Monday, May 28, 2007

BIO2008 San Diego or Bust!

Reflecting back upon my first BIO conference the experience bordered on overwhelming yet yielded a new understanding that this event is now to be filed under mandatory attendance for the coming years.

Overwhelming in the sense that there were simply not enough hours in the day to attend all of the seminars of interest, connect with all of the incredible people and spend time interacting with the thousands of exhibitors.

BIO2008 is queued up for San Diego; time management at the conference is a necessity and incorporating the myBIO planning software is a must, especially thanks to its user friendly interface. Be certain to block out 17-20 June 2008 in your calendar now.

I loved that BIO incorporated some web 2.0 tools like blogger and flickr and hope to see this trend continue next year. In particular it would be wonderful if each attendee had a public profile page posted ahead of the conference that would enable introduction & meeting requests. In short I envision an online social networking ecosystem along the lines of a MySpace environment yet with an architected interface that appropriately reflects specific aspects of the BIO industry. With a easily searchable social network relationships may be cultivated and developed throughout the year. myBIO could accomplish all of this with some slight modifications and additions.

Be certain to sign up for the BIO SmartBrief (here) for a daily briefing on top stories of the biotech industry.

Once again I would like to thank the organizers of BIO for the opportunity to participate in the inaugural BIOVoice blog and I hope the participation grows in the coming years. In addition, many many thanks to those entities that made my attendance possible:

Fitzsimons BioBusiness Incubator
Colorado Science + Technology Park @ Fitzsimons
Colorado Bioscience Association
University Colorado Technology Transfer Office

Finally, please follow my blogging throughout the year. You can locate me in the blogosphere at:


(Subscribe to my content here and here)

See you in San Diego for BIO2008!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Security Tight At BIO2007

As you can imagine, security was quite tight at the convention center during the BIO2007 conference. This was especially evident on Tuesday during the visit of Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan. Special Operations officers lined the walkways -- I would post a picture but they asked that I not photograph them.

Because of an over-abundance of caution and fear of activists, there were a half-dozen chemical-warfare specialists on hand with special equipment to detect anything from poison gas to biological weapons. There was even this armored vehicle parked nearby:

Despite the stepped up efforts, the security personnel were extremely friendly and every one that I met bent over backwards to answer questions or to help as necessary (they even had me sit on one of the police motorcycles for a photo op).

Overall, it was a quiet and uneventful time for security -- just the way everyone wanted it. Apparently, more officers should have been over at the Boston Pops!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Protesters Fear Unintended Consequences

On Tuesday late afternoon, a few lone protesters across the street from the Boston convention center caught my eye as they were holding up a large banner that read "Life Is Not Patentable." I really wanted to know why they were against biotech patents so I made my way over to their gathering and talked to a few of the protesters at length. I wanted to understand their point of view. What I found is that biotechnology patents are not their real concern.

Anne Fletcher, an ecologist from Ohio, is not a radical or uninformed. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree and made it very clear that they are not afraid of biotech because they do not understand biotech, they fear biotech because they do understand it. Their fear is of the unintended consequences we may face decades after the fact.

While the group indicated that they are concerned that crops are now manipulated genetically and then planted without fully knowing the consequences, Fletcher indicated that a main concern is the growing trend towards large-scale farming based on only a few select crop strains. While this is really not an issue specific to biotechnology, the industry does play a role in the decrease in biodiversity as farmers plant more acres of fewer strains.

Tom, a vegetarian who declined to give his last name, felt concerned about the fragility of our world's food supply and about the possibility of unintended consequences, pointing out the recent findings showing fewer insects and seeds to support wildlife with GM sugar beet and rapeseed. He felt that farmers have placed their trust in the hands of the biotech companies and must rely on them to act in a responsible manner.

According to genetic theory, the more uniform a crop is in genetic makeup the more easily it could be wiped out by disease. But, the non-GMO crops currently cultivated are not very diverse either and are already quite genetically similar. Also, unintended and unwanted consequences are not unique to GM plants. Nature manages to come up with a wide selection of new variations all by herself. Others would point out that humans have been genetically modifying our food crops through breeding methods to improve yield since the beginning of farming -- only the efficiency has changed.

Despite their banner, the group never really expressed a concern about patents. The take home message was that the industry must ensure adequate testing and safeguards. Biotechnology can be a great force across the planet helping farmers produce higher yields on less land and reducing the amount of harmful chemicals used by many traditional farmers. At the same time, with great power comes great responsibility -- to paraphrase the Spider-Man movie.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Partying on the Exhibitor Floor

The Exhibitor floor always feels like a party but on Tuesday, the festivities really kicked into gear as everyone loosened up and booths brought out their stashes of food and drink. The Australians and New Zealanders seemed to kick things off early with wine bars while the French brought out to die for desserts.

Music groups popped up in booths from Ontario and Korea but the group that really rocked the place was the band at the Puerto Rican pavilion. The island-flavored music was the perfect ending to a long day of standing and walking at the convention.

I stayed longer than I should have before moving to the the reception hosted by Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher. The Kentucky reception, held for the last four years at BIO, is said to be one of the nicest among the state receptions. The food and drink were terrific but even the bartender seemed surprised at the devotion to bourbon at the event. Everyone took home a silver mint julep cup to remember the evening, compliments of the Governor.

Tuesday Day 3: Groovin' Right Along...

I was intrigued by the title of this morning’s business development tract – Risky Business: Risk Reduced Models for the Biotech Industry – so I jumped ship from my finance focus and was not disappointed. What a lively and interesting dialogue by the CEO panelists (Steve Kelly – Innovive Pharma, Scott Cormack – OncoGeneX, Jay Lichter – Akesis Pharma and the very entertaining Rajesh Shrotriya – Spectrum Pharma) and moderator Robert More of Domain Associates.

Had an opportunity to speak briefly with Jack Wheeler founder of MicroPhage and new chair of the Colorado BioScience Association. Congratulations Jack!

Listened to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announce his plan to make Massachusetts the global leader in life sciences by unveiling a 10 year, $1 billion investment package, the Massachusetts Life Science Strategy.

I had been aching for some science therefore I jumped into the afternoon bench-to-products tract to listen to Vaccine Development: What We Don’t Know. Was very excited to see Alex Franzusoff, co-founder and VP of R&D of Colorado-based GlobeImmune.

My exclamation point on the day, rather than attending the social, was to take advantage of the beautiful weather and finally do the two mile Human Genome Trail. It did not disappoint.

Sights and Sounds:

The HypoSurface system is a visceral display medium - a huge billboard where the screen surface physically behaves like a precisely controlled liquid: waves, patterns, logos, even text emerge and fade within its surface.


Now here is a uniquely fantastic program…the Biomedical Enterprise Program is jointly administered by the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology and the MIT Sloan School of Management, it exposes students to an integrated curriculum focused on the complex process of product development and commercialization in the health care industry.

Today I met some great folks in the program, Julie Yoo, Brian Newkirk and Michael Magnani, also had a great talk with Traci Anderson in the HST academic office.

Colorado: And Action!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Monday Day 2: Legs Are Aching…

What an action packed day. I live, eat and breathe in the world of seed-stage start-ups via my work with the Fitzsimons BioBusiness Incubator. Achieving a first institutional round (i.e. VC, PE or IB) financing is what we are constantly striving for, thus I found myself immersed in the finance tract for the morning, first in Creative Financing Options for Development-Stage Companies then moved into New Funding Alternatives for the Biotech Industry. Two very interesting financing strategies came on my radar, the first Development Company model courtesy of Mark Kessel at Symphony Capital and then the Special Purpose Acquisition Corp. courtesy of Robert Easton of Easton Strategy.

It was off to lunch next where I stood in perhaps the longest line of my life, people numbered in the thousands, but time passed quickly as I met and spoke with David DeLucia, CEO of Hanover, NH based ImmuRx. The wait was worth it as we had the opportunity to listen to Senator Edward Kennedy and Michael J. Fox speak.

Following lunch I had an incredible networking session at the Biozona (Arizona) pavilion with the exceedingly intelligent Angela Lutich, director of the Snell & Wilmer bioscience group. Thank you Angela for your insight and assistance! Then it was off to check in at the Colorado pavilion, a meet and greet with my fellow BIO2007 bloggers and topped off the day with an incredible networking dinner at Legal Sea Foods in Kendall Square. A great day at BIO2007 indeed and looking forward to an early start tomorrow.

Sights and Sounds:

Stairway to Amgen...

What an oasis the press room has been. Thanx for the credentials Doug!

BIO2007 Exhibits in Full Swing

The BIO2007 Conference Exhibitor Hall has been jam-packed with events. With 1,900 exhibitors, 60 pavilions and 60 countries available to stop by and visit, it's difficult to meet with all those you want and to spend enough time visiting.

For readers of BioVoice, I'm passing on some insider information. The best chocolate can be found at the Switzerland pavilion. The best theme-based, game playing is the mini-curling at Saskatchewan. Best new trinket is at novo nordisk, offering some slick, colorful pedometers. Ireland even had a visit from Bono -- although my pictures are blurry*.

And forget about all the iPod give-aways. The best raffle prize is at the Scientist Magazine, which is offering a chance for a cool red Vespa. They're also handing out the premier issue of Biotech360, a quarterly magazine for leaders in the biotech industry, which asks the question "Can Biotech Save the Developing World?" A question for all of us, indeed.

(*Note: I'm just having some fun. I think it was just someone that looked like Bono. Of the two gentlemen at the Ireland booth, one believed it was Bono, the other thought it was a look-a-like. I can't offer any proof either way but somehow I image he would be followed around by cameras.)

Fox Outlines the Pharmaceutical Pipeline and the Need for New Treatments

In a session entitled "Driving the Development and Availability of Novel Therapies," Michael J. Fox gave a keynote address today about the need for new approaches to speed translation of investments in research and discovery into patient-relevant advances in human health.

He wants the industry to look for strategies and solutions to lower the risk to the high cost investment in novel therapeutics for the biotechnology industry and academia alike. Noting the need for more developments, he pointed out that he has been treated for the last 15 years with a drug that was developed 40 years ago.

Fox believes that in the $100 billion a year drug discovery pipeline, the need is not for more money but for re-purposing the money available. While joking that anti-depressants are available for his dog (and his dog is thankful), he noted that perhaps more groups could work together to define different standards for success. That is, better treatments for devastating diseases.

Fox noted that it's a high-stakes game and that companies need to be successful financially, too. He wants more investment in the early stages of development -- effectively bridging the funding gap left between the early-stage, fundamental research supported by the NIH and the vast amounts of money spent on clinical trials by the private sector -- so that more drugs can be developed with a lower risk to companies. A strategy to "de-risk" the drug pipeline.

Fox contends that more dollars earlier in the game will bring greater break-throughs in therapeutics, even if it doesn't increase profits for the industry. For his part, he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research for raising research funding for and awareness about Parkinson's disease. He is certainly a very powerful speaker and a motivating force as a spokesperson for change. It is impossible to hear his words without being moved to get involved.

Well, I Don't Get to Meet the Queen

After registering at the BIO2007 conference, I found out that I won't get to meet with Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan after all. Queen Noor has requested that no members of the media attend her keynote address tomorrow. She is an avid activist regarding issues of world peace and justice and will be giving a speech entitled "Biotechnology and Its Impact on Global Health." I would love to hear it.


It turns out that I don't get to see Michael J. Fox, either. After waiting in a massive crush of humanity to get into the ballroom, I made it to within about two dozen people when the hall was full. Looks like I'll be watching on video in the press room.

Where Are All The Protestors?

A big question asked by many attendees on the way into the conference today was "Where are all the protesters?" Blame it on lackluster youth or the fact that there are so many other bigger problems in the world but either way, the BIO2007 conference is proceeding on a very upbeat mood.

While protesters plan to hold seminars, rallies and parades during the conference through Wednesday, the number of actual protesters is reported as quite a bit "more modest” compared to 2000, when Boston hosted its last biotech convention when as many as 3,000 people marched down Boylston Street during one parade.

It seems that people have become more familiar with biotech as a whole and it is no longer as frightening as it once was from the sci-fi movies. While there was a protest Saturday at a rally opposed to a high-security, BSL-4 research laboratory now under construction at Boston University Medical Center, the majority are more concerned about animal rights -- an issue that concerns many industries -- rather than a protest against biotechnology itself.

The broader base of biotech as it touches most geographic areas in some way seems to have brought a more pragmatic understanding of the industry.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Sunday Day 1: Getting My Legs

Had a blast today. Got registered. (Thanx to Doug Schulz BIO2007 Web Team Director who had me upgraded to full media credentials and naturally thanx to the Colorado BioScience Association and the Fitzsimons Life Science District for the invite). Started out at the Media Brunch for a comparison of an insiders’ view of the industry v. the general public’s view (let me know if you would like to see the data) followed by a CEO panel. Then had my first one-on-one meeting with Petr Paucek, founder of P2Tech Corp..

Sights and Sounds:

Made my way to Harvard Square and observed a band play who had 15, yes fifteen lead vocalists. Gotta give’m credit for their novel approach…

And finally, you know you are in Cambridge when the bus stop adverts read like this:

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Off To The Races…

Arrived in Boston, well actually I am couch surfing in Cambridge. Could not be more excited to get going. Unfortunately the Cambridge BioBus and Human Genome Trail tour has been canceled. Disappointed about that but what can you do. Instead I will get registered and already have my first meeting slated for Sunday afternoon. If the timing works out I will try and do the Human Genome Trail myself, from Harvard Square to Central Square to Kendall Square. Ping me with an SMS @ 303.902.4413 if you are interested in joining me on this self guided tour Sunday afternoon.

While in town I plan to follow an IP trail from Colorado to Archemix. If you work there or have any contacts there may I trouble you for an intro? Thank you much! More on that later. Pushing 2:00am, need some shut-eye…

BioVoice: Blogging From Bean Town

I'm excited to be attending BIO2007 in Boston where I'll be participating as a blogger on-site via BioVoice. It'll be fun to see an up-to-the-minute review of some of the sites and sounds at the largest gathering of biotech professionals in the world with over 20,000 attendees, 1,900 exhibitors, 60 pavilions, 60 countries represented and 300 public officials. I'm looking forward to working with Jennifer and Adam in bringing another perspective on the event.

I'm also looking forward to meeting up with people I can only see at this event. No word, though, on whether or not I'll get to meet Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan when she delivers Tuesday's keynote address. If you have anything you'd like to bring attention to, track me down at the convention and let me know. Feel free to talk up your own exhibit or product, even if it's biotech fashion wear. While I'm not as techno-savvy as Adam and I don't know Twitter from -- well, Adam -- I will be connected by email on-site so feel free to shoot me a note on where to meet.

If you're heading to the show, let me know you're attending and we'll make time to meet on the Exhibitors floor over a cup o' joe. You can get my contact information through Patent Baristas or through MyBio, the on-line event planner for BIO2007. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing you in Bean Town.

Friday, May 4, 2007

The 2007 Bio convention promises to be a pulse check for the global biotech market. I am impressed by the diversity of included topics: from stem cell research according to scientists, lawyers and a Hollywood actor to an art exhibit highlighting drug safety. In solidarity and subsidiarity, solutions to social issues such as drug affordability will be discussed. For example Napo Pharmaceuticals will highlight their work for providing affordable therapies to developing nations and turning plant sources into pharmaceuticals. In commemoration of National Stroke Month (May), Neurobiological Technologies will discuss their stroke treatment derived from viper venom. CytImmune Sciences, one of only nine companies testing a nanomedicine in human trials, will discuss its cancer research. The HPV vaccine concerns will be addressed as well. I am most interested to attend the bioethics tracks on “Biotechnology’s responsibility for human rights” and “The globalization of stem cell research: Bioethical challenges."

Today’s Charles Darwin, E. O. Wilson, will be presenting an education award at a fundraiser Saturday night. His keynote speech is not to be missed.

Surely this will be a rich and bold event, in keeping with the spirit of bio pioneers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Already Impressed With BIO2007

With still a few days to go before BIO2007 officially kicks off I am already impressed with the convention. Naturally I am ecstatic that BIO2007 has embraced the blog and I have been asked to participate! I love all of the functionality that the MyBIO online interactive event planner offers, particularly the fact that I am able to port my schedule from the MyBIO site to Outlook and ultimately sync with my Blackberry 8700c. It will come in handy since all I will need to carry around at the conference is the device.

In particular I am looking forward to attending the finance and business development sessions, as many as possible. The plan is to work out of my home-base at the Colorado Pavilion (Booth 1483) where my friends and colleagues from fantastic organizations such as the Fitzsimons BioBusiness Incubator (yours truly), the Colorado BioScience Association, the Colorado Science + Technology Park @ Fitzsimons, the University of Colorado Technology Transfer Office, Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., National Jewish Medical & Research Center, Holmes Roberts & Owen, and Snell & Wilmer (who will also be represented at the Arizona Pavilion) will be stationed. If you would like to connect with me please stop by the Colorado Pavilion, shoot me an SMS @ 303.902.4413 or leave a comment here on the BIO Voice blog.

I am also going to experiment with incorporating Twitter while at BIO2007. It is a microblogging tool good for quick short updates. My good friend and mobile development genius Kevin Cawley has built Tiny Twitter, a java based tool that will allow me to “tweet” from the conference floor from my handheld device. Embedded on the siderail is the green box that will contain my most recent tweet-dates.

Finally, I plan to co-post at my home blog Colorado Life Science Deal Flow. So if you have something to say to the blogosphere track me down and let’s shout it out on BIO Voice.