Indiana Life Science Summit - Recap

Science, Business, and Networking in the perfect mix

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Indiana Life Science Summit in downtown Indianapolis. The conference consisted of a two- track, two day program, with an immunology focus science track on the first day and a business track the second day which spanned topics from the state of funding in Indiana, to public health efforts, to new developments in the life sciences space in Indianapolis. If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year, I highly recommend checking it out for next year. The talks were engaging, interesting, and I learned some fascinating new ideas in both science and business. In addition, there were multiple chances to network and meet the Indiana LS community (of which I met quite a few great people)


For a semi-brief overview of each talk, check out below!

The first morning was kicked off by Dr. Christina Bodurow, from Eli Lilly and Company, who did an excellent job moderating all the scientific sessions that day:

Dr. Tom Bumol discussed Immunology as a new therapeutic area at Eli Lilly, including work on a line of therapeutics that have come to market in recent years. He discussed the four core strategies of Th17cell differentiation, cell cytokine signaling, B cells, and the resolution of inflammation. He dove into some of the research on conditions such as psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and the success they’ve had with their new interventions, Taltz and Olumiant, in causing remissions of these conditions.

Next Dr. Rainer Fischer, CEO, IBRI discussed the history of immunology through present day, starting with the father of immunology and winner of the Nobel prize Freiherr Emil von Behring. He provided an excellent overview of the trajectory of antibody research and production from the initial discovery and characterization through modern production methods and techniques.

Continuing the scientific section, Dr. Michael Lynch from Roche gave the audience a deep dive look at the complex world of companion diagnostics. A clinical pathologist by training, Dr. Lynch now focuses on teaching other pathologists how to correctly use the diagnostic tools that allow patients to be prescribed specific drugs for their condition. As he explained in his talk, these diagnostic practices are generally more complex, require more training, and take longer to analyze than a typical test. However, they allow for personalized medicine where the success rates can be twice as high as with generic therapies.

Lastly, Dr. Michael Kalos, CSO of Cancer Immunobiology at Eli Lilly discussed an overview of the intersection of immunology and oncology. He communicated the important role of T cells in establishing malignancy and the difference between treatment strategies for hot (has T cells) and cold (no T cells) tumors as well as the principals of treatment: Redirect, Reprogram, and Modulate.

At this point in the day, I switch over to the beginning of the business track, which was kicked off by Dan Peterson, the VP of industry and Government Affairs at the Cook group. From there, David Johnson, the President and CEO and Darren Carroll, SVP, Corporate business development at Eli Lilly gave an overview of the funding climate in Indiana, including the growing industry and the programs that Biocrossroads has help start in the past few years.

Lauren Dillard, Managing Director, Head of Carlyle’s Investment solutions group, gave a fascinating talk about private vs. public funding in today’s current climate, discussing the decline of publicly traded companies and the rise of private equity as a competitive source of funding for business ventures.

Day one talks were capped off with two Ted-style talks by Dr. Kuldeep Neote, Senior Director, New Ventures for Johnson and Johnson innovation  and Gary Stevenson, Cofounder, Managing Director, MB ventures.  They discussed innovation and industry venture funds and acceleration medical device innovation, respectively and then were met on stage by Kylie Veleta, a Life Science Reporter for inside Indiana Business for a Q&A session with the audience.

After the talks, we were all invited to the lobby for a poster session by local high school, grad, and post – doctorate students as well as drinks and hor d’ourves. The networking session was very well attended and I got the opportunity to speak with a number of the speakers and participants. 


Day Two kicked off with the award of the Wantanabe Life Science Champion of the Year to Virginia Caine, the Marion County Public Health Director for her dedicated service to public health.

June Wasser, Executive Director of the Reagan-Udall Foundation gave the morning keynote, discussing the foundations ongoing support of FDA initiatives through dissemination of scientific research. She highlighted two tools the foundation has recently launched IMEDS and the Expanded Access Navigator. IMEDS is a distributed database which partnering organizations can use to mine data for population characterization and effectiveness studies. The Expanded Access Navigator allows the public to search for drugs that are in clinical trial phases and request to be part of that trial if all other treatment has failed them.

The first session of the morning revisited the Ted-Talk style, with two presenters followed by a Q&A with both of them. Joe Singer discussed the need to use Medical evidence in health care decisions and Nitish Chawla, PHD, discussed a being a Data’ologist and the need to put data to work in health care.

Next was a focus on public health, with a talk by Dr. Bob Einterz on HIV and AMPATH success and Dr. Emily Gurley on the prevalence and prevention of Hepatitis E. Dr. Gurley’s talk was especially interesting for me as it involves an area of the world, Bangladesh, that we do work in with the CHAMPS project, a project that I found out Dr. Gurley is also involved in.

The conference wrapped up with an overview of 16 tech, a new 60 acre life sciences live/work/play development in the heart of Indianapolis. The first tenant, the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, has already moved in and more will follow in the coming months.

As I said at the top, if you didn't make it this year, definitely put this on your list for next!