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  • Bob Knight

Westchester: Rare Disease Research Hub

Westchester, with its proximity to New York’s premier medical institutions, its highly educated workforce, and its growing biotechnology sector, is poised to become a global hub for curing some of the world’s rarest diseases, say scientists, researchers and medical experts who are leading an effort to make that dream a reality in the region.

“There are genuine opportunities right here in Westchester to find cures for some of the world’s most vexing diseases,” said Dr. Molina-Pachon, who will be the keynote speaker at the Rare Disease Symposium on July 18, organized by the Westchester Biotech Project (WBP), and hosted by Iona College. Dr. Molina-Pachon is an entrepreneur and scientist developing solutions for cancer and other rare diseases. “We’re in the right spot, and this is the right moment to come together and make an impact that can be felt around the world. All of the dots that we need to connect are here in Westchester.”

Consider this: roughly 20 percent of New York State’s biotech workforce is located in Westchester County. Just north of Manhattan, the county is also home to a number of global biotechnology companies such as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Acorda Therapeutics, ContraFect, Histogenetics, Curemark and others, along with world-renowned medical institutions.

In recent years, a biotech incubator was formed in Westchester, and plans are in the works for the North 60, a multi-million square-foot biotechnology and research center adjacent to existing biotech companies, a medical center and a medical school.

When coupled together, the possibilities are endless, notes Dr. Molina-Pachon, who likens Westchester’s potential to what happened in the Boston suburbs more than a decade ago when biotech and pharmaceutical startups flocked to the city’s outskirts because it was more affordable, yet still accessible to the elite universities, medical institutions, laboratories and existing pharma companies. “The same thing happened in Boston,” he says.

Scientists from some of those very companies will be speaking at the upcoming symposium on July 18.

  • The speakers are well known and respected within the scientific and biotech communities, serving in high-level roles at companies including Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Chondrial Therapeutics, PRA Health Sciences, and Enso Ventures, among others.

  • Dr. Antonio Molina-Pachon, the keynote speaker, will discuss why Westchester can compete globally in the field, along with his collaboration with the WBP and its international partners to develop a Rare Disease Research Hub;

  • David Bettoun, Ph.D., vice president, Discovery and Preclinical Development, Chondrial Therapeutics will discuss the company’s journey to develop treatments for Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare progressive disease that damages one’s nervous system;

  • Scott Mellis, Ph.D., vice president, Rare Disease Early Clinical Science, Regeneron will share what it was like to lead clinical development for ARCALYST® (rilonacept) at Regeneron, a medication for an ultra-rare auto-inflammatory disease;

WBP is a not-for-profit organization that brings together a global network of experts to foster scientific research and collaboration.

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