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2011 BIO International Convention: The evolution of one-on-one partnering

June 29, 2011
From the beginning, networking has been a central focus at BIO’s events.  Our members attend our conferences primarily to seek out business opportunities and to meet other biotech executives.

When company presentations were introduced at the 1998 BIO International Convention, delegates registered for the conference by mail and fax and presentations were the key means for companies to tell their stories at BIO’s early events.  With BIO members asking for introductions to pharmaceutical companies, BIO recognized the need to provide a mechanism for participants to arrange meetings at its conferences.

BIO first attempted to schedule partnering meetings at its BIO Europe conference in 1998.  BIO staff worked the phones, cajoling reluctant pharmaceutical executives to attend and to take meetings. Arriving on site, the executives received a schedule of pre-arranged meetings, no other information and no opportunity to say yes or no.  Seated behind 4’ by 2’ tables in a large room, small biotech companies waited, often in vain, for pharma to approach them.

(See full presentation on One-on-One Partnering Results)

In subsequent meetings, attendees were invited into the scheduling process. Company presentation applications morphed into the corporate profiles distributed to participants searching for meeting partners.  Delegates filled out paper forms to request meetings on site, and the forms were filed and matched by hand.  Meetings were scheduled in private rooms, but schedules were posted on blackboards onsite.

Facing complaints from BIO members and pharma companies stemming from the inefficiencies of attempting to schedule meetings by hand BIO seriously considered ending corporate presentations and partnering at the BIO International Convention and creating a stand-alone conference that would not be a distraction at the organization’s flagship meeting.

Instead, BIO made a renewed commitment to partnering.  Learning from past mistakes, BIO started automating the partnering process, creating a database to schedule meetings.  The BIO Business Forum was born in 2001 with under 1,000 meetings.

The first generation of BIO’s partnering software to take advantage of the Internet was introduced in 2003, allowing users to search for partners and request meetings prior to arrival.  Much of the actual matchmaking remained a manual task and unlucky BIO staffers would work overnight shifts to schedule meetings.

With the number of meetings being scheduled roughly doubling each year between 2003 and 2006, sophisticated algorithms were built into the scheduling software to further automate the partnering process and keep up with demand.  By 2006, however, the number of meetings scheduled surpassed 10,000 and it was impossible to further expand the capacity of the jerry-rigged partnering software that had begun as a scheduling database.  In 2007, BIO made a substantial financial commitment to develop new partnering software.

BIO One-on-One PartneringTM, the most sophisticated partnering software in any industry, was introduced at BIO Asia in January of 2009.  Custom-designed as a platform for BIO’s partnering operation, the system was tailored to the specific needs of BIO’s partnering meetings.  This year, our software will process more than 100,000 meeting requests and schedule more than 21,000 one-on-one meetings at the BIO International Convention and is now in use at many other industry meetings around the world.

BIO is committed to keeping its software on the cutting edge and implements new features each year.  Following through on our commitment to provide the most sophisticated and advanced networking tools available at any industry meeting, BIO will take One-on-One Partnering TM to a new level with substantially expanded functionality at the 2012 BIO International Convention in Boston.