BioNJ’s 2012 International BioPartnering Conference Features Two Days of Networking, Presentations, Partnering and Industry Thought Leaders

BioNJ’s Third-Annual International BioPartnering Conference on May 10-11 saw more than 160 life sciences representatives from 13 states and the District of Columbia as well as nearly a half-dozen countries converge at The Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village in Princeton for two days of networking, company presentations, partnering discussions, expert panel discussions, and keynote presentations by industry thought leaders.

The event included a delegation of representatives from several French companies led by Conference sponsor UBIFRANCE. The delegation also participated in a tour of Merck & Co.’s Rahway facility the day before the conference.

“Our third year was an important milestone for the BioPartnering Conference,” said Debbie Hart, President of BioNJ. “Our attendance remained strong, the quality of the company presentations seems to improve with each year, and there were significant opportunities for our participants to network and be kept ahead of the curve on some of the most important issues facing the industry.

“We are grateful to our participants, sponsors, and the Organizing Committee for making the Conference an unqualified success,” she said.

Partnering and Presentations

In the rotating 30-minute Partnering Sessions, entrepreneurs and company representatives paired off privately to look for common ground in potential investment, licensing, and other deals.

One upbeat participant who met with several companies over the two days as he sought out collaborative agreements likened the approach to “speed dating.”

Potential dealmakers ranged from the major players in Big Pharma to promising start-ups working on new drug or other therapies and possibly even the next big breakthrough.

Nearly 2,000 partnering sessions were held during the conference.

The conference also offered many opportunities for extensive networking. The winner among those seemed to be the pre-dinner International Networking Cocktail Reception held on May 10, which featured French wines, courtesy of sponsor UBIFRANCE, the French Trade Commission in the United States that accompanied several French biotech companies.

A total of 25 companies took advantage of the Company Presentation session, where they were given an opportunity to present their technologies before a roomful of potential investors, scientists, and members of the biotechnology community.

And Conference participants were treated to a wealth of cutting-edge knowledge from recognized life sciences industry leaders in several keynote addresses and expert panels.

In one keynote, Peter Kellogg, Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer for Merck & Co., noted that Merck is focused on what he called the “eco-sphere” of health care and the human life cycle “from birth to death.” And he said that Merck welcomes outside firms to work with it in developing those therapies.

Meanwhile, Dr. Walter Moos, Vice-President of BioScience Division of SRI International, provided a thought-provoking session in his Plenary Address, Pharmaceutical Innovation, Dollars and “Sense” Research Saves Lives.

The international flavor of the Conference got particular attention through several presentations, including a keynote dinner address by Dr. Mark Bonnefoi, Head of North American R&D Hub and Head of Disposition, Safety and Animal Research Core Platform at Sanofi. He spoke on The Transformation of Sanofi into a Global Healthcare Leader and noted the company’s continuing commitment to New Jersey.

Panels Provide Special Insights

Panels and presentations ranged from the latest thoughts on alternative financing mechanisms to the new Federal JOBS Act.

The VC Panel discussion Survival: Capitalizing Innovation through Partnerships AND Alternative Financing Mechanisms, was moderated by Jeffrey Baumel, Esq., Partner, SNR Denton, and included panelists Peter Day, Managing Director, Biopharma Investment Banking, Leerink Swann; Dalton Einhorn, Principal, Johnson & Johnson Development Corp.; Zev Scherl, General Partner, NewSpring Capital; and Jeff Stewart, Associate Practice Executive, Campbell Alliance.

The Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act has been hailed as creating a new pathway to make capital formation more attainable for small biotechnology companies, and Peter Bible, Partner, EisnerAmper, and Charles Crain, Manager, Policy & Research, Biotechnology Industry Organization, engaged in an indepth discussion on how this important new federal law can benefit biotech companies.

A panel moderated by Michael J. Lerner, Chair of the Life Sciences Group at the law firm Lowenstein Sandler, addressed issues surrounding doing business with Japanese biotechnology companies.

Panelists included representatives from three Japanese companies — Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, and Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company — and a leading life sciences investor and Japan expert, Dr. James Foley of Aqua Partners LLC.

As in other panel discussions, experts said a key to forging partnerships with Japanese companies is to have sound business practices and solid data that help lay out the promise of a company’s research. Also, the panelists noted that when approaching a potential partner, targeting companies engaged in the same area of research is important.

But building personal relationships is the key to doing business with Japanese companies, noted Dr. Foley. And that’s another value that seems to be shared the world over. “Shaking hands and talking to people hasn’t gone away,” said a panelist at an earlier discussion on how biotechnology companies can better raise capital.

The participants who got together at BioNJ’s Third-Annual International BioPartnering Conference know that firsthand.

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