History of NEDMDG (1999 – 2019)

By Nancy Wong (founder of NEDMDG, Bioverativ) and Charles L. Crespi (NEDMDG Chair 2002-2018, Corning Life Sciences)

Pharmaceutical development in greater Boston area began in the early 1980’s with the opening the Biogen facility in Cambridge.  Through the 1980’s and 1990’s more biotech companies were established and several achieved research and commercial success.  In addition, multinational pharmaceutical company began to open local research facilities to better collaborate with the biotech companies and local universities, and also to tap the local pool of research talent.   Drug metabolism discussion groups had been active in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania areas for a number of years.  By the late 1990’s it was clear that the Boston area had a sufficiently large research community to support a local discussion group.


A small group of academic and industrial scientists (Caroline Decker, Dennis McCarthy, Steve Tanenbaum, David Waxman, David Williams, Gayle Yotch and Nancy Wong) gathered in November 10, 1999 at Cambridge Marriott hotel to found NEDMDG.   Similar to other regional DMDGs, four dinner meetings per year were planned.  Under the recommendation of Steve Tannenbaum, the inaugural dinner meeting’s speaker was Professor Robert Langer from MIT on January 19, 2000.  The talk entitled “Advances in drug delivery and tissue engineering” was well-attended by 108 local scientists.  In 2002 NEDMDG added a summer symposium to provide a venue for a more in-depth coverage of topics not possible at dinner meetings. Short courses on the topic of drug metabolism, transporters, pharmacokinetic modeling were also offered, in which 2003 Dr. Anthony Lu’s 3-day CYP450 and conjugation enzymes was the inaugural course.   We have drawn a lot of attention from CRO’s and instrument companies; they have been our loyal sponsors which provided social hour cocktails and sponsored sessions of summer symposia.  We are grateful for their continued support for this organization.


From the beginning, NEDMDG sought to strike a balance between speakers from academic institute and pharmaceutical industry, as well as between the issues in drug discovery and drug development. In recent years, we have been focused on the challenges and success of new treatment modalities and innovation in emerging therapeutics. We have witnessed growing numbers of initiatives to foster innovation in pharmaceutical industry as a whole.  We hope we can continue promoting knowledge sharing and problem solving for years to come.

NEDMDG and me

By Hanlan Liu (NEDMDG Chair 2019 – present, KSQ Therapeutics, Inc.)

At this 20-year anniversary celebration, I feel honored to stand here as the chair of the Steering Committee and share with you a couple of thoughts.

I moved to Boston in 2002 due to a family reason and did not realize that was the golden time with the rise of Boston to the world top biotech hub as what we all have seen the tremendous booming of the biotech industry in this area over the last two decades.  In 2018, Massachusetts’ biopharma companies surpassed more than $4.8 billion in venture capital investment. Here are some of the numbers of Massachusetts’ biotech ecosystem.

  • 430+ biotech companies
  • 74,000+ biopharma jobs
  • $11.9 billion total wages generated
  • $160,000+ average annual wage
  • 265 million patients in the U.S. treated
  • home to five of the top national institutes of health-funded hospitals
  • a 24-year record for receiving the most NIH funds with $2.1 billion in FY2018
  • 18 IPOs in 2018 totaling in more than $2.4 billion

On top of that, I fortunately joined NEDMDG and have benefited from it on both professional and personal levels. I still remember my first 1st formal drug metabolism course taught by Dr. Anthony Lu organized by NEDMDG. Members of my group in DMPK department at Genzyme/Sanofi learned so much from the PK course taught by Professor Hartmut Derendorf, many other evening seminars and summer symposiums organized by NEDMDG.  Now they are taking DMPK scientific leadership positions in various biotechnology companies. More importantly, we applied knowledge and ideas to drug discovery and development, which became some of the life-saving treatments.

NEDMDG has significantly impacted the growth of many junior scientists like me, who moved to Boston. It acts as one of the catalysts in biotech ecosystem and drives innovation.

Two months ago, I got a call from a friend, who now works at Salt Lake City and asked me about the future of NEDMDG as he wants to form a similar group there. It made me realize that we are not a local group. People across the nation view us as the leader in the biotech ecosystem, pioneering in every aspect of biomedical research, in drug discovery and development.

This is a moment for us to celebrate our success, to reflect our path, and to look beyond. Let us thrive for the continuing success in this nation’s biotech capital

NEDMDG – Biopharmaceutical/Academic partnership

By James Baker (Merck) & Upendra Argikar (Novartis), NEDMDG Steering Committee

Cambridge and Boston, together with wider New England, provide an incredibly rich learning and research environment that continues to attract pharmaceutical companies large and small. These companies are attracted by the talented individuals that come from these academic labs, as well as the possibilities that come from working closely to such cutting-edge research.

Since its inception 20 years ago, the NEDMDG has provided a forum for pharmaceutical DMPK scientists to discuss the challenges they face both with each other and – importantly – with colleagues from local university research labs. Indeed, founding members of the NEDMDG included Professors David Waxman (BU), Stephen Tannenbaum (MIT) and David Williams (MCPHS). Over the years, these interactions have helped to shape the research carried out at the university labs, whether directly through sponsored collaborations or indirectly through curiosity generated from shared questions.

These strong ties continue, with quarterly NEDMDG speakers alternating between academic and industry. Recent academic presentations have included Professors David Greenblatt (Tufts), Michael Pollastri (Northeastern), and Fatemeh Akhlaghi (URI), with Andrew Goodman (Yale) scheduled for Spring 2020.

The world of biopharmaceutical DMPK is evolving, as is the focus of DMPK-related academic research. Pioneering academic work since the 1950s has led to our understanding of the cellular mechanisms of drug metabolism, which has informed how we do pharmaceutical research and development. DMPK has become an integrative science driven by the collation of diverse PK-related information to help generate safe clinical treatments. In biotech and biopharmaceutical companies, the focus is shifting towards newer modalities to expand the range of ‘druggable’ targets. Drug-like chemical space, that was once ring-fenced by the ‘Rule of 5’, is touching newer horizons including biologics, siRNA, antibody drug conjugates, gene- and cell-based therapies, as well as entities yet to be named. In academic groups, current DMPK-related research activities have also moved from classical small molecule subjects to some of the topics summarized below.


Classical DMPK research

More recent DMPK research

·        Biotransformation

·        Pharmacokinetics

·        Enzyme kinetics

·        Phenotyping

·        Pharmacodynamic modeling

·        Transporters

·        Effects of disease on DMPK

·        Drug delivery (including nanoparticles)

·        Microbiome

·        Systems biology

·        Targeted protein degradation

·        Microfluidics

The applied technology for DMPK is no longer restricted to HPLC-UV, mass spectrometry, and autoradiography. For example, different tools such as PCR, flow cytometry, high-content imaging, and biophotonics have enabled DMPK researchers to explore biodistribution of new modalities and at cellular and receptor levels. Additionally, physiologically based pharmacokinetic modelling has not only increased the accuracy of predictions but has also tested the limits of in vitro systems.

This shared evolution continues to provide a wealth of opportunities for collaboration and shared learning. To help facilitate this, the NEDMDG offers discounted registration fees to all its meetings for academics, post-docs and students. We also encourage poster presentations from all research labs (industrial, biotech, CRO or academic) at our annual Summer Symposium. It’s a great way to share your findings or to stimulate debate! You never know when a discussion might lead to a new collaboration or a new idea!


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