Friday, November 6

Morning Plenary: "Preparing for the Next Pandemic"


Feature Remarks from the Honorable Sonny Perdue

United States Secretary of Agriculture

Sonny Perdue came by his knowledge of agriculture the old fashioned way: he was born into a farming family in Bonaire, Georgia. From childhood, and through his life in business and elected office, Perdue has experienced the industry from every possible perspective. Uniquely qualified as a former farmer, agribusinessman, veterinarian, state legislator, and governor of Georgia, he became the 31st United States Secretary of Agriculture on April 25, 2017.

Perdue’s policies as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture will be guided by four principles which will inform his decisions. First, he will maximize the ability of the men and women of America’s agriculture and agribusiness sector to create jobs, to produce and sell the foods and fiber that feed and clothe the world, and to reap the earned reward of their labor. It should be the aim of the American government to remove every obstacle and give farmers, ranchers, and producers every opportunity to prosper. Second, he will prioritize customer service every day for American taxpayers and consumers. They will expect, and have every right to demand, that their government conduct the people’s business efficiently, effectively, and with the utmost integrity. Third, as Americans expect a safe and secure food supply, USDA will continue to serve in the critical role of ensuring the food we put on the table to feed our families meets the strict safety standards we’ve established. Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist. And fourth, Perdue will always remember that America’s agricultural bounty comes directly from the land. And today, those land resources sustain more than 320 million Americans and countless millions more around the globe. Perdue’s father’s words still ring true: We’re all stewards of the land, owned or rented, and our responsibility is to leave it better than we found it.

Additionally, Perdue recognizes that American agriculture needs a strong advocate to promote its interests to international markets. The United States is blessed to be able to produce more than its citizens can consume, which implies that we should sell the bounty around the world. The relationship between the USDA and its trade representatives, as well as with the U.S. Trade Representative and Department of Commerce, will be vital. The work of promoting American agricultural products to other countries will begin with those relationships and will benefit us domestically, just as it will fulfill the moral imperative of helping to feed the world. Perdue has pledged to be an unapologetic advocate for American agriculture.

Under Secretary Perdue, the USDA will always be facts-based and data-driven, with a decision-making mindset that is customer-focused. He will seek solutions to problems and not lament that the agency might be faced with difficult challenges.

As a youngster growing up on a dairy and diversified row crop farm in rural Georgia, Perdue never fully realized that the blessings of purposeful, meaningful work would serve him as well as they have in life. When he was a young boy feeding the calves and plowing the fields, he was an integral part of the workforce on his father’s farm. As the son of a mother who was an English teacher for 42 years, he benefitted from her teachings as well – not just by instilling in him the beliefs he still holds dear, but also by lending him an appreciation and respect for language and proper grammar. But more than anything in his life, it was the family farm which shaped Sonny Perdue. He has lived and breathed the exhilaration of a great crop and the despair and devastation of a drought. He learned by experience what his father told him as a child, “If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.”

The work ethic cemented in him by his farming roots has remained with Sonny Perdue throughout his life. As a younger man, he served his country in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of Captain. After earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Georgia, he put that training to use in private practice in North Carolina. As a member of the Georgia State Senate for eleven years, he eventually ascended to the position of President Pro Tempore as elected by his senate colleagues. As a two-term governor of Georgia, he was credited with transforming a budget deficit into a surplus, dramatically increasing the student performance in public schools, and fostering an economic environment that allowed employers to flourish and manufacturers and agricultural producers to achieve record levels of exports. He followed these accomplishments with a successful career in agribusiness, where he focused on commodities and transportation in enterprises that have spanned the southeastern United States. These experiences have proven invaluable in his current role as principal advocate for American agriculture and all that it serves.

Perdue is a strong believer in good government, in that it should operate efficiently and serve the needs of its customers: the people of the United States. As a state senator, he was recognized as a leading authority on issues including energy and utilities, agriculture, transportation, emerging technologies and economic development, and for his ability to grasp the nuances of complex problems. As governor, he reformed state budget priorities, helped Georgians create more than 200,000 new jobs, and promoted his home state around the world to attract new businesses. In 2009, the Reason Foundation’s Innovators in Action magazine recognized Perdue as a leader who “aggressively pursued new strategies to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of government and deliver better value at less cost to taxpayers.” In addition, he was named “Public Official of the Year” in October 2010 by Governing Magazine. To this day, his thoughts are never very far from the wishes of the citizens – the true owners of the government.

Perdue’s views on agriculture have always been shaped by his first-hand knowledge of all of its aspects, both as a farmer and as an agribusinessman. He appreciates the daily concerns and needs of American farmers, while also understanding the intricacies of global commodities markets. He is acknowledged as a national leader in agriculture, having served as a board member for the National Grain & Feed Association, and as President of both the Georgia Feed and Grain Association and the Southeastern Feed and Grain Association. Perdue has long-standing, close relationships with the leadership of the American Farm Bureau and has been recognized by the Georgia 4-H and FFA programs, among others, for his leadership in agriculture.

As the product of Georgia, a state where agriculture is the leading economic driver, Perdue recognizes that agriculture is an issue and industry which cuts across political party boundaries. He recognizes that the size, scope, and diversity of America’s agricultural sector requires reaching across the aisle so that partisanship doesn’t get in the way of good solutions for American farmers, ranchers, and consumers.

Perdue has been married to Mary Ruff Perdue for 45 years and has four adult children and fourteen grandchildren. He and his wife have served as foster parents for eight children awaiting adoption. Perdue remains a licensed airplane and helicopter pilot and avid outdoor sportsman.

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Douglas Ensley, DVM
Technical Marketing Manager - U.S. Cattle business, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc.

Dr. Doug Ensley grew up in Northeast Kansas where he developed an interest in agriculture early on through his Uncle, a Veterinarian in Northeast Kansas.

After receiving his DVM degree from Kansas State University in 1988 he spent time as an associate in practices in Illinois and Nebraska. These practices focused primarily on beef and swine production. In 1995 he purchased a mixed animal practice in Southeast Kansas. In 1998 he attended Iowa State University where he received his Master of Science in Beef Production in 2001. He was hired as the University Veterinarian for Iowa State University where he had responsibility for animals owned by the University.

In 2003 Dr. Ensley was hired by the University Of Georgia College Of Veterinary Medicine to teach beef production and to participate in cattle research. His responsibilities included lecturing on ruminant digestive diseases, lameness in cattle, and beef production to the veterinary students. He also participated in the UGA farm practice where he took students on farm calls to teach clinical skills.

In 2009 Dr. Ensley went to work for Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health as a Professional Services Veterinarian and now as the Technical Marketing Manager for the cattle business.


Patty Fritz

VP, Corporate Affairs, UCB, Inc.

Patty Fritz is head of U.S. Corporate Affairs at UCB. She oversees public policy, government affairs, advocacy, communications and public affairs, as well as UCB’s office and strategic priorities in Washington, D.C. Patty has made a significant impact in different leadership roles including regulatory affairs, operational excellence, health policy, and UCBCares®. Patty led the regulatory efforts for UCB’s first product filing in the US - Keppra® (levetiracetam) - and oversaw the FDA approval process for many of UCB’s other products. Patty was a driving force behind UCB’s Women in Leadership initiative and was recently recognized by PharmaVOICE magazine as one of the 2019 100 most influential and inspirational leaders in the life sciences industry. Outside of UCB, she serves as chair of the board for Georgia Bio,  a member of The Carter Center Board of Councilors, and on the Board of Directors of the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) and the Innovation and Value Initiative (IVI).


Russell Medford, MD, PhD

CEO and Chairman, Covanos (moderator)

Russell M. Medford, MD, PhD is Chairman and CEO of Covanos, Inc, an Atlanta-based development stage digital health and medical technology company, developing advanced computational solutions for the non-invasive diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. He is a senior executive with over25 years private and public company experience as Chief Executive Officer and Board member of multiple public and private biotechnology, medical technology, digital health and other health related companies, organizations and research institutes.


Dr. Medford serves as Chairman of the Center for Global Health Innovation (CGHI, 501c3) that represents a coalition of over 250 Georgia and national organizations and companies involved in global health, life science innovation and health technology through the merger of Georgia BIO, Georgia Global Health Alliance in January, 2020. The CGHI operating divisions include the Global Health Crisis Coordination Center that was emergently launched in March, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the request of the CDC Foundation. Previously, he was Chairman of Global Health ATL, Founding Vice Chairman of the Georgia Global Health Alliance and a past Chairman of Georgia BIO.


He is a board-certified physician, serves on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Global Center for Medical Innovation, the External Advisory Board for the Petit Institute of Bioscience and Bioengineering of the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Board of Directors of the cell-based therapeutics and technology company ThermoGenesis Holdings (Nasdaq:THMO), Chairman of oncology-therapeutics company Oncospherix, an inaugural Fellow of the Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences of the American Heart Association, and a past member of Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) Board of Directors (2002-2014), Co-Chairman of BIO’s Bioethics Committee, Chairman of the BIO's 2009 International Convention Steering Committee (held for the first time in Atlanta, Georgia) and a member of the Advisory Council of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. From 1995 to 2009, Dr. Medford served as co-founder, President, CEO and Director of publicly-held AtheroGenics, Inc (Nasdaq:AGIX) and was a founding Board Director of publicly-held Inhibitex, Inc. (Nasdaq: INHX).


He has received numerous awards including the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Southeast), the Biomedical Industry Growth Award (GeorgiaBIO, Atlanta), CATALYST Magazine's Top 50 Entrepreneurs, the SCRIPP Best Partnership Alliance (London), Platinum Winner (Covanos) of the AMP'D Arena Pitch Competition at the 2019 Medical Innovation Summit, organized by Cleveland Clinic and co-sponsored by the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation and the 2020 Cade Prize for Covanos (Fourth Place).


He received a B.A. from Cornell University, and a M.D. with Distinction and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, completing his residency and cardiology fellowship at Harvard’s Beth Israel and Brigham and Women’s Hospitals where he also served on the faculty of Medicine. He served on the faculty at Emory University as an Associate Professor of Medicine prior to founding AtheroGenics and serving as its CEO. He publishes widely and holds 16 U.S. and international patents.

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Kathleen Toomey, MD, MPH

Commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH)

Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., was appointed commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health by Governor Brian Kemp in March 2019. As commissioner, Dr. Toomey oversees 159 county health departments in 18 health districts, and various public health programs.


Before her appointment to commissioner, Dr. Toomey served as Director of the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness. She led the department’s transition to become the Fulton County Board of Health and continuing as district health director until December 2018.


An epidemiologist and board-certified family practitioner, Dr. Toomey’s career in public health is long and distinguished, holding key leadership positions with the State of Georgia and both national and international leadership positions with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She served as the CDC’s Country Director in Botswana. In addition to other leadership positions with the CDC, Dr. Toomey previously served as the Director of the Division of Public Health with the Georgia Department of Human Resources.


Dr. Toomey earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Smith College. As a Fulbright Scholar, she studied indigenous healing practices in Peru. Dr. Toomey earned her M.D. and M.P.H. degrees from Harvard University. In 1985, Dr. Toomey was selected as a Pew Health Policy Research Fellow at the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco. While in San Francisco, she served on committees looking at the initial cases of emergent HIV.


Afternoon Plenary: "Reimagining the Future of Life Sciences & Public Health: Workforce, Patients and Innovation"


Rishi Desai, MD, MPH

Chief Medical Officer, Osmosis

Rishi Desai, MD, MPH, is a pediatric infectious disease physician with a public health background who currently serves as the Chief Medical Officer at Osmosis and recently led Khan Academy Medicine. Additionally, Dr. Desai works clinically for AmWell, a large U.S.-based telemedicine company.


Osmosis is a digital health education platform aimed to empower the world's clinicians and caregivers with the best learning experience possible. Currently, Osmosis has a comprehensive video library of more than 1,600 comprehensive, easy-to-understand videos complete with questions, flashcards, and notes.  Today, we are grateful to have an engaged audience of over 1 million active learners made up of current and future health professionals, as well as a YouTube channel with over 1.7 million learners worldwide!


Previously, Dr. Desai spent two years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer investigating viral disease outbreaks, before beginning his work in online medical education. He had an accelerated education, completing high school and receiving his BS in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from UCLA by the age of 18. He completed his medical training at UCSF and went on to work at medical centers including Boston Children's Hospital, Boston Medical Center, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and Stanford University. Dr. Desai earned his MPH in epidemiology at UCLA. 


When he's not at the park with his 4-year-old son, he's eating raspberries and learning Mandarin.

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Mary Dunkle
Senior Advisor, National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)


Mary Dunkle is Senior Advisor to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), with a primary focus on supporting the development of educational resources for patients, medical professionals, students preparing for health-related careers, and the public.


She joined NORD in 1999 and served for many years as Vice President of Communications with responsibility for the organization’s website, social media, Patient/Caregiver Information Center and publications. She was one of the primary NORD editors for a medical textbook on rare diseases published in 2003, The NORD Guide to Rare Disorders.   


Ms. Dunkle also served as Vice President of Educational Initiatives, leading the department responsible for educational resources that included NORD’s Rare Disease Database and the annual NORD Rare Diseases and Orphan Products Breakthrough Summit.


Philip Gibson, PhD
Director of the Georgia BioScience Training Center, Georgia Quick Start (moderator)


Philip G. Gibson, Ph.D., is the Director of the Georgia BioScience Training Center for Georgia Quick Start. The training center is a state-of-the-art training center capable of delivering biomanufacturing training on large scale equipment typical to the biomanufacturing industry.

Appointments: Georgia BioEd 2019-20 Board Chair, Georgia Bio Board of Directors Executive Committee Member, National Executive Leadership Council (NELC) Co-Chair of the National Science Foundation Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing of Cell-based Therapies, Biotility Advisory Board Chair, National Science Foundation Cell Manufacturing Technologies (CMaT), CTAE Advisory Board and 2019–23 CTAE Strategic Plan Steering Committee Member, and Atlanta Technical College Bioscience Program Advisory Board.

He is the recipient of the 2019 Ga Bio Golden Helix Industry Growth Award Winner, 2007 Georgia Green Industry Association’s Educator of the Year Award, 2000-01 President’s Award at Gwinnett Technical College and 1987-88 President’s Award at John Wieland Homes. He is clerk at Alps Road Presbyterian Church.