Archive for June, 2009

It was the final night of a long conference: all looked drained, every business lead seemingly exhausted…. then the music started!

This was my second time attending the Biotechnology International Organization (BIO) annual meeting. BIO ”represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.”  This year’s meeting held in Atlanta gathered over 14,000 registered participants, including scientists, technologists, business people, lawyers, regulators, lobbyists, media, etc.

BIO seems to be mainly a giant biotech business networking event, indeed it is very useful especially in today’s environment where collaborations and partnerships are essential. Business “match-making” in many shapes and forms occurred, from a separate extra-fee event dedicated to company partnering to “speed-networking”, and making individual contacts during the sessions, exhibits and the many social events. A special emphasis this year was on collaborative efforts between academia and industry, and on international collaborations presented in parallel tracks that included examination of business, legal, regulatory, and cultural differences. A track highlighting “Exciting science”, included sessions on stem cells, nanotechnology, diagnostics, and new biofuels. Current efforts along these lines and emerging technologies springing from local universities, especially from the Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech”), were well represented.

While San Diego, the site of last year’s event, is a difficult act to follow, the organizing committee for Atlanta put on a good show. Sir Elton John, one of the most famous and loved (adopted) Atlantans, spoke in front of thousands gathered at a keynote luncheon on behalf of his AIDS foundation. Atlanta’s weather was crisp (!) and its local music scene, benefiting from a rather strong tradition, boosted an energetic engagement of participants during a couple of events featuring the B52s (likely in their 50s’ but very much still able to bring down the house), and a local rock and roll/hip hop band, complete with a Bono look alike, at the “Tabernacle.”

Dance floor comes to life with BIO dancers unified by music

Dance floor comes to life with BIO dancers unified by music

The “good bye party,” was far from a tired, sappy “farewell till next year” (in Chicago) type of event. In fact, it was fascinating to watch the unexpected unleashing of human energy on the dance floor. Young and old, scientists and sales people, entry level and executives, now shedding their regular day skin (suits and ties), emerged as friends on the dance floor. The infectious effect of the dance music rhythm and maybe the conscious release of guarded behavior, due to being beyond what was perceived as the end of the conference, revealed the true selves. People became naturally drawn to other like-minded… dancers. Before long, the last remaining business cards were exchanged, and many napkins had to be used for contact info, as many had not anticipated the need to bring more cards. Such business contacts made when everyone’s guard was down were seemingly based solely on the natural associations between individuals sharing similar style/preferences, without prior knowledge of their area or level of expertise. I am wondering if these personality-driven connections will spark new business endeavors that would have not happen through regular business channels.

Oh, and besides dancing, this year I also organized and chaired an interactive session dedicated to examining current barriers to innovation in the life sciences, “Fast Forwarding Life Science Innovation: What Works, What doesn’t, Where Do We Go From Here?”  We gathered many great insights from the panel and audience which I will report on in future posts.

p.s. As I was about to post this, an email hit my inbox. Pam, a fellow BIO dancer (!) with whom we exchanged cards at the Tabernacle, is telling me how much she enjoyed learning about my business ideas while moving together to the music and is offering me a “blank check” for any collaborative proposal I may come up… Let the music play!

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