Guests making their way into the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.
What would an Xconomy gathering be without some pre-event networking?
The handshakes, pleasantries and coffee refills notwithstanding, attendees begin to make their way into the auditorium.
Chuck Wilson, Novartis' VP and Global Head of Strategic Alliances, kicks off the festivities.
Attendees line the back walls of the auditorium, programs out---who's up first again?
Harvard professor and Genocea founder Darren Higgins spoke candidly about the high points, as well as the struggles he faced even getting NIH funding for his idea: "[It wasn't] because the idea wasn't sound, it's because most people looked at it as, 'this is a fishing expedition.'"
Kevin Bitterman of Polaris Partners joined Higgins to tell the Genocea story. He mentioned that Genocea went through three CEOs in a short time after its founding--two venture/interim heads, one full-time CEO who left for family/medical reasons---before finding Chip Clark, a first-time CEO who is still at the helm: "We were taking a bit of a gamble there, but we couldn't be happier---he's exceeded everyone's expectations," Bitterman said.
Clark (middle, purple shirt), was one of the attendees, shown here sitting next to Bitterman and Higgins later on.
Next up was Moderna Therapeutics. Founding investor Noubar Afeyan of Flagship Ventures looked down at his phone first, before joking: "By the way, I'm not doing e-mail---I took notes, in case you guys are thinking 'I can't believe he's sitting in front of us writing e-mails."
Audience members got a chance to mix it up with our speakers during Q&A sessions.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel is used to jobs at big organizations like French diagnostics giant bioMerieux. But he has traded that gig in to run Moderna since its inception, intrigued by the idea of steering a startup from the get-go. Afeyan, who shared the stage with Bancel, hopes it's for the long-haul: "Unfortunately, in our business, CEO usually means current executive officer," Afeyan said. "It does make a difference because you can think long-term."
The crowd takes in some of the lighter moments of the three sessions.
Moderna was followed by Neil Exter (pictured) and Nick Leschly, who talked about the gamble they took on a 21-year-old gene therapy company with a tiny piece of data. "We were probably the last company out of the venture groups [that looked at this company]," Exter said.
Nick Leschly (right) believes employees have to be comfortable, and be themselves, to be their most productive. That's represented in attire: "My goal in life, and I've achieved it recently, was to see if I could get through an IPO without ever taking off sneakers or jeans," he joked.
With the main event over, attendees gather to make some new connections.
They came. We saw. They disrupted.
On Friday, I recapped our latest biotech event, “Boston’s Life Science Disruptors,” with some key takeaways from the stars of the show: Genocea Biosciences, Moderna Therapeutics, and Bluebird Bio (NASDAQ: BLUE). Today, as promised, I’ve circled back with a slideshow look at the festivities, including shots of the speakers, and you, our audience.
Again, big thanks to KeithSpiroPhoto courtesy of Kendall PRess for the pictures. Great thanks as well to our speakers, our event host, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research–and to our sponsors: BDO, Cubist, Health Advances, the Kauffman Foundation, and Mintz Levin.
Ben Fidler is Xconomy's Deputy Biotechnology Editor. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow @benthefidler
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