WisBusiness: Badgers hit Boston for BIO 2007 conference
By Brian E. Clark
When BIO 2006 was held in Chicago last April, it was no great surprise that Wisconsin’s commercial and academic biotech community wanted to have a major presence at the international conference. It was, in a global sense, just down the road.
And while there will be some drop in attendance at this year's BIO gathering in Boston, the Badger State again will be putting on a good show, officials say. The conference starts Sunday and will run through Thursday.
Last year, Wisconsin spent more than $270,000 -- triple its investment from the 2005 conference in Philadelphia -- to tout its research and business prowess. This time around, the total budget is around $250,000, officials said. But the state did not have the cost of a building a new pavilion this year.
“I believe Chicago was a big success for our state – on both the research and business side,” said Charlie Hoslet, managing director of the UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations.
“And that’s one of the reasons why we are investing a lot in the Boston gathering,” said Hoslet. Like last year, the university will again have 400 square feet of the state’s 1,600-square-foot pavilion. He said the university will spend between $55,000 and $60,000 this year to tell its story.
“It makes sense to continue to effort, even though it is on the East Coast,” said Hoslet. “This is all about making connections and this conference is the largest biotech gathering in the world each year.
“It is a terrific opportunity to meet with companies and researchers to talk about what is going on,” he said. “From a business development perspective, there is no better place.”
Gov. Jim Doyle, UW-Madison avian flu researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka and UW regent Tom Loftus will speak at the pavilion. In addition, Wisconsin will host a reception at the Boston Harbor Hotel. And, like last year, a Trek bicycle will be given away at the pavilion. In Chicago, more than 3,000 people entered the bike raffle.
Nearly 200 of the state’s biotech leaders have indicated they will attend BIO 2007 and 19 companies will deliver talks at the Wisconsin pavilion, up from around a dozen last year, said Jim Leonhart, executive director of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association.
While the 200 figure is a drop from 250 Wisconsinites who went to the Chicago BIO last year, Leonhart said it is still an impressive number.
“I think a lot of people drove down for a day or two last year,” said Leonhart, who noted that Wisconsin has 330 biotech and 170 medical device companies – an increase of 7 percent from last year.
“People from all over the world are asking about our companies,” Leonhart said. “It’s important to be there and we’ll have a mix of big firms, like GE Health Care, and a number of small firms, too.”
Leonhart said he is especially pleased that Doyle will again attend the conference. “It says a lot when the governor of your state makes and appearance to endorse your industry,” he said.
Jan Alf, interim president of Forward Wisconsin, said she was able to recruit more companies to sponsor the Badger State’s effort this year. There will be 60 sponsors this time around, an increase of 10 percent over last year. Each one is ponying up from $1,500 to $10,000 to promote itself at the pavilion.
“We thought there might be fewer companies that would want to sponsor the pavilion, but that hasn’t been the case,” she said. “Companies want to get their names out there.”
Trevor Twose, CEO of the Madison drug discovery firm Mithridion, said he will attend BIO and also make a presentation at the Wisconsin pavilion.
“This conference attracts people from every corner of the world,” said Twose, whose company is developing a drug to treat Alzheimer’s.
“It’s a one-stop place to meet all sorts of people and network,” he said. “In addition, there are a lot of interesting workshops with discussions on new scientific discoveries, regulations and financing issues.
“It’s a way to benchmark yourself,” he said. “We’re a small company, but I wouldn’t miss it.”
Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, said he, too, will attend the gathering. In addition to Boston being a major research hotbed, he said it is one of the U.S. centers for venture capital.
“Boston is a great place for Wisconsin to show its best side for what we are doing with biotech,” he said.
“And Boston has a disproportionate amount of VC firms, about 10 to 15 percent of the total in this country, second to California. It’s a place where the right people can see what’s happening and possibly forge partnerships. We’ll have to see.”