Views from BIO 2018: Insights from Larta CEO Rohit Shukla
One of the best, one of the craziest and one of the most productive conferences out there!
BIO, formerly known as the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and now as the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, organizes one of the largest industry conferences each year for this worldwide industry. Typically, it rotates among a few cities, including San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago and Boston, and more recently, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Host cities have considerable bragging rights, or so they claim, bolstering their reputations as hub cities for this remarkable collection of convergent technologies that could be aggregated under the “bio” umbrella.
Each year, close to 20,000 people converge on the city of choice for 3 days of displays, dialogues, street parties, and a host of other receptions and parties, culminating in the wacky, wild and even outrageous Pabnab party on the final night of the convention.
This year, Larta was invited to participate in the California Pavilion. We thank the California Life Sciences Association (CLSA) for their efforts in organizing this year’s pavilion. But, sandwiched as it was between Pennsylvania and Hawaii (a geographically-correct placement, at least), the one reason why it was noticed was not because it had any stand-out marquee identification (unlike some of the more prominent participants, like China, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands, all of which are regular stand-outs at BIO). Rather, it was because it saw a fair amount of foot traffic that was then stopped in its tracks by the incongruity of the California brand suddenly on display.
Nevertheless, despite my lowly status as a mere “booth person”, thus excluded from the other sessions that seemed to offer some promise, we did manage to make it to a few receptions. And then there was the wacky, even outrageous party on the final night of the 3-day convention, Pabnab, billing itself as the “anti party”. Passes are notoriously difficult to secure, and that is part of its (somewhat planned) mystique. This year, the “Resurrection Ball” was devoted to the Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) theme which meant lots of lit skulls, bracelets, skeleton masks and a whole lot of dancing with hundreds of people, many of whom you don’t know, and many of whom you get to know well in the course of the evening.
BIO is the place where you can meet people, planned or otherwise, cultivate relationships, build new contacts and otherwise understand the breadth of stuff that is out there in the intersection of all things biotech. This year, there were many displays on data and data-driven solutions, and devices that work with drugs, and drugs themselves, and therapies. It is the most international convention possible, and while not as large or all-encompassing as, say, CES, it is compelling, and a must for anyone involved in the life sciences or one of its convergent disciplines.