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Abbott Executive Jim Tyree Takes IBIO Helm

Chicago, IL - The recent Chicago biotech festivals weren't the only indicators that biotech in Illinois is finally coming of age.

That same week, the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (IBIO) elected as its new chairman Jim L. Tyree, vice president of global business development and licensing at Abbott Laboratories (not to be confused with Mesirow's CEO). This action is significant because it means Abbott is stepping up to the plate to support biotechnology in the region (more on that later).

The passing of the IBIO baton from former chairman Michael Hogg has symbolic meanings. Those who know Hogg also know he spent a number of years at Abbott as assistant general counsel to Abbott's international division. (Disclosure: Columnist Michael Rosen holds a position at IBIO, a non-profit organization.)

It's interesting that one of the key people to get biotech jumpstarted in Illinois is a New Zealander who was educated in New Zealand and the U.K as a lawyer. He later pursued an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago and ended up marrying a native Illinoisan, raising a family in Illinois and becoming a part of the Midwest culture himself.

After a successful career at Abbott, Hogg began his own legal practice. This evolved into the law firm Business Counsel. Along the way, he has provided legal services to Baxter and numerous life sciences companies that have sprouted up in the Chicagoland area.
This interest in linking up small and large companies in the area of life sciences led to his being part of a cadre of people who started the original Chicago Biotechnology Network Association (CBN) in 1997, which was the first biotech organization in the area. CBN, a Chicagoland organization, sought to bring together emerging companies and academia under one roof with a common goal: a group of people faced with the problem of how to make a go of biotech in a region that wasn't a traditional biotech center.

Under Hogg's early leadership, a series of frequent programs at the Molecular Biology Auditorium of the University of Illinois pulled the community together and evolved into the first BIOMarketplace, which was also held at the University of Illinois. With a few hundred people, this was the largest biotech gathering in Illinois.

BIOMarketplace (now iBIOMarketplace) has since evolved and grown each year, moving to Motorola's campus, Navy Pier and McCormick Place in 2002. Meanwhile, CBN's membership grew to more than 200 organizations and individuals.

While it was clear that CBN filled an initial community need, a second biotech organization emerged a year later: the original IBIO, which pulled together other interests and organizations. Once again, Hogg was one of the founding members of that organization and served as a bridge between the two organizations.

While CBN focused mostly on the small pharmaceuticals-oriented companies emerging in Chicago, the original IBIO included strong agricultural interests from downstate Illinois including the Illinois Soybean Association, the Illinois Corn Grower's Association, the Illinois Farm Bureau (remember: Illinois is one of the leading states in the U.S. for these two key crops) as well as Monsanto, the top company in agricultural biotech.

Additionally, a growing need to educate legislators on the human and agricultural aspects of the biotech industry became apparent. In 2001, it soon became obvious that neither CBN nor the old IBIO had the critical mass, financial wherewithal and infrastructure to establish a significant biotech agenda for the state. They were also competing against each other needlessly.

Under the leadership of Hogg and key executives from both organizations (including Tom Livingston of the Illinois Medical District and Chicago Technology Park, Bob Rosenberg of the University of Chicago, Lyle Roberts of the Illinois Soybean Association, biotech CEO Jude Offerle and your columnist), it was necessary to merge the organizations to establish a more solid and financially stable entity.

These efforts led to the merger of the two organizations at the end of 2001 and the emergence of a new IBIO at the beginning of 2002 with Hogg as its first chairman.

Key goals for the new organization were:
1) The integration of the two prior organizations;
2) Reaching out to neighboring state biotech organizations for potential collaboration and benchmarking what each organization was doing;
3) The identification and recruiting of the first full-time president of the organization (resulting in the hiring of David Miller in August 2002);
4) Obtaining the involvement and support of the major pharmaceutical companies in the area (not only resident in Illinois but operating in Illinois.

All these goals were met under the leadership of Hogg and members of the IBIO organization. These people include Jim Hussey of Neopharm, Ted Davis of Vector Fund Management, Tom Churchwell of ARCH Development and others. A meeting (held in Chicago and organized and chaired by Hogg at O'Hare Airport) called together all eight state biotech associations, which resulted in the first coming together of the region to plan collaborative efforts.

Held 10 days ago in Chicago, the BIO Mid-America VentureForum was the result of this collaboration. The effort also resulted in recruiting other major pharmaceutical companies to join IBIO. At that point, IBIO already counted Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Monsanto as members. Abbott and AstraZeneca were also recruited.

Involvement by the large pharmaceutical organizations (the key customers of biotechnology)was critical for IBIO to grow. This effort led to the appropriate candidacy of the chairman role for an individual with not only a current senior tenure in Big Pharma but prior biotech experience.

Key venture capital groups involved in the life sciences arena were also recruited. These include Essex Woodlands Health Ventures, CID Equity Partners and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein. New biotech companies emerging in the area were also recruited. These include the CEOs of Arryx (Lewis Gruber), Arthur Holden of First Genetic Trust, Larry Schook of Pyxis Genomics and Vijaya Vasista of Nanosphere.

The time was right to transition the chairman of the new IBIO to further involve Abbott, which is the top pharmaceutical company in the Midwest. Enter Tyree, a new recruit to the IBIO board early in 2002.

Tyree, who grew up in Indiana and obtained his undergraduate degree and M.B.A. at Indiana University, began his career in the 1970s at Abbott as a management trainee. He took an early international marketing assignment in Abbott's operations in Puerto Rico and Colombia. He then left Abbott to join Pfizer for increased marketing responsibilities in Latin America (he managed Pfizer's pharmaceutical businesses in Peru and Bolivia).

An opportunity to return to the Midwest, Tyree joined Bristol-Myers Squibb's Mead Johnson group in Evansville, Ind. As part of his new role as director of business development, Tyree quickly engaged in the rising field of biotechnology and moved Bristol-Myers into the field of pediatric vaccines through a relationship with Rochester, N.Y.-based Praxis Biologics, the first of the new wave of biotech vaccine companies.

Tyree rose to assume charge of Bristol-Myers Squibb's U.S. business development activities and later moved to Princeton, N.J. following Bristol's merger with Squibb. His facility in international businesses led him to run Bristol-Myers Squibb's business in Japan for a number of years. He then returned to the U.S. to once again assume a core global business development role.

Still, the call of biotechnology led him to the presidency of the up-and-coming oncology biotech company SUGEN (now a part of Pharmacia).

Tyree returned to Abbott and his Midwest roots once again in an assignment to manage Abbott's Japan operations. There, he utilized the experience he gained at Bristol-Myers Squibb in the world's second-largest country market. More recently, he assumed the responsibilities for its worldwide pharmaceutical business development and licensing.

It is interesting to note that IBIO's two chairmen share:
1) A background at Abbott;
2) A flair for and knowledge of international markets;
3) A love of 'deals' and business development and licensing (although from different perspectives); and
4) An understanding that the future of the pharmaceutical industry lies in biotechnology.

The baton has been passed appropriately. IBIO now begins a new period of its development. However, recognition of the tireless efforts of Hogg as a pioneer in the development of biotechnology in Illinois is appropriate. It is doubtless that we will continue to see his efforts to help and assist young biotech companies emerge and grow on the Illinois scene.
I was fortunate to travel with Hogg to his native New Zealand last summer with the goal of initiating a link between the biotech community there and the Midwest. Both regions share a duality of biotech not easily found in parts of the U.S. and other regions of the world: an equal interest in both agricultural applications of biotech as well as the obvious human health applications.

Biotenz, the local New Zealand biotech organization, was already in the process of establishing a regional collaboration with Australian biotech (probably the fastest-growing biotech region outside our nation). Like a rock (or should I say "blues") tour, we traveled to four cities in five days and covered New Zealand's north and south islands.

New Zealand is a country that's slightly smaller than California. It has about 4 million inhabitants (3 million in the north island and about 1 million in the south island). It has more than 50 million sheep. We met with the biotech communities in Auckland and Wellington in the north island and Dunedin and Christchurch in the south island.

Its biotech community soaked up information about the U.S. biotech community and was amazed to find a fellow Kiwi chairing a U.S. biotech association. We saw state-of-the-art incubators being constructed in the heart of universities. We also visited the Crown Research institutions (the New Zealand equivalent of the NIH and USDA combined, which covers extensive agricultural research).

It reminded us of CBN's early days. The biotech industry in New Zealand reflects many of the issues facing Illinois and Midwest biotech:
1) Not a traditional center of biotech;
2) A lack of VC groups focused on life sciences funding; and
3) Early stage companies.

New Zealand biotech is further impacted by the fact that its market is too small to sustain a business model based only on New Zealand. New Zealand biotech will have to have entrée into the U.S. and/or Europe to sustain itself. Its linkage with Australia is a first step in that direction. Logically, a relationship with the Midwest is a natural given the unique blend of agricultural and human biotech.

The trip was also a reminder of what Hogg does best: link up people and organizations from disparate areas.

With Tyree at the helm, I'm sure that IBIO is now onto its next stage of development toward stimulating the growth of Midwest biotech. I know we will continue to see Hogg assisting the emerging biotech companies in the area to survive and connect with the right resources in the community.

See you next week!

Michael S. Rosen is the vice chairman of human health at the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization (IBIO). He can be reached at . This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters. They can be found at

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