San Francisco Business Times: San Francisco prepares to host world’s premier biotech gathering

Jun 15, 2015
By Ron Leuty, San Francisco Business Times

Sara Radcliffe, CEO of the California Life Sciences Association: ‘We will work our hardest to make the San Francisco convention the best ever.’ Photo Credit: Todd Johnson/San Francisco Business Times

Spies will infiltrate the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual convention in Philadelphia — and organizers of the industry’s annual deal-fest/party are OK with that.

Leaders of the committee hosting next year’s BIO convention in San Francisco will zero in on the best of this year’s convention, which started Monday in a sunny, hot and humid Philadelphia. At the same time, they are sketching out activities unique to California and the Bay Area.

If nothing else, the convention offers a chance for the host to showcase its region. During the Philadelphia convention, for example, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development is sponsoring a tour at Penn State University that includes a meeting with the university’s president.

Tours of Mission Bay, incubators and accelerators and various companies that are willing to open their doors are in the works for the Bay Area convention, said Sara Radcliffe, president and CEO of the California Life Sciences Association.

Among other plans and half-baked ideas still in the oven, Radcliffe said: a particular focus on digital health, where the Bay Area’s tech and biotech scenes converge, and how the region fosters startups.

“That’s an opportunity to highlight our ‘secret sauce,'” said Lori Lindburg, executive director of the BayBio Institute.

Those activities would give attendees a different impression of the Bay Area than they received in 2004, the last time BIO held the convention here. Protestors pelted some attendees with tomatoes in a protest over genetically modified organisms and genetically modified foods.

Lots has changed in the intervening years on the issue of GMOs, San Francisco’s ability to host the convention — Moscone Center will be in the throes of an expansion — and the BIO convention schedule.

Since a low of 14,000 attendees at the Atlanta convention in 2009 — the height of the economic downturn that ravaged the environment for life sciences investments — the convention has fought to rebuild attendance. Next year’s gathering is part of a new schedule that rotates the convention between San Francisco, San Diego (2017) and Boston (2018) and a fourth city, such as Chicago and two or three other cities.

Roughly a quarter of the convention’s attendance comes from the host region.

“We will work our hardest to make the San Francisco convention the best ever,” Radcliffe said.

Read the article at the San Francisco Business Times.