Atlanta played host to the 2009 Bio International Conference from May 18-21 at the Georgia World Congress Center. The multinational event had over 15,000 attendees and was aimed primarily at industry leaders and small businesses from the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Representatives from these business sectors showcased their innovations and forged business partnerships. The event included many luminaries such as Sir Elton John, Tom Daschle, Karl Rove, Bill Frist, and Howard Dean. They spoke at length about global health challenges and the importance of healthcare reform in today’s world.
While the conference was primarily targeted towards businesses, Tech played multiple important roles by hosting various educational outreach programs on campus and meeting with industry leaders to raise the visibility of the Institute’s programs in the field of biosciences. Members from the Tech community were on the local and national organizing committees.
“We wanted to be responsible global citizens and help Atlanta put its best foot forward during the conference, while also trying to increase the visibility of Tech in this industry,” said Dr. Robert Nerem, Director of the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience.
“Our main goal through participating in this conference was to get prominent players in the industry to look at Tech as a major source of innovation for the field,” said Dr. Ann Schmierer, a member of the Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute. “In the past, the Institute was overlooked in the field due to its late arrival.”
With this goal in mind, representatives at the conference highlighted Tech’s contributions to the field and offered commercialization ventures for companies interested in relocating to Atlanta. Currently, about 18-19% of research funding for bioscience-related industries comes from private corporations. In an effort to increase this amount, Institute representatives met with industry professionals to tour campus research facilities.
In addition, they also promoted the rigor and quality of Tech’s biotechnology program, in an attempt to get industry professionals to recognize the intellectual capital available at Tech.
“The greatest contribution that we can make is to provide the industry with great students. In addition, forging partnership with companies helps our students find jobs after graduation,” Schmierer said. “Tech is increasingly being recognized as a global leader in the biosciences field, and it is important to our students that we continue to attract that kind of interest.”
Furthermore, as a part of the conference, Tech organized five different symposia on various issues in the field such as the Sustainability of Biofuels, Novel Drug Delivery Methods, Stem Cell Manufacturing, and the FDA Mission at Risk. According to Katharine Montgomery, one of the organizers for the symposia, there were several important developments in the industry that were brought to light during the panels.
“A lot of new events and developments were discussed during the panel…to give you an example, the members on the FDA panel were surprised to learn during the discussion that since their last meeting, the FDA had invested heavily in young professionals and increased its science budget,” Montgomery said.
The forums were held to encourage discussion among professionals and to spread new developments that were occurring in the fast-paced bioscience industry. Montgomery also noted that Tech hosted 5 out of 11 presentation slots offered to the state of Georgia at the conference, and that each attracted a high level of interest from the audience.
The Institute’s educational outreach program was also highly successful. High school teachers from around the country were taught by academic professionals in the field about a variety of issues, including lab exercises and how to modernize their biosciences curriculum. They were also invited to tour the campus, including major research facilities, in order to get a feel for current research in the field.
“Overall, the event was a great success. We were able to engage a lot of people about the programs we have here and hopefully partner with some of those companies and further enhance the biosciences program at Tech,” Schmierer said.