Session Descriptions

9:15 AM - 9:30 AM
Welcome to BIO Alabama’s Virtual Annual Conference

Join BIO Alabama’s Board Chair, Vice Chair, and Executive Director as they welcome you to a virtual experience designed to connect, inspire, and educate. They will share more details about what to expect and how to make the most of your virtual conference week.

9:45 AM - 10:15 AM
Warp Speed: Biopharma’s Response to a Pandemic

In a recent statement from PhRMA, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, president and CEO, Stephen Ubl addressed the industry's commitment to ensuring the highest standards of research, clinical testing, and manufacturing are upheld throughout COVID-19 vaccine research and development. Our industry has responded rapidly to a pandemic and this timely fireside chat sets the stage for a week of engaging and enlightening topics. Join our executive director, Sonia Robinson and vice president and chief of medical affairs at PhRMA, Dr. Mike Ybarra with an in depth discussion on the topic that has consumed mainstream media and our daily conversations - COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics - as well as how our industry was equipped to respond.

10:45 AM - 11:30 AM
Power of Advancement through Diversity

As health equity dominates conversations, healthcare and bioscience leaders are tackling the problem by exploring opportunities to diversify clinical trials and research, decentralize clinical trials, engage underrepresented individuals, and evaluate how to safely close the health equity gap for rural communities. This panel will take on what can be a difficult topic and discuss specific actions to help us all impact change.

11:45 AM - 12:15 PM
UnHealthcare: A New Category of Data-Driven Health Assurance

Author and columnist, Kevin Maney, will engage you in an enlightening view of our current healthcare system challenging us to think beyond “sick care” to leveraging AI as a tool that can truly transform an industry ripe for disruption. Get the book: Unhealthcare - A Manifesto for Health Assurance

12:30 PM - 1:15 PM
Keynote Fireside Chat

From pandemic to health equity, this year has captivated our industry with daily headlines. Our Executive Director, Sonia Robinson, will sit down with Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath and Senator Doug Jones in an exclusive kickoff keynote fireside chat. Together they will discuss current events and topics relevant to the bioscience industry including policy and initiatives to build a diverse and inclusive bioscience community.

1:45 PM - 2:30 PM
Made in Alabama | How Alabama’s Manufacturers Play a Major Role in the Global Supply Chain

​​​​​​Alabama’s biopharma and medical device/equipment manufacturers are making headlines with growth and expansion in the wake of a pandemic. Hear from executive leaders who are putting Alabama on the map as an ideal destination for manufacturing facilities. Learn more about their explosive growth not only in talent acquisition but in physical footprint and global impact.

2:45 PM - 3:30 PM
Equity Encounters | Stories at the intersection of our unconscious bias, uncomfortable experiences, and desire to belong

We’re closing out the first day of our virtual annual conference with real talk around women in bioscience and the men who support them. Our panel members will share their experience and offer guidance on how to truly support, encourage, and empower women in STEM careers.

3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Virtual Networking

Connectivity is more important than ever. Grab your afternoon cup of tea or coffee and join your peers for a chance to connect during our virtual networking. You’ll have the opportunity to unmute your zoom mic and engage in conversation with like-minded people who are just as eager to connect with you. We’ll have a zoom room host and moderator available to assist in getting the conversation started.

9:00 AM - 9:45 AM
Bioscience Investors Forum

The pandemic has changed the way VCs evaluate funding opportunities. Join leading bioscience venture capital firms as they share their thoughts on the current market and discuss bioscience investment trends to watch for over the coming months.

10:00 AM - 10:45 AM
Merger & Acquisition Strategy: What Entrepreneurs need to know

Funding is typically a hot topic in the bioscience community. But, what about your end game? Join merger and acquisition expert, Michael White, to learn more about M&A as a business strategy, when and how to start planning, and what you can expect as you move through strategy development, due diligence, and across the finish line.

11:00 AM - 11:45 AM
Engaging the SBIR Audience: How to communicate your value proposition to SBIR/STTR grant reviewers

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs offer nondilutive research and development funds to small businesses, including biotechnology companies, to explore high-risk/high-reward technology. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH), are the two granting organizations with the largest budgets focused on the biotechnology sector. Although both agencies award Phase 1 and Phase 2 grants, key differences distinguish their respective proposal submission and review processes. In this session, we will compare and contrast the SBIR process for these two agencies, offer key tips for success, and provide helpful insight into a competitive writing and submission strategy. 

12:00 PM - 12:45 PM
Innovate Alabama - Growing the State’s Technology and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem through Collaboration and Smart Policies

In July, Governor Kay Ivey established the Alabama Innovation Commission with the purpose to review and develop recommendations tailored for growing Alabama's innovation economy and tech-related industries. Join this panel discussion to learn more about the Alabama Innovation Commission, how our State leaders are prioritizing innovation and tech-related industries such as bioscience, and how collaboration and smart policy can enhance Alabama's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

1:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Fireside Chat with Andrew Burnett, Legislative Assistant to Senator Richard Shelby

In Alabama we are fortunate to have leaders such as Senator Richard Shelby advocating for policy and programs designed to fuel our State’s economy. 2020 presents new challenges and our legislators, as well as their staff, have been focused on coronavirus legislation, reshoring efforts, and drug pricing. All three topics are debate worthy, however, the focus of this fireside chat is to discuss specific ideas and focus areas coming out of Senator Shelby’s office.

1:45 PM - 2:30 PM
Frontiers of Precision & Genomics Medicine

Our conference would not be complete without a discussion around the latest advancements, discoveries, and applications in precision and genomics medicine. The University of Alabama at Birmingham is leading the way and members of their multidisciplinary team will share specifics surrounding their important work and how it translates to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of disease tailored to the individual patient.

2:45 PM - 3:30 PM
Plant Genomics | Next Generation Crops for a Diverse Alabama Agricultural Economy

Enormous progress has been made in plant genomics and investigators at HudsonAlpha have been at the forefront of providing solutions to the many agricultural challenges. This panel features a collaborative effort from around the state and calls attention to Alabama’s agricultural assets, sustainability, and how genomic based techniques are being applied to improve crop yield for two of Bama’s rising stars - Beans & Barley.

3:45 PM - 4:30 PM
PART I | Good Things in Small Packages - Drug and Gene Delivery in the Age of Nanotechnology

This 2-part session will describe the advancement of drug and gene delivery technologies that can help overcome limitations of getting an active pharmaceutical agent in the body at the right place, at the right dose, at the right time. It will highlight the efforts of local companies and university scientists to increase efficacy of new drugs while limiting potential side effects, all while manipulating delivery systems at the nanoscale.

9:00 AM - 9:45 AM
Alabama’s Strategic Bioscience Economic Development Roadmap

Join this session to examine the core strengths of Alabama’s bioscience industry and explore opportunities to catalyze continuous, inclusive growth. Panel members will present key findings from primary and secondary industry research including “voice of industry” feedback that comprise BIO Alabama’s Strategic Economic Development Roadmap and proposed recommendations in three focus areas: 1) startup and technology transfer; 2) workforce development; and 3) business attraction and retention.

10:00 AM - 10:45 AM
Keynote Address with Bob Hess

The life sciences industry has become top-of-mind to economic developers. It’s a high impact industry with research dollars, high paying jobs, and innovation occurring at a rapid pace. Life sciences is a big economic driver for the Southeast and the world. Join our keynote speaker as he explains why the bioscience sector is attractive as an economic development driver as well as the corporate location and site selection strategies that are key to success.

10:50 AM - 11:35 AM
Economic Development and Life Sciences Site Selection Process

Don’t miss this tactical discussion following keynote, Bob Hess, as we explore approaches and techniques that economic developers can deploy to establish, support, and grow the life sciences industry. But wait, this session isn’t just for economic developers. Bioscience leaders and stakeholders are encouraged to attend to learn more about how the economic development process works and how you can support local efforts to grow and expand #ALBioTech.

11:45 AM - 12:30 PM
State Perspective on Bioscience Economic Development

Join two of Alabama’s economic development leaders for an informative discussion on Alabama’s growth opportunities and trends in bioscience. Greg Canfield has served as the Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce since July 2011. He continues to shape the vision for our State’s economic growth including sustainable growth and dynamic job creation for the bioscience industry. At the helm of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), Greg Barker brings years of experience and expertise to one of our state’s leading economic development organizations. Together, Canfield and Barker will address the importance of the bioscience industry and how private and public initiatives will help us further expand our global impact.

1:00 PM - 1:45 PM
Founders and Funding: Fundraising stories as told by founders and bioscience investors

Fundraising is a fulltime job and we have stories from founders/CEOs regarding their personal journey to securing funding. Plus, biosciences investors will share how they evaluate bioscience opportunities. If you are currently seeking capital or preparing to fundraise, attend this session to gain insights on how to get your mind right for the work ahead.

2:00 PM - 2:45 PM
Bioscience Angel Investors Forum

Angel investors are investing in bioscience and providing necessary early-stage seed capital. But, understanding the role of angel investors and how to prepare for an angel investor are key. Hear directly from bioscience angel investors on how they evaluate opportunities and what information they want and need.

3:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Securing Your First Institutional Round: Inside Investor Relations

So, you’re ready to make your first pitch. Have you considered your investor relations strategy and communications plan? With over 20 years of investor relations experience, Stephanie Carrington will share best practices and guide you through preparing to raise your first institutional round.

3:45 PM - 4:45 PM
PART II | Good Things in Small Packages - Drug and Gene Delivery in the Age of Nanotechnology

This 2-part session will describe the advancement of drug and gene delivery technologies that can help overcome limitations of getting an active pharmaceutical agent in the body at the right place, at the right dose, at the right time. It will highlight the efforts of local companies and university scientists to increase efficacy of new drugs while limiting potential side effects, all while manipulating delivery systems at the nanoscale.

Part II: Avanti Polar Lipids will showcase their ability to use lipids to manufacture liposomes and nanoparticles that can protect very fragile drugs and DNA sequences from degradation, ensuring the cargo arrives at the site in the body where they need to perform.

A scientist from Alabama State University will share how she harnesses the power of genetic modification of adenovirus, a virus that causes the common cold, to create vaccines for infectious diseases such as HIV or Zika virus.

9:00 AM - 9:45 AM
Biotech Innovation and Early Stage Resources and Opportunities: The Importance of Mentorship, Incubation, and Ideation

Innovation is the driving force of economic growth. In essence, innovation is an idea, a light bulb moment, and entrepreneurship is the act of commercializing an idea into a reality. This session will focus on those light bulb moments and the steps that immediately follow taking a life science innovation to the next level. We will explore why those light bulb moments and the early-stages of life science innovation and entrepreneurship are critical. We will highlight the hurdles and biases that accompany the stages of a developmental journey entrepreneurs often face. We will discuss why these issues are a serious innovation bottleneck and propose solutions on how to correct course, with particular emphasis how biotech centers - particularly those that are burgeoning in the southern U.S., like Alabama, can improve early-stage life science ideation, innovation, and entrepreneurship. This session will also summarize why generating light bulb moments and providing the right resources for commercializing them is essential for creating a knowledge and technology economy and the relevance of this for the future of STEM in the southern U.S.

10:00 AM - 10:45 AM
Alabama’s Incubators & Accelerators

Alabama is a premier place to start and grow in bioscience. Our business friendly atmosphere and incredible quality of life combined with a thriving entrepreneurial and startup environment set the stage for business success. Meet the thought leaders behind Alabama’s thriving incubator and accelerator programs during this panel discussion about resources, mentor programs, startup funds and more.

11:00 AM - 11:45 AM
From Licenses to Spinouts: How Alabama’s Academic Technology Transfer Offices Support Innovation and New Business

Alabama's university technology transfer offices are key drivers of biotechnology startups in our state. Technology transfer offices identify university-generated innovations, obtain intellectual property, and license them to private enterprise. Meet our technology transfer leaders to learn more about the opportunities available and how to engage a university in a licensing conversation.

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM
Innovation and New Knowledge: A Bold Vision for Alabama

Discovery and invention are rapidly advancing new knowledge but, this is not the same as innovation. Innovation is translating that new knowledge from lab to life. Innovation is hard. Less than 5% of funded research actually makes this leap. But innovation is also at the center of creative disruption that is transforming the economic landscape. We can either lead this economic transformation or be dragged by it begrudgingly. If you are interested in the former, this session is for you.

12:45 PM - 1:30 PM
Keynote Address with Dr. Regina Benjamin

We're closing out our conference with an inspirational message from the 18th U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. Dr. Benjamin’s life work percolates hard topics on health disparity, preventative health, and policy that advocates for underrepresented communities. During her closing keynote address she will take us on a journey of where we came from and where we’re going as Alabama researchers, scientists, and bioscience business leaders continue to urgently respond to the most challenging environment, equity, and health problems.