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Biotech Experts Meet at MIT

Academic, Industry Researchers Discuss New Developments


Academic and industry biotechnology researchers gathered at MIT Wednesday to discuss recent technological developments in four key areas of future growth.

Organized by the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, the symposium focused on cellular therapy, genomics, tissue repair factors and targets for immunosuppresion.

The conference was aimed at improving the sharing of information among researchers within each of the four sub-fields.

"This forum allows scientists in academia and industry to come together and share their knowledge," said Janice T. Bourque, executive director of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. "Our mission is to foster a positive environment for biotechnology to grow and thrive through programs, education, legislative matters and publications; and one of the mechanisms for that is our science symposium."

In one of the seminars, cellular therapy experts discussed issues including cartilage repair, gene therapy and transplantation.

For example, Dr. Ross Tubo, scientific director at Genzyme Corporation, shared promising results in the use of cellular therapy to promote cartilage growth in dogs and humans.

"Because there are so many scientists in academia and they are so busy, the chance to meet and talk in a very open environment allows the researchers to share their science and further collaborations," Bourque said. "If they can find out what each other are doing, they can bring out their research, what is the latest and who is doing what."

Genomics experts discussed the progress of the Human Genome Project, gene discovery, drug development and the implications for human diseases. Changes in the challenges facing researchers were highlighted.

One industry scientist at the conference explained the importance of the dialogue between scientists.

"Bringing together the technology and expertise and understanding of all [experts] is important to answer complex problems," said Dr. Robert I. Tepper, vice president of biology at Millennium Pharmaceuticals.

"The physical tools to have a roadmap of the genome used to be unavailable. The Human Genome project has given us the tools to hone in on that roadmap. That is the easy part now," he said.

"The hard part [for Millennium researchers] is finding patient populations particularly with complex genomic causes where more than one region is affected," said Tepper, who graduated from Harvard Medical School. "Through mathematic algorithms, clinical phenotyping and associations to the genome, we can dissect complex linkages that have given confusing results in the past."

The Symposium had 325 attendees. The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council was founded in 1985 and has more than 100 member organizations.

The conference also included a poster exhibit of recent scientific findings and a trade exposition.

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