Event Recap: Orion Bionetworks’ Second Annual Conference – “Convergence through Complexity”

By Dr Kristophe Diaz, Big3Bio East Coast Consultant

On June 12th at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Dr. Magali Haas, CEO/founder of Orion Bionetworks, opened the organization’s Second Annual Conference with a slide showing the number “600” in white on a black background, followed by “0.”

She was showing a simple fact: None of the approximately 600 categorized brain diseases are curable.

This simple data efficiently set the stage to an audience of researchers, disease foundation leaders, patient advocate, data scientists, and business leaders from North America and Europe. The event — organized in keynote presentations, panels and networking sessions — aimed at expanding the vision from the MS ecosystem and to explore how the convergence of genomics, patient-powered networks, high performance computing and biosensors can help scientists harness the complexity of brain disease and to eventually accelerate cures for several brain disorders.

Some presentations focused on how the tech and electronic sector are revolutionizing the way life sciences study new problems. For example, Rudi Cartuyvels, a senior vice president at IMEC in Belgium, showed how semiconductor technology can be applied to develop cheap and efficient diagnostic and monitoring tools. He presented a remarkable miniature cell analytical machine that can detect, isolate and photograph loose tumor cells in a patient blood’s stream. His company also works on developing brain microelectrodes that will dramatically advance the study of brain function and pathologies.

Some panel highlights:

  • Robert McBurney, CEO of Accelerated Cure for MS; Catherine Jacobson, an Epilepsy Advocate; Inez Jabalpurwala, the CEO of Brain Canada and Heather Snyder, the director of the Alzheimer’s Association discussed the possibility of sharing information and important discoveries across disease state.
  • Andreas Jeromin, CSO of Iron Horse Diagnostics, Diana Perkins from the University of North Carolina, and Sid O’Bryant, interim director of the Institute for Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research, University of North Texas Health Science Center, gave concrete example of the methodologies necessary for precision medicine. Mainly they described their standard and approaches to develop reliable biomarkers both in Schizophrenia and Alzheimer research.
  • A two-part panel, titled “Knowledge Mapping and Discovery through Computational Systems Integration,” demonstrated some of the core capacities of Orion Bionetworks’ alliance partnerships, to bring many talents together and build complex computational models integrating as much information as possible concerning brain function and pathologies.

The day ended with Keith Elliston, consulting scientific director of Orion Bionetworks and CEO of the tranSMART Foundation, presenting Orion’s work on MS and the next stage of Orion’s flagship project, followed by concluding words from Dr. Haas and cocktail reception. For many, information shared at the event helps drive a new era of brain disease solutions. Click here for more information about Orion.