Notes from BIO 2008 - Oh, For a Segway in San Diego

OK, this is not coming at the speed of the Internet. Not even close, as BIO 2008 winds down today. But blame an interesting program spread out on a grand scale. Roller skates or a Segway were a must for anyone attempting to navigate BIO 2008 at the San Diego Convention Center this week. This was my second BIO show (my first was in Chicago two years ago). While some may criticize the lavishness and spectacle of the conference, there are few events where one can interact so directly with top scientists, officials and professionals within the industry. All you have to do is to ask a question, during Q&As or after their presentations. I saw young professionals ask experts for advice on specific problems they were facing. And they weren’t rebuffed, either. San Diego is a beautiful town, in that part of California where “beach” means warmth, sand and sun, not rocks, goose bumps and a wet suit. It is also quite cosmopolitan, with a single short stretch of 4th Avenue, in the city’s historic gaslamp quarter, offering Indian, Chinese, Persian, Japanese, French, Italian, Spanish and Arab cuisine. It may be in an `80’s time warp, with notices of concerts by Billy Idol and others of that era----and a hit musical review, “Boomers.” (It might even have been a bit worse in L.A., where posters of a well-preserved Engelbert Humperdinck were in evidence along the freeway) Coincidentally, Artefill was among the products exhibited at BIO this year. Designed as a companion to Botox, to fill in laugh lines around the cheek, it’s made of polymethylmethacrylate, so the connection to the biotech world seemed somewhat tenuous---alas, no samples The impact of an aging U.S. population was on the short list of leading topics this year, and the program emphasized the usual subject areas, including intellectual property protection, translational medicine but also some important accents: funding universal access to life-saving medicines and the ascendancy of new drug development powerhouses in Asia, particularly in India. Thailand: Don’t Patronize Us, Please On Tuesday morning, one discussion on how corporate biopharma might improve global access to biotech products reportedly brought an angry reaction from a representative of Thailand in the audience, who bristled at any suggestion, however, subtle, that future breakthroughs would necessarily come from the West. The show dailies and even brochures were more snappily written this year (perhaps reflecting the influence of The Scientist, which wrote the show daily?), although there were a few cliches (shareholder salsa and Indian spice) and curve balls in conference titles “It’s life but not not as we know it, Jim” (on chimeric embryos), for instance, or “what the vector is happening here”…(gene therapy) or my favorite, .the enigmatic “evolving attitudes to obviousness” (about IP). Hmmm. Always easier to edit other people’s work, isn’t it? The show floor brought the usual lavish booths, competing regional governors (“anything they can do we can do better”), the dueling music from different regional development authorities, there were the usual tschotchkes, freebies (basketballs, for example, from Kansas, whose team won the NCAA championships) and bizarre booth shows, like the puppeteer with the ostrich. Winning the prize for practicality this year was the foot massage. There were also the spectacular cruises, receptions and parties, including one on the U.S.S. Midway. Oh, yes, and the celebrities, among them Harrison Ford, who, along with E.O. Wilson, took part in an event on Wednesday night publicizing the Invitrogen Foundation’s first grants. But undoubtedly the main attractions this year (even trumping Colin Powell) were keynote speakers California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Craig Venter, whose work has made modern biotech possible. People began lining up two hours before the luncheon keynote (no preferential treatment for the press this year) AMS
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  • <p>He is a old punk rocker all right. Just look at the mullet and be the judge yourself. Kinda creepy though. He must have 5 kids, and he still rocks. - <a href="">Joe Zanotti</a> </p>


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