Challenges and Opportunities in the Biotech Field

The GapSummit 2019 program, including panels, keynotes and workshops, will be centered on core "gaps" that the field will need to address by 2050. At the conclusion of the conference, Leaders of Tomorrow will be equipped with a holistic understanding of these challenges and have garnered insights to address these challenges in their professional careers.

R&D Productivity

Much of biomedical research in academia and in industry is performed in complex biological systems that are poorly understood. Consequently, research and development within biotech is plagued by high failure rates that limit the rate of progress. In recent years, it has become clear that the current level of productivity is no longer sustainable given the immense cost of R&D. This challenge is manifested most prominently in the biotechnology industry’s low success rate of developing preclinical therapy candidates into commercial products.

In this session, new models for innovation within the biotech/pharmaceutical industry will be discussed with leading R&D executives as a case study for innovation challenges throughout the industry.

Bench to Market

The products of the modern biotechnology industry are built upon basic science research. Modern medical and academic institutions are increasingly looking for ways to commercialize scientific discoveries. More researchers than ever before are considering the transition from academia to industry, and many are thinking about building companies around their work. How do we identify what findings and technologies are appropriate targets for commercialization? How can we best form partnerships between academia, industry, and medicine to benefit from their respective strengths in innovation, commercialization, and improving the lives of patients? What should young researchers who are interested in entrepreneurship and science do to prepare for a career at the nexus of biotechnology and business?

In this session, these challenges will be discussed with academics and industry members who have successfully navigated the transition from bench to market in their careers. Funding mechanisms for both industry and academia will be explored. Routes by which academics may partner with commercial entities to enable research as well as means to raising money for an early-career bio-entrepreneur will be discussed with experts at all stages of the scientific pipeline, from startup founder to biotech exec, as well as with funding experts including venture capitalists, angel investors, and startup incubator leadership.

Sustainable Healthcare Economics

Across the planet, the cost of healthcare continues to rise dramatically. The fraction of the gross domestic product devoted to health spending continues to increase, yet increased spending on healthcare is not directly predictive of outcomes. Significant contributors to the increase in medical spending include the cost of drugs, the aging global population, and the more intensive treatment of chronic conditions. It has become increasingly clear that the current healthcare ecosystem is not financially sustainable as it currently exists.

In this session, global challenges in the cost of healthcare will be discussed with healthcare leadership from around the world with a focus on highlighting spaces for innovation.

Emerging Bioeconomies

It is no exaggeration to say that biotechnology promises to shape nearly every aspect of human life. The vast majority of these changes will be driven by private enterprise. However, there are significant barriers to entry in the modern bioeconomy. Much of the power and influence is held by a handful of countries that drive investment into areas that are most likely to benefit the stakeholders within these countries.

In light of the democratization of many biotechnologies, what are the potential pathways available for developing countries to empower themselves and to expand their role within the global bioeconomy? How can developing countries best nurture talented individuals into leaders who will develop a local biotechnology sector and use these tools to solve problems and address their own challenges? What is the role of government, private enterprise, and other institutions along this transition? What is the appropriate role for international collaborations to help accelerate the development of bio-economies in the developing world?

In this session, we will investigate these questions with international biotech leaders who have collaborated across continents and have taken active roles within developing bio-economies around the world.

AI/Digital Health

From the ubiquity of smartphones and wearables to the plummeting cost of DNA sequencing, a revolution in healthcare data science is underway. The advent of such technologies to collect complex multimodal data on individual patients has offered the promise of using population-wide data to better inform and individualize diagnoses and therapeutic plans for specific patients. Indeed, this possibility has piqued significant interest from non-traditional players in the healthcare space who bring deep expertise in machine learning and data science.

In this session, we seek to separate hype from reality and to understand the promise, challenges, and limitations of the role that artificial intelligence and digital health technologies will play in healthcare.


Today’s world is becoming increasingly more connected as people, resources, and ideas transcend national borders. This global fluidity is not without without risk and can lead to greater instability, as it is now more and more difficult to contain harmful ideas and pathogens. Emerging epidemics do not respect national borders and will require international collaboration to control their spread. In addition, governments will have to work against malevolent actors and terrorists who seek to weaponize biotechnology. While the genomics revolution promises insight and solutions to challenges in human disease and sustainability, the same tools can also be used to cause harm. The capability of biological agents to replicate places biosecurity as a unique class of threat.

In this session, current approaches to maximizing the societal benefit of innovation while minimizing the risk of harm by monitoring dual-use research will be discussed, from the perspectives of organizational systems for risk minimization as well as defensive counters to unknown threats.

Sustainability & AgTech

Humanity faces profound sustainability challenges over the next century including climate change, food shortages, water crises, and the depletion of natural resources. Biological solutions hold great promise for solutions to these challenges, but have yet to be deployed at scale.

In this session, current progress towards addressing these problems will be discussed, with a particular focus on the development and design of new biological solutions and their responsible deployment and adoption by society.

Frontiers in Biotech

In this session, global pioneers at the cutting edge of scientific research and industry disruptors will posit their forward thinking visions of the biotechnology industry and opportunities for the next of generation of leaders to advance progress.