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Symbiosis’ BIO 2014 Experience

For the Symbiosis team attending BIO 2014, the conference started in true BIO style with a spectacular welcome reception on the deck of the USS Midway Museum (below), involving great networking, good food, some lively entertainment, and a dash of maritime education. The evening came to an end as the San Diego bay shoreline was lit up by a BIO fireworks display (and with fresh take-away mini doughnuts for those who stayed long enough!).

Day one at the conference began in earnest with significant traffic visiting the exhibition halls and a packed schedule of partnering meetings from the outset.

With our ambition to engage with biotechnology client companies in the state of Massachussets, a visit to the MassBio exhibition stand lead to our CEO Colin MacKay meeting with the Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick (below). The seemingly now obligatory topic of Scottish independence was somehow avoided, however the willingness of the Massuchussets biotech industry to support the internationalisation of companies like Symbiosis was very clearly communicated, with Governor Patrick explaining how “The blend of doing well and doing good is working in Massachusetts”, a very symbiotic approach close to the core values of Symbiosis Pharmaceutical Services.

The list of companies in the U.S.A. “doing well and doing good” continues to grow with the entrepreneurial spirit and drive of biotech leaders. The founders of Symbiosis appreciated the needs of virtual, emerging and mid-cap biotech companies to work with a company that treats their fill-finish project as a priority. At Symbiosis we ensure projects are prioritised equally by committing to your preferred manufacturing slot at the outset. For clients to “do good”, they need to “do well”, and an operational capability like the one Symbiosis is proud of is aligned for ontime delivery which supports that ethos.

The Tuesday Keynote Luncheon with Sir Richard Branson was as anticipated a highly entertaining session. The talk was largely composed of short stories reinforcing his vision for transforming the world for the better. One particular question from the audience was most poignant, 12-year-old Thomas Edwards of Arizona, a leukaemia survivor sponsored by the Make-A-Wish Foundation asked “What do you value most in life, and why?” Sir Branson replied “Good health. … In the end, health is everything.”

In essence the multitude of delegates attending the BIO 2014 event were in San Diego to support this ultimate goal… that is, to increase the availability of diagnosis and treatment options that can improve our health. While the pharma industry’s big players historically focussed on developing treatments for large potential patient markets, a changing dynamic has emerged that sees the current source of innovation focusing on those nimble, highly-driven, passionate, and often small companies with entrepreneurial spirit…i.e. biotech companies. Their drive and passion is often heightened in the case of orphan drug innovators who focus on indications where no treatment may exist and where small patient populations add to the supply chain challenges. Orphan drug companies who are developing drugs through to the clinical trial phase can find it difficult to find a manufacturing partner with the flexibility required where volumes of commercial supplies are closer to clinical trial quantities. With its world-class small-scale manufacturing capabilities, Symbiosis is primed to support the challenges faced by those biotech companies who are developing treatments for orphan diseases or for small patient populations.

We feel it is important not to lose sight of the role we can each play in improving health whilst busying ourselves with the day-to-day of meetings, phone calls and emails. So when we ask potential clients … “Do you have confidence that your drug product supply will meet tight clinical trial deadlines?” We’re not only thinking about good business we’re also thinking about people like Thomas and his family.

Given this was the first time Symbiosis exhibited at the annual BIO event the Symbiosis team were unsure exactly what reaction they would receive from potential client approaching the exhibition booth. By the end of day one it was clear that the ability to offer rapid access to sterile sanufacturing capacity for clinical trials and specifically in combination with cytotoxic drug handling capabilties, continues to be highly valued by biotech companies. By manufacturing drug products in a time efficient manner including prompt batch documentation release, Symbiosis can clients benefit from accelerating what is arguably the most critical aspect of  drug development … finding the shortest route to clinic.

On Tuesday night Symbiosis were happy to support our colleagues at Scottish Development International (SDI) in hosting a Scotch whisky tasting reception on the rooftop of the Andaz Hotel. The sound of a Scottish bagpiper provided a clarion call to those guests struggling to locate the SDI reception … but also prompted requests for more traditional music from the Symbiosis CEO and BD Manager proudly dressed in their kilts (below). Unfortunately neither has the bagpiping skills to be able to oblige.

Those lucky enough to get a seat in the main room for Wednesday’s Keynote Luncheon by Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton witnessed a characteristically highly polished exchange with discussion around possible incentives to keep biotech companies in the U.S.A. It was great to hear a politician recognise the benefits to the economy of biotech and pharma companies and the potential impact of domestic policies to support continued growth of our industry.

The penultimate day was rounded off with the main BIO reception. Thousands of BIO attendees took to San Diego’s historic Gaslamp district (see below) for an evening packed with networking, music and international food.

Symbiosis had two principal goals in attending BIO 2014 in San Diego: Firstly, to talk to existing and potential Symbiosis clients about manufacturing sterile drug products for clinical trials – and we certainly did a lot of talking! Secondly to raise awareness of our unique facility and capabilities for aseptic preparation of biologic and conventional drug molecules -our exhibition booth and kilt-wearing representatives certainly sparked a great deal of interest! We met some fantastic people with whom we continue to discuss future collaborations. We look forward to seeing you all next year at BIO 2015 in Philadelphia!

Finally well done to our whisky draw prize winners:  Iain Duncan, CEO of NeuMedics (see photo below), Stephen McAndrew, VP of Oncobiologics and Brian A. Roberts of Leidos….Enjoy!

We look forward to seeing you all next year at BIO 2015 in Philadelphia!

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