Summary of the 2016 Stanford Drug Discovery Conference 
(Attended by Dr. Amie Franklin, VITA PCC PM)
On Tuesday March 29, 2016 at Stanford University, approximately 600 students and researchers from academia and industry participated and listened to 19 speakers in the first annual Drug Discovery Conference co-sponsored by the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, the Stanford Cancer Institute, and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. This one day event featured speakers from FDA, NIH, local biotechnology companies, and local universities (Stanford, UCSF, and UC Davis).
Dr. Norman Stockbridge, Director, Division of Cardiovascular and Renal Products (FDA), pointed out that even though drug efficacy evaluation is a rational outcome of clinical hypothesis testing, safety evaluation of a drug is not hypothesis driven but based on collecting a wide range of reasonably applicable tests. Drs. Robert Harrington  (Stanford Dept. of Medicine) and Chris Austin (NIH/NCATS) emphasized the importance of incorporating new ideas and technologies into clinical trialing such as the use of biomarkers for patient enrichment strategies and the use of apps for improved patient engagement. Amgen’s Vice President of Research, Dr. Aarif Khakoo, reiterated the importance of genetics and biomarkers exemplified by their use of DeCode’s Icelandic population genetic database to identify novel drug targets.
Dr. Jennifer Grandis  (UCSF) described her lab’s progress on developing an inhibitor for the cancer target STAT3, a transcription factor, which is a stable, cyclic decoy oligonucleotide, and its use in an upcoming intratumoral phase 1 clinical study for head and neck cancer. Finally, Dr. Joseph Wu  (Stanford Cardiovascular Institute Director) described the exciting progress with developing patient-specific cardiac organoids from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from patients with normal and abnormal cardiac function and recapitulation of tissue response to various cardiac drugs in vitro. The event finished on a high note with keynotes by Jessica Mega, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer of Verily (a spinout from Google) describing new technologies and tools for drug discovery, and Stanford’s own Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka , MD, describing his discovery of a novel opioid based on his unique insight of the crystal structures of opioid G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). This new opioid only activates the pain-inhibiting GPCR signaling, not GPCR signaling via b-arrestin which is thought to cause some of the detrimental effects of opioids such as respiratory depression. Based on the level of scientific interest and ongoing importance of drug discovery in the Bay Area, some of which is supported by Stanford’s SPARK Program  and UCSF’s Catalyst program , it is anticipated that this event will become a regular occurrence.