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BIO provides forum for Wisconsin to showcase strengths

Madison, Wis. - 65 members of Wisconsin's biotech community traveled to Philadelphia this week to participate in BIO 2005, the world's largest biotechnology convention.

The Wisconsin delegation will join more than 18,000 executives and scientists from across the world to study the year's developments in biotech research. Produced by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the conference will offer several executive and networking workshops and pavilions exhibiting dozens of attending regions.

"There's no better way to see all the changes of the industry than be immersed in a meeting like this - it's a short course on latest trends," said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. Still said the conference has three main offerings: deals with potential investors, deals with related institutions and deals with related technology.

While each of the attending companies and organizations have their own connections to make, the delegation's unifying goal is to support the image of Wisconsin as a place to do business. The state's pavilion, centered around the theme "Room to Breathe", will give investors and companies a chance to see what resources and partnerships the state offers.

Wisconsin's presence at the conference is also designed to build up momentum for BIO 2006, which will take place in Chicago next summer. Pepi Randolph, president of Forward Wisconsin, said that Illinois has prepared a large delegation for this year and there will likely be considerable networking between the Midwestern states during and after BIO 2005.
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Jim Leonhart, executive vice president of the Wisconsin Biotechnology Association, said a strength of the state from last year's BIO conference was more "real" biotech companies than any other state. While other states and regions focused on a "tourism approach" of showing off their state's research potential, Wisconsin had a strong sample of functioning companies already in the market.

Many of these companies will be returning from last year's conference and building on that success, such as the antibody manufacturer NeoClone Deven McGlenn, president and CEO, said BIO 2004 resulted in several connections with other countries they are eager to capitalize on.

"It's a chance to shake hands with a few of our international clients," McGlenn said, adding they will focus on these old connections over creating lots of new ones.

Sal Braico, chief operating officer at ConjuGon, said that they will be attending several of the major partnering sessions throughout the conference and meeting with large pharmaceutical firms. He said that while there is a broad reach of companies, the makeup of the conference should allow for easier networking between large and small companies.

"The biotech industry is quite large, but even with that said it's a small industry in that everyone knows each other," Braico said.

Still said an added benefit to the conference is that several major pharmaceutical companies are headquartered in Philadelphia, so medical research companies like ConjuGon may have an easier time developing partnerships.

"We don't have many big-name pharmas in [Wisconsin], but those inside Philadelphia will be looking for deals," Still said.

Leonhart said he believed it would be easy to distinguish the state from the more prolific regions that were represented there, thanks to their previous reputation and the efforts of organizing groups.

"We are all in unison in uplifting the biotechnology environment of our state to the world … we want people to know we're as good as San Diego, Boston and North Carolina," Leonhart said.

Les Chappell is a writer for WTN based in Madison. He can be reached at les@wistechnology.com.

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