift to narrow-indication drugs comes with certain challenges.



Dr. Litao Zhang gave a talk on drug discovery innovation in 2021

Dr. Litao Zhang, Global Head of Discovery Technology and Molecular pharmacology, Discovery Sciences, Janssen R&D addressed the challenges in drug discovery and emerging innovative technology solutions that are being implemented across the industry. She also presented cutting edge technology solutions and selected case studies to highlight the remarkable progress made by drug hunters to accelerate ideas to the clinic. Her presentation also included transformational modalities to tackle undruggable targets to fuel the drug discovery pipelines.



In align with SAPA’s mission of promoting science, education, cooperation, and career, John presented this year’s SAPA Distinguished Achievement Awards to Dr. Kenneth Kaitin and Dr. Litao Zhang to recognize their outstanding contribution in academia, industry, and public service, whose career and accomplishments have made great impact on healthcare and pharmaceutical sciences, and also acknowledge their contributions to and support of SAPA.


Plenary session I panelists and organizing committee members


Plenary session 2 – Cross border and cross industry collaboration presented new prospects to accelerate the drug development process

Plenary Session 2 on Saturday morning features stories from title sponsors BeiGene and Porton. Dr. Xiaodong Chen, SAPA President 2021-2022, gave a brief opening remark, emphasized the importance of cross-border and cross-industry collaboration.

Dr. Xiaodong Chen gave opening remarks


A New Era for Biopharmaceutical Industry

Dr. Lai Wang talked about the new era for biopharmaceutical industry


Dr. Lai Wang, Global Head of R&D from BeiGene, shared his view of the biopharmaceutical industry landscape in China. He pointed out that it’s a new era for biopharmaceutical industry, and that China’s innovative medicine has flourished over the past decades, with an expected $300 billion growth for innovative medicine in the next decade.  Dr. Wang also shared the history and vision of BeiGene, a global biopharmaceutical company focused on developing molecularly targeted and immuno-oncology drug candidates for the treatment of cancer.  BeiGene has a strong drug development portfolio, and BeiGene is dedicated to developing best-in-class anti-cancer therapies for China and the world, with a $1.3 billion investment in R&D in 2020 alone. Towards the end, Dr. Lai Wang restated that BeiGene’s mission to strive to be one of the global leaders in R&D innovation, and called talents to join their forces.




Contract Organizations: from Outsourcing Partner to Infrastructure in the Industry 4.0 Era

Mr. Nianfeng Ju shared his story as the CEO and Chairman at Porton Pharma Solutions Ltd


The second plenary speaker, Mr. Nianfeng Ju is the Chairman & CEO of Porton Pharma Solutions Ltd.  He discussed the history and future trends of the roles and key success factors of contract organizations in the evolving new ecosystem of the global pharmaceutical industry driven by technology and economics.  As one of the top contract organizations in China, Porton has a current market cap of over 50 billon RMB with 3,500+ global staffs. Mr. Ju shared his story of transforming Porton from CRO to CDMO and pointing out that the organization is prepared to evolve in preparation of the future pharmaceutical industry. Specifically, the global pharmaceutical industries have been deeply impacted by the advancement of technology breakthroughs, especially with artificial intelligence kicking into high gear. In face of this new era, “Porton has already been equipped with quite a few tools such as deep learning, automation, and could do AI,” concludes by Mr. Ju.


CXO Forum: Through the Leadership Lens


Following the plenary presentations, 4 distinguished leaders joined the CXO forum:

Dalvir Gill, PhD, CEO, TransCelerate Biopharma Inc.

John Tsai, MD, Head of Global Drug Development and CMO, Novartis

Scott Filosi, CEO of Hengrui USA & Hengrui Europe

Jay Mei, PhD, Founder, Chairman & CEO, Antengene Corporation


CXO forum hosted four panelists: Dr. Dalvir Gill (Top left), Dr. John Tsai (Top right), Mr. Scott Filosi (Bottom left), and Dr. Jay Mei (Bottom right).


In this round-table discussion, four renowned panelists shared their stories, opinions, and solutions on hot-topics in the pharmaceutical industry, including how to enhance collaboration and information sharing, strategies to engage regulatory authorities, modernize clinical trials, discussed initiatives that ensure the clinical trial data better represented the populations where the drugs are launched, and also focused on talent recruitment, development, and retentions.


SAPA Membership Update: Service Awards and Election Results


The closing session of plenary session II features a review of SAPA’s major events happening in 2020-2021 and an awards ceremony. This year’s SAPA 2021 Scholarship & Excellence in Education for Life Sciences goes to Jason Ding, a student graduated from Mountain Lakes High School and currently study at the Princeton University.


Dr. Baoguo Huang, Chairman of SAPA Board of Directors, reflected the journey of SAPA in the recent years and attributed the success to the dedication of our leadership teams and volunteers, and also the focus on strategic directions.  Leaders from SAPA chapters, Mr. Charles Li, Dr. Guiqing Liang, and Dr. Xiaoyong Yang, showcased the highlights from their chapters. Dr. John Sun reflected on the major events in the past year and promoted upcoming SAPA events for SAPA-China, as well as the joint conference of SAPA-NE and SAPA-CT.  He also presented SAPA Service Excellence Awards and SAPA Special Recognition Awards. John handed over the presidentship to Dr. Xiaodong Chen. Dr. Chen announced election results of newly elected SAPA Executive Council, including Dr. Yongmei Li as the SAPA President-Elect.  Dr. Xiaodong Chen shared his plans and thoughts for the upcoming year. He will work with his leadership team to enhance the value proposition for members, sponsors and local community and continuously improve the organization. At the end, he called for those who are interested in volunteering and sponsoring to reach out and collaborate with SAPA.


Front left to right: Dr. John Sun, Dr. Xiaodong Chen, Dr. Yongmei Li


Virtual Career Fair (CF): Sponsor Booths and Virtual Career Fair

In addition to the wonderful talks, SAPA also planned a series of virtual sessions on both Oct 1st and 2nd to provide direct and interactive opportunities for the conference attendees to learn the newest developments and advancements of our sponsors, as well as the career opportunities.


Plenary session II panelists and organizing committee members


Please stay tuned to our WeChat platform for more upcoming reports on parallel sessions!