Biotech and Infotech Converge at MedCity’s CONVERGE Conference

On June 19th, technology disruptors, payers, providers, life science companies, venture capitalists, and more gathered at the University City Science Center in Philadelphia for MedCity’s CONVERGE to discuss and discover where oncology innovation is heading. The one-day event, which was attended by approximately 250 people, covered the whole gamut of issues in cancer technology as the worlds of both biotech and infotech converge in their search for a cure and other connected tools, apps, software, and more that can help patients better manage their disease.

A highlight of the event: Two sessions of “Davids vs. the Cancer Goliath,” in which executives from different startups tackling various areas of cancer care were given eight minutes each to share their company’s mission. The startups that participated in the sessions included Quench Medical, SEngine Precision Medicine, XRHealth, Proscia, Ezra, Savor Health, Medial EarlySign, Cofactor Genomics, Cadex Genomics, and Rx.Health. Attendees were also welcome to meet up with these startups at small stations set up during networking breaks.

Investors were also given a chance to share what they look for in cancer therapeutics, diagnostics, digital health, and other emerging technology in a panel featuring moderator Steve Barsh, Managing Partner, Dreamit Ventures, and speakers Anurag Agarwal, PhD, Senior Associate, Osage University Partners; Judd Englert, MD, PhD, Senior Director, Translational Science, UPMC Enterprises; and Arielle Novak, Associate, Prevail Partners.

Meanwhile, Neil Canavan, Scientific Advisor, Solebury Trout and author of A Cure Within: Scientists Unleashing the Immune System to Kill Cancer, took attendees through the history of immunotherapy and other recent breakthroughs in cancer treatment that could hold the potential for an actual cure.

Other sessions covered precision medicine as the key to population health, the ethics of germline editing for reproduction, the data problem for scaling artificial intelligence, and the data-empowered patient.

Neil Canavan, Scientific Advisor at Solebury Trout, discussed his book, A Cure Within: Scientists Unleashing the Immune System to Kill Cancer, in which he interviewed the pioneers behind cancer immunotherapy.
Panelists Christopher Boone PhD, Vice President, Head of Real World Data & Analytics at Pfizer; Gaurav Singal, MD, Chief Data Officer at Foundation Medicine; Nate Nussbaum, MD, Senior Medical Director at Flatiron Health; and Janak Joshi, SVP, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Strategy of Life Image, discussed “The Data Problem in Scaling Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare.”
Insoo Hyun, PhD, Associate Professor Department of Bioethics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, lead a fascinating talk about the ethical pros and cons of human genome editing, specifically for reproductive purposes.
During “Value and Cost of Novel Cancer Treatments,” moderator Alaric DeArment, Senior Reporter at MedCity News, lead a discussion with Julie Kennerly-Shah, PharmD, MS, MHA, BCPS, Assistant Director of Pharmacy, Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-James Cancer Hospital and Hiroomi Tada MD, PhD, Chief Medical Officer, Notable, on pricing for the innovative treatments hitting the market.
Moderator Steve Barsh, Managing Partner of Dreamit Ventures; Judd Englert, MD, PhD, Senior Director, Translational Science, UPMC Enterprises; Arielle Novak, Associate, Prevail Partners; and Anurag Agarwal, PhD, Senior Associate, Osage University Partners, provided insights on “Trends in Oncology Investing.”
Networking breaks provided attendees with the opportunity to meet up with the startups that presented during the conference.
Emi Gal, CEO & Co-founder of Ezra, was one of the participants of the “Davids vs. the Cancer Goliath” sessions featuring startups. His company, Ezra, is working to develop a single test to screen for all—or most cancers—by using a full-body MRI and AI.