Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"A Tale of Two Biotech Cities"

"A Tale of Two Biotech Cities"

By Michael Rosen, Senior Vice President, New Business Development Forest City Enterprises.

CHICAGO – As my readers have seen from past columns, I like to juxtapose bioscience regions to better understand what’s happening in one part of the world that might be shared in another. Within the span of two days last week, I had the opportunity to sit through two regional bioscience events.

The first – a Maryland event held on Feb. 19 in Annapolis entitled “Maryland Bioscience in the 21st Century” – was put on by the Tech Council of Maryland, which includes the Maryland Biotech Association. The second – an Illinois event held in Chicago by iBIO – was entitled “Capitalizing on Progress”. Amazingly, the underlying themes of both were remarkably similar:

1. A review of the major milestones achieved in the region to show development versus the prior year,
2. Showcasing of some of the key biotech movers and shakers in the region, and
3. A yearning to be ranked in the top ranks of biotech clusters in the world with comparisons to the California clusters, Boston and North Carolina.

While I can understand the first two regions, it’s surprising how North Carolina came up in both meetings. Maryland and Illinois are both part of larger bioscience clusters. Maryland participates in a region including Virginia and Washington, D.C. while Illinois is at the hub of the eight-state Midwest.

To be fair, the meetings were very different. While the Maryland meeting did represent an annual meeting, it was a half-day event. Maryland has opted to participate in a larger annual regional 1.5-day event called the Mid-Atlantic Biotech Conference, which usually draws more than 1,000 people.

On the other hand, iBIO has cut back its 1.3-day event to a one-day event focused on Illinois. Given that the BIO annual international conference is coming back to Illinois in 2010, Illinois would be well-served to try to do a regional type of event. Though this kind of event might be difficult to assemble with eight states, perhaps with neighbors Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Missouri it might be possible and important.

As each state has its own issues with biotechnology, I can understand the need to try and focus on a state approach (particularly key state incentives necessary to attract companies). The reality is this is an industry that has globalized. Competition doesn’t come from a neighboring state but from India, China, Australia, Israel, Brazil, Singapore, Korea, etc.

Both regions have hosted the annual BIO international conference in the past. BIO 2006 was held in Chicago as will BIO 2010. BIO 2005 was held in Washington, D.C. (a stone’s throw from Baltimore. Let’s take look at how both of these states compare in terms of biotech characteristics:

The above story obviously doesn’t give a complete picture. We would need to add a number of other categories. At first blush, Maryland has more government research spend and institutions than Illinois and much more bioscience companies. Maryland is probably more focused on drug development with a sprinkling of diagnostic and medical device companies.

On the other hand, Illinois has a much larger chunk of big life sciences companies (much more than Maryland).

Though it doesn’t have the university research concentration that Maryland has, Illinois does have a number of key universities with sizeable government research funding. Illinois has a large drug business and also an equally large medical device and diagnostics business along with agricultural biotech, clean tech, nanotech and renewable fuels research.

The Illinois annual meeting did a very good job showing this diversity of biotech as well as highlighting the state’s excellent university research and key foreign life sciences company. The Astellas U.S. president articulated clearly why Astellas was here and explained their growth plans.

On the other hand, Maryland’s life sciences meeting emphasized legislation.

A number of state representatives were there to talk about how they saw the importance of the local industry. Additionally, Maryland has just formed a Bioscience Advisory Committee to advise the governor on strategy and policy. This newly formed committee is composed of representatives from the leading university, FDA, NIH, leading biotech companies, the U.S. Army and more.

Interestingly enough, the group is chaired by the CEO of Human Genome Sciences. Tom Watson is a former senior and longtime executive from Abbott Labs. Also of interest was that another up-and-coming biotech company CEO on a panel came out of Eli Lilly, which means that once again the Midwest is a good source for managerial talent.

So what does this all mean? A really great meeting might have included key aspects from both state’s biotech agenda. Both states would be well-served to sit down with each other and share notes as both have some great programs going on and could learn from each other.

Meanwhile, Boston and San Francisco are hardly standing still and have already initiated state efforts to maintain their world leadership in this vital industry. This means that both Maryland and Illinois need to dial up the state government involvement in their own industries. It was an interesting couple days. See you soon!

Michael Rosen Michael S. Rosen is Senior Vice President, New Business Development for the Science + Technology Group at Forest City Enterprises, a NYSE-traded real estate development company which develops and builds bioscience parks across the U.S. Rosen is also a founder and board member of the Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization. He can be reached at rosenmichaels@aol.com.

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