The Smell of Politics is in the Air: Biotech and Political Conventions

Well this weekend is labor day and Fall is right around the corner and it’s high season for politics. This weekend the Democrats are in Denver nominating their candidate, Barack Obama and next week the Republicans will be in Minneapolis nominating John McCain.

Some of my colleagues from BIO are in Denver this week, checking out the convention. Josh Boger, Chairman of BIO and President & CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals was even interviewed by BlogHer. Watch the interview.

Why is BIO at the Democratic National Convention you may ask? To sum it up in one word — education. BIO goes to educate public officials at all levels, as well as candidates about the importance of creating policies that promote biotechnology innovation so that we can address the challenges facing our nation in health care, energy security and fuel prices, global food supply, and global warming & environmental sustainability.

BIO will not endorse either candidate and we will go to BOTH conventions, so look for us at the Republican National Convention next week.

For more info on biotechnology, be sure to check out our YouTube channel.

BIO’s Daryl Pritchard on the Group Room

BIO’s Daryl Pritchard talks about oncology and personalized medicine at the BIO Internation Convention.

The Group Room, a cancer talk radio show.

Listen to the show:

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  • Philippe Bishop, MD
    Vice President, Clinical Development, Oncology, Genentech BioOncology
  • Daryl E. Pritchard, PhD
    Director, Research Programs Advocacy, Biotechnology Industry Organization
  • Susan Samson, MA, MPH
    Research Advocate/Policy Strategist, Science Advocacy, UCSF Breast SPORE Advocacy Core

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.

AR Post: Colorado @ BIO2008

Anchors away! An incredible party was had on the flight deck of the USS Midway, filled with a big 15 piece Big Band and World War II South Pacific theme complete with Polynesian dancers, palm trees, delightful island fare, marina breeze, plenty to drink and punctuated with a full moon and a tingling fireworks display, all I am left to say is wow, bravo BIO! At one point I was expecting Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra to come saunter out on to the stage.

It was another early start this morning for a 7:30am breakfast courtesy of the Colorado Bioscience Association and the Colorado Office for Economic Development and International Trade and featured Governor Bill Ritter.

The breakfast discourse was inspiring as Governor Ritter emphasized the core value that the Colorado life science industry in pursuing; simply to improve the human condition.

Briefly a few of his highlighted elements included:

For a more in-depth look and understanding of the new Colorado Science + Technology Park @ Fitzsimons being lead by the premiere bio park developers in the world, Forest City Enterprises, take a look at the following video:

Colorado Puts Money Into Biosciences

Joining Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle in announcing initiatives for biosciences and stem cell research, a Colorada Governor Bill Ritter gave a talk today on Colorado’s growing biotech and bioscience economic sector, representing over 400 bioscience companies in the state.

Gov. Ritter just signed a bill putting $26.5 million investment in the industry through the new Colorado Bioscience Discoveries Grant Program.  Gov. Ritter noted that private research is increasing and that venture capital funding is improving.

When asked about the outlook for bioscience research funding, Gov. Ritter said that the change in administration will most certainly bring a change in the mindset within the government.  He felt both candidates would support increased research and noted that Sen. Barack Obama has a belief in biotech as a 21st century economy. 

The Governor said that there will not only be additional research funding with a change in the administration but that he also foresees a different mindset at the FDA, which will lead to increased efficiencies in the drug approval process.

Opportunities Abound

Attendees awoke to the news this morning about GlaxoSmithKline’s announcement that it will pay millions — $720 million to be exact — for Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. This is the stuff biotech CEOs dream about. And it was the buzz at many breakfast tables at this morning’s workshop, “Antibiotics: Bad Bugs – Few Drugs.”

The BNVC meeting, of course, is all about making the right connections in the industry between investors and early-stage companies which, in turn, will hopefully lead to the next “blockbuster” or merger. According to this morning’s panelists, antibiotics represent a huge opportunity in the industry.

There is a growing unmet medical need for new drugs due to the rapidly increasing resistance to antibiotics, noted moderator Praveen Tipirneni, MD, vice president of business development for Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Inc.From an investor’s standpoint, this means enormous market opportunity, which is why BIO holds conferences such as this.

BIO National Venture Conference Off to a Strong Start

While the economy may not be as robust as it has in recent years, there certainly was no sign of that at today’s Opening Luncheon. Jim Greenwood, our President & CEO welcomed attendees to the inaugural BIO National Venture Conference and cited these impressive stats:

  • 140 top-level (VP and higher) venture capitalists – including 4 international investors – representing 90 firms from 16 states
  •  61 companies from 13 states and 2 countries
  • 41 company presentations
  • 125 one-on-one meetings to date

The state with the most representation, not surprisingly, is Massachusetts. After all, we are in Boston. But coming in at a close number two: California (where we’ll be in a couple of months!)

All in all, not bad for a first time event! And when you factor in that spring is typically a busy time of the year in the industry with multiple events competing for people’s time and attention, it’s clear that many see the enormous value in this event.