Connecticut held center stage last week as more than 18,000 scientists, biopharma executives, patient advocates, and others congregated in Boston for the annual Biotechnology Innovation Organization convention.

BIO, as this life sciences gathering is known, is the largest of its kind and has become a time each year to take stock of the industry and what is on the leading edge of bioscience research.

The convention floor included a Connecticut booth showcasing the state's biopharma companies, clinical research organizations, and the ongoing research projects at Yale University, the University of Connecticut, and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine.

The state Department of Economic and Community Development noted in a statement that 22 Connecticut pharmaceutical companies, research labs, and support organizations made presentations at the Connecticut booth.

"Our state has more than 2,000 bioscience companies that employ more than 35,000 workers—a number expected to increase by more than 16,000 in the coming years," DECD said.

"We're showing the world that Connecticut is a great state for bioscience."

Venture Capital

At this year's BIO, optimism reigned.

Venture capital is flowing into startup companies and fueling the growth of later-stage companies.

Larger, established companies have worked to streamline their operations and inject entrepreneurialism into their corporate cultures in an effort to shorten the time it takes to bring new medicines from the lab to pharmacy shelves.

The optimism is warranted. Striking advances are being made across almost every disease area.

Immunotherapy and Cancer

Perhaps the most consequential research evident at BIO involves immunotherapy.

The immune system—the cascade of specialized cells that interact with biochemicals secreted by organs and tissues—defends our bodies against the constant onslaught of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Venture capital is flowing into startup companies and fueling the growth of later-stage companies.
Nearly every biopharma company represented at BIO has at least one medicine in development that builds off recent insights into how our immune system does—or doesn't—work.

Increasingly, it appears that cancer occurs when cancerous cells find a way to go unseen by the immune system.

Immunotherapy drugs work by unmasking cancer cells to allow the immune system to recognize them as a threat to be removed from the body.

This new class of cancer drugs is not only significantly more effective than the treatments it hopefully will replace—including toxic chemotherapy chemicals and radiation—it has far fewer side effects.

Immunotherapy, after all, just harnesses what our bodies are already doing all the time.

Immunotherapy and Autoimmune Disease

The flip side of immune system-related disease is when the immune system is, in a sense, overactive and incorrectly "sees" healthy cells as foreign objects needing to be eradicated.

Arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and even diabetes are examples of such autoimmune diseases.

Many companies presenting at BIO showed how research is homing in on new classes of medicines to, for example, stop the destruction of insulin producing cells without so weakening the overall immune system that the body is left far more prone to infection.

Alzheimer's Research

Apart from immunotherapy, the other major biopharma focus apparent at BIO was Alzheimer’s Disease research and development.

In the U.S., the number of those suffering from Alzheimer's is expected to grow 40%—to 7.1 million patients—within the next 10 years.

Although several promising Alzheimer's medicines have not proved successful in recent clinical trials, it was clear at BIO that Alzheimer’s research and development is accelerating with new insights into the mechanisms of the disease that will point the way to effective treatments.


For more information, contact CBIA's Paul Pescatello (860.244.1938) | @CTBio