Party Like it’s 2009

Is there a dearth of blog posts this morning because everyone was up late partying? Maybe. I went to the Women in Bio party early last night at the Mr. Tiki lounge, complete with leis and Hawaiian food and drink (no spam). I made a lot of great contacts and met very knowledgeable people in the field. After that, I went to the BIO 2008 Gala Reception Gaslamp Quarter Block Party on 5th. The party was complete with mimes, fire dancers, and other entertainment, along with great food from the restaurants on 5th street. Being from San Diego, I left early, as living in a great vacation spot is never as fun as visiting . . . hope you all didn’t stay up too late. Have a great day and see you in 2009 in Atlanta!
–Mary Canady, Comprendia LLC.


Understanding the science of communication

It was standing room only for the last session on Thursday covering Communication Challenges: Defining the Industry for Policymakers and the Public. Session Chair Richard Gallagher, editor & publisher of Scientist magazine, started with some provocative questions, asking: is the industry misunderstood and undervalued by the public and politicans? And are we telling the best stories in the right way?

Local senator Christine Kehoe gave the industry a glowing report card, describing biotech’s contribution to San Diego. Delegates will spend an enormous amount of money while they’re here (not all of it on food & drink), with the local industry comprising 700 companies employing around 40,000 people with an average salary of $80,000. So how to approach your local politician? Senator Kehoe reminds us that politicians are people too, start talking before there’s a crisis you want fixed and keep the lines of communication open. All common sense stuff for most of us.

Barry O’Leary discussed the rise of capital intensive investments into Ireland’s biotech industry, in the form of new facilities built by Pfizer, Merck, Lilly and J&J. Although biotech is perceived favourably by the Irish, there is still a need to communicate transparantly with the public over what is happening in their back yard. By the way, all the world’s botox comes from Ireland.

Perhaps it’s an informed public that will be the key to widespread public acceptance of biotech, as Seema Kumar suggests. It’s time for scientists to come out of their ivory towers where they’ve enjoyed splendid isolation talking to each other and start explaining themselves to the rest of us, instead of leaving that to the media who often get it wrong – so much being lost in translation, Kumar says. Scientists should be the face of science, it’s core communicators, she added.

Matt Nisbet will be known to many from his research and writing, and he has spent much of his time looking at why issues become controversial. Matt’s tips for biotech’s future are: Invest in science education – the world needs more citizen scientists who can make informed decisions. This could take the form of adding ‘science in society’ or similar to what is taught at school.

And for the industry and scientists: engage in public dialogue – people need to feel they are being listened to.

This was followed by robust feedback and opinions from the audience, as people shared their thoughts and experiences. Not everyone agreed, but at least we were talking to each other and even more importantly, listening as well.

One Day Left at BIO: What Not to Miss

It has been a busy week, and I’m betting most of you are very tired. Partnering, talks, and an exhibit hall that has a lot to offer. How should you spend your last day? After spending 3 days pounding the “exhibit floor” pavement (carpet), I have some suggestions for you.

  • Visit the various pavilions in the exhibit hall, representing different regions of the world and the biotech companies that do business there. Each has its own flavor, and each region is obviously anxious to show you why you should do business there. With the price of travel these days, you could even consider it to be a mini-vacation. My favorite pavilions? Holland, for its inviting display, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, for their midwestern hospitality, and South Africa, representing biotech that will make a difference in the issues that plague the continent. California, my home state, also has an impressive display of companies and institutions from our growing biotech hubs.
  • Visit the Emerging Technologies area, located in the southernmost (H) region of the exhibit hall. Of course, it is always interesting to hear about new technologies, and to hear about it from the entrepreneurs who will represent the next wave in biotech.
  • Visit the BIO Patient and Health Advocacy Display, which is in the Ground Level Lobby, section F. Learn more about the efforts of these advocates in making a difference in getting funding and cures for a wide variety of diseases. It is always worthwhile talk directly to the patients and advocates for diseases which we are working towards curing, as they have important perspectives.
  • For fun, visit the Lab Support Virtual Roller Coaster Ride at Booth 4316.
  • Don’t forget to get your green Crocs at RNL Bio, Booth 1015 (if they have any left!). I am not responsible for any fashion faux pas that result.

–Mary Canady of Comprendia, LLC.

AR Post: Catching My Breath…

As BIO2008 begins to wind down I finally have a few moments to catch my breath and rummage through the trendy conference bag and contents (BTW…next year would be very cool to have a wheeled conference bag with telescoping handle). I was flipping through the complimentary April/May ’08 copy of The Journal of Life Sciences (FYI…you can sign-up for a free subscription (HERE)). Just when a guy thinks he has rung out as much Colorado news and information from BIO2008, BANG! There is an article on Broomfield, CO-based Accera.

Accera is a privately held biotechnology company focused on developing novel drugs for neurodegenerative diseases. The company’s lead candidate, Ketasyn™ (AC-1202), is a first-in-class molecule that has completed successful clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and age-associated memory impairment. Accera plans to self-commercialize Ketasyn as a prescription-only therapeutic product for the treatment of Alzheimer’s in the US in 4Q08. A key element of Accera’s strategy is work with corporate partners to commercialize Ketasyn in non-U.S. markets, and to develop AC-1202 and other proprietary small molecule compounds in its pipeline for a range of neurodegenerative diseases. Learn more about the company (HERE).

Note: Take a closer look at what is transpiring in Colorado Bioscience at

AR Post: Forest City Enterprises – Building Colorado Bio Park

If you are resident at MIT, Hopkins, UPenn, Northwestern or the University of Chicago you are likely intimately aware of the name Forest City Enterprises, Booth 5508. That is because the Forest City Science + Technology Group, recognized as one of the country’s leading developers & owners of life science campuses, has completed your shiny new and smartly appointed bioparks.

Forest City, the $4 billion publicly traded (NYSE: FCE-A) Cleveland-based company has set its sights on Colorado, building out the 170+ acre Colorado Science + Technology Park @ Fitzsimons. This new park will add an additional 6 million sq ft to the existing 6 million sq ft housed within the adjacent Fitzsimons Life Science District and Anschutz Medical Campus. It is an incredibly exciting project, one of staggering magnitude and is certain to mark the campus as one of the largest and fastest growing concentrations of life science focused activity in the world!

Some great progress has already been made on the Colorado Science + Technology Park, a few highlights include:

  • Current 100,000 sf, in two buildings is 100% occupied
  • Demolition of all old buildings has begun and initiating site prep
  • Erecting first spec lab building (T) for 66,000 sf
  • Leasing activity in building T and second new lab build is strong
  • University Physicians, Inc deal is complete, 160,000 sf structure
  • A full-service hotel deal is moving forward
  • 21 Fitz Town Center, retail and high-end housing opens in two-weeks
  • Fitzsimons Credit Union land sale is done, 25,000 sf structure

Jim Greenwood on the Transformative Nature of Biotechnology

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“We use the language of life to fix its mistakes. We use the language of life to enable us to live on this planet sustainably. Decoding the secrets of life scares some people, but it inspires us. Some people ask how can you play God with the language of life? We say we’re not trying to be God…we are only trying to be fully human. Though we cannot see all that the future holds, our vision is clear. We can see that the knowledge you have pioneered– and the passion you put behind it, will allow us to never again have to speak the words, “There’s nothing we can do,”

said Jim Greenwood President and CEO of BIO today in his Keynote address. If you missed it, we’ve included a clip.

You can also view the video here.

Biotech Meet the Blogosphere

I’m sitting here in the Biotech and the Blogosphere breakout session at BIO 1008 in San Diego. It is the most sparsely attended session I’ve been to so far with only about 50 people in the room. 50 people who have admittedly made a point of being here to learn something, but given the overwhelming influence of blogs today I did hope there would be more.

But honestly I didn’t expect many more. My experience with science and open forums, blogs etc. on the web is that the chemistry still isn’t working. There APPEARS to be (no science to this opinion folks ) 2 reasons: 

  1.  They still subscribe to a school of thought that the message can be controlled
  2.  They want to ‘fly under the radar’ and don’t want controversy.

 Well consider this as a wake-up call:

  1. You never really could control the message completely and
  2. You fly under the radar when you either have done or are about to do something wrong.

Meanwhile by not participating in the discussion it carries on without you. For instance if you feel that by talking about GMO you’ll be inviting criticism, you may in fact be right at times. When the critics come at you however, at least you should already have established a line of communication to talk with them. If you don’t engage guess what – the critics will simply chatter among themselves about you. They will choose to do it as long and as loud and as hard as they darn well please and they are under no obligation to be fair or even accurate.

The first speaker in the session was Bo Piela from Genzyme. He looks on their social media efforts and their blog as the company “bringing people around the metaphorical table to talk”. It was a good way to put it because in good times and in bad, a lot can happen when people sit down to talk. Even though he didn’t use the same term, Michael Partridge from Vertexreally was saying the same thing when he described their CEO blog for employees. Employees everywhere want to know more about their company, want to know what direction their industry may be going, and maybe ask a few pointed questions. A CEO blog like the one Michael Parridge described therefore becomes a great internal communications tool. It is written entirely by the CEO and isn’t vetted by HR or the lawyers. A scarey thought perhaps, but HR research usually points to open communications as a factor in a winning company and an internal CEO blog is really just a tool to that end. It is that chance to sit around the table. There are always things to be wary of and Marc Monseau of Johnson and Johnson had a couple of thoughts that my experience would say should be at the top of the list if your company is considering a blog.

  •  Be prepared for a lack of control.
  •  Be prepared for criticism.

Once you’ve thought it through, laid the ground rules, and braced yourself for a big corporate change I agree with the final thoughts from all the panelists. Just do it.