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Local Minds, Global Impact At Seattle’s Life Science Disruptors May 2

Xconomy Seattle — 

We’re a month away from our annual life sciences forum in Seattle, the agenda is posted, and it’s time to fill in some color on our speakers and topics.

Seattle is remarkable for having a lot of varied expertise packed into a small footprint. People from private biopharma, public global health, academic discovery, and many points in between rub shoulders in Seattle, along with some of the brightest tech minds.

On May 2 at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, we’ll bring many of them together to explore several local themes that have global impact. To catch up on cutting-edge work in immunotherapy—the practice of sharpening a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer and other diseases—we’ve got two speakers. Rob Hershberg, the chief scientific officer of Celgene, will talk about cancer, where immunotherapy innovation and experimentation is already saving lives. And Andrew Scharenberg of Seattle Children’s Research Institute will describe the role of immunotherapy in fighting autoimmune and infectious diseases.

Seattle is ground zero for public health groups. Our panel “AIDS To Zika” will gather folks from the public and private sectors who are combating both longstanding and emerging diseases, including former Fred Hutch president Larry Corey, a virologist who is helping run a closely watched HIV vaccine trial in South Africa, and Jim Thomas, CEO of Seattle’s Just Therapeutics, working to make expensive drugs cheap enough for widespread use in the developing world.

We’ll have a discussion about the confluence of so-called Big Data and healthcare with two prominent locals. Stephen Friend, whose nonprofit Sage Bionetworks builds data-sharing platforms for health researchers, including the brand-new GENIE project to share cancer data, will take the stage with Matthew Trunnell, who decamped from The Broad Institute last year to take the top techie job at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in part because of the proximity to some of the world’s experts in cloud computing. The intersection of ideas is crucial if we are to exploit the promise of precision medicine, which lies mainly untapped in deep layers of data, and protect our health information as more of it goes into the cloud.

It’s one thing to build data pipes and platforms to help researchers make discoveries; it’s another thing to bring health technology to the masses. It seems everyone, from tech companies to health providers to employers, wants to join the action. Should they go direct to the consumer? Through a health plan? We’ll discuss one example of each, both local, at our May 2 event. The first is Arivale, a startup that sells customers full workups, from their genomes to their blood to their gut bacteria, and coaches them to tweak their health profiles. The second comes from a leading health insurer that is rolling out health-monitoring tools and apps for its customers.

A big portion of our half-day event is dedicated to Seattle’s startup scene. Accelerator CEO Thong Le, who has been scouting and funding local talent for many years, will give us an overview. We’ll also hear from M3 Biotechnology CEO Leen Kawas, a Jordan native and Washington State University grad now tackling Alzheimer’s disease, and John Fluke, one M3’s first investors. And we’ll cap the day with local icon David Baker of the University of Washington, a world leader in protein design, and young scientists from three startups to emerge recently from U-Dub’s Institute for Protein Design.

We’ll be adding more speakers in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, make your plans to join us. You can buy tickets to the event here. I look forward to seeing you in Seattle.