The BIO International Convention in San Diego, which has just ended, was a major event. With 14,000 delegates and 1100 exhibitors, it’s where the world’s life sciences community came together to explore opportunities and find solutions for overcoming challenges in the sector.
This was networking on a global scale and for Discovery Park, one of the UK’s fastest-growing life sciences campuses, providing fresh ideas, valuable insights, and key introductions within the sector.
I was there for all of the above reasons, but it was also the first opportunity to engage with the international life sciences community post-Covid, to discover what lessons have been learnt from the pandemic and to gauge the direction in which we are all now headed.
The accelerated speed at which a successful vaccine was developed has paved the way for further rapid developments of life-changing treatments and I was there to hear about how the mRNA technology used by Pfizer, who are based at Discovery Park, is now being put to innovative use in the field of neuroscience, in which we are building a specialist cluster.
There was also news of good growth amongst contract development and manufacturing organisations and as a park with aspirations to build a manufacturing village, this was encouraging to hear. With 220-acres at our disposal, we have space to support this key stage in bringing innovative treatments to market.
Investment has slowed significantly since the highs of last year, but with three of the world’s top 10 universities for science; a wealth of talent and a lower cost base than many of our competitors, the UK remains one of the most attractive places to pursue life sciences and the opportunity to talk face-to-face with some of the many overseas companies keen to locate here was invaluable. And I was also able to talk to potential investors for Discovery Park Ventures, which we launched earlier this year as a way of allowing promising start-ups to scale at speed. We have ambitious plans to grow this £1m fund to £25m in two years and, being able to speak directly to potential investors, was an important reason to attend.
Interesting sessions during the convention included talks from the US life sciences sector about the decision to ‘on shore’ their operations in response to the pandemic, the economy and supply issues, and what also came through very strongly was the geographic diversity of the sector, with representatives from growing clusters in Estonia, Belgium, Mexico and South Korea, amongst many others.
However most significant of all was the UK networking event, hosted by the Department for International Trade, which was hugely over-subscribed and very well attended and where it was possible to make many new connections. This event alone was worth the trip to San Diego and it was heartening to hear how many delegates were aware of Discovery Park and also of the role that Pfizer has played in vaccine development.
BIO International was exhausting – the distance between breakouts and main conference sessions made just getting around a marathon effort – but seeing first-hand the strength, scope and scale of an industry that is transforming the future of medicine, put a spring in my step.
Mayer Schreiber is CEO of Discovery Park