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25 September 2020, Brussels – The 8th edition of the European Biotech Week is about to take place across the continent. From 28 September to 4 October, Europe will celebrate amazing science and innovation, sharing with European citizens the benefits of biotechnology today and its transformative potential in the future.

In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives completely upside-down. In these trying times, the whole world is looking at the biotechnology sector to find a solution in the form of treatments and vaccines. Although 2020 has been a challenging year, it has also been marked by many successes in the life sciences and biotechnology sector. The European Biotech Week will communicate those though new ways.

Over 100 events will take place, across 16 countries and all across the World Wide Web. For the first time, Greece will be represented in the European Biotech Week, proving not only the continuous growth and popularity of this pan-European initiative, but also the viability of the biotechnology sector across the continent.

This year again, EuropaBio hosts a multitude of events – in virtual settings. The topics range from the investment landscape for biotechnology in Europe and young researcher’s perspectives on genome editing to the ability of our societies to tackle future pandemics. On Wednesday 30 September, EuropaBio invites you to join this year’s flagship event, which seeks to launch our Vision for a Life Science and Biotechnology Strategy for Europe – as setting our ambitions high is much needed to enhance Europe’s competitiveness and global leadership.

In a time when science is more important than ever, we are looking forward to a week full of celebrations of amazing bioscience translating into new solutions for people and planet.

In continuing to look forward to #BiotechWeek2020, we checked in with Ismael Ávila and Alexandra Nothnagel, the President and Vice-President of the Young European Biotech Network (YEBN)

Could you briefly introduce yourself and the Young European Biotech Network (YEBN) to our audience?
President Ismael Ávila:

First, thank you EuropaBio for this interview and the opportunity to spread our word in order to inspire and involve students and young professionals in YEBN, a European-wide non-profit association, currently registered in Germany. The actual YEBN core team is working amazingly closely, although since 2017 mostly in remote mode and exclusively on a voluntary basis with around 20 very active members. In the presidency, we are proud to work already for three years in close cooperation despite over 1000 km distance!

Currently I am the Project Manager of CataloniaBio & HealthTech companies’ association, we work to help the business world generate new solutions that improve people’s health, as well as positioning Catalonia as one of the top health hubs in the world. As President of the YEBN, my work aims to build bridges between academia and industry, creating tools to help young professionals and students to develop themselves at a professional and personal level. Since I started in the Executive Board as a Communications Officer, later as Vice President in 2018 and now as a President in 2019 I have been working to spread the word of the YEBN and make the network grow and feed it with useful activities and programs answering the unmet needs of all our members. I also co-organized the General Delegate Assemblies, when we started to develop a new strategy for the upcoming years.

I graduated in Biotechnology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and I chose this career path because I identified it as a very interesting way to help to reach a better world. I want to continue developing my career in the life sciences management field, always with the aim of a sustainable positive impact in our society in various ways as also defined by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Alexandra and I based our 2020-2030 YEBN strategy on these fundamental SDG goals.

Vice President Alexandra Nothnagel:

Thanks for this opportunity to show the importance of teamwork and cooperation across borders in YEBN: Ismael and I form a gender balanced binational (German, Spanish) presidency, strengthening our European DNA with our complementary visions, working experiences and networks.

The YEBN was founded in 2002 at the University of Bologna (Italy), and moved around – much like some of us in the field during their studies and careers – for some years to the UK (as an Ltd.) and then to Germany, where the YEBN was registered as non-profit organisation (e.V. for “eingetragener Verein”) in Lübeck. Currently we aim to move the YEBN to Frankfurt am Main, as the city has a lot to offer allowing the YEBN to network locally and internationally. I myself studied biochemistry at Goethe University Frankfurt and worked in the Immunology Department of Paul Ehrlich Institute. Before I became a software engineer and consultant aiming to provide powerful IT solutions for life science R&D, I moved as an MSCA Early Stage Researcher in Molecular Neurobiology to Paris. Being interested in academia and industry already during the studies, I attended events addressing careers in industry of the btS (biotechnologische Studenteninitiative [Eng. Biotechnology students’ initiative]) which is one of the founding members of the YEBN. I followed YEBN events from 2007 until in 2017, I co-organised the YEBN annual meeting in Frankfurt, joined the executive board and become YEBN president in 2018. My aim is to grow YEBN from a federation of student associations to a sustainable network bridging not only academia & science by its activities for students but also providing support for young professionals & entrepreneurs by linking the young with the expert (alumni) generation. Joint interest and activities, mentoring, job opportunities and general interest discussions shall make the network ready for the next 18 years. Recent developments show the fruits of this work already, many members joined in 2020 and we are happy for the rich interactions and corporations coming with ANBI from Italy, AYB from Poland and NGB from France as YEBN’s Institutional Members.

The YEBN aims to build a bridge between academia and industry in the European biotech ecosystem. What activities are you and your members doing in order to connect people across Europe?

Helicoidal Stairs. YEBN Delegate Assembly 2017, Frankfurt University, Germany

YEBN is especially interested in activities aiming to foster European collaborations and careers in the biotech field in Europe and in giving a voice to young bioleaders concerned by the creation of sustainable impact in our society. In order to achieve this goal, we provide a European platform for international events and career opportunities, we support young scientists in expanding their network and enhancing their career, and we prepare training sessions to transfer the experiences and skills to young scientists covering their needs beyond their studies and professional first years experiences for long-term success. In addition, we connect regional and national organisations in Europe for a lively exchange of ideas and experience and make their activities for an international community. The YEBN also signs partnerships in order to feed our talented network with attractive job offers and internships.

The activities we celebrated this year proved their success by attendance numbers and feedback. We inspired and involved already more than 200 young attendees interested in developing their career, and our social media reaches more than 3000. During the “Life after PhD”, former PhD students who entered into the professional world shared their experiences of this transition with us. The “Bio-Building Yourself Program” arose from the need of giving our members and scientific audience the opportunity to keep growing professionally and to learn how to develop their personal industrial career pathway during this hard time of confinement due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. We also identified that in addition to the university curricula, the famous transferable “soft” skills are attractive on the job market and for this reason we set up the “Boost Your Soft Skills Program”. The aim of this program is to provide a series of three sessions where professionals guide the attendees on how to build strong professional relationships and networks, how to achieve a leadership skill-set, and how to effectively communicate within different contexts in the professional world. Another new training program series for 2020-2021, mostly oriented to the academic public, is in preparation: “Biobridge your science” is inspired by the international research collaborations that we have recently observed with the COVID-19 pandemic and the creative, multi-disciplinary and collaborative spirit of international hackathons trying to tackle COVID-19 issues. The new program aims to foster a more collaborative, “kind” and inclusive science.

As soon as possible, the YEBN will have international events again in Germany and the institutional member’s countries (Spain, Poland, Italy,…), visiting university and industry partners. We encourage our members to have at least one local event in English to transmit it online to a broader audience, as well as English dissemination of their activities to inspire members in other countries to organise similar events. For the past 18 years the YEBN has contributed to the mobility of its members by making the attendance of various life science and Biotech events in different European countries accessible. For this there is usually at least one annual conference organised in one member country inviting the other members to discover the regional highlights in academia, science history, pharmaceutical and biotech industry, national heritage and culture.

Meanwhile, the personal development and branding of our members remains a core activity in the YEBN network with personal development opportunities and internal mentoring in the task force teams providing valuable hands-on experiences in various activities important in industry and barely taught at university: from science communication to marketing, grant and funding applications to network building, from moderation to leadership skills in the task project, group leader and executive board positions. While our members’ work is voluntary, they are repaid by very rich experiences in creativity, responsibility, decision-taking, leadership and close mentoring by experienced members of the YEBN.

More activities are under creation or already waiting just around the corner and anyone interested to join our teams, trainings and adventures as participant, active team member or partner can contact us through contact@yebn.eu and social media. Let’s start a common journey on your way becoming a successful and responsible bioleader!

Where do you see needs for improvement in order to get young biotech professionals into the right environment to drive Europe forward?

Life after Ph.D. Program co-organized with IBMB, 2019. The program helps participants prepare for positions in the pharma industry after the PhD.

Even if the current academic studies totally cover the hard skills in scientific topics, there are many soft skills and codes that are particularly important in daily professional life which are necessary to develop to avoid obstacles. The YEBN can help with this by complementing the development of young professionals once they identify a need in complementary skills.

Our experience suggests that it is important to conduct regular surveys with young biotech students and professionals to identify their needs. As the field is impacted by innovation these can range from specific needs in the rapid accessibility of new tools and technologies and related trainings, to trainings on new regulations and ethics, to some more stable needs regarding trainings on soft skills and key qualities needed for a successful transition from university or academic research to industry. We also give advice on funding opportunities for internships, PhDs, or attending conferences and events. Helping young biotech professionals to enrich their career paths with multidisciplinary qualities by offering training widening their expert knowledge in other disciplines is another field of YEBN activity.

Our values totally reflect what we want to inspire to all the members that pass through our network. We encourage our members to foster teamwork and collaboration, highlighting the importance to follow ethics. In addition, we help them to develop responsible decision-making and leadership skills in their actions while staying humble also activates their personal development. Finally, we illustrate the power of networking by creating international bonds stronger than individual interests and of course promoting equity in a diverse and inclusive society. As an example of the latter, YEBN partnered up with a multi-association initiative called ResearchAbility aiming for a diverse and inclusive researcher’s society. We are also active within the Marie Curie Alumni Association and the FEDEEH, a French federation of students with disabilities, collaborating closely to learn about measures needed to make careers in research accessible for persons with disabilities and to provide easy tools to our institutional members and partners to conduct disability awareness trainings and provide information on  accessible events and training for everyone.

We consider it also interesting to promote participatory research, which is closer to patients and civil society. This approach of conducting research does not seem to be included in university curricula, and thus patients related to the work of a thesis topic tend to just be mentioned in the introduction of a thesis rather than met in a conference dedicated to the education and dissemination about the research on their disease. These knowledge exchange occasions between researchers and patients can be real think-tanks inspiring researchers and informing and motivating patients to help gather the necessary study participants and funding.

Last but not least, the promotion of intercultural competences, tolerance and language skills are judged  crucial for an efficient and welcoming European biotech and life science community: cross-border collaborative work and thinking is easier if you can communicate and understand other European nations’ languages, cultures and needs. English is a common basis to start, but YEBN wishes to encourage its members to also learn the local language in their host countries. For this, we are still searching for partnerships with language schools and language software companies.

This year’s Biotech Week will celebrate the amazing science that helps us understand the world around us – what are you looking forward to in the European Biotech Week 2020 (28 Sept – 04 Oct)?

Some activities are just “getting out the oven” for this summer and for the European Biotech Week 2020. We are going to continue inspiring and involving, we are going to set up new mentoring and training sessions, as well as panels with different professionals and experts, many of them in webinar format, in order to make it accessible and reach as many members as possible around Europe. For now, we don’t want to reveal more and invite you to stay tuned on our social media and discover all the activities we are preparing there. As the YEBN wishes to offer you an attractive program fitting your needs and interests – do not hesitate to let us know your proposals and wishes if there is something you are still missing in this year’s training and conference calendar, or a speaker you would love to hear from. As wished by our members, the YEBN will for example closely observe the recent applications of machine learning, artificial intelligence and data science for drug discovery, therapeutic manufacturing, and quality control and is looking to identify partners for the training of our members on essential skills in computational biology, bioinformatics, and biostatistics and data science. It is in our YEBN-DNA to address your “hot topics”, we are flexible to quickly react to wishes and needs. Let us make it possible for you and others – contact@yebn.eu with your suggestions.

During Biotech Week 2020, there should be no hesitation to critically evaluate and disseminate to the civil society and media which role and importance the biotech research and innovation has had and will have with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic. YEBN and its member institutions aim to underline the general interest and attractiveness of studies and careers in the biotech field. Standard and rapid tests, innovative drug therapies, vaccination development and drug manufacturing, ventilators, environmental friendly energy sources, bioactive materials for construction, water cleaning approaches, and many more:  biotech solutions including digital and medical technologies are crucial in guaranteeing health and safety. This year’s Biotech Week is an opportunity to present successful solutions against COVID-19 proposed by the leaders in the biotech field. It is also an opportunity to use the lessons-learned about exceptional cross-country collaborations and innovations, governmental hackathons, successful open science and open source products as inspiration for future rapid crisis solutions provided maybe by collaborative approaches between academia, biotech industry, politicians and civil society.


Ismael Ávila – President of the Young European Biotech Network

President of YEBN and Project Manager of the Catalan Health Companies association CataloniaBio & HealthTech, graduated in Biotechnology in the Autonomous University from Barcelona. I chose this career path because I identified it was a very interesting way to help to reach a better world. I want to continue developing my career in the life sciences management field. Always looking for opportunities, with the aim to create and develop a good sustainable impact in our society in different ways. Always open to networking so, do not hesitate to take a virtual coffee with me –  I am delighted to meet new people and exchange ideas! Connect on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Alexandra Nothnagel – Vice President of the Young European Biotech Network

Current Vice-president of the YEBN and software engineer and consultant in France to provide powerful IT solutions to the public, health and life science sector. I graduated in biochemistry in Frankfurt and investigated cell development and apoptosis in Leishmania parasites, various blood-derived and neuronal cell culture models at Georg Speyer Haus, Sanofi, Paul Ehrlich Institute, UAH Madrid and as MSCA ESR fellow at IBENS Paris. Aiming to create sustainable networks to facilitate biotech innovation and foster equity and accessibility of careers in academia and industry in Europe, I have been active for >12 years in associations. Contact me via LinkedIn!  

As #biotechweek 2020 is only a few months away, we checked in with the president of Assobiotec, the Italian association for biotechnology, Riccardo Palmisano. He explained how the excitement for biotechnology in these unprecedented times needs to be carried over to communities across Europe and how the European Biotech Week has enabled a real network of biotech enthusiasts in Italy. European Biotech Week in Italy – a success story!

The European Biotech Week attracts thousands of people each year to biotech events around the continent. In Italy the activities are coordinated by Assobiotec, the National Association for the Development of Biotechnology. What makes the Biotech Week so successful in your country?

You are really right, as over the past seven Biotech Week editions, Italy outperformed in terms of both number of events and attendees. Main reasons for this success are first of all the involvement of many partners, from biotech companies to universities, schools, research centres, museums, foundations, scientific and patients associations from Northern to Southern Italy: 40 partners in more than 100 events in our country. A second relevant success factor is the use of simple and accessible language and concrete examples to explain how biotech surrounds and supports us in everyday life.

Result of this combined approach is a Biotech Week more and more perceived in Italy as one of the most interesting nowadays scientific event, able to reach a huge number of local communities on the whole national territory. Assobiotec is very proud to coordinate and promote such a challenging project since its first edition.

Among Italian events, the main ones focus on citizens, starting from school students, in order to show the opportunity of having a confident approach towards biotech, and science in general, understanding that it can help us to live better and more sustainably.

You have built up a great network of biotech institutions that take part in the week-long celebrations each year. What has been your lessons learned on how to connect people to bring biotech to local communities?

Every year this powerful multi-stakeholders network plans a journey with us that begins in the first months of the year. Each biotech institution has been involved in the launch of the event and in a series of subsequent moments that bring to the planning of the Italian week and to the communication to our targets.

Dialogues inside the network and exchanges of best practises are essential for the successful outcome of the event.

Connecting and working with partners located on the whole country it’s a great way to activate interest in each individual region and take advantage of the synergies and networks already active, for instance with schools, media and so on.

In the recent years we have perceived a great enthusiasm and a great desire to cooperate from our partners. It is an important signal that demonstrates how much the interest in a strategic sector like biotech is growing, and so is the will to make biotech more understandable to everyone.

What can we expect for #biotechweek 2020 in Italy this year?

In this particular year, affected by the coronavirus pandemic, it will be difficult to exceed the level previously reached in terms of both number of events and people involved. Although not impossible, thanks to the possibility offered by digital tools. Today as never before it’s evident that biotech is the correct response to our urgent needs: health, for humans and our planet, environment, healthy food, sustainable development and safety. Biotechnology can aspire to be one of the driving forces of the world.

The pandemic highlights the importance to believe and invest in science and in biotech. The relevant contribution that biotech could give to our world is now undeniable, it is crystal clear. The European Biotech Week has to reinforce the message that biotechnology can do a lot for our future, in terms of health, just thinking of what the biotech companies have done and are still doing to fight against the current pandemic, and to rethink our development with a new respect for our planet, and attention to sustainability.


Riccardo Palmisano is CEO at MolMed, a medical biotechnology company focused on research, development and clinical validation of novel anticancer therapies. Graduated in Medicine at Parma University, his career in the Italian pharmaceutical industry started in 1986 at Farmitalia Carlo Erba (1986). He then moved on to Gruppo Menarini (1988) where he contributed to the development and internationalisation of the first Italian pharmaceutical Group, becoming Director of the Pharmaceutical Division Italy in 1993 and General Manager at Lusofarmaco in 1995. His career in multinational companies started in 2000: he set up the Italian branch of Shire Pharmaceutical (2000), then he was appointed Vice President Commercial Retail Market in GlaxoSmithKline Verona (2003) and, lastly, Vice President & General Manager Italy at Genzyme (2005), a U.S. biotech company specialized in research and development of orphan drugs for rare diseases. After the acquisition of Genzyme by Sanofi he was appointed Director of Business Strategy and Development at Sanofi Italia (2012-2013). During his career, he successfully launched a large number of important products in many therapeutic areas, in both retail and hospital markets, participated and supported several international projects, and successfully negotiated pricing and reimbursement for several innovative drugs with the Italian Authorities. In 2008, he joined Assobiotec, the trade association part of Federchimica, becoming Vice President, responsible for biotech pharma and health, in 2010. In 2016, was appointed President of Assobiotec.

Brussels, 30 September 2019: European Biotech Week has, once again, succeeded in creating more excitement and enthusiasm for biotechnology, this time, through more than 140 events taking place across 18 countries. For the first time, Malta and Latvia have joined the initiative to celebrate the benefits of biotech with local communities.

From researchers and professionals to curious students, across all age groups – events throughout the week were diverse, innovative and, first and foremost, educational. They’ve included conferences, workshops, hands on laboratories, exhibitions and open-door days with companies, research institutes and museums – EuropaBio thanks all organisers for their impressive efforts in creating a European-wide buzz for biotech!

In Brussels, EuropaBio hosted multiple events around the benefits of biotech for people and planet. The kick-off day saw many students, researchers and representatives of industry and the European institutions coming together for discussions and presentations, beginning on Monday with a ‘biotech inspired’ lunch and ending the same day with a lively biotechnology pub quiz! Other events included a fruitful discussion around the financing ecosystem for healthcare biotech in Europe, and the need to remain competitive with the rest of the world. This year’s main event – a lunch, co-hosted by MEP Henna Virkkunen and MEP Anthea McIntyre, took place in the European Parliament and showcased perspectives from industry, end-users, patients and researchers on the new frontier in biotech innovation: Genome Editing.

EuropaBio Secretary General, Joanna Dupont-Inglis highlights: ‘Thanks to the discovery of new gene editing technologies, we now have the ability to edit genes with greater precision, accuracy and speed than ever before. As a result, Biotech now has the potential to contribute so much more, transforming patients’ lives by treating unmet medical needs, mitigating the impacts of climate change and saving scarce resources for a growing global population. But the technology has developed much faster than the debate both publicly and politically. The many events around this topic during the European Biotech Week helped to include a wider spectrum of stakeholders, policy makers and civil society in these important discussions.’

This year, for the first time, European Biotech Week included a #BiotechFan film competition. The winners, Anna, Giulio and Francesco from the University of Padua and Enzo from the Technical University Munich, took part in three days of back-to-back biotech events in Brussels presenting their ideas, inspiration and aspirations to decision-makers, researchers and industry representatives.

Anna, Giulio and Francesco (above) and Enzo (below) at the presentation of this years #BiotechFan winners

 

EuropaBio Chairman and former CEO of Corbion, Tjerk de Ruiter, concluded: ‘European Biotech Week provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and how far we need to go. Future generations will be at the forefront of developing new innovative biotech solutions to benefit both people and planet which is why we were so thrilled to have such great engagement from young people at this year’s European Biotech Week”.  

 

Thank you all and stay tuned for #biotechweek 2020!

The EuropaBio team at this years main event in the European Parliament

 

20 September 2019, Brussels – The 7th edition of the European Biotech Week, starting on Monday the 23rd September, is set to break new records with over 140 events taking place across Europe. For the first time, the European Biotech Week will be present in countries like Latvia, and even Malta with events on marine biotechnology, among others. EuropaBio’s National Association Members, together with local communities, companies, academia and government institutions are hosting events in 18 countries in total to celebrate the numerous benefits of biotech to date and to explore its future potential for delivering solutions for both people and planet. Initiatives vary from scientific conferences to recreational activities and exhibitions. In addition, a number of hands-on laboratories and open-door days have been organised to satisfy the curiosity of younger participants.

This year EuropaBio has also launched a new #BiotechFan film creation competition, to enable students to share their passion for biotech. In Brussels, a kick-off lunch will be hosted on Monday in addition to several events throughout the week on topics ranging from investment in healthcare biotech to genome editing, the new frontier of biotech innovation, to name but a few.

Commenting on the European Biotech Week EuropaBio Secretary General, Joanna Dupont-Inglis highlighted:

“We have so much progress to celebrate when it comes to biotech. Once a year, the European Biotech Week provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and to discuss how biotech can help us ensure longer, healthier and more sustainable lives for future generations.’’

Our #BiotechFan contest is officially closed and the winners have been selected: Anna, Francesco and Giulio from the University of Padua as well as Enzo Joaquin from the University of Munich, will join us at our main events in Brussels during this years edition of the European Biotech Week, where they’ll have the opportunity to exchange views on the benefits of biotechnology with students, industry professionals, scientists and decision makers.

We want to thank all participants who took the time to show us their passion for biotech with a short video – stay tuned for next year’s edition of #BiotechFan!

Between 23 – 29 September, you can engage with us on Social Media using #biotechweek!

 

Between 23 – 29th of September, Europe will host the seventh edition of the European Biotech Week, with more than 130 events taking place in over 17 countries.

This annual celebration of biotech stems from the passion of those involved in the field to discuss and share knowledge about the incredible potential offered by the application of biotechnology. The initiative is also part of the Global Biotech Week, a success story celebrated across continents and around the world.

European Biotech Week 2018 was a resounding success and this year’s celebrations are looking even more exciting with two more countries, Malta and Latvia, participating for the first time!

In order to raise awareness on the benefits of biotechnology and to foster a dialogue on such issues, EuropaBio has planned different events for a broad public, ranging from students and biotech enthusiasts to members of the European Institutions.

“Biotech is about learning from nature and living systems, and finding ways to develop new products and processes that provide more benefits for both people and planet ” commented Joanna Dupont-Inglis, Secretary General of EuropaBio.

We invite you to see what is going on near you on www.biotechweek.org and we thank all of our great event organisers who have contributed to this year’s amazing programme.

You still haven’t registered your event? It’s not too late to get involved! You can submit your event using the online form.

Are you a #BiotechFan? Submit your short video explaining why and win a trip to Brussels during the European Biotech Week (23 – 29th September 2019)

Who can participate?

Any student, scientist, researcher or biotech enthusiast living in the EU and who is passionate about communicating the benefits of biotech.

Send us your video!

Your video can be as creative, serious or funny as you want it to be! The aim is to explain in a maximum of 2 minutes, in the language of your choice, why biotechnology is so important for you and/or everyone else, using any specific example(s) you find appropriate, from any field of application (such as healthcare, industrial or agricultural biotech). For example, show us what kind of incredible things we can achieve with genome editing and explain why you are passionate about biotech.  What would be your biotech wish for 2020?

What can you win?

As a winner, you will be invited to attend key events and other fun activities centred around biotechnology and the EU during the European Biotech Week (taking place between 23-29 September). During your stay in Brussels, you’ll also be guided through the famous “European Quarter” together with other biotech enthusiasts to meet EU decision makers and influencers and help us illustrate the benefits of biotech. Accommodation and travel for your trip will be provided by EuropaBio.

Why participate?

  • Visit Brussels as a guest of EuropaBio and be part of the most exciting biotech events in Europe
  • Meet industry professionals, scientists and decision makers active at EU level
  • Learn more about biotechnology and policy across multiple sectors (agricultural, industrial, and healthcare)
  • Promote your own ideas or research and exchange with other biotech fans.

Please send your submission before 15 July to hello@biotechweek.org via WeTransfer or tweet it to us @biotechweek using #BiotechFan.

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