Bridging academia and industry to spark health innovation

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What do three deans, two directors, and a Nobel Laureate from UC Berkeley have in common with leading biotech and medtech companies and some of the largest venture capital firms from across the U.S. and Asia? They all converged on February 21 and 22 at the Healthcare Conference Taipei 2024, hosted by UC Berkeley School of Public Health in partnership with J.P. Morgan, Stanford, and the Regent Taipei.

The event, organized by Dean Michael C. Lu of UC Berkeley School of Public Health, was inspired by the iconic J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference that attracts health tech innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors to San Francisco each January. Over the two days, the Taipei conference brought together over 300 attendees, including 50 later-stage start-up companies, leading scientists, manufacturers, distributors, and some of the largest VCs from the U.S. and across Asia.

The purpose of the Conference was to facilitate R&D, manufacturing, and co-investment partnerships in biotech and life sciences that can help accelerate bringing life-saving and disease-preventing diagnostics and therapeutics to market. It encompassed “shark tank”-style company presentations and five panels of experts from industry and academia exploring opportunities for healthcare innovation collaboration between the U.S. and Asia, as well as the exciting new discoveries taking place in research labs at UC Berkeley, UCSF, Stanford, and MIT.

Michael Botchan, dean and professor of Biological Sciences at UC Berkeley attended the event alongside keynote speaker and UC Berkeley professor Randy Schekman—recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

“This conference moves forward connections between industry and UC Berkeley, which will hopefully lead to real-world healthcare innovations,” said Botchan.

Along with the event’s other keynote speaker, Dr. Brad Ringeisen, executive director of the Innovative Genomics Institute, the final conference panel featured four UC Berkeley leaders stressing how the university is a trailblazer when it comes to industry-academy partnerships.

In addition to Lu and Ringeisen, the panel included Dr. Douglas Clark, dean of College of Chemistry and Dr. Veronica Miller, director of the Forum for Collaborative Research at Berkeley Public Health.

Dr. Brad Ringeisen, Dr. Michael C. Lu, Steven Pan, Dr. Douglas Clark, Dr. Veronica Miller, and Stanford’s Dr. Laura Smoliar.

“You can’t walk 15 feet on the Berkeley campus without bumping into an opportunity. That summarizes the innovation, the intellectual richness, and diversity that defines our campus,” said Clark.

During the Q&A, Lu was asked why was a public health dean hosting a health tech investment conference. “We are not going to solve big health problems by working in our own little siloes,” answered Lu. “By harnessing all this brainpower and capital across disciplines and across continents to accelerate health innovations that will save lives, alleviate suffering, prevent diseases, improve health, and make the world a better place, we are doing public health work.”

The conference was co-hosted by UC Berkeley trustee Steven Pan, chairman of Regent Hotels and Resorts, who said, “Michael [Lu] came to me last summer about his vision of holding a Berkeley Healthtech Conference in Taipei… I cannot think of a better way to celebrate UC Berkeley’s innovation and public mission than with the School of Public Health leading the annual Healthcare Conference Taipei.”

The conference established Berkeley Public Health as a leader in innovating health tech solutions through academic-industry partnerships.

“By bringing together U.S. and Asia-based innovators across academia and industry, we created a platform for cross-pollinating ideas and unearthing partnership opportunities,” said Jared A. Mazzanti, director of strategic initiatives at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. “Over 85% of post-conference survey respondents reported finding new potential collaborations—including investment, R&D, manufacturing, distribution, and more. One hundred percent wanted us to do it again next year.”

The event was underwritten by Eric Huang, whose generous gift launched the Center for Public Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley School of Public Health. “This exchange of knowledge between academia and industry will work to accelerate innovations in biotech, medtech, and healthcare that contribute to social good,” said Huang. “This is the type of innovative thinking that advances our shared mission of improving population health.”

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