SAN DIEGO, California – An Alabama delegation comprised of biotechnology companies, research organizations and economic developers showcased the state’s capabilities at the 2014 BIO International Convention as part of an effort to create opportunities and expand the sector.
Over three days at the global trade show, the Alabama team, led by the state Department of Commerce, participated in rounds of meetings with potential biotech partners and prospects, staged presentations and worked to expand relationships within the industry.
Art Tipton, chief executive officer of Birmingham’s Southern Research Institute, said the BIO conference represents the best way to connect with potential business partners for his organization’s robust drug discovery activities. Southern Research also used this year’s conference to publicly launch its new pharmaceutical consulting business segment.
“Dr. Mark Suto, our VP of Drug Discovery, and I will fly back to Alabama on Friday with likely more than a hundred business cards and significant follow-up activities to look forward to,” Tipton said. “We hope to turn some of those into strong relationships in the months and years to come.”
Tipton added that participating in BIO is “important both for individual companies and the state.”
Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said the state’s lead economic development agency has made a concerted effort to recruit new investment in biosciences, retain existing growth companies and raise the state’s profile in the international industry.
“We are committed to pursuing growth in this sector and have made biosciences one of the key target industries in Accelerate Alabama, the state’s strategic economic development plan,” Canfield said. “We already have pronounced strengths in this field, as well as exceptional research organizations and cutting-edge companies. It’s a natural growth sector for us.”
MEETINGS AT BIO
Joseph Burchfield, a project manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, has participated in more than 20 meetings while at BIO, often in concert with state allies. Burchfield met with prospects as well as companies with existing Alabama operations such as Linde and Evonik, and he held conservations with international delegations at the conference. (This month, Evonik announced plans to open a global innovation center in Birmingham.)
Thursday morning, Burchfield joined Steven Ceulemans, vice president of innovation and technology at the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), in talks with a representative from the Belgian biosciences delegation at the conference. The Department of Commerce plans to hold a biotech-focused trade mission to Belgium and The Netherlands in the fall. (The Department staged a similar mission to Norway and Sweden last year.)
Alabama is deeply involved in bioscience activities.
According to a Battelle/BIO report, bioscience industry employment in Alabama approached 13,000 in 2012, at 662 businesses and organizations. The state has a particularly strong focus in bioscience-related academic research and development expenditures relative to other fields. And since 2009, Alabama bioscience firms have received $94 million in venture capital funding, mostly in health care information technology and software, and medical diagnostics.
“Alabama has tremendous resources for life science industry recruitment and HudsonAlpha is pleased that our expertise in genomics adds value to the state’s message,” said Carter Wells, vice president of economic development for Huntsville’s HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, who is attending the conference.
“HudsonAlpha’s innovation through collaboration is appealing to many of the companies and organizations attending BIO,” he added. “Many of HudsonAlpha’s associate companies are here as well and they have been well received by companies from around the world.”
Other Alabama-based organizations joining Commerce, the BBA and HudsonAlpha at BIO are the UAB Research Foundation, and Andalusia-based PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, a utility with a strong economic development focus. Alabama companies at the show include CFD Research Corp., Atherotech, iCubate Inc., Bio Dtech Inc., Soluble Therapeutics and Serina Therapeutics Inc.
Dr. Randall Moreadith, president and CEO of Serina Therapeutics, said participating in BIO as part of the Alabama delegation has been fruitful for his Huntsville firm, which is developing new treatments for serious diseases.
“Our lead program in Parkinson’s Disease, and our platform in cancer, have been enthusiastically received by the pharma companies here at BIO,” Moreadith said. “Thanks go to Governor (Robert) Bentley and Secretary Canfield for their focus in growing the life sciences in Alabama.”
The BIO conference, staged by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, is one of the most diverse exhibitions for any industry. This year’s meeting attracted 1,700 exhibitors, including top pharmaceutical companies, research organizations and academic institutions. More than 15,000 individual representatives attended the conference, and BIO said 28,000 meetings were scheduled over the three days.