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Flattening the 'valley of death:' New tools in the hunt for better preclinical R&D

Poor rates of attrition from the preclinical R&D stage on is an existential crisis for biopharma players looking to bring better molecules to market. With the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, a breakthrough could be on the near horizon. But are those tools all they're cracked up to be? Or does the industry need a fundamental transformation in how it discovers and develops better therapeutics?

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Karen Akinsanya

Karen Akinsanya

Executive Vice President, Chief Biomedical Scientist, Head of Discovery R&D, Schrödinger

Karen Akinsanya, Executive Vice President, Chief Biomedical Scientist, Head of Discovery R&D, joined Schrödinger in 2018. Karen leads our Discovery R&D group with responsibility for preclinical drug discovery and translational research. She has more than 25 years of experience in academia, pharmaceutical R&D, partnerships, and licensing. Karen joined Merck Research Labs in 2005 and held positions of increasing responsibility in clinical pharmacology as a development team leader working on first-in-human studies through late-stage label studies before joining Discovery Preclinical & Early Development as a therapeutic area lead and then a search and evaluation lead in business development. Karen received her Ph.D. from the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Imperial College in London, in endocrine physiology. After post-doctoral training at Imperial and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research (UCL), Karen joined Ferring Pharmaceuticals in R&D working across sites in the UK and US. At Ferring, she led the discovery of a family of dipeptidyl peptidases related to DPPIV and pre-clinical characterization of FDA-approved FIRMAGON® for prostate cancer.

Andrew Hopkins

Andrew Hopkins

Founder and CEO, Exscientia

Andrew Hopkins is founder and CEO of the global pharmatech company, Exscientia, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to efficiently discover innovative medicines.

For over 20 years, Dr Hopkins’s work and research methods have been driven by a mission to accelerate the time between the start of an idea to a viable new drug candidate for patients. At Exscientia, Dr Hopkins oversaw the discovery of the world’s first precision engineered drug generated by AI to enter phase 1 human clinical trials.

Prior to founding Exscientia, Dr Hopkins was the SULSA Research Professor of Translational Biology and the Chair of Medicinal Informatics at the University of Dundee. Before becoming an academic, he held various research leadership positions at Pfizer for 10 years. Hopkins holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford in Molecular Biophysics. He has been awarded Fellowships from several national academies in the UK.

Exscientia has offices in Oxford, Miami, and Osaka. Dr Hopkins lives in Oxford with his wife and daughter.

Frank Stegmeier

Frank Stegmeier

Chief Scientific Officer, KSQ Therapeutics

Frank Stegmeier is an industry-leading expert in genetics, cancer biology and functional genomics who has led the industrialized application of functional genomics for oncology drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry. Prior to joining KSQ Therapeutics, Frank served as Director and Head of Global Oncology Target Discovery at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR), where he was responsible for developing the early oncology drug discovery portfolio. Frank also led the therapeutic siRNA research strategy at Novartis and directed the Cancer Cell Line Encyclopedia collaboration with the Broad institute. During his tenure at Novartis, Frank and his team identified more than a dozen novel oncology targets and advanced multiple chemical entities addressing these targets into preclinical development. He also led the biology efforts to advance the PKC inhibitor Sotrastaurin into phase I clinical trials in lymphomas and uveal melanoma. Frank was awarded the prestigious Novartis VIVA Leading Scientist Award for his vision, scientific excellence and innovative leadership.

Frank earned his PhD in biology from MIT and was a Helen Hay Whitney postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School in Dr. Stephen Elledge’s lab. He has authored numerous patents and published in top-tier scientific journals including Cell, Nature, Science, and Nature Medicine.

Paul Morgan

Paul Morgan

VP Preclinical Development, Sosei Heptares

Dr Paul Morgan has worked in Pharma R&D for 25 years across multiple therapeutic areas taking projects from early discovery through all stages of drug development. With specialism in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics, he has led R&D departments in Pfizer, AstraZeneca and in his current role at Sosei Heptares where he is head of Preclinical Development. He has a keen interest in R&D productivity enhancement and has contributed to major initiatives at both Pfizer and AstraZeneca to introduce frameworks for improvement of drug survival.

Kyle Blankenship
moderator

Kyle Blankenship

Senior Editor, Endpoints News

A native of Austin, Kyle previously worked as an associate editor at another leading biopharma publication and has held editor roles at two daily newspapers in Texas. In addition to a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, Kyle holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in Denton. At Endpoints, Kyle leads the company’s manufacturing coverage as well as running point on virtual events, editing and content strategy. An avid cook and history nerd, you can find Kyle hovering over the stove—spatula in one hand and a World War II tome in the other.