10 episodes

Candid one-on-one conversations with life science leaders in California and beyond.

LifeLines by Biocom California Biocom California

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

Candid one-on-one conversations with life science leaders in California and beyond.

    Episode 9: Engineering Antibodies Through AI and Machine Learning to Accelerate the Design of More Effective Treatments for Patients

    Episode 9: Engineering Antibodies Through AI and Machine Learning to Accelerate the Design of More Effective Treatments for Patients

    Decades ago, the terms “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning” were associated with rogue robots and nefarious computers in sci-fi books and movies. Today, these technologies are a part of our everyday lives and as innocuous as predictive text appearing in a messaging app, a robot on wheels delivering food to your table at a restaurant, or a student using Chat GPT for writing prompts. But what applications does AI, big data, and machine learning have in life science?  

    On this week’s episode of LifeLines, our final episode of Season 1, we chat with Peyton Greenside, Ph.D., co-founder and CSO of BigHat Biosciences—and how her company harnesses the power of AI and machine learning to discover and engineer antibodies to accelerate the development of next-gen drug therapies for infectious diseases, oncology and inflammation. A previous Catalyst Awards winner and a pioneer of deep learning applied to life science problems, Peyton also shares the challenges that come with working with this unique technology and what it could mean for the future of drug discovery. 

    BigHat was founded in San Mateo in 2019 and has since forged partnerships with big names in life science—Amgen, Merck, Bristol Myers Squibb—for its AI-guided antibody design platform. BigHat describes their technology as integrating a high-speed wet lab with machine learning to drive the search for better antibodies, at a much faster rate than current technologies allow. Peyton says the platform can address existing limitations in molecular design by substantially shortening lab-cycle times for experiments and enabling increasingly sophisticated designs to address diseases with significant unmet need. 

    “It’s really, in short summary, to close the loop as quickly as possible between the lab and the computational side to be able to iterate quite rapidly and develop novel antibodies for addressing these diseases,” Peyton explains. “The goal of the company was actually to realize the potential of machine learning in life sciences—where I think there's been a ton of excitement—and I think we're still at the early days of ‘how are the impacts actually being realized from the potential of this technology?’” 

    Although BigHat is taking a futuristic approach to drug discovery, Peyton says we can’t forget about the human element and connection needed within life science companies to unlock technology’s potential. She and BigHat Co-Founder Mark DePristo launched the company just one year before the pandemic lockdown, and navigated maintaining a positive company culture and camaraderie among staff when everyone couldn’t physically be together at the lab. Learn more about Peyton Greenside and BigHat Biosciences.  

    This concludes Season 1 of the LifeLines podcast! Thank you for joining us on this journey into the stories behind the life science innovation happening in California.

    LifeLines is produced by Biocom California, the leader and advocate for life science in California and beyond. To learn more about us, visit biocom.org or engage with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For a transcript of this episode, you can download it here. Interested in becoming a member or learning more about this podcast? Email podcast@biocom.org. 

    Host: Chris Conner Executive Producer: Marie Tutko Senior Producer: Vincenzo Tarantino Associate Producer: Lauren Panetta Program & Research Coordinator: Katy Burgess Transcripts By: Jessica Schneider  Senior Director of Marketing: Heather Ramsay Graphic Design By: Raquel Papike 

    • 23 min
    Episode 8: Building a Collaborative Incubator Community for Orange County Biotech Startups

    Episode 8: Building a Collaborative Incubator Community for Orange County Biotech Startups

    Mention Orange County to the average person and images of Disneyland, Laguna Beach and high-end shopping malls may come to mind. Life science industry insiders know that beyond the county’s famous landmarks is a nascent biotechnology hub—more than 63,000 people there were employed by the sector last year, and the number of startups establishing roots in Orange County is growing. In 2020, biotech startups gained a new place to set up shop when University Lab Partners, the first wet lab incubator for biotech and medtech companies in the region, opened near the University of California, Irvine campus. Karin Koch, its executive director, calls it “the Four Seasons of incubators” and says it has helped 70 companies since opening. 

    Karin says University Lab Partners’ approach—which was founded in partnership with UC Irvine’s Beall Applied Innovation—is an “all-inclusive concierge model” where startups receive support services in addition to access to labs: event planning, business counseling, networking, and finding a venue when they’re ready to graduate. For Karin, directing an incubator goes far beyond collecting rent—it’s about offering startup founders a sense of community and helping them on their journey. Having been one of the few women in an electrical engineering class while in college, she knows first-hand what it’s like to feel isolated. “Being a CEO or owner of a company, it's a very lonely place. Not a lot of people can relate to you,” she says. This is where incubators like University Lab Partners come in—they can connect founders with like-minded people who can serve as a sounding board and co-collaborator. “Part of the reason why I'm so impassioned about the work is so that women and underrepresented minorities in STEM really have this safe social network…ULP is focused on life sciences and there are severe disparities in STEM (and especially the life sciences) that we need to highly focus our efforts there.” 

    Today, University Lab Partners has a second location in Aliso Viejo and houses a total of 42 companies that will hopefully stay in Orange County when they outgrow the incubator, as many previous tenants have. We hear more from Karin about the larger role (and responsibility) incubators play in a city’s economic development and the diversity of the STEM workforce, University Lab Partners’ involvement with an outreach program for high school students, and how a company’s graduation day can feel like a parent sending their child off to college. 

    Learn more about Karin Koch and University Lab Partners. 

    LifeLines  is produced by Biocom California, the leader and advocate for life science in California and beyond. To learn more about us, visit biocom.org or engage with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For a transcript of this episode, you can download it here. Interested in becoming a member or joining us on this podcast? Email podcast@biocom.org. 

    Host: Bob McGriff Executive Producer: Marie Tutko Senior Producer: Vincenzo Tarantino Associate Producer: Lauren Panetta Program & Research Coordinator: Katy Burgess Transcripts By: Jessica Schneider  Senior Director of Marketing: Heather Ramsay Graphic Design By: Raquel Papike 

    • 25 min
    Episode 7: Mapping the Growth of the Bay Area's Life Science Industry and Providing Startups with the Tools to Scale and Seed

    Episode 7: Mapping the Growth of the Bay Area's Life Science Industry and Providing Startups with the Tools to Scale and Seed

    The San Francisco Bay Area is known as the “birthplace of biotech” and a center of the tech world, but did you know the local biomedical industry—companies developing new drugs and foods, medical devices and equipment, digital healthcare, and more—number in the thousands in the region? And that where a life science company first sets up shop in the Bay Area can indicate where it may move to in the future? 

    Gregory Theyel, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer and professor at California State University East Bay, discovered this ten years ago when he first sought out startups to help through the nonprofit Biomedical Manufacturing Network—an organization collectively started by UC Berkeley, Manex, and government entities to support the local biomedical ecosystem and provide companies with roadmaps to success—where he serves as program director. He wanted to find out where these companies were located in the Bay Area, but a comprehensive database with this information didn’t exist. A self-professed “map guy,” Gregory collected the data and built a heat map plotting each biomedical manufacturing company in the region from the ground up. The Biomedical Manufacturing Network, which originated from grant support, studies and shares this data: about 1,000 companies were identified when they first began. Today, there are 2,500. 

    How can all this information in the network be used? Through this project, Gregory identified three economic “microclimates” in the Bay Area and spotted relocation trends as companies grow and need funding, which enables him to assist with location strategy. Various businesses and entities are wanting this data, too: realtors can forecast which companies need more space; service providers, lawyers, and contract research organizations can find potential customers; and government agencies and nonprofits can locate companies that need funding. The network’s long-term goal is to facilitate the transfer of manufacturing technology between labs, universities and companies, and keep the infrastructure for a biomedical manufacturing ecosystem in the Bay Area.  

    We hear more from Gregory about how the Biomedical Manufacturing Network can assist startups and what kind of companies they are looking for, learn about the Tech Futures Group—another association he belongs to which helps startups find resources, capital and more—the latest technologies he’s excited about, and why he was a pioneer in online teaching. 

    Learn more about the Biomedical Manufacturing Network.  

    LifeLines is produced by Biocom California, the leader and advocate for life science in California and beyond. To learn more about us, visit biocom.org or engage with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For a transcript of this episode, you can download it here. Interested in becoming a member or joining us on this podcast? Email podcast@biocom.org. 

    Host: Chris Conner  Executive Producer: Marie Tutko Senior Producer: Vincenzo Tarantino Associate Producer: Lauren Panetta Program & Research Coordinator: Katy Burgess Transcripts By: Jessica Schneider  Senior Director of Marketing: Heather Ramsay Graphic Design By: Raquel Papike 

    • 26 min
    Episode 6: Landing Multi-Million Dollar Partnerships for Next-Gen Gene Therapies While Addressing Gender Parity in Life Science Leadership

    Episode 6: Landing Multi-Million Dollar Partnerships for Next-Gen Gene Therapies While Addressing Gender Parity in Life Science Leadership

    How does a biotech startup manage to forge $125 million in partnerships with AbbVie and Eli Lilly in just under two years post-inception? Our next guest, Peter Anastasiou, CEO of Capsida Biotherapeutics since 2022, attributes much of the company's rise to addressing unmet patient needs. First invented by Viviana Gradinaru, director of the Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience at the Chen Institute for Neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology, Capsida’s next-generation gene therapy platform engineers the capsids in adeno-associated viruses, or AAVs. The company uses this technology to develop treatments that are being researched for central nervous system and eye disorders. 
    On this episode, we delve more into Capsida’s technology—which manipulates the amino acid sequence on the surface of the AAV, and identifies and engineers capsids (the protein surrounding a virus) that can cross the blood-brain barrier in significant amounts in order to ferry medication to where it’s needed in the body.

    A key principle of life science success is embracing a diverse leadership team, and Peter is a longtime advocate of gender parity at the leadership level and has been honored for his mentoring contributions—he was named the Honorable Mentor by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association in 2019. His dedication to mentoring women is not only personally important to him as a father of two daughters, he says it makes the most business sense in addition to being the right thing to do. “The idea of trying to conquer such daunting challenges that we do in biotech…with a basically homogeneous group of people trying to solve that problem…it's never going to happen,” he says. “The only way to solve the challenges is by bringing the best minds around the table.”

    Learn more about Capsida Biotherapeutics and Peter Anastasiou.

    LifeLines is produced by Biocom California, the leader and advocate for life science in California and beyond. To learn more about us, visit biocom.org or
    engage with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For a transcript of this episode, you can download it here. Interested in becoming a member
    or joining us on this podcast? Email podcast@biocom.org.

    Host: Chris Conner Executive Producer: Marie TutkoSenior Producer: Vincenzo TarantinoAssociate Producer: Lauren PanettaProgram & Research Coordinator: Katy BurgessTranscripts By: Jessica Schneider Senior Director of Marketing: Heather RamsayGraphic Design By: Raquel Papike

    • 18 min
    Episode 5: Creating a Bridge from Higher Education to Real-Life Science Application as a First-Ever Female Dean 

    Episode 5: Creating a Bridge from Higher Education to Real-Life Science Application as a First-Ever Female Dean 

    Kit Pogliano says her colleagues from graduate school would have voted her the least likely person from class to go into university administration, let alone become a dean of an entire school. But after building a 20-year career as a professor, researcher, and leader at University of California, San Diego, she became the first female Dean of the School of Biological Sciences—which U.S. News & World Report ranks as No. 7 in the world for its biology and biochemistry programs—in 2018. 

    Kit’s research focuses on how bacteria cells are organized, grow, and interact with antibiotics and ways to harness their molecules to develop new therapies. She’s not only passionate about studying the ins and outs of how these tiny microorganisms operate, but how the broad ecosystem of the life science industry in her community thrives. She says higher education institutions play a bigger role beyond advancing science: they drive regional economic development and social advancement, and are an engine for developing a creative life science industry.   

    On this episode, we learn how UC San Diego is cultivating a diverse group of future scientists and researchers. It’s partnered with private companies—such as Illumina and Thermo Fisher Scientific—to provide students with applicable job training, as well as give professionals access to the latest cutting-edge scientific equipment. The recent launch of the Goeddel Family Technology Sandbox, a new facility on campus, is an example of this goal of creating pathways to careers and opportunities coming to life, as well as a federally funded community project to build training modules and boot camp programs. 

    We dive more into Kit’s research and how her biotechnology company, Linnaeus Bioscience, is working with the Gates Foundation and the Tuberculosis Alliance on mode of action studies on newly discovered anti-tuberculosis drugs. She co-founded the company with her husband, Joe, and attributes their “extreme partnership” to her career and academic success. Kit shares why she believes strongly in a “people-first” leadership style, and how overcoming a family illness early in her career shaped this philosophy.  

    Learn more about Kit Pogliano’s research and lab. For information on UC San Diego’s School of Biological Sciences, visit their website. 

    LifeLines  is produced by Biocom California, the leader and advocate for life science in California and beyond. To learn more about us, visit biocom.org or engage with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For a transcript of this episode, you can download it here. Interested in becoming a member or joining us on this podcast? Email podcast@biocom.org. 

    Host: Bob McGriff  Executive Producer: Marie Tutko Senior Producer: Vincenzo Tarantino Associate Producer: Lauren Panetta Program & Research Coordinator: Katy Burgess Transcripts By: Jessica Schneider  Senior Director of Marketing: Heather Ramsay Graphic Design By: Raquel Papike 

    • 13 min
    Episode 4: Making the Leap from Academia to Blazing His Own Trail in Biotech in Pursuit of Novel Cancer Treatments

    Episode 4: Making the Leap from Academia to Blazing His Own Trail in Biotech in Pursuit of Novel Cancer Treatments

    What do Magic Johnson, the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, and a molecule have in common? They each played an unexpected role in changing the course of our next guest, Stanley Lewis, CEO and founder of San Diego-based A28 Therapeutics, on his path toward finding a novel treatment for cancer and advocating for patient diversity in clinical trials.

    On this episode of LifeLines, Stanley speaks about his journey from academia to blazing his own trail in biotech and founding his own company. As a physician, Stanley specialized in treating HIV patients and helped lead the development of a new HIV drug for a large company. This got the attention of Magic Johnson’s doctor, who recruited him to join Tai Med Biologics. Stanley never imagined he would one day be a biotech founder: an interview for a CMO position at a company that was retooling a molecule to treat cancer led him to San Diego. This meeting resulted in him purchasing the rights to the asset instead, establishing A28 Therapeutics. Stanley says it was “off to the races” from that point. “There’s really no blueprint for what you're
    about to undertake. This is not for the faint of heart.”

    A28 Therapeutics developed a targeted oncolytic peptide platform to treat multiple types of cancers, including ovarian cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma. A28 Therapeutics' lead compound, AT-101—which is in its Phase 2 clinical trial—could potentially kill cancer cells much like how a vaccine treats infectious diseases, Stanley says. The company’s goal is to find a treatment for cancer that doesn’t cause the side effects often experienced with chemotherapy.

    Stanley is also passionate about advocating for patient diversity in clinical trials, and he shares the news about a nonprofit he co-founded, CARER, that monitors data on patient enrollment in clinical trials. CARER was born from an idea shared by a colleague who attended Biocom California’s inaugural Black Biotech Trailblazers panel, where Stanley was a guest speaker. She approached him after the event, and their discussion on addressing diversity issues in the
    life science industry led to the creation of the nonprofit.

    You can follow Stanley Lewis and A28 Therapeutics on LinkedIn.

    LifeLines is produced by Biocom California, the leader and advocate for life science in California and beyond. To learn more about us, visit biocom.org
    or engage with us on Twitter and LinkedIn. For a transcript of this episode, you can download it here. Interested in becoming a member or joining us on this
    podcast? Email podcast@biocom.org.

    Host: Bob McGriffExecutive Producer: Marie TutkoSenior Producer: Vincenzo TarantinoAssociate Producer: Lauren PanettaProgram & Research Coordinator: Katy BurgessTranscripts By: Jessica Schneider Senior Director of Marketing: Heather RamsayGraphic Design By: Raquel Papike

    • 16 min

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