During the BIO International Convention in Boston last week, an unaffiliated party featured topless dancers and models painted with the logos of investment firms and biotech companies sponsoring the event, incensing the chairman of the trade group to the point of reconsidering their memberships in the organization.
The officially titled Party At BIO Not Associated with BIO, or PABNAB, is known for being over-the-top. It entered into its 14th year with a raucous Day of the Dead-themed takeover June 6 at one of the largest nightclubs in Boston.
Cell line developer Selexis was listed as the event’s sole platinum-level sponsor, with over two dozen gold and silver company sponsors including Xencor, Nanobiotix, Alpha Blue Ocean, Bayer, EpiVax and others, plus several individual backers. PABNAB’s website has since been scrubbed, save for its gold logo on a black background.
As first reported by BioCentury, a photo taken at the party showed a semi-nude dancer painted with the logos of Selexis and the investment firm Alpha Blue Ocean on a pedestal stage. A Selexis spokesperson told BioCentury it was unaware its branding would be used in that manner, with other companies making similar statements.
BIO Board Chairman John Maraganore later told STAT that he was horrified to hear of the events at the party and is warning member companies to not sponsor the event again in the future. Maraganore also serves as CEO of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.
The event not only follows the #MeToo movement, which has helped raise broader awareness of gender diversity and sexual harassment in the industry, but also an infamous party at the 2016 J.P. Morgan healthcare conference hosted by LifeSci Advisors, which staffed their cocktail party with models to mingle with clients.
Kate Bingham, a managing partner at SV Life Sciences, and Karen Bernstein, chairman of BioCentury, later wrote an open letter to the biotech industry, opening with, “We can’t believe its 2016 and we have to spend our time writing this letter.”
The 2016 letter’s signatories included Maraganore, Biogen CEO George Scangos, GSK vaccines chief Moncef Slaoui, John Maraganore, Forum Pharmaceuticals’ Deborah Dunsire and Acorda CEO Ron Cohen. LifeSci Advisors later apologized for the event, and formed an initiative to place women executives on the boards of life sciences companies.
Following the event at BIO this year, Kate Strayer-Benton, director of strategy at Momenta Pharmaceuticals, who initially provided BioCentury and STAT with photos of the party, reupped Bingham and Bernstein’s letter with redline edits, titling it “It’s well past the time to just say no.”
The new letter, hosted by STAT, now opens: “We can’t believe its
2016 2018 and we have to spend our time writing this letter, again.”