WisBusiness: State sending large delegation to BIO 2008

By Brian E. Clark

The Badger State will send around 120 people and spend at least $250,000 to show off Wisconsin’s biotech prowess during this year’s BIO 2008 International Convention, which runs from June 17-20 in San Diego.

More than 55 companies, plus UW-Madison and other entities will be represented at the 1,600-square-foot Wisconsin Pavilion. Gov. Jim Doyle will lead the delegation and introduce famed biotech venture capitalist and UW grad Steven Burrill when he speaks at the pavilion on June 17.

In addition, the governor will host a private reception for heavy hitters on June 18 at the swank Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel in San Diego.

This is the third year in a row that the state has had a major presence at BIO. The state unveiled its pavilion in Chicago in 2005, when more than 60 companies participated. Wisconsin also took the pavilion to Boston for last year’s gathering. Each time, the state spent $250,000 to promote itself.

Doug Bradley, a spokesman for UW-Madison’s Office of Corporate Relations, said it’s important for Wisconsin to make some noise at the conference.

“This is Main Street for biotech in the world and if you don’t have a store on Main Street, you won’t get any business,” he said. “We recognize that this is a critical opportunity for us to promote our science and innovation and the strengths of the university.”

Bradley said the pavilion provides a cozy place for researchers and executives to stop by and chat.

“Our door is open to scientists and industry to let them know they are welcome in Madison and Wisconsin,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity to recruit faculty and graduate students. We are definitely a player at BIO and it’s very important to be there so we can tell our story to an audience that is crucial to our future success.”

Jim Leonhart, executive director of the Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association, said BIO will attract 20,000 scientists and business people this year.

“The is ‘the’ place to make connections,” he said. “We set up partnering sessions and some of the participating companies will have 20 to 30 meetings with investors and potential partners from around the nation and globe.

“Our participation in BIO has really lifted the profile of the state over the past few years,” he said. “It is money very well invested and we’ve gotten better at how we spend it.”

Jan Alf, director of Forward Wisconsin – which is coordinating the state’s BIO effort – said the companies she has recruited to attend the convention are eager to participate.

“This is an exciting event,” she said.

Some of the biotech firms that will be making presentations at the pavilion include Eragen, InViragen, Planet LLC, InviraGen, Flugen, CDI Bioscience, SciLog, Invivosciences, Covance, Neoclone, Cell Line Genetics, High Throughput Genomics and Centrose. Representatives of WARF and WiCell will also speak.

WisBusiness will cover the convention with blogs from Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council, Ryann Petit-Frere and Mike Flaherty.