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Interview: Importance of diversity and partnering in global life sciences

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ATLATL Innovation Cluster (IC) in the heart of Zhangjiang Pharma Valley, an internationally prestigious high-tech zone in Shanghai, offers fully permitted laboratories and office space for scientists and entrepreneurs. Its Founder and CEO, Dr. P.C. Zhu, designed it to be a launchpad for high-potential life sciences in China. In this interview with EBD Group he discusses the opportunities ATLATL provides and  the importance of partnering in the life science industry.

1. What are the benefits of having a diverse group of people (researchers, educators, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs) together in the ATLATL ecosystem?

The ATLATL ecosystem creates a flow of ideas that can be transformed into reality. Through this ecosystem, innovators and entrepreneurs can reach milestones more effectivelyThe process needs multiple complementary players cooperating closely and eventually enjoying success together.

2. How are partnerships and collaborations integral parts of the ATLATL philosophy?

All of the members come together not only because of their interests, but also because of the dream. Deeply influenced by the humanistic spirit, members devote their lives to establishing innovation centers and achieving biopharmaceutical innovations that accelerate R&D and improve the health of people around the world. The entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and pharma leaders are united because they want to contribute to all mankind.

3. How do you think partnering helps advance life sciences in China and abroad?

In China, the spending on healthcare remains comparatively low in relation to GDP per capita, which is around 5 percent, compared to the US at 17 percent in 2017. However, the Chinese healthcare industry is growing at a rapid pace for multiple reasons: urbanization, an aging population, a continuous rise in wages and living standards, and more innovations and investments. It will be a huge market for life science related companies, such as pharmaceuticals, medical device companies, CROs, and instrument companies, etc.  The boom of the healthcare industry will benefit both domestic and global enterprise. Companies may compete for profit, but a success for any of them will eventually benefit people around the world. China not only has strong resources of CROs, animal, clinical trial resources, but also has the largest number of STEM population around the world. During recent years, more multinationals have opened innovation labs in China, and commercialized innovations from local research teams. More deep partnerships, more advanced technologies will be shared among countries to improve quality of life.

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4. ATLATL combines its onsite contract research organizations (CROs) with global giant CRO companies. What are the benefits that this model brings to research and development?

Co-location CRO services reduce the failure rate of management, communication, and logistics, which are crucial for complicated R&D and issues traditional CROs cannot resolve. This unique model separates research design from bench work, so that different people can do what they do best. In this case, talented scientists can focus more on the key research and skillful technicians can deliver the jobs more efficiently.

5. To meet the demands of growing research teams, ATLATL developed an AI-based operation system for the research laboratories. How does this system benefit the advancement of life sciences?

To make research easier, more labs are using the LIMS (Lab Information Management System) in their research. For a shared lab space, it is important to manage the space, instruments, and EHS with a smarter system. ATLATL developed AI-based operation systems to ensure that the members from different companies can secure their data, handle toxic materials appropriately, and even behave safely in the lab space.

6. ATLATL recently launched “cloud biolabs,” which allow scientists to execute their experiments without being physically present in a lab. How are scientists able to orchestrate multiple simultaneous projects while sitting comfortably at their computer anywhere in the world?

ATLATL Center allocates each company or scientist a private minilab and project managers to lead the projects. The minimum lab size is about 200 sq ft, but it can be unprecedentedly powerful by plugging into a 50,000 sq ft core lab. To conduct research more effectively, ATLATL sets up R&D assembly lines based on its onsite CRO giants. ATLATL’s project directors execute projects on behalf of companies around the world by integrating the CRO modules into the private labs. During the key steps, our technician will have real-time communication with remote scientists by video and audio synchronization tools that work “side by side” by sharing the data and pictures simultaneously. The cloud biolabs allow scientists to carry out multiple simultaneous projects from anywhere in the world while sitting comfortably at their computer.

7. How do you see cloud labs like the one at ATLATL impacting the life science industry?

Virtual companies face tremendous challenges if they do not have a physical lab to integrate all of their projects. Traditional CROs cannot solve this, but the cloud labs are a new solution. They offer physical lab space with engaged managers to lead the project, which enables remote scientists to fulfill the complicated jobs and the integration of jobs that need multiple vendors. ATLATL began to run experiments-on-demand last year and has served many R&D teams in America and Europe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more Western companies have started to try this model, which will provide a necessary service to the scientists.

8. How can companies and researchers approach ATLATL about becoming a part of your innovation center?

The best way to approach us is by email: info@atlatl.center. There are many ways to become an ATLATL member because we are open to innovators based on a broader membership model. Innovative companies can use our resources, to some extent, free of charge, such as conference rooms, hot desk, etc. Our Launchpad program supports a qualified team free for three months, and our demo center promotes global innovations for free. We provide customized solutions for innovators all around the world because our goal is to promote the innovative ideas to reality.

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