Event Recap: The Inaugural @Philly Cell and Gene Therapy Annual Conference Sparks Excitement Among Greater Philadelphia’s Biotech Innovators

The Greater Philadelphia area has long been a vibrant hub of biotech and pharmaceutical industry.

Over the last three decades, scientists and entrepreneurs in the Greater Philadelphia region have held the global leadership in the discovery and development of Cell and Gene therapies. Four FDA-approved therapies have originated here, including the first cell therapy (Kymriah®) and the first gene therapy (Luxturna®).  In order to promote the booming cell and gene therapy industry in the Greater Philadelphia region, the Inaugural @Philly Cell and Gene Therapy Annual Conference was successfully launched and received rave reviews from both scientific and business communities.

Conference video highlight

The conference was held on June 17-18th at the Sheraton Valley Forge Hotel near King of Prussia, about 20 miles northwest from downtown Philadelphia. More than 500 life scientists, pharmaceutical professionals, and business executives attended the conference, which was sponsored by 29 companies. The conference was organized by Sino-American Pharmaceutic Professionals Association-Greater Philadelphia (SAPA-GP). The launch of the @Philly Cell and Gene Therapy Annual Conference is an important step in maintaining a strong ecosystem that fosters collaborations between innovators, business leaders, investors, and service providers.

“It took three years for us to bring a vision of the conference to fruition. We are confident in making this a major conference in the nation which gives a big shout out to the cell and gene therapy industry in the Greater Philadelphia region,” said Dr Jing Yang, Chief Scientific Officer of BaseCure Therapeutics and co-chair of the conference who served as SAPA-GP President in 2019-2020.

For two days, over 80 speakers made more than 70 presentations in nine parallel tracks. The conference covered wide range of topics including gene therapy discovery, next generation cell therapy, CMC, clinical development and regulatory, business environment in the greater Philadelphia area, cell and gene therapy in China, as well as business issues related to biotech entrepreneurship and more.

Dr. Philip J. Brooks, the acting director of NIH Division of Rare Diseases Research Innovation of National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, kicked off the conference with a plenary speech, “The Bespoke Gene Therapy Consortium (BGTC) and Related Efforts: Moving Beyond ‘One Disease at a Time,” in which he shed lights on a collective effort to accelerate the therapeutic development for rare genetic diseases via shared molecular etiologies and platform approaches. “There’s a lot of excitement here, both in the City of Philadelphia and this conference specifically,” Brooks also noted. “A really nice mix of small business, big industry, and academics.”

Dr. Peter Marks, the director of FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, delivered the keynote speech, “FDA’s Efforts to Facilitate the Development of Cell and Gene Therapies,” in which he highlighted FDA’s commitment to advance the development of cell and gene therapies for patient populations of all sizes.  Dr. Marks also emphasized the importance of manufacturing, provided a review of the applicable regulatory framework and shared resources for product developers such as the CATT (CBER Advanced Technology Team) meetings and the INTERACT Program (INitial Targeted Engagement for Regulatory Advice on CBER products).

Grand ballroom

Among the highlights of the conference is a dinner gala conversation with Emily’s Entourage and Spirovant Sciences. Emily Kramer-Golinkoff, a local patient of a rare form of cystic fibrosis and the founder of Emily’s Entourage, talked about her trailblazing work in driving the acceleration of the development of critical medicines for cystic fibrosis patients with rare nonsense mutations like hers. From funding key academic research, providing essential cell lines, founding the parent company of Spirovant, to launching the patient registry, Emily’s Entourage provided a roadmap for engaging patients in the journey of finding live-saving medicines for rare genetic diseases.

In partnership with the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia’s Select initiative, the conference offered a unique @Philly forum which highlighted key initiatives and premium research and manufacture centers that can bring a sustainable and stable supply of CGT products to the patients.

“We wanted to shine a spotlight on the greater Philadelphia area’s collective scientific leadership and business advantages in cell and gene therapy research, development, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship,” added Dr Haichen Yang, VP at Amicus Therapeutics, co-chair of the conference, and the current president of SAPA-GP.

“This is a conference that really could be an essential part of the Philadelphia ecosystem going forward in many years,” added Dr. Fredric (Rick) Jones, Partner at BioAdvance.

Indeed, the conference has succeeded in becoming a wonderful gathering of brilliant minds in the field of cell and gene therapy.


Founded in 2002, SAPA’s mission is to promote pharmaceutical sciences and biotechnology, facilitate scientific and business cooperation, and foster the career development of pharmaceutical professionals. With over 4,000 members, each year SAPA-GP hosts many programs in science, business, and career development. It exercises increasing influence in shaping favorable business environments in the Greater Philadelphia area.