Last month, the BioKansas team traveled to San Diego for the BIO2017, one of the largest gatherings of biotechnology and pharmaceutical professionals in the world. This year, the convention hosted more than 16,000 attendees from more than 70 countries. In the past, BioKansas has taken large delegations to the event, hosted two story pavilions and brought in local and national celebrities as guests and guest speakers. While our presence over the past three years has been dramatically toned down, the connections we make and the impacts we make continue to be significant.
One of the most amazing things to happen to the Kansas delegation at BIO2017 was that Erin Smith, our Kansas BioGENEius from Shawnee Mission West, won the International BioGENEius Challenge. We’ve enjoyed having Erin as a consistent presence in the Kansas BioGENEius competition over the past three years: she was runner up as a freshman and won here sophomore and junior years. Her project this year, titled “A Novel, Telemedicine Diagnostic Tool for Parkinson's Disease: The Use of Digital Action Units Generated by Spontaneous and Posed Facial Expressions”, involves the use of facial recognition software and algorithms to diagnose Parkinson’s Disease using facial metrics that Erin identified and measured. Erin winning the International Competition is truly amazing and a testament to the strength of high school research in the Shawnee Mission School District, in Kansas City and across the region. Erin is continuing to do amazing things; she is currently in Boston attending a six week summer program at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT). We can't wait to see the things Erin accomplishes and the mark she leaves on this world!
We also enjoyed putting on an informal BioKansas reception at a touristy spot in San Diego called Kansas City BBQ. While the connection to Kansas City is noticeable from the name alone (the owners, Martin & Cindy Blair, are KC transplants), Kansas City BBQ is also famous for being the filming location of the bar scenes in the movie Top Gun (You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin!). The Kansas delegation enjoyed some good BBQ, great conversation and a nice tour of the bar and all of the Kansas memorabilia.
While at BIO, we also heard many updates on some of the most pressing legislative topics relevant to our industry, including biosimilars (passed in MO in 2016 and KS in 2017), healthcare, drug pricing, FDARA (FDA Reauthorization Act), MDUFA/PDUFA (Medical device/pharmaceutical drug user fee agreements) and others. While BioKansas is a 501(c)(3) and is limited in what we can do in regards to advocacy, awareness of these topics and issues is an important piece of what we do for our membership.
Here were a few other highlights from the trip:
· Shane Schaeffer, CEO of Cingulate Therapeutics, presenting Cingulate’s ADHD products during the company presentations. Cingulate is focused on the development of new products for the treatment of central nervous system and neurobiological disorders.
· Joshua Sestak, President & CSO of Orion Bioscience, presenting during the Startup Stadium on Orion’s Soluble Antigen Arrays (SAgAs) technology. Orion is focused on the development of technologies capable of treating a wide range of autoimmune diseases.
· David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, taking part in a candid discussion with Jim Greenwood, President of BIO, on topics ranging from healthcare to Brexit to Trump.
· Dinner & Drinks at Half Door Brewing Company – What a great little gem with a large selection of some really awesome beers! Check out this spot right in the middle of San Diego next time you’re out there!
President & CEO
Every conference I’ve been to has had the same feeling, you go to your sessions and wait until they’re done to go explore the city that you’re in. It never fails – 90% of the reason you go to these things is to try new foods and see new places. Yet the 2017 BIO Convention was not one of those conferences, even with it being held in San Diego.
The first thing I noticed during the Council of State BIO Affiliates (CSBA) was how many attendees had come back time and time again, some of them over 20 times! And they exuded the same energy that the first timers came with. The second thing I noticed was how broad the reach of BIO is. Not only are there visitors from all over America, but from all corners of the world. Which I took note of again when I had to navigate through a Taiwanese reception just to get to the bathroom. I also realized that human health, animal health, and the planet’s health are all in good hands. We have some very intelligent and talented students ready to take the reins in the near future, especially highlighted by Shawnee Mission West’s Erin Smith, the Kansas BioGENEius and winner of the 2017 International BioGENEius Challenge.
This convention really is something to behold, not just because of the size and scale, but what happens between the attendees. Some are there purely to meet others and grow their individual networks. But so many more are there to discover new technologies, new methods of everyday practices, and new ways to impact the life sciences. It gave me the ability to see some of our member companies in a new light, to watch them interact and show other companies what they’re working on. It was refreshing to see so many people developing new approaches to problems that have plagued humanity, the planet, and even our businesses for so long.
So while you may not need to attend 20 times, I can guarantee that you will get value every time you attend the BIO Convention. You will meet so many great people from every corner of the world, it will give you motivation and a new sense of why we are all here and why what we do is so important. Like I said, this is no ordinary convention. There’s amazing people, incredible technologies, and dynamic conversations going on 24/7. And, of course, don’t forget the food!
Manager, Events & Marketing