The chief scientific officer for PharmaEssentia says she is looking forward to implementing research in the company’s Bedford laboratories when the new space is ready for occupancy, expected in Q3 of this year.
Dr. Lih-Ling Lin said in an interview, “My job is to discover new therapies in treating unmet medical needs. I want to be able to be one of the leaders to develop transformative therapies. We’re doing very important work to help patients in need.”
The company, she said, is “very excited to be in Bedford. I hope this will make a positive impact. Crosby Drive has this cluster of biotech companies; it’s a beautiful campus.”
Lin earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees in her native Taiwan and her Ph.D. in biochemistry at Arizona University. She said even as a young child she wanted to be a scientist, adding with a laugh, “My second choice was to be a singer.”
She came to Boston to work in biotechnology, first with Pfizer for more than 20 years, followed by four and a half years for Sanofi. Last summer she accepted her current position at PharmaEssentia.
“I’m very excited to lead their research effort,” said Lin, who is a former Bedford resident.
Since joining PharmaEssentia, “Our company has been focused on hematology because our first product is actually a very effective and safe therapy for treating polycythemia vera. We have established expertise in the hematology and oncology area.”
The company is based in Taipei; its marketing and clinical development operations are in Burlington. The clinical development group will be based in Bedford, where there also will be some office space, Lin reported.
PharmaEssentia hopes to hire up to 25 scientists to staff the Bedford facility. Bedford is part of “the epicenter of biotechnology – probably number one – so we have a lot of talent nearby,” she commented. “That’s why they wanted to build the research center in the area.”
Lin explained that there is already an established research team at the company’s Taipei facility, so there will be collaboration as well as new investigations. “The lab is brand new but there are already projects lining up,” she reported.
The current research team incudes “immunologists trying to make sure a drug works the way we want it to work before going to human clinical trials,” Lin explained. She said there’s always collaboration with hospitals on these trials involving PharmaEssentia’s clinical development group.
Another team of scientists is responsible for generating the molecules that create the antibodies leading to a breakthrough drug, Lin said. Then there’s a data science group that employs the data analyzed by artificial intelligence, which “really helps us find the best drug and the best patients to treat.”
Throughout her industry, “there’s a big effort for employing artificial intelligence into all aspects of drug research.”
“Research is a process,” Lin explained. “You have to start with a good hypothesis and design a critical experiment to validate it. Today discovery is facilitated by artificial intelligence, which learns the patterns of the data’s failure and success. It’s still in the early stage, but AI facilitates and expedites the process.”
She also pointed out that “gene therapy has really improved the options” for addressing rare diseases cause by genetic mutation. “That opened the door for research and more drugs have been approved for rare diseases.
“It’s going to be an effective therapy; the tools we have make a big difference.”
Editor’s Note: Occupancy, originally posted a few weeks away was updated to reflect a new estimate of Q3.