The Next Generation of Therapeutic Technologies

This panel focuses on the advent of gene & cell therapies that are now entering the market, from CRISPR to CAR-T technologies, and the way they are shifting the paradigm of therapeutic investment. Topics may include:

  • Which of the technologies emerging from this field do investors find most compelling?
  • What do investors do to balance the increased regulatory risk associated with these new technologies?
  • Even with how new these technologies are, are there any areas that are already becoming saturated?

Panelists will discuss how these technologies are shifting the focus from blockbuster drugs to smaller, more defined patient populations, the manufacturing challenges associated with some of these technologies and how these new challenges are affecting their investment focus.


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Fabio D’Agostino, Venture Partner, Claris Ventures (Moderator)

Fabio is a well-rounded life science consultant with over 9 years’ experience in both the medical device and the biopharmaceutical industry. In 2013, he joined the Parenteral Drug Association (PDA) Cell and Gene Task Force (members include executives from GSK, Novartis, Lonza, Johnson & Johnson, Adaptimmune, Takeda, Bluebird Bio) with the aim to develop a manufacturing control strategy for cell and gene based medicinal products. His areas of expertise also include Lean Six Sigma (IASSCTM Certified Black Belt), process development and optimization, business development and technology evaluation. Fabio started his career at the medical device company Sorin Group (now LivaNova) after a BSc and a MSc with honours in Biomedical Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Turin (Italy). Later, he moved to Newcastle (UK) to take an Engineering Doctorate in Biopharmaceutical Process Development at Newcastle University. One of his main projects was the Multifactorial Analysis of Mesenchymal stem cell properties for storage and transportation.

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Meghana Rao, Senior Manager, New Venture Transactions, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Meghana Rao is Senior Manager in New Venture Transactions at the Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center in California. In this role, Meghana is responsible for managing early-stage innovation opportunities through the deal process, competitive landscaping, and sourcing new opportunities for Oncology and Immunology therapeutic areas in J&J’s pharmaceutical sector. Meghana joined Johnson & Johnson Innovation from Syneos Health Consulting, where she led consulting engagements in the Scientific & Medical Advisory Group for large and mid-cap biopharma companies, across multiple therapeutic areas. With these engagements she developed pre-launch strategies, led due diligence efforts and managed multi-company REMS programs. Meghana earned her Ph.D in Cancer Biology from Vanderbilt University, and a B.S. in Cell Biology, with a Minor in Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego.

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Alicia Irurzun-Lafitte, Partner, UCB Ventures

Alicia Irurzun-Lafitte joined UCB Ventures in March 2019 as Partner. Alicia joined from M Ventures, the corporate venture arm of Merck KGaA. Since 2014, she was instrumental in the closing of multiple new investments in Oncology, Immunology and Fertility areas in the US and Europe for the M Ventures Healthcare fund. Alicia was also closely involved with the built-up of Merck spin-offs. While at M Ventures, she served on the Board of Rewind Therapeutics as Director and Artios, iOnctura, Ribometrix, and TocopheRx as Observer. Prior to ventures, Alicia held roles in global business development at Merck Serono in Geneva and EMD Serono in Boston. During her time in business development she closed multiple early stage transactions and was involved in strategic corporate development initiatives. Alicia holds a MSc from Leiden University in Biopharmaceutical Sciences. She holds a Bachelor in Biomedical Sciences and completed her undergraduate studies between the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1 and Napier Edinburgh University.Alicia is based at the UCB Ventures’ Boston office and she lives in New York.

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Weiyong Sun, Senior Director, Specialty Medicine Search & Evaluation, Daiichi Sankyo

Dr. Weiyong Sun is currently Senior Director, Searching and Evaluation, Global Business Development at Daiichi Sankyo Group. He joined Daiichi Sankyo Japan in April 2002. He was involved in a broad range of R&D activities from target discovery to clinical development of a number of anti-diabetes drugs. In October 2007, Dr. Sun was elected to be assigned to work for Daiichi Sankyo Research Institute in the U.S. He was responsible for identifying and evaluating in-licensing, partnering and research collaboration opportunities. His current focus is in Immunology Cardio-Renal, Ophthalmology and Rare Disease. Dr. Sun received an M.D. from Beijing Medical University (now Peking University Medical School), a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Tokyo and an MBA from Columbia Business School. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Blood Research Institute, Medical College of Wisconsin.

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Mishael Zohar, Associate, OrbiMed Advisors LLC

Mishael Zohar, MD MBA, is an Associate at Orbimed Israel a leading healthcare investment firm, with $13 billion in assets under management, covering venture capital investments in biotech, medical devices, and diagnostic companies. Prior to joining OrbiMed he Co-founded and managed Orion.ID – a startup company that developed and designed medical applications for mental health early prevention and management. Before establishing Orion.ID Mishael was Co-partner & Head of the Training Division at M-TACS – a company that provides tactical medical solutions services worldwide. Mishael received his BMedSc and MD from Ben-Gurion University, Faculty of Health Sciences, as well as an MBA in Innovation and Entrepreneurship from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Harrison School of Business. Dr. Zohar is a researcher at the Julis-Rabinowitz Data Science institute at IDC, Herzliya focusing on medical big data.

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Florence Rozen, Scientific Director of Investments, Fonds de solidarité FTQ

Florence Rozen is the Scientific Director of Investments with Fonds de solidarité FTQ, a labour sponsored/development capital fund based in Montreal. There since 2009, she is responsible for scientific due diligence for all potential investment opportunities within the Fonds’ life science group. She is also responsible for monitoring the group’s biotech company portfolio, which cover areas such as oncology, rare diseases, gene therapy, as well as cardiovascular, infectious and neurodegenerative diseases, all in different stages of development. Prior to her 22 years in the venture capital industry (including the seed financing arm of MDS Capital where she held similar responsibilities), she has done research in the fields of endocrinology and oncology. She holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from McGill University.