2008 BIO comes to a close

Well, as the BIO 2008 International Convention draws to a close we can say that this has been one of the best shows ever. We ended up with 20,108 industry leaders from 70 different countries and 48 states.

The full Convention program included four full days with 175 breakout sessions, 21 educational tracks, more than 1,000 speakers, three keynote sessions, six Super Sessions and three CEO Forum sessions.

And that wasn’t all, more than 6,000 business leaders met at the convention and participated in the Business Forum. More than 14,500 one-on-one partnering meetings were held – a new record – and a total of 1,500 companies participated in the Business Forum.

Then, as you read here on Bio On The Road, The all-star keynote line up included Gen. Colin L. Powell, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), and J. Craig Venter, PhD. In addition, Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA); Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) discussed healthcare in an election year with moderator Neil Cavuto, Anchor & Managing Editor of Fox News Channel.

In addition, many high-profile VIPs attended the Convention with 10 governors and numerous international public officials, including The Hon. Lino Baranao, Minister of Science, Technology & Production Innovation, Argentina; Sen The Hon. Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science & Research, Australia; The Honourable Dr. Ewa Bjorling, Minister for Trade, Sweden, among many others.

The convention featured the largest gathering of biotech exhibitors in history, with more than 2,100 companies, 126 of which were new, and more than 208,000 sq. feet of exhibition space, the largest ever at the convention. The exhibition included more than 60 domestic, country and regional pavilions representing every aspect of the biotechnology industry.

For more information, you can read the full press release here.

To summarize, we hope you had a great time, learned a lot, and found it to be a productive environment. And most important of all, we hope to see you in Atlanta in 2009.

All the best, The BIO Team.



Thank you

As this year’s convention draws to a close, we’d like to stop and take a moment and thank all the people that made our foray into social media a success.

Thanks to all the bloggers on BIO on the road, who reported their experiences as they happened. Thanks to the members of the BIO2008 Twitter group, who really gave us a feel for the convention, blow-by-blow. Finally, thanks to those of you who joined and participated in our group on facebook.

The really great thing about social media is that helps us to stay connected in the absence of face-to-face interactions, like we’ve had at the convention. And while there is nothing that can replace those meetings, the online world gives us the opportunity to continue our conversations 365 days a year, and on a global scale.

Having said that, we hope that you will connect with us year-round by visiting us on BIO.org or any of our sister sites and blogs.

We hope to see you soon online. And to everyone, thanks again.

—Susan Cato, Director Online Communications

—Nicole Ruediger, Editor, Bio.org

Science is your brand

Demand for greater transparancy from industry and scientists is a theme that’s been mentioned more than once this week. Today’s Scientific Communications Trends & Liabilities session provided a diverse panel of speakers, from open source publishers to Public Relations professionals. 

Natalie de Vane, VP of Public Relations for Wyeth Research reminded the audience that science is your brand, and that all stakeholders need to understand what you do as they will be the key to influencing your long term success. Interest in medicine and medical products is very strong and attracts a lot of media coverage and scrutiny. Remember media are a conduit to spreading your information to the public.

Science communication is not easy – it’s a complex topic, debates can be easily overblown and misunderstandings can be damaging. Reflecting what some other speakers have said, Ms de Vane warns that it’s hard to fix a problem once it’s happened – do everything you can to make your science easy to understand – and watch out for your competitor’s issues too as their troubles can affect you too (same class drugs being a particularly clear example). Her final advice? Be transparant in your communications and focus on the facts.

Globalization in Biotechnology, Ernst & Young report (cont)

As promised here is the post on globalization, one of the three major trends driving the biotechnology industry to reinvent itself, according to Ernst and Young 2008 biotechnology report. Pharma and biotech companies are taking advantage of the ‘flattenning world,’ as described by Colin Powel in his keynote speech, and jumping into the globalization trend in the hopes of finding new opportunities for cutting costs and for increasing profits by selling to underserved markets.

In order to cut costs but not production, many Western biotechnology and pharma companies are laying off domestic workers, but also hiring new workers in emerging markets due to their willingness to work for significantly lower salaries without compromising education and/or productivity levels. The convention’s panel on the EO 2008 global biotechnology report highlights this hiring practice as a temporary solution for cost cutting and for the need to expand globally, predicting that the workers from current emerging markets will eventually raise their salaries as competition for their work increases.

From the perspective of the current emerging markets, the new hiring trend is also only a temporary fix for their desire and need to grow internationally. As new markets continue to emerge competition within the emerging markets will increase. The West will have an ever-growing pool of highly trained employees willing to work for potentially even lower salaries, making a relationship based solely on this factor somewhat unsustainable. In an effort to forge more sustainable relationships, emerging markets are moving beyond offering ‘cheaper labor’ and large bodies of “clinically naïve patient populations” to “acquiring assets from, or allying with, western companies.” Ultimately, this will then challenge and increase competition for western markets. It is worth noting that being tempted by ‘clinically naïve patient populations,’ may not be the most ethical of temptations, particularly since one of the big challenges in pharmaceutical R&D is obtaining a quality informed consent. Balancing the need and desire for innovation and for respecting individuals and communities is a continuous challenge. Even NASA struggles with finding the balance between its drive for scientific advancement and its responsibilities to its employees and communities.

A more sustainable and obvious approach regarding globalization for the biotechnology industry, involves western markets seeing emerging markets not solely as opportunities for ‘cheaper labor’ but as emerging consumer-bases, according to the report. Since these emerging consumer bases cannot yet afford to pay western prices for products, the report suggests that western companies “work collaboratively with innovative companies in emerging markets to develop products designed specifically for local conditions.”

As you can see the convention was filled with information and inspiration for professionals from all niches within the biotechnology field, from the scientists to the executive and the salesmen to a bioethicist. It was wonderful to see Vertex Pharmaceuticals taking the lead in creating awareness of the ethical challenges facing the biotech industry and courageously attempting to meet those challenges, by sponsoring the convention’s bioethics track! Thank you to Navigant Consulting, CRT-Tanaka and Nicole Ruediger at BIO for making my participation possible. The experience was fantastic and I am already looking forward to next year’s convention!

Sponsored by:

Ernst & Young 2008 global biotechnology report “Beyond Borders”.

Ibid pg. 8

Day 3 observations

Had another great day at BIO yesterday.  I was particularly impressed with the lunch session.  Jim Greenwood painted a compelling picture of the power of biotechnology.  Colin Powell was impressive as well.  His leadership lessons a good reminder for all of us in the industry that people are following us and that we are out in front where the future is not certain, but that when we build relationship and trust with others, they will follow, but they won’t follow if we simply tell them to.

Spent a good chunk of the day on the exhibition floor, looking at some of the offerings of the companies that might be a fit for some of my clients.  I’ve noticed that over the years at BIO I take less stuff home every year.  Part of me is disturbed by the amount of paper that is consumed, the number of low value things with logos that you know will be trashed either before people get home or shortly after.  I’ve worked at taking a minimum of paper and other paraphernalia home, rather taking web links and business cards. I would encourage all the exhibitors to find sustainable ways to promote their products and services.

Don’t get me wrong, BIO is like going out for that once a  year dinner.  You know you ate and drank too much and it might be bad for you, but you’ve got the rest of the year to stick to your healthy lifestyle.  You also know that you should come back next year, because it is a conference that keeps on reinventing itself and pushing the boundaries of science and business.  

I’m on my way home this morning, exhausted, yet recharged and excited about the prospects for the industry. I look forward to BIO 2009!

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.