On January 13, Button Capital hosted a summit as part of the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference focusing on the opportunities for international cooperation in the biotech sector. Speakers used their expertise to combat concerns about international partnerships and outline steps to set up partnerships for success.

The San Francisco event boasted not just one, but four keynote addresses! First, President and CEO of Biocom Joseph Panetta discussed the state of biotech in California and the importance of international partnerships to scale and build California companies. He also observed a trend that biotech is blending with other innovative sectors as big data, artificial intelligence, and precision medicine play a larger role in emerging biotechnologies.

Next, SwedenBIO CEO Helena Strigård discussed Nordic countries’ roles in the global biotech industry. Following the presentation from Biocom, she highlighted the parallels between Sweden and California that make them both well-suited for this sector, including high levels of education and supportive governments that lead to a great manufacturing environment.

The final two keynotes, Yongwei Zhang, CEO of BGI of Americas and former President of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and UC Berkeley Professor Robert Tjian, each focused on practical examples of innovation in biotech and how partnerships help companies to take risks and develop and scale technologies. Each focused on their specialties with Yongwei Zhang discussing supply chain partnerships in China and Robert Tjian discussing partnerships with universities.

The event continued with expert panels.

Of note was a discussion focused around the question, “Should we continue pursuing cross-border partnership opportunities?” Unsurprisingly, the answer was yes. Fremont Councilmember Yang Shao, who is also the Director of Quality Operations at LakePharma, moderated the panel, which consisted of representatives from Sidley Austin, Deloitte Tax, SwedenBIO, the NIH, and TheraDep Technologies. Each panelist provided a different perspective on the current international environment and suggested ways to take advantage of overseas opportunities while protecting assets. The discussion varied from the nuance of licensing agreements to the beneficial tax environment in California for life sciences companies.

Overall, the event emphasized the opportunities for California companies to forge partnerships in China and the Nordic countries. Recent investments in both areas have improved the outlook for biotechnology innovation. Careful planning and thoughtful engagement can lead to beneficial arrangements, even in the current trade environment.