3 Takeaways from the 2017 MassBio Annual Meeting

This past week I had the privilege of attending the Mass BIO Annual Meeting, a large gathering of life science professionals from around the world. Our conversations focused on the value of medical innovation, as well as the critical challenges facing the life science industry. Here are my three biggest takeaways from the meeting:

1. Cutting NIH funding will cripple our industry.

The big dark cloud hanging over the meeting was the proposed budget cuts to NIH funding. NIH invests $30 billion per year in medical research. Other states will survive the funding cuts because they have massive private sector research and development investment. In Kentucky, NIH funding makes up the majority of our research budget. Kentucky researchers receive over $100 million per year in NIH funding and cutting that funding will have devastating effects.

2. Travel bans would have a large impact on life science research.

There were noticeable absences at this year’s meeting due to fears of the travel ban. The immediate challenge with the travel ban revolves around intellectual property. Venture capital firms are reluctant to fund projects where critical team members could face travel restrictions and where intellectual property could end up on the other side of potential national security restrictions.

A director from one of the Harvard incubators put it well when he said, “Every research team at Harvard has an international component.”

3. This year’s buzzword was “convergence.”

The future of the life science industry will smear the lines of geography. The industry is discovering that cures know no boundaries or borders. This is a perfect setting for the Turnpike Partnership—the future of collaboration, mentorship and the virtual bio cluster.

Kentucky Life Science Council to Host Career Bootcamp

Nationally recognized career coaches to educate local students on career opportunities in life sciences

On May 4, hundreds of life sciences PhDs, postdocs and grad students will convene for the Life Science Career Bootcamp at the annual Derby Partnering Summit. Students will have the opportunity to discuss career opportunities with industry leaders from around the world. The event will take place May 4-5 at Hotel Covington in Covington, Ky.

The Derby Partnering Summit is the Midwest’s largest life science event, bringing together advocates, entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics and researchers from across the industry. The three-day summit offers mentoring, networking and seminars focused on industry developments in Kentucky and throughout the region. This year’s event will engage scientists and executives in a conversation on patient-driven innovation.

Presented by the Kentucky Life Sciences Council (KLSC), the Derby Summit gives scientists, students and professionals the chance to form new connections across the life sciences, which includes therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices, health care information technology, health and wellness technology, nutrition and agriculture.

KLSC founder Kyle Keeney, PhD, says, “The Midwest is an attractive region for biotech innovation. The environment here is well-suited for collaboration and offers cost-effective means to incubate and validate ideas.”

“The Derby Partnering Summit shows students and post docs in the life sciences field to realize that collaboration is the key to innovation,” says Keeney. “This is the chance to get networking and mentoring experience that research institutions can’t provide, but are critical to career success.”

For more information about the Derby Partnering Summit, visit www.derbysummit.com.

For social media updates, follow


#DerbySummit17 on Twitter

About Kentucky Life Sciences Council

The Kentucky Life Sciences Council is a 501(c)(6) trade association operating in conjunction with a 501(c)(3) foundation. Together they represent and support the life science community in Kentucky, providing innovation services, commercialization support, public policy and advocacy.  The purpose of KLSC is to create a favorable business environment for Kentucky’s life science community to discover, produce, and deliver products that benefit society.

Derby Summit 2017

Mark your calendar! The Midwest’s largest life science event is approaching quickly.  The Derby Partnering Summit is annual three-day event that attracts CEOs and life science professionals from across the country to network, collaborate and discover opportunities to help the industry grow.  This year, we are proud to host life science trade associations from across the nation to engage in a conversation of regional partnerships.

Here’s what you need to know for this year’s Summit:

Date: May 4-6

Location: Hotel Covington, 638 Madison Avenue, Covington, KY 41011

Registration Costs: Student ($35), Three Day Registration – includes premium Derby ticket ($1,500), Two Day Registration – Thursday and Friday ($150)

For more information on the Derby Partnering Summit, click here.

There are a limited number of sponsorships still available for this event. For more information, contact Kyle Keeney at kyle@kysciencecouncil.com.

Exomedicine Institute Awards $300,000 Grant to Morehead State University for Space-based Medical Research

This week the Exomedicine Institute, a nonprofit that fosters medical research and development in the microgravity environment of space, awarded a $300,000 grant to Morehead State University for the creation of the Exomedicine Center for Applied Technology.

The Exomedicine Center for Applied Technology will bring together scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and students to explore the uncharted territory of space medicine. They will design and develop experiments to be carried out on the International Space Station. Research findings will be used to improve medical treatments for patients on Earth.

Dr. Kyle Keeney, executive director of the Exomedicine Institute, is hopeful that exploring this new physics medium will lead to explosive scientific growth, similar to when scientists explored magnetism and electricity.

To learn more about the Exomedicine Institute and space-based medical research, please visit www.exomedicine.com.

Understanding Your Drug Costs

Curious about what goes into drug pricing? Follow the pill from your pharmacy through a series of complex transactions that occur throughout the pharmaceutical distribution and insurance chain. This video breaks down the differences between the list price and the net price of a medicine, explains how the various actors (e.g., pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), wholesalers, insurance companies, etc.) in the health care ecosystem operate to deliver medicines to patients and at what cost, and demonstrates why it is that a biopharmaceutical company has very little power to determine what a patient ultimately pays for his or her medicine.


Government Interference Would Jeopardize Access to Meds

Proposed changes to the Medicare Part D program are once again making the headlines. Last week, Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced an amendment to allow the federal government to interfere in drug price negotiations between Part D plans, pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacies. The Senate did not move forward with the amendment, which is good news for the 577,949 Kentuckians seniors who rely on the program to access their medicines.

Medicare Part D is viewed by stakeholders across the board as a successful program. This success can largely be attributed to the non-interference clause, which allows purchasers to negotiate substantial discounts and rebates directly with manufacturers, saving money for beneficiaries and taxpayers alike.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has stated that if the federal government participated in drug pricing, it “would not be able to negotiate lower prices than exist now without restricting access to medicines for beneficiaries.” Injecting government into drug negotiations would only harm the many seniors and individuals living with disabilities who rely on Medicare Part D for their health and wellbeing.

Over the past decade, Medicare Part D has proven to be a life-changing—and cost-effective—program for enrollees. Medicare Part D is linked to increased medication adherence, improved overall health outcomes and lower costs. Last year alone, nearly 200,000 Medicare beneficiaries lived at least one year longer, with an average increase in longevity of 3.3 years. These men and women are living longer because Part D gives them access to the medicines they need to be healthy.

The Kentucky Life Sciences Council thanks Senator Paul, Senator McConnell and health care advocates across the state who support keeping our successful Part D program intact.

Kyle Keeney is the Founder and Executive Director of the Kentucky Life Sciences Council.

A generic approach to biosimilar substitution won’t do

In Kentucky you don’t have to look far to find the positive impacts of health care innovation.

From preventative medicines to new cures, advances in medical technology have been the driving force behind significant improvements in patient health. But as new treatment options are introduced to the market, protecting patient safety has never been so important.

This year, the General Assembly is considering legislation that would establish a much-needed framework of regulations for biologics and biosimilars – breakthrough treatments that could help many people living with chronic diseases.

Unlike oral pills or tablets, which are made from chemically derived ingredients, biologics are complex treatments manufactured from living organisms – cells programmed to produce a desired therapeutic substance in a highly controlled, sterile environment.

While drug manufacturers are able to create chemically identical copies of pharmaceutical medicines such as oral pills – think generic versions of brand name drugs – the same isn’t true for biologics because they are made from living materials that cannot be perfectly duplicated.

Drug manufacturers can, however, create a version of a biologic that is so close to the original medicine it may be deemed a biosimilar. This could benefit many patients with chronic diseases, as biosimilars are expected to cost significantly less than biologics.

SB 134, in its originally intended form, would establish much-needed guidelines for substituting an interchangeable biosimilar to ensure patient safety. This includes ensuring that substitution would occur only when the FDA has designated a biosimilar as interchangeable; that the prescribing physician would be able to prevent substitution if he or she feels it is not in the patient’s best interest; that pharmacists would be required to communicate what product was dispensed with the prescribing physician; that the patient, or the patient’s authorized representative, would, at a minimum, be notified of the substitution; and that the pharmacist and the physician would keep records of the substitution.

Given the complex nature of biologics and the challenging medical conditions they treat, these are commonsense guidelines to ensure that doctors, patients and pharmacists are all informed about the medications that are prescribed and ultimately dispensed to the patient.

Biologic medicines are an important new tool in treating and curing disease. Biosimilars are also important for providing different and sometimes less expensive options for treatment.

But let’s be clear. Patient safety and ensuring physician involvement is far more important than helping the insurance company’s bottom line.

Legislators should pass SB 134 as it was originally intended. Common sense dictates that we make sure physicians are informed about what products their patients are using to treat their life threatening and chronic illnesses.

Kyle Keeney is the Founder and Executive Director of the Kentucky Life Sciences Council.

KLSC to Senate: Pass House Bill 330 to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse in Kentucky

Access to innovative medicines critical to curbing improper opioid use and addiction

Frankfort, Ky. (March 24, 2016) – Today the Kentucky Life Sciences Council (KLSC), the Commonwealth’s leader in developing the life sciences industry, called on the State Senate to bring House Bill 330 to passage this session.

“Innovations in the health care industry have provided patients and providers with new medicines to treat pain more effectively,” said Dr. Kyle Keeney, president and CEO of the Kentucky Life Sciences Council. “Unfortunately, people have found ways to misuse and abuse these medicines. In Kentucky, we now face a very serious prescription drug abuse epidemic that is taking lives and hurting our communities.”

House Bill 330 seeks to address this epidemic by increasing access to a new type of prescription medicine that has entered the market in recent years, thanks to advances in science in and medicine. Abuse-deterrent opioids—commonly referred to as ADOs—are reformulated versions of common opioids, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine. ADOs have built-in technology that prevents potential abusers from crushing, injecting or smoking the medication, while still providing pain relief to patients with legitimate medical needs.

“ADOs could significantly lower abuse and addiction rates throughout Kentucky, but patients must be able to access them through their health plans. Despite the many proven benefits of ADOs, many Kentucky insurers currently refuse to cover them because they are, in some cases, more expensive than the non-abuse-deterrent formulations,” said Keeney. “In reality, this difference in cost is a small price to pay if it means saving lives and stopping prescription drug abuse in the Commonwealth.”

House Bill 330 passed the House last week with a 94 to 1 vote. Despite broad bipartisan support, the legislation has still not been called in the Senate.

“There have been many efforts over the years to curb prescription drug abuse and addiction—some of them more effective than others,” said Keeney. “Abuse-deterrent opioids represent an innovative approach, built on scientific research, to truly help Kentucky reverse this longstanding and dangerous trend once and for all. I strongly encourage our senators to bring House Bill 330 to the floor and pass this critical legislation in 2016.”

About KLSC
The Kentucky Life Sciences Council (KLSC) is a statewide association focused on developing the life science industry in Kentucky. KLSC works to educate both state and federal policymakers, the media, and the public about how legislative policies will affect the growth and development of the life sciences industry.


BIO & Kentucky Life Sciences Council Support Bill Ensuring Patient Access to Interchangeable Biologic Medicines

BIO & Kentucky Life Sciences Council Support Bill Ensuring Patient Access to Interchangeable Biologic Medicines

Frankfort, KY (March 17, 2016) – The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and Kentucky Life Sciences Council (KLSC) today voiced support for Kentucky Senate Bill 134, legislation that properly preserves patient and physician access to accurate prescription information, while promoting a competitive market for complex biologic medicines.

This important piece of legislation gives pharmacists the ability to substitute lower cost interchangeable biologic medicines while safeguarding the primacy of the physician-patient relationship and maintaining communication between patients and their treatment teams.

The policies outlined in the bill align with BIO’s principles on biologic substitution, therefore BIO and KLSC support this legislation and are grateful for bipartisan support and leadership on this issue.

Following today’s House Health and Welfare Committee hearing, BIO and KLSC highlight four key points pertaining to biosimilars:

  • The full spectrum of biologic medicines are safe and effective: Similar to innovator biologics, interchangeable biologics will provide patients opportunities to address their unmet medical needs
  • Substitution should occur only when the FDA has designated a biologic product as interchangeable
  • Biosimilars and interchangeable biologics are not generics: interchangeable biologics will be highly similar to the innovator biologic medicines they seek to replicate but not exactly the same. Therefore the policy issues surrounding these medicines are different than those associated with generic medications
  • Communication between physicians, patients and pharmacists, as well as all appropriate parties in the patients care continuum, is imperative so that any immunogenicity issues or adverse reactions from innovator biologics, biosimilars or interchangeable biosimilars can be documented and appropriately addressed

“We are pleased to see Kentucky legislators leading the way in adopting policies that not only support a growing industry in our state, but more importantly allow patients access to safe and effective therapies to treat chronic conditions,” said Kyle Keeney, Executive Director of the Kentucky Life Science Council. “We encourage the House of Representatives to pass this legislation that will allow for more treatment options with potential cost savings and will also improve patient safety by ensuring that the prescribing physician is always notified of the exact medication dispensed.”

“Ensuring access to these potentially life-saving medications is a shared goal with patient groups and both innovator biologic and biosimilar manufacturing companies,” said Patrick Plues, Senior Director, State Government Affairs, BIO. “Due to the complexities of biologic medications, existing Kentucky laws governing generic substitution cannot be applied to biosimilars and we must address this issue prior to interchangeable biologics coming to market.”

While the U.S.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees approval of biologic medicines and designation of interchangeability, policies governing whether one product may be substituted in place of a doctor’s prescription and whether a pharmacist must inform patients and doctors are covered by state law.

Patients and physicians managing chronic conditions are generally aware of which biologic treatments work best in their unique circumstances. Communicating with patients and physicians allows everyone involved the opportunity to discuss past treatment experiences so that any possible unexpected issues can be better understood and avoided.

As the Kentucky Legislature continues to address issues related to biologic medicines, BIO and KLSC encourage policy makers to continue to put patients first.

About KLSC

The Kentucky Life Sciences Council (KLSC) is a statewide association focused on developing the life science industry in Kentucky. KLSC works to educate both state and federal policymakers, the media, and the public about how legislative policies will affect the growth and development of the life sciences industry.

About BIO

BIO is the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. BIO also produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world. BIOtechNOW is BIO’s blog chronicling “innovations transforming our world” and the BIO Newsletter is the organization’s bi-weekly email newsletter. Subscribe to the BIO Newsletter.