I wear two hats, one of a PhD student at University of Cambridge, and the other of a biotech social entrepreneur – in 2012 my lab mate Christian Guyader and I started Global Biotech Revolution (GBR). The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), as part of its outreach to organizations that support young people, invited us to attend the annual BIO convention in Chicago, where we hoped to learn how the world’s premier biotechnology conference functions.
The BIO convention is best described as the global biotechnology industry under one roof – held this year in McCormick Place, a massive convention center the size of four football fields. The main exhibition hall holds national pavilions from US, Brazil, Puerto Rico, UK, EU, Israel, China, India, Japan and Australia, to name only a few. Exhibitors include University TTO’s, governmental organisations, media and IP support, as well as a diverse range of biotech companies. There are representatives from the biopharmaceutical industry, from ag-bio, industrial-bio and also cleantech.
For us, two programmes particularly piqued our interest. The first was the International BioGENEius Challenge, which was organised for high school students to recognise outstanding research project designs in biotechnology. The winners for this year were announced at the convention. (More information can be found here.)
The second was a plenary session, Forbes 30 under 30, which invited four rising stars of science and healthcare to a panel discussion, covering their current endeavors, their key challenges, the role of mentors, and their vision of the industry over the next 20 years. The four were Laura Deming, 18, who started the Longevity Fund, which invests in ageing therapeutics; Isaac Kinde, 29, a MD-PhD candidate at John Hopkins School of Medicine researching DNA sequencing technologies for early detection of cancer; Adina Mangubat, 25, CEO of Spiral Genetics, which analyses DNA sequence data; and Joshua Sommer, 24, who suffers from bone cancer himself and started the Chordoma Foundation to bring together chordoma researchers from across the world.
This group is incredibly inspirational for their collective passion, but the biotechnology industry needs more of these young, passionate drivers, from all regions of the world, to come together and debate the current and future issues of the global bio-economy. I believe it’s important for the next generation of bio-leaders to expand their outlook and knowledge of bio-economies to global scale opportunities. The focus lens needs to broaden from US, Europe and the biopharmaceutical sub-sector, to the breadth and diversity of biotech with all its prospects globally.
To drive this agenda forward, we are organising the Gap Summit 2014, the world’s first inter-generational leadership summit in biotechnology that connects future bio-leaders to the leaders of today. One hundred young bio-leaders from across the world will be selected to discuss issues in biotechnology with current biotech think-tanks, industrial leaders and research pioneers. The summit will ask them to challenge the current state of the global bio-economy, and consider grand issues that the field will need to address by 2050.
Many conferences espouse the benefits of connections, knowledge and inspiration, and that was on display at BIO, as well. My hope is that the Gap Summit conference will give the global young leaders of tomorrow the opportunity to challenge current knowledge, industrial dogmas, current leaders, and each other, for the benefit of the global biotech field.