NECINA 2024 Annual Conference Highlights

The 2024 NECINA Annual Conference "Stronger Together: AI + Biomedical Discovery", co-hosted with Harvard Medical School CSSA, was held on June 15 at the Embassy Suites in Waltham, MA. The conference explored the revolutionary role of AI in the biomedical sector, featuring insightful presentations and discussions from world-renowned experts and industry leaders.

To watch the conference video clips


Keynote Highlights

Jeremy Jenkins, VP, Head of Discovery Science, Novartis

Drug discovery is challenging due to the complexity of biology, slow design cycles, and high regulation costs. AI can help by finding drug targets, designing compounds, and understanding mechanisms of action. Techniques like transformers and generative models are used to discover new drugs and optimize them. AI models integrated with experimental data can make predictions across the drug discovery process, improving efficiency and outcomes. The ultimate goal is an AI-powered, end-to-end drug discovery pipeline that enhances safety and effectiveness.

Dr. Raju Kucherlapati, Professor at Harvard Medical School

Precision medicine uses genetic information to tailor treatments to individual patients. Advances in genome sequencing have drastically reduced costs, making it accessible for diagnosing and treating various conditions, including cancer and genetic disorders. Identifying genetic variations helps in developing targeted therapies and improving early disease detection. The approach aims to deliver the right treatments at the right time, reducing healthcare costs and improving patient outcomes.

Paul English, Co-Founder of Kayak and Boston Venture Studio

Paul shared his entrepreneurial journey and insights into embracing AI for business success. He emphasized the importance of integrating AI into business strategies and highlighted key factors for entrepreneurial success, such as social skills, determination, and continuous learning. Paul believes that AI will fundamentally transform our lives and work, presenting both opportunities and challenges.

Notable Sessions


Build Your Own Copilot

Juan Pablo from Microsoft showcased AI-driven productivity tools, emphasizing Microsoft’s advancements in AI technology. He discussed how AI can enhance software development by improving code quality, software stability, and performance. He also highlighted the role of AI in advancing digital collaboration tools. Juan believes that the continuous progress in AI will bring both innovative opportunities and challenges for developers.

AI for Science and Career Pathways

Wei Ding from UMass Boston explored how AI is creating new career opportunities in science and technology. AI is revolutionizing fields like cancer research and weather forecasting by solving complex problems. Despite its potential, challenges such as data limitations and lack of explainability persist. Collaborative efforts and advancements in AI are crucial for maximizing its impact on scientific discovery.

Integrated Computation & Genomics for Oncology

Shirley Liu, CEO of GV20 Biotech, discussed how integrating computational tools and genomics can enhance cancer treatment. GV20 combines AI, genomics, and cancer biology to develop antibody drugs, focusing on patient tumor analysis. They identified an antibody targeting IGSF8, which boosts the immune response against cancer, showing promising results in preclinical models and early trials. This innovative approach leverages patient immune responses to improve cancer therapy development.

AI’s Impact on Drug Development

Hann Yew, Partner at McKinsey, highlighted the transformative impact of AI on drug development processes. She discussed how AI technologies are accelerating drug discovery, optimizing clinical trials, and improving patient outcomes.

AI in Clinical Trials

Hongwei Wang, SVP at Pyxis Oncology, focused on the role of AI in enhancing the efficiency and accuracy of clinical trials. She presented case studies demonstrating the successful implementation of AI in various phases of clinical research.

Oncology & Orphan Drug Development in The GPT Era

Dongpo Cai, CMO of AccendaTech Bio, explored the advancements in oncology and orphan drug development enabled by GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) technologies. He discussed the potential and challenges of using GPT models in drug research and development.

Panel Discussions


Challenges and Solutions in AI Applications

Featured insights from industry leaders like Chunlin Chen (Medicilon), Sean Xie (Xellar Bio), Yiying Zhang (Harvard Medical School) and Wei Ding (UMass) moderated by Tony Zhang (Mathworks).

Leveraging GPT in Drug Discovery

Experts, including Jinjun Shi (Harvard Medical School), Monica Wang (Takeda), Louise Liu (HillSearch) and Ruojing Yang (NestBioscience), discussed the opportunities GPT technologies present in drug discovery and development, alongside the challenges of implementation, such as data quality, ethical considerations, and integration into existing workflows.

Business Session


Income Tax Planning for Early-stage Companies & Tax Issues in Cross Border Businesses

Michael Kohner, Managing Director at Alvarez & Marsal, discussed strategies for early-stage companies to optimize their income tax planning. He also highlighted common tax challenges in cross-border operations and provided practical solutions to mitigate these issues.

AI in Legal & Legal Guidance for Biotech Business

Catherine Zhang, Partner at KWC LLP, provided legal guidance on the use of AI in biotech businesses. She discussed regulatory considerations, intellectual property issues, and compliance requirements to ensure legal and ethical AI implementation.

Interactive Sessions & Networking


NECINA’s Youth Entrepreneur Service (YES) Program

Highlighted the success stories of young entrepreneurs and the impact of NECINA's support on their journeys.

Demo & Lunch Break

Attendees explored demo booths showcasing cutting-edge AI technologies and applications, with opportunities to network and exchange ideas.