BioBoss

#11 - Liang Schweizer: Co-founder; President and CEO of HiFiBiO

September 29, 2019 John Simboli Season 1 Episode 11
BioBoss
#11 - Liang Schweizer: Co-founder; President and CEO of HiFiBiO
Chapters
BioBoss
#11 - Liang Schweizer: Co-founder; President and CEO of HiFiBiO
Sep 29, 2019 Season 1 Episode 11
John Simboli

"You just be yourself. That's the most effective way to lead. And on top of it, as a leader, you have to have vision." - Liang Schweizer, Co-founder, President, and CEO of HiFiBiO

Show Notes Transcript

"You just be yourself. That's the most effective way to lead. And on top of it, as a leader, you have to have vision." - Liang Schweizer, Co-founder, President, and CEO of HiFiBiO

Liang Schweizer:

You just be yourself. That's the most effective way to lead. And on top of it, as a leader, you have to have vision.

John Simboli:

That's Liang Schweizer, co founder, President and CEO of HiFiBiO. Listen in now to hear the conversation I recently had with Liang at her office in Cambridge. I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss. This afternoon I'm in Cambridge with Liang Schweizer, President and CEO of HiFiBiO Therapeutics. Liang, how did you find yourself here at HiFiBiO?

Liang Schweizer:

Hi John., It's a pleasure talking to you. Actually, when I encountered the HiFiBiO concept, I know myself being really a scientist interested in not only scientific questions but also understanding technology to address those scientific questions. So when HifiBiO Therapeutics opportunity was presented to me, I found it the best of the two w orlds where we can, not only use the scientific knowledge I have accumulated over the years t rying to find out novel therapeutics for patients, but we could use the s tate o f art leading edge tool where we can identify therapeutics more effectively and find a diversity of better medicines for patients. So that's what excites me. I graduated from China, originally at a university called Science and Technology. So there we got extensive training, not only from the science angle, we got a lot of technology education there as well. And at that time, we were very proud of ourselves saying,, "getting to the biology of the next century," the meeting area for science and so where we can do the most exciting research. Then I found myself after graduation coming to the U.S. I got an engineering training at the University of Minnesota where I started microbial engineering and was minoring in chemical engineering. Although, that was engineering training, but we asked a lot of biology questions. So by the time I graduated with my thesis, it was a combining engineering mass modeling to understand a biology question. We actually had a hard time finding people to review t hat paper. So it made me feel this u niqueness to combine those two areas. It's really challenging but exciting for me personally. So, since then I went into the biology PhD, finding cancer research fascinating. I spent many years at big pharma doing drug discovery and development. There, once again, you know, I spent many years at BMS, we were building not only programs for oncology discovery . . . later on I became the director of lead optimization where we were looking at s tate of the art te chnology t r ying t o pick out ways to optimize drugging st ate o f the art matters that we can bring to the patients. So those past experiences sort of help me to understand and appreciate the marriage between technology and science together. And when I saw I had the opportunity to do so at HiFiBiO, that's actually one of the most exciting moments for me. I'm a true believer and I hope by th is w e can change how people ar e t hinking about discovery and development of drugs. So when I tell you a bit more, later on, about HiFiBiO, I could illustrate how we do that in a very novel, innovative way and we hope we can change the paradigm of drug discovery and development.

John Simboli:

How did you decide you wanted to lead a bio therapeutics company?

Liang Schweizer:

Actually, for a long time, I never thought about leading any company. My true passion is science. I always thought to myself, even with my career progression, I want to be a CSO—maximum. I wanted somebody else to worry about the company overall, in general. All I have to do is focus on science. Actually, and from my previous work experience, I was a co-founder and CSO of a start up and through that experience I realized, to build a company, having science is not enough. You have to have a vision, you have to have value associated with the company. You have to know how to make things work most effectively. So through that experience I felt, you know, my true passion is not only how to apply my science into the broader healthcare community, but how to do it well. As a CEO, I could put in my thoughts and my value, my vision, guiding principles, into daily practice. I find that more rewarding than just thinking about science alone. So here I am at HifiBiO.

John Simboli:

Because at BMS you had been prepared for leadership and you had a very important position there, what was it like to make the decision, finally, "I'm ready to follow this calling that I feel I have." Was that difficult? Was that easy?

Liang Schweizer:

By the time I left BMS, I had made the decision to come to the biotech world. At that time, one of the things that excited me was to understand how the rest of the world develops innovative drugs. So I took a position as head of Asia cancer research at Sanofi. So it's where the exposure in Asia seeing a lot of biotech, starting from China to Japan to Korea, seeing a lot of activity in the biotech ward, plus the activity around venture capitalists in the Asia community there enables a lot of opportunities. So since then I actually started thinking about it. Maybe it might be interesting and exciting to be in the biotech world and , with the opportunity offered to me I left Sanofi and started as a co-founder. And since then I actually find myself enjoying it much more than in big p harma, which fits my p ersonality better. I love challenges and I l ove things changing and t he fast decision making. I love to see the immediate impact. So, I think, by now, it's almost a point of no return. O nce I got to this biotech startup world, I t hink I found my true passion. I really enjoyed my experience in pharma. I did notice there are some people starting their career getting into the biotech world, because without getting through the whole process of proper training of how to make or develop a drug you tend to encounter problems you'll have not anticipated or you'll have to go through detours that you didn't know and, could have been avoided if you haven't done properly. So, I felt in my long years in the pharma world, it was a real great solid foundation to prepare me for this biotech world. So if I have to do it again, I wouldn't choose differently . I would still start with the pharma and start at the bench doing drug discovery, to needing projects, to needing organization, contributing to many wonderful drugs. And t hose a re r eally a great learning process,

John Simboli:

One of the CEO's I spoke with, Martin McKay, who's now at RallyBio, said something similar. I'm curious what you think, he said, "One should never forget the advantage of having worked for a big pharma company because the training is so good; the exposure to ideas is go good . . . the processes. It's sort of what you were just saying, right?

Liang Schweizer:

That's exactly right. So I, I think it's like going to school, proper schooling, right? You don't want to solve a more difficult problem without going through college or graduate school. It's the same here. You could try to dream big finding a drug, but without going through the proper training, right, that's the reason initially the Serono story come up, we were wondering how's the scientific rationale, evidence supporting that big idea? You know, the big idea is good, but you need to have the proper foundation to get there.

John Simboli:

What were we hoping to achieve that could be done here but not in another company?

Liang Schweizer:

In my mind because I joined HiFiBiO as a co-ounder of HiFi therapeutics. So , it is the company I want to build. So no matter which company it is, it's the company. So, from that perspective , what we try to build at HiFiBiO that is unique, cannot be replicated or done by another company is there are certain guiding principles we're going after. So first rule, we go through top science, value the science most, although you could argue most of the companies are doing exactly the same , but on top of that we wanted to bring the state of art leading technology angle as I mentioned earlier—that is our unique single cell technology. And currently ,, there is more and more interest centered around single cell. And I must say, our company's one of the leading ones. And that developed the technology in a way that we can, look at anybody's therapeutics in a very in-depth, very rapid fashion. And we are the ones who can connect genotype to phenotype, looking at complicated problems that other technology cannot do. So by bringing good science and technology together, that builds a unique identity for this company. And the other thing about this company being unique is we promote the open innovation angle. So about two years ago when we just started the company, we wrote a paper on guiding principles for open innovation, which you need becuaes innovation is not just generated within the company itself . So by building partnerships across top academic institutions, top pharmas, top biotechs, we synthesize uniqueness from each one of them. So those partnerships, whether it's working together on our unique target or whether it's looking at a specific antibody engineering platform that nobody else in the world is working on, or whether we're looking at patient samples using single cell technology, that people just start thinking about and has not been carried out. So those are the things we are actively building that makes us unique.

John Simboli:

And when you present those ideas to potential partners, potential investors, potential employees, and you emphasize that mixture of single cell technology and the scientific approach, when they understand it, they understand it. When they don't understand it , what do people misunderstand? What do you have to help them to say, "Oh no, that's not it. It's actually . . .

Liang Schweizer:

That's an excellent question. I think it's because it's getting so complicated. Each time you explain this deep size or deep technology, there's certain views. I think initially when we encounter the investors, one of the questions I often get is, "Are you a technology company or are you a therapeutic company?" Because people could identify a company better by putting them in certain categories. And we are building this uniqueness. Nobody can put us into a certain box. So that poses a big challenge and I have to spend time to tell them those two are not in conflict with each other. They're not taking resources. One from the other. It's actually building synergy. For example, recently we established a collaboration with Kite. And they're interested in looking at T-cells. Initially when we started our company for single B-cell cloning screen antibodies, we had not expanded to the T-cell area . . . where through this collaboration partnership we could start building our capability to understand T-cell biology better. So since the company emphasis is immunomodulation, builing more expertise through that external partnership can help us build our internal pipeline . So those are the stories I tell to, the investors, so they understand those efforts are not distracting each other, but rather helping each other. So far, we have strong support from the investment community, from our partnerships. I suppose they understood our story.

John Simboli:

That suggest that you're doing your unfiltering of the filters.

Liang Schweizer:

I think also it takes a certain mindset. In the broader community people know we're looking for innovative drugs for patients. That is very easy to explain. Then in the more detailed discussions, when people want to understand the specifics more, you explain to them in a way that they finally see, and say, "Oh, you're making drugs in a different approach. The way you're looking for drugs can bring more diversity, more effectiveness to the patients." If you get that key message through, sometimes they don't exactly understand how you get there. It's OK.

John Simboli:

It sounds like you're helping, by that statement, to help them see it's not simply pursuing the technology because it fascinates you, which it does, but you do hope to connect it to somebody's life at some time .

Liang Schweizer:

Exactly. It's at the end of the day, what you can deliver that counts . That's where we try to emphasize and how you get there, you try to explain and in reality how you get there also changes constantly because the science is always exciting—a long journey. When you go down, you find out certain paths you're thinking will work out. You find that it doesn't work; you constantly try to come up with some notions or identifiy alternative routes for you to get to that end goal and we make sure that throughout whole company people have that understanding where we want to go and then constantly working hard to get there in a very dynamic way.

John Simboli:

The question, "What do you do?" can be answered on so many different levels, but at a simplified level, what do you do?

Liang Schweizer:

We're looking for medicines for patients. I wanted to elaborate a bit more specifically, we're trying to come up with innovative therapies, modulate the human immune system to combat cancer or auto-immune diseases. So by understanding deep immunology and the link with the disease, using tools that didn't exist before, so we can find answers better and more accurately, we try to find the best medicine for patients.

John Simboli:

Over the years, at BMS , at Sanofi, here, what have you learned about your own management style? The things that work best for you when you're interacting with people and trying to make things happen?

Liang Schweizer:

I spent many years to solve through this. Early on at BMS I got opportunities for leadership training. I always look at what are the types of leaders who are successful? How can I be like them? But over time I realized the best leadership is be your true self. And at Sanofi I actually got a female leadership training course three days, we were trying to do a search on inner self, true self, and at the end of the day I come up with the sentence "I'm a passionate leader who drives my passion towards huge impact." And I think passion is something that often shines through during my interaction with people that I'm really excited about what I'm doing. The other thing I was told often is, , I'm very direct, which I found is a good way. You know, there are certain times when people are probably a bit shocked with the direct communication, but soon enough when they get to know me, they understand, you know, you are for the best intention, for the outcome and , it saves a lot of energy and effort and there's no second guessing, everything being transparent.

Speaker 1:

So that worked really well. And I think, as a result, I've had people follow me when I went through different stages of my career. People are willing to join me again at HifiGBiO, people I worked with before. So, you know, I suppose , you just be yourself. That's the most effective way to lead. And on top of it, as a leader, you have to have vision. You have to make sure people understand your vision. So communication is another importing aspect. I know as scientists we tend not to communicate well or have an inclination to communicate . So through the years I forced myself to do more and more communication. In BMS when I was , organizing the Pacific Asian network group and I was asked whether I wanted to chair the organization,I said, no, I want to do the communication. So I was communicating all the activities, all the vision and objectives to the entire BMS community. Soon enough, this specific affinity group, which was supported by HR at BMS at that time become one of the largest groups in the whole entire company, our numbers were larger than all the other affinity g roup combined. So that shows p rominently the power of communication. People know what we w ant to do and they get excited how we d o that. To summarize, you have to know who you are to bring out your best quality. But in the meantime you know what areas you need to work on and what is important is t he leadership. That I have learned through my leadership. training. So I keep on working at those aspects, as well.

John Simboli:

Can you remember back when you were eight or nine years old? Can you remember what you wanted to be in life and does it have anything to do with being the CEO at HiFiBiO?

Liang Schweizer:

Absolutely . I just remember when I grew up, I always wanted to be Marie Curie. To this day, I'm still marveling about . . . she has this strong passion, c onviction. She really dedicated herself to the whole entire scientific community. And only r ecently I read a book about her. I r ealized she was also very r eactive in Poland in a social setting. So from that point of view, you know, she's somebody I was truly admiring when I was young. Even before eight or nine, I wanted to be a scientist and I think that guided me until this day. Although, in between, when I first came to the U.S., when, there were so many other opportunities presented to me. I started also exploring, do I want it to be a business person or do I want it to be a lawyer? Because t hose careers seemed really more lucrative at that time as a young student coming to the United States. But I explored and f ound out I still love science and now leading a company, I find myself actually also getting to do the business aspect and legal aspect. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit as well. So in that sense, you know, going through my childhood dream as well as growing up experiences and getting to where I am, I'm really very happy. I really think I'm one of the luckiest because I f ound what I'd love to d o at an early age and I got the opportunity to choose because when you w ere in China, there's such a big environment promoting science and technology. So when I went to my University of Science and Technology in t he 80s it was the top school. The college entrance exam requirement was way higher than any other schools. So it promotes the science and technology aspect. Coming to the U.S., you find everybody goes to law school, business school and I was presented the opportunity to explore and I did explore. Then I still find out I love science.

John Simboli:

Liang, what's new at HiFiBiO?

Liang Schweizer:

So right now, as our pipeline progresses towards the clinical trials stage, we are looking forward to seeing how we try to find the right patient population to have our drugs and showing the efficacy and effectiveness among the patient populations. So one thing we are excited about and trying to launch is a initiative called drug intelligence science. That means when you do clinical trials, you just don't have a knowledge population to see which patient population works. We try to start translational research even before we bring the drug to the clinical trial at an early discovery stage where we obtain patient samples and use our single cell technology to obtain data at a single cell level. So through that data acquisition and subsequent analysis, we use algorithms combining AI factors , efforts into that analysis where we can come up with hypotheses—which patient populations might be most suitable for the drugs we're developing. So this DIS initiative gets, already, a lot of excitement. And we started collaborating with the Curie Institute, looking at a triple negative breast tumor model in mice. I'm looking at chemo drugs that modulate at the single level. We come up with potential biomarkers to distinguish sensitive versus resistant patients. So we published these results recently on Nature Genetics. So the next stage is we want to go from this academic proof of concept study, getting to the clinical trial setting where we can show our single cell analytics looking at patient samples and come up with data a nalysis in a very novel, innovative approach and come up with answers to find the right patient populations for our drugs.

John Simboli:

What was it about the single cell approach or concept that drew you so strongly to that?

Liang Schweizer:

We've seen there are certain breakthroughs of our understanding of biology. So the first wave, if you probably recall, is genomics. When people start to be able to sequence the, human genome or later on cancer genome to look at diseased versus normal state, we gained a lot of insight over the biology. But soon enough people realized, the genome does not represent the whole state of the biology entirely. So people started looking at proteomics at the protein level, that protein that was made gene transcription, translation events. So further, with understanding the protein, you understand certain mechanisms of action and you understand why certain things at the gene level that you see or will not see , did not directly translate because there are things that are not in the level that you can do one-to-one translation. So single cell analytics is the next wave ,we think, in the industry. In the situation where, at the gene level,, you understand the protein level.. How do cells, from a dynamic way, to interpret all this information you're getting at the transcription level and translational level. So single cell brings you the knowledge of the initial waves that we benefit from. And in the meantime, it's not complex enough, to be looking at the animal model or the system model where things are too complicated to explain. So, we're looking at single cells, trying to understand the biolog. In the meantime, we also link this biology to the disease versus normal state. So that is something we think is a third wave in industry where we can ga in m ore insight than we ever have done before.

John Simboli:

One of the ways you're doing that, in my understanding, is through your offices in China, your offices in Paris, your offices here in Cambridge. How does one go about connecting all of those different continents?

Liang Schweizer:

This is one of the question I'm asked a lot. Because we're startup up , why are we starting multinational. And how much do I travel? So far, I find we benefit so much from our multi-national presence. One of the things I mentioned earlier is we believe in open innovation. So we're not working within the company to try and to push the drug from the concept all the way to patients. We m anage our partnerships. So, by being present on each of the continents, we have a diversity of partnerships. And through that we actually can leverage each region's s trengths and we also attract local talent. For example, , at the French site where we have many e xcellent engineers, t hey started building the single cell platform and e nabled u s, having collaborations, such as I mentioned, Kite, earlier. And so there we're really building the strengths of t he engineering aspect and the technology aspect. We also, in the meantime, at the French site, we have very good clinical access with multiple hospitals. So in that sense we really benefit a lot at the French region. And in the U.S., we have established local pharma biotech as well as academic institutions. So we established, for example, a partnership with Takeda,, which has just down the road. That also highlights the vicinity, the convenience, and also the better relationship building because of the local presence here. And we're also working, quite a bit, with professors from Harvard, MIT, Broad Institute . . . that's our scientific co-founders, initially, so we can benefit a lot from local presence and network. Then in the China site, that's where we have a lot more activity in terms of looking at the future growing market, and you want to have your presence there. And also the activity of a lot of venture c apitalists there. So from the C hina's side also, we benefit quite a bit from n ow the Chinese government encouraging local innovation with talented people and they're attracting a l ot o f people to work at biotech areas. So there's a lot of benefit of government policies a ssociated with that as well.

John Simboli:

Do you sleep?

Liang Schweizer:

I actually am one of the ones who sleeps quite little, if you will. I normally have about five hours and one thing I want to make sure I do is have about half an hour to an hour of exercise time every day. So I feel very energetic. And I t hink the thing is when you do something y ou love, you don't need the sleep. And I also t ravel quite a bit, s o my sleeping can be very much ad hoc. When my body needs it I sleep a nd when I'm awake I'm working.

John Simboli:

What kinds of partners are a good fit to HiFiBiO Therapeutics ?

Liang Schweizer:

This is a great question because we give that a lot of thought. We try to map out how many types of partners are there. But I think the foundation is they have to share the same passion with us . Try to drive innovative medicine to patients. I think that's a foundation. What we're also looking for is somebody who can complement us. We start with thinking about a deep understanding of biology where we have partners who can help us find novel targets—in the top academic institutions. And for example, recently we formed a joint venture with Victa Therapeutics. That was with the top, leading professor who identified novel targets. So, from that angle, we really benefit from open innovation, trying not to reinvent the wheel and leverage what has been done well, and among the top academic institutions. The other thing we are partnered with , for example, are industry partners where we see our single cell discovery technology can benefit other areas of other diseases as we are focused in on immune modulating within HiFi Therapeutics and where we have the state of art discovery engine where we can find better antibodies,, there are other companies interested in neuroscience, diabetes,, cardiovascular and all those differentl diseases. They're welcome to partner with us because we can help them. That's the end goal. We try to help people to find better biologics and antibody therapies around that. And the other type of , partner, we are also looking very much for is, later on, when we bring the drug to the patients—and we're a small biotech, we have limited resources. So we're also looking for pharma partners who have already built the infrastructure, who can bring the drug to patients very quickly in a very state of the art approach while we can bring our single cell or our innovative pipeline through their already existing infrastructure, quickly moving to the patients. So this is something we are also looking for very actively .

John Simboli:

What kinds of people would thrive here?

Liang Schweizer:

We really pay attention to recruiting top talent. And so one of the things I feel most proud is being able to bring onboard a very passionate and very experienced leadership ship team at HiFiBiO Therapeutics. Among that also top scientists who have already demonstrated their capability of developing drugs and bringing them to the patients. So we pay so much attention to bring top talent; each of the interviews we do seriously and we actually go through people where if they're not the right fit , we will not give the offer. And we're not just for the sake of growing the company. We really pay attention to bring the best talent and we believe, whatever can be delivered relies on the top talent. One of the things that even during the interview I ask people is what their passion is. They have to feel passionate about this company, passionate about our vision, passionate about the state of art technology combined with the science. So having that deep understanding is important; share the same passion. The other thing I also tell people often is you are your own CEO. You have to be driven. If you're doing the work just because you were told to do so, not because you wanted to do so, you would probably have a problem at the company because we give people responsibility, freedom. We try to let them be creative, but they have to be a self-motivator and driver to drive things forward. Then the other thing we emphasize a lot is communication because we do have three different sites. If people don't communicate well, they're going to have trouble as the project progresses because we often say drug discovery and development is a team sport. It's not an individual sport. You have to learn how to work within the whole organization, with each other, sometimes across different sites to move the project forward. So communication is another important aspect.

John Simboli:

You've just taken on so much. I just marvel at the idea of different continents, different time zones . . .

Liang Schweizer:

It's more fun, right? I have the benefit to have lived in all three continents myself. So that's the reason I see the strengths and weakness at each of the local regions. And you know, growing up in China, after college come to U.S., now close to 30 years . . .That reveals my age . And I also lived in Switzerland for my PhD , getting a European, education, that really helped me a lot to see how different regions can bring together a certain common narrative. That's a framework we build within the company. You have to a have shared value, shared vision; so shared, drive, shared objectives to get to the end. But in the meantime you are allowed local diversity—allow people's different way of thinking because only then you can bring the best together.

John Simboli:

I know you must be focused intently on every week's work, but at this stage, do you ever say, Hmm , if this works out the way I hope it will someday my company will help to do this for society?

Liang Schweizer:

It's acutally the big dream of ours. You know, of course it's a very noble intention to develop, drugs for patients. But I think the bigger ambition or vision we have is trying to make a difference in how we make drugs . So as everybody knows, drug discovery and development is a very messy process. It costs a lot of money. So that's one of the reasons I was passionate about how to do drug discovery and development differently; leverage the state of art technology that this world has been developing. And it's developing at a faster and faster pace. So if we can know how to use those tools well, we can change the paradigm. How are we going to discover and develop drugs? So at HiFiBiO Therapeutics, we believe if we do our drug discovery well by leveraging, single cell B cell cloning technology, finding much more diverse and innovative drugs in a very speedy manner we can can find out how do we position our drugs into the right patient population our clinical trials would be a much shorter time. The cost would be significantly reduced so we can get the drug from the concept all the way to patients in a much shorter and cost effective way. If I could get this done in my life, I'd be very, very happy.

John Simboli:

And what effect would that have on the lives of those people that would receive those targeted drugs?

Liang Schweizer:

I think in situations where people have terminal diseases such as cancer where they say "Let's try everything. I don't know. I'm one of the lucky ones." Even with, good drugs. as effective as PD-1 antibodies where you have to try and figure out whether they work for you or not for you as an individual, you have a certainty, you say, once I'm facing this disease, I have the best care. And I know from a scientific point of view, it will work on me. And of course, it cannot be for every patient. So we still have a long way to go for each patient, it shows the diversity of their disease that we have to come up with the solution. But at least the patient looking at all the existing possible solutions,, they can have confidence, I think in most likelihood this is the best path forward instead of guess and then pray. That would make a huge difference in people's lives.

John Simboli:

How did Hi-FiBiO Therapeutics choose to locate in Cambridge and Paris and Shanghai? But let's , let's focus on Cambridge to start with.

Liang Schweizer:

Actually , it started initially for historical reasons because the scientific co-founders—three from Cambridge, two from Paris. So that was the natural reason why those started. And soon enough, by working at two sites , we identified opportunities at different levels and different natures of collaborations. And I think the company realized this is the best way to tap into local strengths . And building the local network. And because at that time, when we go to talk to a French partner, they view us as a French company. And when we come to a U.S. partner, they view us as a U.S. company. I think in today's world having multiple identities is something people are familiar with and comfortable with, more and more comfortable with. And when we started expanding the therapeutics efforts, we found out Asia is another huge market and we also have a lot of local talent as well as resources associated with that . So Shanghai is one of the hubs where biotech grew really very rapidly over the last 10 years. So if you go to the Shanghai/Xuancheng area, you see hundreds of biotechs springing up, and there's quite a few people centered around innovative therapies. So the landscape is changing rapidly. So I can see being present at all three sites can enable us to tap into the best of the world and ensure we're in the leading edge for doing innovative therapies .

John Simboli:

What is it about Cambridge that is similar to or different from other places where you've been, where you've worked in and why is one of your offices here?

Liang Schweizer:

Cambridge really is one of the best places I think I have worked in, in regarding biotech. It's an area where there's a not of new ideas, a lot of innovation . People are willing to take the risks to bring ideas into reall world solutions. Not only around biotech, you see ideas coming from MIT, Harvard and people working on all different fronts. I've lived in many different locations, including three different continents, Cambridge is the place where I think it's the most suitable environment for biotech so far. And I see HiFiBiO growing really rapidly there. One immediate impact is we can recruit top talent. We have people from big pharma, small biotech, top academic institutions, and then they come bring in different ideas, diversity, and also Cambridge is a place where also you have lot of international immigrants. They bring different cultures into the company as well. So it's a place where you really could see things are happening in a very dynamic way . So it's very exciting.

John Simboli:

Does Cambridge and do Massachusetts provide opportunities for access to capital that are any different from other places?

Liang Schweizer:

It's hard for me to compare because only doing startup within the last three years. So far, I must say the environment is very friendly. So just because we're in Cambridge, investors come to us. So instead of you're going out and trying to meet, I actually have people reach out to me saying, we're in town, can we meet your company? So whether they're coming from New York or California or even China, people come to Cambridge and that makes things easier. And also in the meantime, in Cambridge , there are so many pharmas around it and you actually can access certain fundings through big pharma's effort and they're also building their own capital funds . So that's another angle to get access.

John Simboli:

What organizations do you find are helpful in Cambridge and Boston, other places to be a part of, to be able to transmit your ideas and receive ideas?

:

MassBio is one of the top organizations I've ever come across around biotech. It's a nonprofit organization. Our companies are members, so I can easily look at their activities at any given week. There's always a lot going on and I actually participate actively there and sometimes I've also a speaker or panelist there and try to give back to the community. So through that interaction you're building your network quite rapidly and you hear what's new. And the Cambridge activities can often be represented around the world because there's brilliant people here. But then there are people all around the world who come here to participate in events like that. And so I benefit a lot. The other thing I also wanted to say, one of the organizations which is not Cambridge specific, but is also very active is my college and alumni organization, USTC, University of Science and Technology, China, has an active Cambridge chapter and I am going to be on a career advice panel to give advice to young students from China training at the same university as I, now studying at Harvard, MIT or other top institutions here. It also can be networked for recruiting. So, in my current company there are quite a few of my alums working here. So through that organization you also get talent access which not only through a recruiting point of view but also a partner point of view. There are people who are doing extremely well at other biotech pharma as well as top VC funds and so we benefit from that organization as well.

John Simboli:

Liang, thanks for speaking with me today.

Liang Schweizer:

It's a pleasure to have this conversation. Very stimulating.

John Simboli:

Before co-founding HiFiBiO, Liang Schweizer led several large organizations within Bristol Myers Squibb and Sanofi and was co-inventor of multiple clinical candidates. When offered the prestigious position of Chair, Pacific Asian Network Group at BMS, Liang, instead chose the bold step of taking on leadership of communication for all the activities, vision, and objectives of the group to the entire BMS community. As the Liang went on to tell me about the things she and HiFiBiO are achieving, I was struck by other examples of Liang exploring new territory and integrating these new areas within her experience in both biology and technology, her interest in communication, her success in managing high performing teams—all linked to her vision for how she wants to build HiFiBiO on three continents and explore new ways to develop new medicines for patients in need. I'm John Simboli. You're listening to BioBoss.