State’s presence at international event provides opportunities for small, local companies.
By Scott Meacham
I recently attended my first Biotechnology Industry Organization annual convention.
BIO International is the world’s largest biotech gathering, and the scope and scale of this event was startling.
A lot of times we see the word “international” stuck into the name of something, and it doesn’t really mean “international.” That’s not the case with BIO. There were 15,000 attendees and a third of them were from outside the U.S.
Dozens of countries — Germany, Japan, China, India, and others — had pavilions as large as my first home in the exhibit hall.
There were more than 20 state and regional pavilions, too — among them California, Massachusetts, and New York — no surprise there.
But what might be less expected was the impact that Oklahoma had, as the only state from our region with a pavilion. The Oklahoma City Chamber takes the lead on underwriting this event in collaboration with OKBIO, and our state’s biotechnology community. The team did a remarkable job. Oklahoma stood out.
That presence at BIO is especially important for small companies in “flyover” states like ours because of what actually goes on at this event.
BIO isn’t like a trade show, where companies use their booths to sell their wares. Instead, small companies come to BIO to make contacts and make deals. Biotechnology is an industry driven by partnerships and acquisitions.
The meeting space in the Oklahoma BIO pavilion hosted more than 45 partnering meetings per day.
That’s the real value proposition. BIO provides a platform where Oklahoma’s small biotechnology companies can get noticed, make contacts, and build relationships that help them move toward commercialization.
For example, one of our small companies that is working on securing Small Business Innovation Research funds met with a large pharmaceutical company that agreed on the spot to write a letter of interest to accompany the SBIR grant application.
The challenge that we have in Oklahoma is that people outside our state — from other parts of the U.S. to other countries where biotechnology is big, just don’t realize what we are doing here.
They see the results of our technology on a national scale—consider Alexion Pharmaceuticals’ blockbuster drug, Soliris, based on a technology from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation — but they don’t make the connection that Oklahoma is a place where scientific breakthroughs like these occur.
BIO International allows us to spotlight the efforts of companies that make up OKBIO, putting them forward on the national and international map.
The people who met with the Oklahoma BIO delegation and with our state’s biotech start-ups walked away with a good understanding of the research institutions and commercialization support that is active in our state.
Our goal is to have them fly in, not over.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based start-up companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at [email protected].
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