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BIO Opens the 10th Annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology

June 17, 2013
Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial & Environmental Section, welcomed attendees to the 10th annual BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in Montreal with remarks and a special video at the opening plenary session:

BIO is proud to welcome you to the tenth annual World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology.

Eleven years ago, I approached our board with the idea of starting a new conference dedicated to industrial biotechnology. Some of those original board members are here today. Those members on the early board included: Jack Huttner, Bob Dorsch, Bill Frey, Caroline Fritz, Pat Gruber, Simba Gill, and Hank Kohlbarnd. They all agreed back then that we needed to create a nucleus of activity for this rapidly emerging industrial biotech sector.

So I approached Ralph Hardy, Executive Director of the National Agriculture Biotechnology Council (NABC) and Peter Kelly of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and proposed that we collaborate in starting a new conference that would link agriculture, chemistry and biotechnology in order to help create new value chains. I received a positive and enthusiastic response from our friends at NABC and ACS. Out of that early conversation, the first World Congress was born. All three organizations partnered to form an organizing committee, and we co-hosted the conference in Orlando, Florida in 2003.

We had no idea if people would submit papers or attend the conference. As the weeks went by we held our breath. But we soon learned individuals in business and academia were enthusiastic about meeting up to share information about this new biotech sector. Ninety speakers showed up to that first meeting, along with more than 300 attendees. We had no exhibit hall -- just some table tops in the hallway -- but everywhere people were gathered in groups, feverishly networking and making new connections. We knew right then we had made a good decision. I am pleased to say that many of those first time attendees have been to every World Congress since then.

At BIO, we try to facilitate business development, and we brought our One on One business partnering to the very first conference. We did not have the sophisticated software and online interface we have today. But we started helping industrial biotech companies connect with potential partners right away. It took a while for people to figure out what the business partnering program was all about. At this World Congress, I am pleased to say we are setting a new record with more than 500 business partnering meetings scheduled even before the first day of the conference.

That is a clear testament to how large the industrial biotech sector has grown. Today, industrial biotech is a multibillion dollar global industry. And while I think we can safely say it is no longer in its infancy it is still relatively young. So I see much, much more growth coming in the years ahead.

In the early days of the sector, we talked a lot about the "promise” of industrial biotech. Today we are talking about the robust reality of industrial biotech. This is an exciting and gratifying time to be involved with this technology. And all of you, one way or another, have helped create a new industry and that is a special and noteworthy accomplishment.

As the industrial biotech space has grown, so has the World Congress. Today we have more than 1,200 attendees from 30 countries. We have been holding this event in convention centers for several years now – since 2009, when we last were in Montreal. We have a nice exhibit hall, poster sessions, investor sessions, workshops and more. We could not provide such wide ranging services without our sponsors, so a big thank you for helping make this conference possible.

It takes a village to put on a conference like this. We have about 25 BIO staff working together to put on this event in its many dimensions. And I would like to take a moment to thank them for all the hard work they do. You as attendees don’t see what goes on behind the scenes, but the BIO staff is a group of very capable and diligent young professionals who care deeply about BIO and this event and the quality of your experience here. They work very hard for many months to organize all the breakout sessions, exhibits, catering, hotel room blocks, signage, audio visual, and on and on. I must say it is an honor to work with such dedicated colleagues.

And I would like to thank our governing board for all the support they give BIO and this event as well. As you can tell from the video we just viewed we are lucky to have a very engaged and dynamic governing board.

And lastly, I would like to thank our CEO Jim Greenwood, who likewise supports this event and took time out of his busy schedule to come and spend a couple of days here participating in the program and meeting with many of you. We are lucky to have Jim at the helm of BIO. He believes in biotech deeply. He is passionate about supporting and promoting it in all of its aspects, and he is an active advocate for industrial biotech.

The tenth anniversary of the BIO World Congress is a notable event in our collective history. It provides a chronological touchstone and a reference point for where we have been over the last decade. And it is a potent symbolic launching point for greater things to come.

I can’t wait to see what the next ten years will bring. Thank you for being part of this great tradition. I hope you all have a very productive and enjoyable conference experience.