BUZZ Sessions


What’s the BuzZ about?

PepTalk’s BuzZ Sessions are focused, stimulating discussions in which delegates discuss important and interesting topics related to upstream protein expression and production through downstream scale-up and manufacturing. This is a moderated discussion with brainstorming and interactive problem-solving between scientists from diverse areas who share a common interest in the discussion topic.

These are forums for open discussion of protein-related challenges, and not sales opportunities. We emphasize that these breakout groups are for interactive discussions among scientists and are not meant to be, in any way, a corporate or product discussion. Topics can be limited to one protein area or may address issues which cross over the borders between pipeline conference topics. Moderators should be well-versed in the topic area and able to keep the discussion focused and productive. BuzZ Sessions are IN-PERSON ONLY.

If you are interested in moderating a breakout group, contact Mary Ann Brown at

Tuesday, January 16:  3:15 – 4:15 pm

Intelligent Antibody Discovery Part 1

BuzZ Table 1: Challenges Faced with Screening Biologics for Function
Elizabeth England, PhD, Associate Director, Biologics Engineering, AstraZeneca

  • Types of assays used for functional screening
  • Biochemical function versus cell-based function
  • Sample types and modalities
  • Use of disease relevant cells


BuzZ Table 2: T Cell Receptors as an Emerging Modality
Moderator: Govinda Sharma, PhD, Founder, Immfinity Biotechnologies

  • What's the difference? Differing design principles between cell-based and soluble TCR therapeutics
  • Can TCR-T cell therapies fill in the gaps that CAR-T cell therapies are struggling to address?
  • Target selection for TCR development. Choosing the best HLA allele, finding the right peptides.
  • Manufacturing in soluble and cell-based TCR therapeutics. Can we learn from antibody and CAR-T manufacturing by analogy?
  • Improving predictive ML/AI tools for modeling TCR interactions. What are the current limitations?

BuzZ Table 3: When will Computationally Designed Proteins Become Common in the Clinic? 
Erik Procko, PhD, Director, Discovery, Cyrus Biotechnology; Adjunct Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana

  • Current status: high yields, high stability, fast development, complex functionality 
  • Stumbling blocks: immunogenicity prediction. need better ex vivo assays to assess immunogenicity before going into humans 
  • Can de novo protein binders compete with monoclonal antibodies? 

Developability of Bispecific Antibodies

BuzZ Table 4: Enhancing Bispecific T Cell Engager Discovery, Potency, Safety, and Developability with Machine Learning and Mammalian Display
Moderator: Matthew P. Greving, PhD, Vice President & Head, Machine Learning & Platform Technologies, iBio, Inc.

  • Improving discovery productivity and diversity for the bispecific T Cell engager's immune cell arm
  • New advancements in the discovery of difficult tumor-antigen arm targets and epitopes 
  • T Cell engager safety enhancement with ML-derived mammalian display libraries and conditional activation
  • Large-scale bispecific activity and developability screening with mammalian display​

BuzZ Table 5: Which Formats are Most Developable
Moderator: G. Jonah Rainey, PhD, Senior Director, Protein Engineering, Eli Lilly and Company

Characterization of Biotherapeutics

BuzZ Table 6: Understanding and Overcoming Challenges with Automation in Analytical Laboratories
Michael Poltash, PhD, Senior Scientist, Janssen Pharmaceuticals

  • Should you just a full-scale automation system or automate single tasks?
  • How do you future-proof your hardware for automation?
  • Does automation make mistakes?

BuzZ Table 7: Leveraging LinkedIn for Scientific Advancement: Optimizing Digital Presence, Building Networks, Driving Innovation
Moderator: Nandini Kashyap, M. Pharm, Senior Director, Conferences, and Social Media Strategy, Cambridge Innovation Institute

  • Strategies for Crafting an Impactful digital persona
  • Building global networks and collaborations
  • Driving innovation and advancement through thought leadership

Viral Vector Engineering & Scale-Up Considerations

BuzZ Table 8: Recent Advancements with Viral Vectors
Moderator: Lizz Carey, Senior Scientist, Vaccine Process Development, Merck

  • Applications to gene therapy
  • Emerging technologies
  • Challenges and ethical considerations
  • CRISPR and viral vectors

BuzZ Table 9: Strategies for Optimizing AAV Production
Moderator: Kathy Ngo, PhD, Associate Director, Cell Engineering, CHO Plus

  • Engineering better clones and pools
  • Vector design strategies and TGE optimization
  • Media and feed development for AAV production
  • Case studies

Cell Line Optimization

BuzZ Table 10: Automation in Cell Line Optimization
Moderator: Vel Murugan, PhD, MBA, Associate Research Professor and Director, Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University

  • Role of gene synthesis technologies
  • Automation in cell engineering
  • High throughput culturing environments
  • Functional genomics in cell engineering and optimization

BuzZ Table 11: Prokaryotic Innovation
Moderator: Simon A. Messing, PhD, Scientist II, Frederick National Lab & Protein Expression Lab, Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc.

  • E.coli has been the dominant prokaryotic recombinant expression system for 50 years
  • Improvements in use of chaperones and temperature in E.coli production
  • New expression line Vibrio Natriegens

Friday, January 19: 7:45 - 8:45 am (Over Continental Breakfast)

Intelligent Antibody Discovery Part 2

BuzZ Table 1: Intelligent Antibody Discovery & Engineering
Moderator: Christopher R. Corbeil, PhD, Research Officer, Human Health Therapeutics, National Research Council Canada

  • What is the future of AI in Ab Discovery?
  • What data are we currently missing to push the field further?
  • Where should we focus? Discovery vs Optimization vs Manufacturing

BuzZ Table 2: Applications of Molecular Dynamics for Machine Learning
Moderator: Darcy Davidson, PhD, Structural and Computational Biologist, Genentech

  • Using MD for training data for ML, introducing physics into ML
  • Generalizing beyond training data for ML
  • Experimental data vs QM calculations as training data
  • What are people's expectations and aspirations for ML-augmented simulations?

Safety & Efficacy of Bispecific Antibodies, ADCs and Combination Therapy

BuzZ Table 3: Strategies to Improve T Cell Responses to Treat Patients with Solid Tumors
Moderator: Mark L. Chiu, PhD, CSO, Tavotek Biotherapeutics

  • Engineering higher selectivity to solid tumor tissues
  • Breaking the barriers to get into solid tumors
  • Handling dysfunctional immune cells in the solid tumor microenvironment

BuzZ Table 4: Challenges in Developing Immune Modulating Therapeutics for Autoimmune Diseases—Will the Opposite (Inhibition of the Activated Immune System) from an Oncology Strategy (Activation of the Immune System) Work?
Moderator: Rakesh Dixit, PhD, President & CEO, Bionavigen

  • To treat autoimmune disease, potential benefits in enhancing (agonism) immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) signaling, e.g., CTLA4, PD1, LAG3, TIM3, and TIGIT
  • Alternatively, inhibition (antagonism) of immune activation by OX-40, GITRR, and CD-137 may relieve autoimmune diseases
  • Discussion on inhibitory immune checkpoint homeostasis in controlling infections and defenses against cancers
  • Challenges of developing agents that promote defenses against autoreactive T cells vs. activation of cytotoxic T cells against cancers?
  • Long-term safety risks in activating inhibitory ICI targets or antagonizing immune activation pathways in promoting cancers, chronic immune suppression, and infections

Characterizing Protein Aggregates & Impurities

BuzZ Table 5: Beyond Host-Cell Protein ELISA
Moderator: Alois Jungbauer, PhD, Professor & Head, Biotechnology, Institute of Bioprocess Science and Engineering, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU)

  • Understanding host cell protein profiles with modern proteomics tools
  • Are the limits state-of-the-art and which proteins are relevant?
  • Fast methods for host cell protein profiling

Non-Viral Vector Engineering

BuzZ Table 6: Non-Viral Methods for Protein Production and Delivery
Moderator: Lauren E. Woodard, PhD, Assistant Professor, Nephrology, Vanderbilt University

  • Transposons, integrases, and other integrating vectors
  • Exosomes and exosome loading
  • In vitro and in vivo delivery considerations
  • Intellectual property navigation​

BuzZ Table 7: Viral Vectors vs Non-Viral Vectors: Which Is Optimal for Your Needs?
Moderator: Pranav Sharma, PhD, Founder & CSO, R&D, Xosomix

  • Efficacy and Safety Profiles
  • Scalability and Manufacturing Challenges
  • Targeted Delivery and Tissue Specificity
  • Clinical Translation and Therapeutic Applications​

Recombinant Protein Expression & Production

BuzZ Table 8: Protein Interest Group (PIG) – Online Community of Protein Scientists
Moderator: Oleg Brodsky, Senior Principal Scientist, Structural Biology & Protein Sciences, Pfizer Inc.

  • What is the Protein Interest Group (PIG), and what it isn’t
  • How do we share our knowledge and experiences pre-competitively, aside from published manuscripts
  • Logistics, topics covered, group remit
  • How to become a member

BuzZ Table 9: Common Issues with Transient Protein Production
Moderator: Richard Altman, MS, Field Application Scientist, Life Science Solutions, Thermo Fisher Scientific
Moderator: Henry C. Chiou, PhD, Senior Director General Manager, Biosciences, Thermo Fisher Scientific

  • What are the current challenges to transient protein production?
  • How do we optimize the whole protein expression workflow process?
  • How can we maintain volumetric yields while scaling transient expression up or down?
  • What cell line(s) should we use and when?
  • What parameters can impact the quality or physical attributes of transiently produced proteins?