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BIO – User’s Manual

I attended the 2008 BIO Annual convention, my first.  More than 20,000 registrants.  There were the usual plenary sessions with lots of wonderful, flowery, well-meaning platitudes and well-deserved awards.  The luncheons had the current governors of Massachusetts and California and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida (unabashedly representing John McCain), Colin Powell and other notables.  Governors touted their states’ accomplishments in biotechnology and made a pitch for companies to locate in their state.  Colin Powell talked about leadership (my favorite of Powell’s Rules: Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.)

The exhibit was vast – most U.S. states had an exhibit which often incorporated several key companies in their state.  Many countries has exhibits showcasing their biotech prowess.  A lot of money is spent on these exhibits.  I went to the Maryland exhibit to check out the prospect of opening up an office near FDA.  They had their economic development people  throwing out the red carpet.

Most important was the Forum.  In a vast room, there were maybe 1200 5×8 foot booths with black cloth drapes for a door, 4 chairs and a small table and wastebasket.  Each room was scheduled for 30 minutes (a horn signaled at 25 minutes).  The scheduling was done by computer – each party entered their company and availability information into the computer system.  Each party was expected to examine other parties and request a meeting with a proposed partner (B2B, financial, etc.).  The computer then matched the parties to a room and determined the times.  This is where I, a first-time attendee, made a mistake.  The computer match only runs at night.  So any request made during the day can only be fulfilled on the next days.  I didn’t figure this out until the second day which limited my meetings to the 3rd and 4th days.  Still, the meetings were useful.  Next year, I’ll request meetings before I go to the convention.  The Forums appear to be the best part of the show.

I wish they had a user’s manual.  Who reads them anyway.