What happens when you get 15-thousand people in one building, all talking to each other at once? Aside from needing to crank up the AC, you see 48 hours of massive networking. That's the dynamic here at BIO2011 in Washington. In those two or three days, some organizations have nearly 200 mini-meetings. It’s like speed dating, only the topic is collaboration, not love. There is no less passion involved, however. First there’s the invitation to chat, then the time and location are agreed upon. There may have been an earlier dance of sorts – a conversation at an exhibit booth – so the ice has been broken and the suitors can review background material, then get down to topics in one of the many meeting rooms around this great hall. For every dozen meetings, perhaps there is a follow up. If luck has it, perhaps a promise to visit each other’s organization for a larger, higher level meeting. Such is the romance of industry and science.
Many delegates are here to advance local economic development. “Come to our country, our state, our town to set up your sales office, research lab, or factory.” The reasons run the gamut from tax breaks and cheap property to the chance to collaborate with the world famous research center down the road. Everyone is nicely dressed for this wooing. Key messages are well-practiced, business cards and brochures exchanged, along with hearty handshakes. There is a sense of increased earnestness this year, perhaps due to the struggling economies around the globe. “How is it going where you’re from?” is a frequent question. One also realizes how small a world it is and how interlinked and international an industry biotech is these days. Let’s talk, let’s make a deal. Were all global playing fields at this level.