Last week, Belgrade hosted the first international conference Biotech Future Forum, which gathered over 600 participants from the three sectors of society that have the greatest impact on the development of biotechnology – the public and private sectors and academia, in order to encourage cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experience. The event was organized by the Government of the Republic of Serbia, in cooperation with the World Economic Forum, the United Nations Development Program and the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Serbia. The diverse program of the conference included a leadership panel, four expert focus sessions, two keynote talks and a presentation of the BIO4 Campus, the new university center in Belgrade.
A leadership panel: Building a Biotech Nation officially opened the program of this year’s Forum. The panel was moderated by Marta Arsovska Tomovska, Advisor to the Prime Minister of Serbia. Marta hosted speakers from three countries – Branko Ružić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Science and Technological Development in Serbia, Yves Iradukunda, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of ICT and Innovation in Rwanda, H.E. Khalfan Juma Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation in the United Arab Emirates and Dr. Fabio Scano, WHO Representative in Serbia. H.E. Omar Sultan Al Olama contributed to the panel with an introductory video message as State Minister for Artificial Intelligence in the UAE.
The opening session on the role of Data Science and AI in biotechnology was moderated by Dr Nevenka Dimitrova, VP Data Science and Data Services at GlaxoSmithKline. The session brough together Prof. dr Mihailo Jovanović, former Director of the Office for IT and eGovernment in Serbia, who is recently stated as a Minister of Telecommunications and Information, Dr Ali Taha KOÇ, Head of the Digital Transformation Office of the Presidency of the Republic of Türkiye, Dr Milan Petković, Head of AI & Data Science at the Philips Company in Netherlands and Dr Branka Rakić, Senior Researcher at Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Serbia.
In parallel, a deep-dive session: How we do it? was held on the topic of good practice examples of Serbia, Israel, Rwanda, India and Brazil. The session was moderated by Kelly McCain, Head of Healthcare Initiatives at the World Economic Forum, with Jeedigunta Satyanarayana, Chief Advisor of the C4IR India, Jelena Bojović, Director of the C4IR Serbia, Joris Cyizere, Acting Managing Director of C4IR Rwanda, Marcos Vinícius Souza, Director of the C4IR Brazila nd Dr Yehudit Cohen Scientific Director at MIDGAM – Israel National Biobank for Research as speakers.
The second part of the Biotech Future Forum held the academic and business sessions. The academic session gave Dr Jelena Begović, Director of IMGGE and Minister of Science, Technological Development and Innovation in Serbia, the opportunity to have a discussion with Dr Charles Ruranga, Director of the African Centre of Excellence in Data Science in Rwanda, Dr Claudia Vickers, Chief Scientific Officer at Eden Brew in Australia, Kiren L. Naidoo, CEO of Zdravlje A.D. and Founder of Frontier Pharma in UK, Martin Mössler Managing Director of Science Park Graz in Austria and Dr Nataša Skoko Head of Biotechnology Development Unit at International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Italy.
To wrap up, the business session was moderated by the remarkable Prof. Robert Wolcott, Co-Founder and Chairman of TWIN Global and Professor of Innovation at Booth School of Business at University of Chicago & Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University with the representatives of most successful companies and startups in this field – Dan Vahdat, CEO of Huma in UK, Gloria Seibert, Founder & CEO at Temedica in Germany, Dr Milan Obradovic, Senior Global Scientific Director Integrated Healthcare Solutions at Global Medical Affairs at Roche in Switzerland, Dr Ulrich Betz, Vice President Innovation in Merck in Germany and William Moss, CEO of Seven Bridges Genomics in USA.
The highlights of the conference consisted of two keynote talks – Prof. George Church, Professor at Harvard & MIT and Director of PersonalGenomes.org, which provides the world’s only open-access information on human Genomic, Environmental & Trait data (GET), as well as Dr. George Yankopoulos, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the only biotech company led by scientists and leaders in the field of developing and commercializing drugs to transform the lives of people with serious diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular, infectious and rare diseases.
Finally, Dr. Jelena Begović and Nenad Paunović, Director of the Strategic Project Implementation Unit within the IT and Entrepreneurship Team of the Office of the Prime Minister of Serbia, presented to international companies and participants the concept of the future BIO4 Campus and the potential for investment in research and development projects in Serbia.