Final Word: BIO: The Olympics of Biotech

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BioPharm International, BioPharm International-05-01-2004, Volume 17, Issue 5

Plan ahead to make the most of every opportunity at this year?s BIO convention in San Francisco.

From June 6—9, San Francisco, California will host the nearest thing our industry has to the Olympics: the Biotechnology Industry Organization's 2004 Annual International Convention. We anticipate that BIO 2004 will draw 20,000 attendees from all over the world, including the full spectrum of stakeholders in the biotechnology industry. BIO's allied organizations (such as the Association of University Research Parks and the Biotech Institute) will also host a gamut of associated activities, including the annual BioParks Conference and the Teacher-Fellow programs.

The annual BIO conventions can be unexpectedly rewarding, even for the uninitiated. This convention is not like other large trade events. There is no section of a trade-show floor wholly devoted to equipment. There is no narrow focus on a single management task. Instead, this convention is about the comprehensive management of the biotech enterprise within the context of the biotech economy.

With its strong focus on business development and enterprise development, BIO 2004 will cover the waterfront of the biotech life cycle. In San Francisco, tech transfer innovations will be on display from organizations as far afield as Brisbane and Brussels. Throughout the event, panel discussions will consider the drug development pipeline. As in previous years, the policy frontier will bring out lively conversation, and the convention's Business Forum will spotlight industry investment, cooperative product development, and biopartnering. At the forum, literally thousands of prematched meetings will take place.

Export and trade promotion underpins much of the exhibition inside BIO each year. As this aspect of the convention has grown, it has become clear how far and wide the biotech industry has spread. In the exhibit hall, every area of the globe will be represented by a public-sector stakeholder. Regional economies are relying more on the hope of continued growth in the life sciences, and the number of stakeholders in the industry is expanding exponentially.

It's no suprise that the Bay Area is hosting this year's convention. Northern California remains home to the largest biotechnology cluster in the world — and that's without including the biomedical, device, and instrumentation industries.

Corporate tourists new to the Bay Area might be overwhelmed by the variety of both business and personal attractions around town. But business trips to the Bay Area can be an ocean of opportunity when properly managed — as can the eye-popping schedule of events at BIO 2004. The bottom line is this: plan ahead.

You could start by looking for Bay Area leaders, those individuals or companies that might be receptive to your visit around the time of the convention. The first challenge is to narrow the leadership list.


Certainly, there is strength in numbers. And if the rate of membership in professional societies and national interest groups is any indication, Californians take that strength — and the accompanying responsibility — very seriously. The National Academy of Sciences? The state boasting the largest representation is California with 580 members. The Biotechnology Industry Organization? California claims 17 of the 46 board members. Life science financiers? California helped pave the way: the Association of Bioscience Financial Officers was founded in northern California in 1989.

This vast leadership presents obvious challenges for visitors hoping to drop in on a selected group of biotech founders, experts, and champions while in town. An extra day just won't cover it.

Again, plan ahead. It's the only way to think through and apply some filters to this embarrassment of riches. Advance analysis of BIO's web-based agenda and roster of more than 700 conference speakers is the best way to practically manage the information overload of a convention with 20,000 anticipated attendees.

For those of us calling northern California home, the legacy left by BIO's annual event goes well beyond the benefits of potential biopartnering, corporate tourism, restaurant spending, and occupancy tax. It is a unique event during which 20,000 of the best and brightest will be drawn into our headquarters and presented with trends and metadata that will ultimately benefit the whole world when they return home.

So, make the most of BIO 2004. Fill your calendar to the maximum, and then come away from San Francisco with dozens of new prospects, hundreds of new friends, and one favorite biotech city.