“We’re all here because we want to make a big difference.” The statement from Alexis Borisy, chair of Celsius Therapeutics and partner of Third Rock Ventures, captured the motivations behind the panel of life science leaders featured during Xconomy Boston’s Life Science Disruptors event held on October 17 at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research in Cambridge.
Speaking to an engaged audience of academics and industry stakeholders, the panel of eight speakers included executives and founders from emerging biotech companies Beam Therapeutics, Celsius Therapeutics and Arrakis Therapeutics. Over the course of the two-hour event, speakers from each company went to the front of the room to share their story in a casual and modest setting—no flashy slide decks, no moderator, no formal speech.
While each leader had their own style, and each company their own unique history, the common themes and motives at the core of each biotech business were apparent. Among them, the following three stood out the most:
- A Passion for Patients: Each company made clear that their purpose was to improve the lives of patients. While discussing his work, David Liu, co-founder of Beam Therapeutics, emphasized the bittersweet feeling of hearing from families with loved ones diagnosed with rare genetic diseases. David noted his lab receives e-mails on a weekly basis from parents with virtually no scientific background who have done enough research to determine that their child may benefit from the gene editing technology David and his team are developing. Christoph Lengauer, president of Celsius Therapeutics, began Celisus’ story by introducing the patients they are seeking to help, which include an employee of Celsius and his own daughter.
- An Integrative & Collaborative Approach: It was fitting that the event took place at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, as the values of integration and collaboration were clearly underscored throughout the night. During the opening remarks from Anne Deconinck, executive director of the Institute, she explained how the center was founded just seven years ago with the purpose of bringing scientists and engineers together under one roof to foster an environment that would yield new and innovative approaches to cancer treatment. Lengauer and his colleague Aviv Regev, scientific founder of Celsius Therapeutics, reiterated the importance of cross-discipline collaboration, highlighting the beauty of merging academic and non-academic thought leaders together to form a business and achieve the incredibly difficult challenges that would not be possible without integration.
- A Craving for Risk-Taking: Each of the companies at the event were established to explore a radical scientific approach to treatment. Michael Gilman, chief executive officer of Arrakis Therapeutics, disclosed the difficulty and significance of finding the first few people willing to support—and finance—your idea stating, “The fact is, you really only need to find one or two believers.” Aviv Regev also expressed her passion for pursuing the unknown, conveying the excitement she feels when starting something from scratch. She claimed, “If you’re not working on something that’s at least partially scary, you’re not working on the right problem.”
Fueled by these unwavering values, the companies clearly demonstrated their intentions to shake-up the healthcare ecosystem and remain on the cutting-edge of the life sciences landscape. At W2O, engaging with innovators and staying apprised of the game-changing developments in healthcare is just one way we give brands an unfair advantage. Like these companies, we operate through integration, continuously staying ahead of trends and delivering insight-driven strategies to meet our clients’ ever-changing needs. It’s no secret there’s a lot happening in healthcare… and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
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