By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
SAN DIEGO — Every one of the almost 20,000 people who came to the world’s largest biotechnology industry trade show here this week has a story to tell.
When the 2017 BIO exhibition hall opened on Tuesday, more than 40 Oklahomans discussed the possibilities of drug development in the Sooner state with visitors to the OKBIO booth.
Some told their stories in one-on-one meetings scheduled throughout the day. Others chatted up visitors about Oklahoma’s life sciences industry to the OKBio pavilion on the floor of the San Diego Convention Center.
And then there was Cortes Williams, a postdoctoral Fellow with the Office of Technology Development (OTD) at the University of Oklahoma.
One of three OTD Fellows at the show, Williams had the opportunity to tell a larger audience about the company he founded called NextGen Medical. Williams made the pitch in new presentation space in the Oklahoma pavilion.
Williams engaged the audience for about 25 minutes, making his “investor pitch” and then answering a few questions. NextGen Medical has developed an innovative way to help medical professionals assess the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
“We can take cells from a patient, put them on our material and actually grow them in the lab,” Williams said. “Then you can do the drug testing in the lab and gain some insight into what therapies may or may not work for the patient.”
The presentation space was booked throughout the show with about a dozen other Oklahomans who also will tell their stories to BIO audiences.
Manu Nair, vice president of technology ventures for the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), took a slightly different approach to sharing his story with the BIO world. Nair set meetings throughout the three days of the show with researchers and companies to explore partnering and investment.
Those connections could help bring out-of-state revenue into Oklahoma, as well as help OMRF and the state become known as a key life science research center, he said.
“I have to be out here telling the story on a continuous basis to be in the sight and minds of the biotech community,” he said. “My goal from Day One is to be an ambassador for OMRF and Oklahoma to the rest of world, to tell the story that we are here and have the capabilities and world-recognized research institutions.”
Of course, the $650 million acquisition last year of Oklahoma City-based Selexys Pharmaceuticals has given all the Oklahomans at the BIO show a stunning success story to share with the world.
Selexys developed an Oklahoma-created therapeutic to relieve pain crisis in sickle cell disease patients, then proved its effectiveness in a successful Phase 2 clinical trial. That triggered the acquisition by industry giant Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
The Selexys story was told in a full-page ad published by the Oklahoma Bioscience Association in the BIO Buzz, the official daily publication of the BIO show. The ad said, in part:
“In Oklahoma, we talk a lot about the power of partnership. But it is more than talk as partnerships are leading to big-time results in biosciences for the Sooner State. Take Oklahoma City-based Selexys, who took advantage of resources and funding provided by Oklahoma entities such as OCAST and i2E to further their research into sickle cell disease. Late last year, Selexys was acquired for $650 million.”