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What’s really hot in San Diego: Perspective from BIO 2017 Program Chair, Chris LeMasters

September 14, 2016
Meet Chirs LeMasters, 2017 BIO International Convention Program Committee Chair. Chris is the CEO of Promosome LLC a synthetic biology company that was founded by Nobel Laureate Dr. Gerald Edelman, based on his work on mRNA translation at Scripps. He joined the company last year to transition Promosome into a therapeutics company, developing a pipeline of hard-to-express therapeutic proteins. Promosome is also pursuing partnerships with companies developing nucleic acid therapeutics (gene therapy, RNA vaccines, mRNA therapeutics) based upon its propriety mRNA reengineering technologies. Prior to joining Promosome, Chris worked for companies focused primarily on oncology drug development, including Conforma Therapeutics, Cabrellis Therapeutics, and Tragara Pharmaceuticals. He also co-founded Aarden Pharmaceuticals, an early-stage biotech developing novel phosphate inhibitors.

As program chair for BIO 2017, Chris works with other committee members to create a relevant, compelling, stimulating and—most importantly—informative  program, leaving attendees believing they have made a worthwhile investment of time.

BIOtechNow (BTN) caught up with Chris LeMasters to get his perspective on the BIO 2017 program, the San Diego venue, trends in biotechnology and the type of sessions most likely to be accepted into the program.

BTN: What kind of innovation is hot in the California region right now?

"In San Diego, we have been fortunate to have a broad representation of biotechnology: tools, therapeutics, diagnostics, bio-foods, and bio-fuels.  Each has their own “hotness” today.  In therapeutics, the convergence of biomarkers, diagnostics and drug discovery is defining a new paradigm for drug development – and biotech formation.  New modalities, such as gene therapy, DNA/RNA vaccines, and mRNA therapeutics are also well represented in the region.  In oncology, cell therapy and immunotherapy are dominating conversations.  As for my opinion of what’s really hot in San Diego, I’d say it’s the continued productivity of our industry/academia connections and the strength of our tight network of innovators and serial entrepreneurs."

BTN: As program chair, what excites you about the BIO 2017 Convention in your back yard?

"I think that San Diego has done a great job of hosting the BIO Convention each year.  Our convention center works well for this (expanding) event and our downtown is exceptionally welcoming and an easy walk.  The perfect weather goes without saying and the hospitality of San Diegans is well-known.  We couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to recruit new talent (and funding) to our region just by inviting the industry to spend a few days in June with us.  As for business development, BIO 2017 gives us the home field advantage – in BIO One-on-One Partnering™, the dinners and parties, and even the opportunity to bring a larger contingent of your team economically.  But the best part from my perspective is the opportunity for San Diego to help define the topics and tone of the educational sessions - and put our best and brightest on stage."

BTN: What are adjectives you would use to describe the ideal panel submission?

"I’d start with “original, thought-provoking, audience-engaging and topical”.  But I’d also add “well-considered, speaker-populated, and complete” (partial submissions are usually less-than-ideal).  We want topics that are “educational, challenging, and globally aware”. And we are looking for speakers that are “knowledgeable, credible, experienced, and note-worthy”.  BIO 2017 panels will be defined by big breakthrough ideas, big personalities, broad-ranging opinions, and panels that encourage productive argument."

BTN: What are the benefits of submitting a panel session?

"The biggest benefit is the opportunity to shape the conversation at biotechnology’s biggest annual convention, BIO 2017.  Submitters help us define topics that challenge old models, encourage original thinking, and educate new members of our industry.  Submitters also have the opportunity to identify the voices that will lead these conversations, be they pharma veterans, biotech mavericks, or thought leaders beyond the boundaries of our industry.  For submitters and their panelists, this is an opportunity for exposure on a global stage – personally and professionally.  There are few venues that provide such a rich occasion to present yourself and your ideas to a broad and attentive audience."

BTN: What types of sessions are most likely to get approved?  Rejected?

"Session proposals that are well-defined, with meaningful topics and quality, committed speakers will always float to the top.  Session proposals that read like advertisements for the submitter or try to tackle a topic too large (or small) for time allotted will sink to the bottom.  New takes on common topics, opposing panelists that will provoke debate, and sessions that include diversity of people, thought or geography are welcomed.  Sessions that encourage audience interaction are prized; single-sided presentations are less attractive."

Are you ready to share your latest biotechnology breakthrough in San Diego? The 2017 BIO International Convention Call for Sessions is open September 15 through October 13. Visit to learn more.