30 Jun Following Last International Event, Is BIO ‘Jumping the Shark’?
CHICAGO – “Jumping the shark” is an expression that was coined by radio newscaster Jon Hein (now with Howard Stein) to capture the fact that a TV series has hit its peak and is in decline.
The expression came from the original “Happy Days” series (which ran from 1974 to 1984) in an episode featuring The Fonz (actor Henry Winkler) and Richie (actor and director Ron Howard) where The Fonz literally is waterskiing and jumps over a shark after taking off from a ski jump pulled by Richie.
According to Wikipedia, this expression symbolizes when a TV series begins to have failing ratings and becomes desperate to draw in viewers. This often results in plots veering off into strange story lines with out-of-ordinary characterizations of the principal actors.
“Jumping the shark” has now moved so much into show-business vernacular that there is a Web site devoted to tracking at JumpingTheShark.com. It was acquired by TV Guide. I use this analogy to question whether the BIO organization has “jumped the shark” with its annual international conference held in May 2009 in Atlanta.
This conference is BIO’s big show and has been held now for many years usually in the key biotech clusters of the east coast (Boston and the Washington, D.C./Baltimore metro areas) and west coast (San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle). While at one point this was BIO’s only show, the problem is they now have several regional shows around the world (including two meetings a year alone in Europe) as well as several shows in the U.S.
Is the BIO organization diluting its efforts?
Was the low attendance at this year’s BIO annual meeting in Atlanta a signal that BIO has indeed jumped the shark or is it just a sign of difficult times around the world? It’s interesting that attendance at the 2008 BIO annual international meeting in San Diego was flat in comparison with the prior year in Boston. Boston was only slightly higher than the record-breaking numbers set by Chicago in 2006.
If BIO stays solely focused on drug-related biotechnology, it will in my opinion have “jumped the shark”. However, if it moves quickly to other areas of biotechnology (such as agriculture, clean tech, renewable fuels, the environment, medical devices, diagnostics and imaging), there is still plenty of room to grow and break new ground.
This topic brings up the planned 2010 BIO international conference to take place once again in Chicago from May 3, 2010 to May 6, 2010. The forces are already gathering in Illinois to start getting organized for this meeting. When this conference was held for the first time in Chicago and the Midwest, there were a couple differentiating points that led to its success:
- Involvement of all of the states of the Midwest rather than just one state
- A strong participation of leading research universities in the Midwest in the planning and content
- Expansion beyond drugs into agriculture and renewable fuels as well as the involvement of companies with medical devices and diagnostics (e.g. Abbott Labs, Baxter, etc.)
It’s once again my opinion that BIO has missed a great opportunity by not reaching out to the medical device, diagnostics and imaging worlds and companies.
Perhaps they saw this area as not inclusive of genetic engineering, biology and recombinant DNA and strictly speaking set up their boundaries. Interestingly, though, a small group of ex-BIO executives have recently been helping a relatively new organization called ADVAMED (the Advanced Medical Technology Association) to get off the ground.
The reality is that there is a strong convergence of drugs and devices and BIO missed the boat on this opportunity to extend its reach. This lack of reaction is not unlike that of the PHRMA (Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America) having missed the boat on biotechnology some 15 years ago and allowing BIO to grow and flourish over this time.
We will certainly find out in May 2010 whether or not BIO has “jumped the shark”. In the meantime, Illinois and its Midwest partner states are already at work to make sure that BIO 2010 is diverse and is a well-attended event both from different parts of the U.S. as well as internationally.
As a direct fallout of the BIO 2006 conference, iBIO (the Illinois Biotech Association) created an ambassador program under the leadership of iBIO President David Miller and executive director Barbara Goodman with assistance from the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.
The ambassador program has enrolled Illinois biotech and academic experts to represent Illinois biotech around the globe over the last 18 months. The Illinois Trade Mission to Israel, which took place two weeks ago and worked with the America-Israel Chamber of Commerce Chicago (as written about in my last column), was an example of iBIO’s ambassador program.
iBIO is planning a number of additional activities for 2009 for other countries to promote BIO 2010. This is evidence that Illinois takes its mission very seriously and wants to improve on the BIO 2006 results.
Whether or not BIO truly has jumped the shark is a moot point. If it wants to continue to be successful as the premier organization representing the broader life sciences area on a going-forward basis, it must reach out to other sectors represented under this umbrella. I’m sure the Midwest version of this show in 2010 will represent these multiple life sciences sectors. See you soon!
Recent columns by Michael Rosen
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This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission. The article is not meant to be a stock recommendation.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.