WASHINGTON, D.C. — A scant 30 minutes into the opening of the exhibition hall at the annual BIO International Convention here Tuesday, enthusiasm ran high among the 70-member Oklahoma delegation as visitors poured into the OKBio booth. “We have something like 10 meetings going on over there on the other side of the booth,” said Robin Roberts Krieger, executive vice president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “It’s very cool.” In fact, in a span of about 60 feet down one side of the Oklahoma exhibition space, one-on-one or one-on-two meetings quickly broke out between OKBio hosts and visitors from around the world — China and Australia were just two of the locations that visitors called home. At one end of the 1,600-square-foot OKBio space, a constant stream of people stopped to take photos of a life-size cardboard cutout of Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, which was one stop on a “scavenger hunt” that involved 16 organizations out of hundreds of exhibitors at the Biotechnology Industry Organization conference. Footprints affixed to the aisle floor led BIO show visitors from the entrance of the exhibition hall directly to the Oklahoma booth. The positioning of the OKBio space at one end of the giant Washington Convention Center hall and participation in marketing ploys such as the BIO floor footsteps, the scavenger hunt and a full-page ad on the inside front cover of every issue of the BIO Show Daily magazine are all strategic initiatives designed to make the Oklahoma delegation stand out among the huge number of exhibitors at the show, said Jennifer Seaton, director of Marketing and Communications for the Greater OKC Chamber. “I look for sponsorship opportunities that are limited so that we are only one of a few organizations and not amongst 20 or 40 or 100 at BIO,” Seaton said. “We like the footsteps because we are one of only three organizations that can have them.” Other ways the OKBio Association promotes the state’s growing life sciences and biotechnology industry at the show include what Sheri Stickley, president and CEO of the organization, identified as “scholarships” for some of the state’s newest life sciences companies. This year, OKBio scholarships brought Otologic Pharmaceutics, Onconos and LumiDX to the international convention. “Having all of these people under one roof is a unique opportunity to make connections, to develop strategic partnerships, and also just to interact with the Oklahoma delegation,” Stickley said. “There are folks they need to get to know that they might not otherwise have an opportunity to visit with right here in our delegation. “We are grateful to the Oklahoma Business Roundtable for making the scholarships possible so these Oklahoma companies could attend this event.” BIO attendance opens partnering opportunities to new companies, both through strategic, planned meetings and through spontaneous conversations such as those that broke out at the OKBio exhibition space shortly after the show opened Tuesday. “It’s a combination of those deliberate and serendipitous encounters,” Stickley said.
Telling their storyFor Dave Karlman, president of Otologic Pharmaceutics, attendance at the BIO show has opened new opportunities to tell potential investors and partners about how the company is developing new therapeutics to prevent or reduce hearing loss. By noon Tuesday, he had given presentations to a mix of five pharmaceutical and venture capital companies. “My agenda is to raise money and raise awareness,” Karlman said. “Three of the five presentations have resulted in follow-on interest. And I finished third out of 30 companies for a presentation at a workshop Monday before a panel of big pharma and venture capital. “Thanks to the OKBio Association for sponsoring us. It’s huge.” Dave Lopez, Oklahoma’s new secretary of commerce, was among the delegation of about 70 Oklahomans greeting visitors to the OKBio booth when the 2011 BIO International Convention exhibition hall opened.
Global effortFor Lopez, the show provided a forum to support the state’s growing life sciences community and a learning opportunity. “For those who have been working the vineyards for a while it may not seem so quick, but the scale of bioscience in Oklahoma is exciting,” Lopez said. “To go out to the convention center and see Oklahoma’s booth with China situated on one side and Brazil on the other, it just lets you know that we are part of a global effort, and that’s exciting.” Lopez said his mission also includes gaining an understanding of how the state can nurture the innovation occurring in Oklahoma’s life sciences community. “It has clearly taken root, and we have the scale to operate and compete,” he said. “The question now is how do we grow those seeds even quicker.”