CHICAGO — Oklahoma brought a diverse group of about 70 people to the 2013 BIO International Convention here this week to promote the state as an ideal place to develop a new drug or a new life science-based venture.
For instance, every hour that the trade show is open, the OKBio exhibition booth is staffed by scientists ready to answer any research-based question that may arise from a random visitor. They field questions that might deal with cancer research, new drug development or even agriculture research.
Acting as sentries at kiosk stations around the perimeter of the OKBio booth are educators, business developers and entrepreneurs who chat up visitors, gather information from badges and hand out flash drives, pins or other giveaway items.
Among the Oklahomans on hand Wednesday morning was Tom Kupiec, who brought a hybrid mix of scientific knowledge and business acumen to the OKBio effort.
Chemist and businessman
Educated as a chemist with a Ph.D. earned at the University of Oklahoma, Kupiec also is a successful businessman, the founder and CEO of three Oklahoma City-based life science companies: DNA Solutions, Analytical Research Laboratories (ARL) and The Kupiec Group.
Kupiec contributed the perspective of a longtime veteran of the OKBio effort, with his participation dating back more than a decade. Oklahoma's reputation and influence within the biotech industry has grown significantly, he said.
“Look at the location of this booth,” Kupiec said. “Out of hundreds of exhibits at this show, Oklahoma has secured an incredible position right here at the main entrance. The location of the booth has given us a competitive advantage. I think it's because of our position over the years with BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) and our continued involvement that allowed us to get to this position.”
The three businesses founded by Kupiec operate in diverse areas of biotechnology. DNA Solutions provides genetics services with DNA testing in the human, plant and animal markets. ARL is a pharmaceutical company, and the Kupiec Group provides forensics expertise, often for the legal industry.
Kupiec's companies employ about 70 people at the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park. His businesses have grown to the point that partnering efforts at the BIO show have become selective.
“Now we're targeting our connections,” he said. “We're strategic on who we want to speak with and connect with, where initially you might take more of a reactive approach and just meet whoever.”
Around the BIO floor
Signing copies of his book, “The Business of Bioscience,” on Wednesday was Craig Shimasaki, CEO of Oklahoma City's Moleculera Labs. Demand was strong and questions numerous from would-be biotech entrepreneurs.
“You try to make them understand that you have to have a vision, a passion and an idea that actually has a market,” he said. Shimasaki is writing a second book on biotech entrepreneurship that will be published in 2014.
In the OKBio booth
The Oklahoma contingent includes three people involved in economic development who earned Ph.D.'s at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Breca Tracy is managing director for Emergent Technologies; Elaine Hamm is director of the Oklahoma Proof of Concept Center for i2E Inc., and Matt Gibson is a patent attorney with McAfee & Taft.
Sheryl Hale has represented the Oklahoma CareerTech system at the BIO show for years, working to bring awareness to its STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — educational opportunities. “I come to represent our system and talk about what we do to support STEM education, but also to get a better understanding of what Oklahoma is doing and then learn across the nation what are they doing for workforce training.”
While its employees are included among the OKBio group, Oklahoma City's Cytovance Biologics maintains its own booth on the BIO exhibit floor, located across the hall from the state's space. Cytovance is a contract manufacturer of biologics materials for use in developing new therapeutics.
“There's a lot of buzz here about Oklahoma as a hotbed for biotechnology.” — a greeter at a booth for a New York law firm that specializes in providing patent protection legal work.