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Biotech by the Bay

Posted on June 13th, 2016 by in Pharma R&D


The Bay Area was a hotbed of biotech conversation and activity this past week, as the BIO International Convention hit San Francisco from June 6-9. The convention is self-dubbed as “The Global Event for Biotechnology,” and that is not hyperbole. Nearly 16,000 people from the world of pharma and biotech took part, most of who hold leadership roles ranging from directors to executive managers. More than 2,500 of the attendees were CEOs from leading biotechnology companies.

What brought them there? Chiefly, opportunity. The opportunity to identify potential partners, find job candidates, learn about solutions, meet service providers, get educated on new developments, explore important issues in the industry, hear from experts, and, of course, to network, network, network.

The BIO schedule was absolutely packed with an assortment of presentations, roundtables, panels, forums, meet-ups, seminars, tours, challenges, boot camps, and a career fair. Bioethics, innovation, drug delivery, emerging therapies, and novel technologies were among the topics covered in the featured talks at the convention. But there were also numerous education sessions that delved deep into areas like orphan diseases, personalized medicine, oncology, regulatory science, and much more.

To take it all in, you would have needed to be able to clone yourself several times over (and BIO was exactly the right place to be if that’s the kind of radical technological advancement you were looking for!)

Hot and trending issues were in the spotlight at BIO, as everything from women in biotech to China’s role in the industry was on the docket. “Biotech Solutions for Zika” tackled the industry’s role in dealing with the virus that is inspiring worldwide concern. Meanwhile, fans of both film and brain health could appreciate a keynote panel that featured Concussion star Will Smith and the real-life doctor he played in the movie, Dr. Bennet Omalu.

The exhibition halls were a Who’s Who of the bio and pharma universe, where heavy hitters like Bayer and Bristol-Myers Squibb rubbed shoulders with small biotech firms, universities, and non-profits. Each organization did their best to draw attendees to their booths with interesting presentations, eye-catching literature, special guests, and plenty of branded swag (e.g. pens, bags, and USB drives) to take home.

Networking was facilitated through partnering meetings during the day, and with receptions and wine socials in the evening, where convention attendees were given a chance to relax and enjoy their surroundings. But at an event like this, the reality is that every moment is a networking opportunity, whether it’s listening to someone’s pitch at an exhibition booth or casually chatting with the person sitting next to you at a seminar.

And if anybody thought that three days being immersed in all-things-biotech would provide a reprieve from the current U.S. political drama, they were dead wrong. Because not only did former presidential candidate (and rumored VP candidate for Donald Trump) Newt Gingrich do a book signing at the convention, but Genentech even sponsored a panel titled “Who Will Be the Next President of the United States?”

The BIO International Convention has come and gone for now, but the next convention is already scheduled to be in San Diego from June 19-22, 2017. It’s not only possible but highly likely that some of the connections made and knowledge gained among this year’s attendees will bear fruit at next year’s convention in the form of newborn companies and innovative discoveries. Stay tuned.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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