Bio 2006: so many options, so little time

April 10, 2006


After three years of preparation, BIO2006, the global biotech industry trade show, is at McCormick Place through Wednesday. "This convention will pump more than $40 million into the local economy, which is good news for the thousands of hard working people who make their living in the hospitality and convention industries," says Mayor Daley. "Biotechnology is destined to be one of the major growth industries in the 21st century, and Chicago and Illinois are major players."

Daley had the chutzpah and vision to go after the global biotech industry. When Atlanta tried to steal the show from Chicago, Daley stepped up and fought back. Gov. Blagojevich and his economic development point man, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Jack Lavin, anted up $1 million in state funding to assure BIO2006 arrived this week.

BIO2006 Co-chairman, Abbott Labs CEO Miles White, anchors the commercial side of the public/private partnership that brings the convention here.

Recalling Burnham

If BIO2006 ignites the local biotech industry, historians might someday compare the efforts of Daley, Blagojevich, Lavin and White with the visionaries behind the World's Columbian Exposition, the Century of Progress or even the Burnham plan.

At a minimum, the organizers seek to assure that Chicago is no longer a fly-over venue. They want industry leaders to recognize Chicago's prowess and potential in this growth industry.

Daley is particularly concerned that Chicago's school children be prepared for tomorrow's job opportunities. Abbott's White announced that his company will contribute $1 million to develop a life science program for After School Matters. Lavin announced the Blagojevich administration will provide $182,000 to train Chicago Public School teachers in biotechnology and to help prepare Illinois students for biotech jobs.

There's just one problem with BIO2006. There's so much to see.

There will be 1,700 exhibits and 255 academic presentations by the world's leading scientists in biotechnology. Keynote speakers include former President Bill Clinton, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, NBA Hall of Fame basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson, as well as Daley, Blagojevich, White and others.

Biotech scientists love humor, and they recruited comedian Bernie Mac as a featured speaker.

White will discuss how biotechnology contributes to solving big global challenges including fighting disease, hunger and environmental instability.

Blagojevich will be selling Illinois by noting the established players here, including Abbott, Baxter, Astellas Pharma and Takeda.

The real power of the convention is the cutting edge thought leadership presentations, and the one-on-one deal making sessions that take place.

Arch Venture Partners managing director Keith Crandell expects the week to be intense. "It's back-to-back meetings with contacts about every 40 minutes from 7 a.m. to midnight," Crandell says.

Insiders' agenda

What are the insiders looking to see?

World Business Chicago's Dan Lyne is looking forward to the BioGENEius Awards with Magic Johnson handing out honors to top high school students.

Ovation Pharmaceuticals Executive Chairman Bill Gantz says today's biotech industry over-view by Burrill & Co. CEO Steven Burrill is a "must see." Gantz also says Tuesday's session where top non-profits air their views on biotech, should not be missed.

IBio President David Miller says, "The Illinois Pavilion is the place to be." The pavilion showcases local biotech expertise and local culture. Miller rounded up the Jimmy Burns Blues Band, Goose Island beer and Chicago hot dogs at his Tuesday reception.

Abbott's Catherine Bryan plans to hear colleagues Stephen Fesik discuss cancer cures and Steven Seelig review innovative medical diagnostics.

Hill & Knowlton SVP Elizabeth Berglund will tune into Northwestern professor Chad Mirkin's talk about using chemistry, materials science and nanotechnology to find ways of detecting Alzheimer's and cancer.

U. of C. assistant vice president Robert Rosenberg says, "Size up the France, Korea, Florida and Michigan exhibits. The session on 'Feeding a Hungry World: Biotech's Moral Imperative' merits attention."

Should be quite a show in Sweet Home Chicago.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.


 ©2006 Marion Consulting Partners