Summit Unites Experts from UArizona Health Sciences and Pharma to Advance Research and Commercialization

The Arizona Center for Drug Discovery at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy and the UArizona Cancer Center will host the second annual “Discovering New Medicines in Arizona” summit virtually via Zoom on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The summit will bring together both academic drug-discovery scientists and industry professionals to highlight key areas of research seeking to discover drugs to treat diseases prevalent in Arizona and establish collaborations that enable success for future research and discoveries. Registration is required to attend.

“Drug-discovery research is critically important in today’s world and requires the cooperation of partners across multiple sectors,” explained Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD, College of Pharmacy dean and the Howard J. Schaeffer Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Sciences at UArizona.

“Each year, the goal of this summit is to bridge the gap between interdisciplinary university faculty experts and partners in the pharmaceutical industry to build connections that potentially could lead to groundbreaking therapies,” Dr. Schnellmann added.

In recent years, the UArizona Health Sciences has been home to numerous successful drug-discovery start-ups, including DesertDx, a molecular diagnostic company; Reglagene, a company that develops medicines to fight cancer; and Regulonix, which develops non-opioid drugs to treat chronic pain.

“We are thrilled to once again participate in this highly collaborative summit,” said Joann Sweasy, PhD, the Nancy C. and Craig M. Berge Endowed Chair and UArizona Cancer Center director. “This is a unique opportunity for us to engage with industry leaders so that we can advance drug discovery in a manner that will have truly positive impacts for our cancer patients. Our goal is to ensure we are providing the best treatment options to the most patients who are battling cancer here in Arizona.”

The summit will begin with a pre-session panel featuring speakers from both the Critical Path Institute (C-Path) and the UArizona James E. Rogers College of Law. C-Path is a nonprofit based in Tucson that was established to spur development of new tools and approaches that advance medical innovation and regulatory science. UArizona Health Sciences and C-Path launched a Graduate Certificate in Regulatory Science in 2018.

Pre-session speakers, Tara Sklar, JD, MPH, professor of health law and director of Health Sciences Programs, and C-Path Biomarker Programs Officer John-Michael Sauer, PhD, will present on, “Drug Development and Regulation in the Age of Precision Medicine.” They will provide an in-depth look into how precision medicine based-therapies continue to pose challenges related to scientific discovery, diagnostic regulatory policy and the implementation of new technologies into clinical practice.

Following the pre-session speakers, the event will move onto the plenary sessions, with a series of presentations by key industry and academic partners, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Arizona State University. The four topics to be addressed during the morning plenary sessions include:

The Discovery of the HIV-1 Attachment Inhibitor Fostemsavir,” chaired by Nicholas Meanwell, PhD, vice president, Discovery Chemistry Platform, Bristol-Myers Squibb Research and Early Development.

Multi-omics Approaches in Precision Cancer Care,” chaired by Jeffrey Trent, PhD, FACMG, president and research director, TGen. 

Oncolytic Virotherapy at ASU,” chaired by Grant McFadden, PhD, director and professor, Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy, ASU Biodesign Institute.

And, “University of Arizona Cancer Center: Bearing Down on Cancer,” chaired by Daniel O. Persky, MD, associate director of clinical investigations, Therapeutic Development Program, UArizona Cancer Center. 


Afternoon sessions will focus on critical areas for new drug discovery, including understanding the mechanisms of aging to delay the onset of age-related disease; cancer research; airway disease; and pain.

Confirmed Speakers are:

The summit is a key component of Arizona Bioscience Week (AZBW), which includes a full week of events designed for life sciences innovators, investors and the general public. Along with the event programming, Celebrating Life & Science, a one-hour prime-time special will premiere during AZBW 2020 on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 7 p.m., AZ/MST on CW61 (or KASW Phoenix) and the AZBio YouTube channel, with a rebroadcast on Friday, Sept. 18, at midnight on ABC15, immediately following “Nightline.”

To register and view the full agenda, visit the DISCOVERING NEW MEDICINES IN AZ SUMMIT website.