By Jim Stafford
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
CHICAGO — At times this week, the OKBio exhibition booth here at the 2013 BIO International Convention has resembled a congested, high-traffic corridor in which people flow in and out every half-hour.
Welcome to speed dating at the BIO show.
The OKBio foot traffic has been generated by formal partnering sessions at the BIO show in which two potential suitors meet each other in 30-minute get-to-know-you sessions.
It might be a large biopharma company meeting with a university armed with new technologies or a small Oklahoma company greeting potential investors.
BIO speed dating formerly was carried out in an area off the exhibition floor. But a couple of years ago, it was opened up to exhibitors in their own meeting space.
For OKBio organizers, that meant expanding its booth to 2,000 square feet and adding three formal meeting rooms plus impromptu space around the perimeter. The result has been easy to chart this week as the Oklahoma delegation takes advantage of the space with one meeting after another.
“We deeply value what OKBio does because it gives us a forum to meet commercial partners with specific target technologies where we think a commercial opportunity exists,” said James H. Bratton, assistant vice president for Economic Development at the University of Oklahoma.
Bratton, along with Gina McMillen, University of Oklahoma’s director of technology development, conducted four partnering meetings in the space on Monday and three more Tuesday.
“It’s great for us because it associates us with Oklahoma and OKBio,” Bratton said.
“It allows us when we have a meeting with a company to say, ‘we don’t do that, but someone from Oklahoma does. Let us go find them for you.’ We can facilitate that with our Oklahoma partners here.”
While OU was jumping in and out of meeting rooms, others were meeting simultaneously in adjacent rooms or waiting outside for their next meeting.
Mike Moradi, CEO of Oklahoma City’s Sensulin LLC, has scheduled 20 meetings over the course of the BIO show.
Moradi and Sensulin adviser John Frick have met with a variety of potential partners, from large biopharma companies to nonprofits like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
By meeting in OKBio booth space, Sensulin doesn’t have to pay an extra fee to enter the show’s formal partnering area, Moradi said.
“The best part about it is, as a small company you have to limit the funds available to you,” he said. “If John and I had come to this two years ago, we would have spent $3,000 apiece.”
Among the most prolific speed daters at the Oklahoma booth this week have been representatives from Austin, Texas-based Emergent Technologies, a major investor in six Oklahoma life science companies.
Emergent executives affiliated with the Oklahoma companies constantly shuffled in and out of the meeting rooms.
“Everything Oklahoma has done with this booth is really helpful for us,” said Glenn Nedwin, CEO of Caisson Biotech, an Oklahoma City-based Emergent Technologies portfolio company.
“It’s one less thing we don’t have to worry about — just focus on the business.”
Added Breca Tracy, Caisson Biotech’s managing director for Emergent Technologies: “It’s nice to have them all in one location. People come by, it’s easy to see where the booth is. We are all set up and ready to go, so it makes it very convenient.”