BIO2006 could hit homer for local biotech

October 10, 2005


Chicago can come together. I'm not talking about Cubs fans and Sox fans living in harmony. Some things are impossible. I'm talking about biotech. Government, the private sector and academia are working together to transform this region into a biotech leader.

At a largely unnoticed meeting on Sept. 28, members of the steering committee of BIO2006 -- the industry trade show expected to attract more than 20,000 to Chicago April 9-12 -- held their first working session. If Chicago biotech is catalyzed by BIO2006 as observers expect, the Sept. 28 meeting will be looked upon as the day it began. I'm not saying we'll add another star to Chicago's flag, but this could be big.

"The event was a who's who of biotech," says World Business Chicago Executive Director Paul O'Connor, Chicago's point man on economic development. "The mayor's focus is on venture capital and the need to bring venture capital to the fore for biotechnology."

According to O'Connor, the mayor is hands on. O'Connor took five pages of notes with action items. The city is providing $250,000 in support of the show.

Chairing the meeting was Abbott Labs CEO Miles White and Morgan Stanley Vice Chairman Clinton Gartin. They are the official chairs of BIO2006, with Gov. Blagojevich and Mayor Daley serving as honorary chairs.

Illinois is a major backer of biotech, contributing $1 million to secure the global conference. Jack Lavin, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, says, "We are creating the business climate necessary to create good, high-tech jobs in this lucrative, cutting-edge field."

The state has actively supported Astellas Pharma, Takeda and Hospira as well as the Illinois Science + Technology Park.

Why Chicago and Biotech?

Abbott's White answers, "When you look at the Midwest, with Illinois at its center, we have strength across the biotech spectrum." Chicago has depth in agriculture, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, environmental and research/testing.

University of Chicago President Don Randel, IIT President Lew Collens and University of Illinois President Joseph White were on hand. During a speech last week at the City Club, White shared his enthusiasm saying, "I'm on the BIO2006 steering committee. It's going to be terrific. We're going to showcase Chicago and the University of Illinois."

Other luminaries include BIO President Jim Greenwood, Ovation Pharmaceuticals CEO Wilbur Gantz, Takeda President Mark Booth and Forest City Enterprises President Gayle Farris.

Also on hand were Norbert Reidel, chief scientific officer Baxter; Alicia Loffler, Northwestern professor; Steven Burrill, CEO, Burrill & Co.; Jim Mullen, CEO, Biogen Idec, and Steve Thompson, CEO, Immtech.

Plenty of things divide Chicagoans besides baseball. It's good to see biotech can bring Chicago's leadership together. More jobs should result.

Chicago CIO's convene

The Society for Information Management convenes its fifth annual Chicago CIO Executive Summit on Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency. Watch for Microsoft CIO Ron Markezich to hit town to speak.

Local IT honchos Donagh Herlihy, CIO Wrigley; Chris O'Brien, CIO city of Chicago, and David Weick, CIO McDonald's, drive the event. Other speakers include CNA CIO John Golden, Sara Lee CIO George Chappelle, Boeing CIO Scott Griffin and OfficeMax CIO Randy Burdick.

Bits & bytes

The MIT Enterprise Forum picks up on biotech Tuesday night at Gardner Carton & Douglas. The group focuses on revolutionary thinking and how scientists can drive commercial sector innovation. University of Illinois at Chicago assistant vice chancellor Mary Dicig moderates. Panelists include: Motorola Vice President Jim O'Connor Jr., NASA/Battelle Executive Director Jack Curley, UIC professor Brenda Russell and Naval Institute for Dental and Biomedical Research Capt. Dale Ehrlich.

Illinois Technology Development Alliance President Tom Thornton and Arch Development Partners Managing Partner Tom Churchwell showcase two up and coming life sciences companies, InformMed and ESWL Products today at the Illinois Science + Technology Park in Skokie. Computer Associates CTO Yogesh Gupta keynotes today's AFCOM conference at the Chicago Hilton.

The Hypomanic Edge author John Gartner speaks Thursday at the Union League Club's TechForum.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.



 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners