Trends from BIO 2009

BIO 2009With BIO 2009 behind us, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at some of the major trends from this year's show. If you weren't able to make it to Atlanta, or would like to take another look at FierceBiotech's coverage, you can find all our BIO stories here. We've also put together a slideshow with highlights from the exhibition floor and events that took place during the conference. Take a look at the photos.

Biotechs aim for survival: This year's unofficial theme at BIO is how to survive the economic crisis. Tips for staying lean and mean were offered in many sessions. A number of speakers focused on how to sell your company, or offered outside-the-box suggestions to land financing. Others discussed how to recruit (and find a job) in an industry where employment is in a state of flux, and companies might not have the funds to pay top dollar. At an Ernst & Young super session, speakers addressed the pros and cons of focusing on a single drug candidate in order to preserve capital. And even the social media panel touted the idea of using outlets like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to save money on promoting your company's work. Overall, the message was one of hope--by thinking creatively and acting deliberately, smart companies can survive to see better days.

Regional economic development grows: New and existing biotech companies are looking for any advantage they can get. That's why economic development is more important now than ever before. States, regions and countries looking to lure biotech companies have rolled out massive programs with attractive benefits. Maryland and Georgia were among the states that unveiled new biotech cluster initiatives, and Germany, Scotland, Norway and China (among many others) all touted their efforts to support innovation.

Fewer tourists make the trip: Economic conditions prevented many BIO "tourists"--those who attend to sight-see, chat and hit the party circuit--from attending the show. Those who attended came with a purpose in mind, and made the most of their time in Atlanta. A number of attendees commented on the quality of their meetings this year, particularly at the BIO Business Forum.

Healthcare reform looms: There was no small amount of concern expressed about healthcare reform. It's like some kind of unseen monster in a horror movie: everyone knows it's coming, but they don't know what it looks like or what it will do to them. The anticipation is almost worse than the reality. There was a sense of acceptance among attendees--healthcare costs have reached a state that most people understand the call for change. But biotech and pharma types want it on their terms. Biotech leaders are particularly concerned about biosimilar legislation. They have concerns about the safety of producing generic biologics, and are almost universally opposed to one bill that would offer only five years of data exclusivity. BIO is hoping for something close to 12 years, but this a point--like many others in the healthcare reform debate--on which the industry will have to compromise.

Industry defends innovation: Faced with so many new obstacles, many speakers and attendees were fiercely adamant about preserving innovation. It's the heart and soul of what the biotech industry represents, and anything that threatens it could spell disaster for the whole field of drug development. Healthcare reform, drug pricing control, comparative effectiveness and tougher FDA regulation could all have a negative impact on innovation. Biotech and pharma companies have to accept these new realities while protecting the core of what they do.

We enjoyed meeting everyone in Atlanta, and look forward to meeting many more of you in Chicago next year. - Maureen

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