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Precision Medicine World Conference (PMWC 2020) Continues on Second Day of Three Full-Day Sessions on Thursday, January 23, in California's Silicon Valley

Thursday, January 23, was the second full day of the Precision Medicine World Conference 2020 (PMWC 2020) in California’s Silicon Valley, and consisted of seven parallel tracks of talks focusing on different aspects of precision medicine. The tracks were Emerging Therapeutics; AI and Data Intelligence; Diagnostics in Clinical Practice; Molecular Profiling—From Research to Clinic; Health Data, Microbiome, and Patient Education; Showcase 1; and Showcase 2. The first five tracks consisted of leaders in the field discussing the latest advances, sometimes in individual presentations and sometimes in panel discussions. The two Showcase tracks gave new companies the opportunity to present their work in crisp 15-minute talks. This year’s PMWC, the 11th annual PMWC conference in Silicon Valley, and the 17th PMWC meeting overall, including smaller, more regional meetings, was the largest annual meeting ever, with over 2,300 attendees from around the world and over 400 presentations given over the full three days. The meeting took place in the Santa Clara Convention Center in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. The theme of this year’s conference was “How Do We Accelerate Precision Medicine and Deliver on Its Promises?” This year’s conference was co-hosted by UCSF, Stanford Health Care/Stanford Medicine, the University of Michigan, the University of Pittsburgh, and Duke Health. Sponsors of the conference included Illumina, Agendia, Bio-Rad, QIAGEN, RubAdaptive, Agilent, Caprion, GO, Google Cloud, Gritstone, Karius, Molecular Health, RubrYc, Oncocyte, Siemens Healthineers, Sophia, Thermo-Fisher Scientific, Quanterix, and Tabula Rasa HealthCare. Nearly 100 companies were exhibitors at the meeting. The conference was organized, as always, by Tal Behar, Co-Founder & President, PMWC LLC, and her husband Gadi Behar, Co-Founder & Chairman, PMWC LLC, Silicon Ventures. The PMWC 2020 Program Chairs were Tal Behar and Michael Pellini, MD, MBA, Managing Partner, Section 32 (a venture fund), and Former CEO, Foundation Medicine. Track 1 (Emerging Therapeutics) on Thursday began with a talk entitled” “Immune-Driven Medicine—Aiming to Transform the Diagnosis and Treatment of Disease” by Lance Baldo, MD, CMO, Adaptive Biotechnologies. Prior to joining Adaptive in May 2019, Dr. Baldo had served in various roles of ascending responsibility with the Roche Group and its affiliates, including most recently as Senior Vice President and Head of U.S. Medical Affairs of Genentech. Dr. Baldo and Adaptive are attempting to translate what he termed “the brilliance of the adaptive immune system” into solutions for disease. Dr.Baldo noted that the adaptive immune system is amazing and complex. It both detects and treats most diseases, including cancer, autoimmune disorders, and infectious diseases, in exactly the same way. Understanding, at the genetic level, exactly how the immune system works represents one of the largest clinical applications of genomics and can potentially transform modern medicine. Adaptive ( has as its aim to improve people’s lives by translating the scale and precision of their adaptive immune systems into products to help diagnose, treat, and monitor disease. The company has developed an immune medicine platform that has already registered significant successes in the last two years.

The company’s first clinical diagnostic (clonoSeq) has been cleared by the FDA, and Adaptive has demonstrated the ability to commercialize this diagnostic. The test is used by clinicians for the detection and monitoring of minimal residual disease (MRD) in bone marrow samples from multiple myeloma and B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) patients. It is also used by the company’s pharmaceutical partners to monitor response to innovative cancer treatments in clinical trials, and it is the first-ever diagnostic assay powered by immunosequencing to be cleared by the FDA.

The company has also partnered with Microsoft to combine Adaptive’s innovative sequencing technology and vast amount of receptor sequencing data with Microsoft’s large-scale machine learning and cloud computing capabilities to make deep reading of the immune system a reality. Currently, Adaptive has sequence data on over 30 billion immune receptors in its clinical immunomics database, generated by Adaptive’s immune medicine platform. The application of artificial intelligence and machine learning, in collaboration with Microsoft, is expected to exponentially accelerate the growth of novel insights from this database, which may drive Adaptive to rapidly discover and develop potential diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

In January 2019, Adaptive partnered with Genentech to develop, manufacture, and commercialize novel neoantigen-directed T-cell therapies for the treatment of a broad range of cancers. The collaboration will combine Genentech’s global cancer immunotherapy research and development leadership with Adaptive’s proprietary T-cell receptor (TCR) discovery and immune profiling platform (TruTCR™) to accelerate a transformational new treatment paradigm of tailoring cellular therapy for each patient’s individual cancer.


Track 1 continued with an immunotherapy presentation by Cynthia Bamdad, PhD, CEO, Mineva Thrapeutics, discussing a “First-in-Human CAR-T for Solid Tumors That Targets MUC1.” Dr.Bamdad earned a PhD in Biophysics from Harvard University, where she invented an electronic DNA chip that sold to Motorola for $300M in 2000, and is now marketed by GenMark. Dr. Bamdad and the Minerva Biotechnologies team are developing CAR-T cell therapies for solid tumor cancers. A first-in-human trial is expected to begin in Q1 2019 with colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center for metastatic breast cancers that express a MUC1 cleavage product called MUC1*. Minerva’s novel cancer immunotherapy targets have emerged from focusing on the basic biology of the intersecting space between cancers and naïve stem cells.


Calum MacRae, MD, PhD, Vice Chair for Scientific Innovation, Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, then spoke on “Cardiovascular Genetics—-End-to-End AI-Enabled Driven Solutions for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine.” Dr. MacRae emphasized the relative dearth of phenotypic data that we have now on patients and the great importance of obtaining such data.
As discussed in his pre-meeting Q&A interview with the PMWC, Dr. MacRae noted that, “combined with an exponentially increasing knowledge base, we will need to augment our ability to integrate, analyze, and interpret all of this information on the right timescale for continuous and precise care. AI/ML will substantially complement the clinician and the medical system by allowing these data streams to result in real-time insights at an individual patient level. This may be in many ways, for example through automating processes such as image analysis or the triggering of interventions, or through novel predictions, enabling us to identify biologic signals that were previously inaccessible. Perhaps simply by creating time for clinician and patient interaction we will be able to reimagine medicine.”


Next in the Track 1 session was a panel discussion among Chair Geoff Tison, MD, MPH, Cardiologist & Assistant Professor UCSF; Gregory Marcus, Professor of Medicine at UCSF, Associate Chief of Cardiology for Research at UCSF Health, and the inaugural Endowed Professor of Atrial Fibrillation Research; and Livieu Klein, MD, Director, Mechanical Circulatory Support and Heart Failure Device Programs, UCSF. Dr. Tison’s research focuses on cardiovascular prevention, using statistical and machine learning methods to analyze large-scale health data for disease prevention and phenotyping. Dr. Marcus is one of the founders and continues to serve as one of the Principal Investigators of the world-wide, internet-based, Health eHeart Study, as well as the NIH-funded national infrastructure to facilitate mobile health, called Eureka. He also runs several ongoing single-center and multi-center randomized, prospective trials, and oversees a team of investigators including post-doctoral fellows, clinical research coordinators, statisticians, and data analysts. In addition to his work with patients,

Dr. Kliein is developing new technologies for monitoring and treating patients with heart failure and other cardiovascular disease, including those who use ventricular assist devices. The panel noted that remote sensors that capture health-related data, from CardioMEMs to the Apple Watch, are increasingly common in the modern healthcare landscape. This session examined both existing applications of remote sensors that provide actionable clinical insights and the future potential for these tools for precision medicine. One prominently mentioned wearable was the Zio patch, a lightweight water-resistant ECG monitor that has no external leads or wires. The patch is stuck on the person's left upper chest and can record a continuous beat-to-beat ECG for up to 14 days. Also noted, was the vast amount of data that is now available and urgency for developing methods process this data most efficiently.


In an afternoon showcase on Wellness and Aging, Pamela Brar,MD, presented for J. Craig Venter Institute. Dr. Brar is CMO and Chief Phenotyping Research Lead at the Institute. At the Ventr Institute, Dr. Brar oversees the the clinical aspects of a novel research effort that combines the power of genomics, metabolomics, and microbiome with electronic medical records and artificial intelligence to identify markers of health and disease. She mentioned that one of the future goals of the Venter Institute is to enable diploid sequencing rather than the haploid sequencing that is used now and to reap the benefit of this much-increased genomic data.

Dr. Brar was followed by Peter Fedichev, PhD, CEO, Gero.AI, who also presented a showcaseon on Wellness and Aging. In 2015, he co-founded Gero, an AI-driven longevity startup focused on developing therapies that will extend a healthy human lifespan. Gero has developed a platform for targets and biomarkers of aging identification. Recently, Gero demonstrated outstanding results in rejuvenating mice and extending their maximum lifespan in the lab of one of the top researchers in the field, Brian Kennedy, PhD, at the University of Singapore. Dr. Fedichev was top-2 cited Russian physicist under 35 before he switched to biotech 15 years ago.


The presentations described here represent just a select subset of the nearly 150 talks and panel discussions that were presented on this second full day of PMWC 2020 in Silicon Valley, California.


A smaller regional PMWC East conference will be held this spring in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 4-5 (, with over 90 speakers scheduled to present.

The next annual PMWC conference (PMWC 2021) will be held February 23-26, 2021 in California’s Silicon Valley.