The 8th REDBIO meeting took place a few days ago in Mar del Plata, a seaside city in Argentina. Under the slogan “Biotechnology and Society, conversation for a sustainable development,” the event pooled specialists from biotechnology areas to promote synergy between academics, government, industry and society. Argentina, still known as “the bread basket of the world,” is indeed a leader in transferring agricultural technologies abroad (see the recent Monthly Map).
Apart from the consolidated plant and animal topics, the conference covered developments in areas like environment. Great progress has been made in human health, too, as both biopharma therapeutic and diagnostic molecules have been produced, with vaccines and antibodies for cancer immunotherapy making it to clinical trials. In regenerative medicine, mesenchymal and induced pluripotent stem cell therapy are being developed. Regulatory and safety concerns were discussed for all areas.
There was an entire day devoted to bioentrepreneurship, with Latin American and invited guests sharing startup experiences and their interaction with partners. Speakers discussed the challenges of working in biofuels, aquaculture for fish pharming, and novel biopharma technologies. Most entrepreneurs came over from academia, looking to broaden out from research and follow a RIPCO business model. They remarked that biotechnology business can co-exist with academia, given the correct publishing and patenting policies. One of the topics was attracting venture capitals investment, and how to position the company globally once there is an interesting development.
In Argentina, most academia institutions have their own technology transfer departments. Startups usually get their first funding from the government and through contract services, while they keep developing their biotechnology products. For example, Immunova is a microbiology vaccine-platform developed from Instituto Leloir. INCU-INTA is the platform from INTA (National Institute of Agricultural Technology) investigating veterinary vaccines and IgY chicken antibodies production. InSud Group is an international holding created in Argentina, with public and private funding, focused on life sciences, agroforestry and culture, including the production of monoclonal antibodies. There is also Bioceres, an investment group focused on agrobiotechnology, with strategic partners both from academia and industry.
What came across at the conference is that entrepreneurs share a passion for innovation, a resilient temperment, and a common goal of putting their development into the global market.