Oklahoma’s life science community will establish an outpost in San Diego this week at the Biotechnology Industry Organization annual convention, complete with a 1,600-square-foot exhibition booth and sentries posted at every corner.
The flow of visitors past the Oklahoma booth will bring people from virtually every state and scores of nations around the world. The 80 or so Oklahomans attending the show greet potential research and business partners, investors and even employees.
The payoff for Oklahoma comes in a myriad of ways.
Just don’t expect overnight returns from the investment made by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the OKBio Association, which organize the annual foray to the BIO show. It’s a long-term commitment that results in enhanced stature for the state and increased potential for its biotech companies.
“You never know the impact for the future,” said Tom Kupiec, a scientist and businessman who is founder and CEO of three Oklahoma City-based life science companies: DNA Solutions, Analytical Research Laboratories (ARL) and The Kupiec Group.
“I think it’s important to plant seeds for future development and for future growth,” Kupiec said. “Being shortsighted and thinking immediate gratification is not always the best. The state, by putting dollars into research and science and technology, you really are building the economy for the future.”
Kupiec’s companies provide pharmaceutical and genetic testing services, as well as forensic toxicology expertise.
Kupiec has enthusiastically worked the floor of the BIO show on behalf of Oklahoma almost every year for more than a decade. One year he came face to face with a young college student from Oklahoma who paid his way into the show in search of a potential job. Kupiec promised him a job interview upon returning to Oklahoma.
Another year, Kupiec met a potential employee while sharing a taxi with her on the ride in from the airport. The next day, he interviewed her for a job while the pair were seated at a table at the OKBio booth on the floor of the show.
In yet another year, he connected with the delegation from Israel who were responding to overtures from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and specifically requested a meeting with him.
“You like to think it’s random, but often I think it’s divine,” Kupiec said. “There’s a greater power that drives and leads our footsteps.”
The Oklahoma delegation features a diverse mix of research scientists, entrepreneurs and business development professionals from throughout the state.
“Biotech reaches out into many areas — health, health IT (information technology), medicine, basic research, applied research, translational research, and, hopefully it’s culminating in commercialization,” Kupiec said. “So BIO is critical for very important diversification to the state’s economy.”
Each Oklahoma delegate takes a different agenda to the BIO show. Some are interested in connecting with potential research or business partners.
Others are driven by the possibility of wooing new companies or researchers to Oklahoma with the educational resources and infrastructure located here.
“We want to bring knowledge-based businesses to this state, and biotechnology is one area where it’s at,” Kupiec said. “It is diversification. It complements existing agriculture and energy industries.
“With the new GE Energy Research Center coming to the Research Park area, it’s just phenomenal what is putting Oklahoma on the map.”
And that’s why Oklahomans like Tom Kupiec and his biotech colleagues will be in San Diego this week creating a high-profile image for the state.
Jim Stafford is a communications specialist with i2E Inc. in Oklahoma City.