BioPartnering Europe Evolves: Structure Implies Function
August 08, 2012
– Blog by: Dr. Robert Lee Kilpatrick Partner, TVG
The longest-running biopharma partnering event in Europe took place in London this past October, after 19 years of sustained success. BioPartnering Europe (BPE) was first produced in 1993 at a time when few business development professionals used email, or accessed websites, or used social networking sites. In 1993, most biopharma companies were in California, Massachusetts, and pockets of Western Europe. Hence the need for BioPartnering Europe, which brought US and European biopharma companies together to network and do deals. The event (structure) was created to facilitate partnering (function).
Let’s fast-forward to 2012, a full 20 years later, and the use of email, websites, online databases, and social networking sites is ubiquitous. In fact, as Nicholas Carr points out in his recent book, ‘The Shallows: How the Internet is Changing Our Brains’, this phenomenon is making a much bigger contribution to communication than Johannes Gutenberg’s use of movable type printing in 1439. In addition, biotech is no longer restricted to the west and east coast of the US, or Western Europe, but rather it has become both an industry and a global phenomenon.
Yet another development has occurred in this industry, which is that biotechnology has expanded into many areas of the economy, including human, animal and plant health, foods, energy materials, and industrial applications – what is termed the “Bioeconomy.” The driver of the economy is demographic. On the one hand, the population of the earth has now reached 7 billion and rising. As recently as 1927, within living memory, it was 2 billion. Plus, for the first time in history, over half of human beings live in cities. There has been a massive increase in the number of people making claims on global resources. Over 95% of this population growth is taking place in the so-called developing world. In Europe, North America, and Japan, the population is either stable or has been shrinking, and the percentage of these populations that is aged continues to rise. Most of the world’s people are young and poor and most of the world’s materially wealthy people are old or aging.
At the same time there is huge demand for materials to support a rapidly expanding population of young people, and to also support the health and wellbeing of an aging affluent group of people.
The bioeconomy is where all these forces come together. The technologically advanced economies are working closely with the emerging economies. Both have a stake in the success of solutions being developed to enhance the quality of human life, and doing so in a way that is sustainable – in a nutshell, to feed, clothe, heal and power the world. The issues that face governments, companies, investors, and entrepreneurs now are different from what they were in 1992 when BioPartnering Europe was envisioned. At that time, the need to network US and European biotech companies was stimulated by newly-elected Vice President Al Gore, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, and officials at the US Commercial Service in the American Embassy in London. They rightly believed that biotechnology and information technology had the ability to transform economic life in fundamental ways. BioPartnering Europe was a first step in the direction towards what is happening now, in 2011, a networked world.
BioPartnering Europe was the solution to the problem of how to connect the leaders of the infant US and European biotech world. Now, looking ahead to 2012, BioPartnering Europe is evolving to meet new needs. The small club that was the biotech industry in 1993 is now large and growing. It has been estimated that the number of people directly involved in the biotech industry globally is 8 million. This is no longer a club, but rather a maturing industry. The need in 2012 is to create networks to link stakeholders in the life sciences industry on a global scale, employing conferences, face-to-face meetings, and web-based business networks to facilitate on-demand connections.
In 2012, BioPartnering Future Europe (BPFE) evolves from BioPartnering Europe (BPE). This change is much more than a re-branding exercise. BioPartnering Future Europe is the next step in networking the European life science industry – all of the European bioeconomy – starting with biopharmaceuticals. Phase I will take place in Brussels, 7-9 October, 2012, and the aim of the event is twofold: 1) to bring all of the stakeholders in European biopharmaceuticals together in one place for partnering; 2) to bring the world to Brussels to partner with European companies and institutions – from the US and Canada; China, India, Japan, Korea; Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay; Australia and New Zealand; Russia; and other Asian and Middle Eastern regions. The next phases are focused on bringing all of the life sciences together.
Currently, no partnering event in Europe is comprehensive in this way. BioPartnering Future Europe has strong support from the three regions of Belgium: Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders. Belgium is joined by many European life science regions, including the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Italy, and Hungary, for example.
Various high-level pan-European groups are working closely with TVG to implement this strategic vision, including the European Commission, EuropaBio, European Biotechnology Network, and European Biopharmaceutical Enterprises. There is a huge need for such a networking and partnering event, such that many of the world’s leading pharma companies support it, including Novartis, Astra Zeneca, Roche, Merck, BMS, Pfizer, and GSK, for example.
A unique feature of BioPartnering Future Europe is that it is part of a global networking platform that includes BioPartnering North America in Vancouver; BioPartnering India in Bangalore; BioPartnering China in Shanghai; BioPartnering Latin America in Rio De Janeiro, plus specially focused events such as C21 Bioventures in the Napa Valley of California which showcase small private biotechs, and Ausbiotech, the annual national conference in Australia, recently held in Adelaide.
In summary, BioPartnering Europe (BPE) was created in 1993 to address specific industry needs at that time. Looking ahead to 2012, BioPartnering Future Europe (BPFE) is designed using a consortium approach to bring together Europe’s leaders: leading biopharma companies; leading C-level executives; leaders from the investment world, from government, and from scientific research. The use of the word “Future” in the name of the conference is deliberate. It reflects the way Europe is going, towards an advanced knowledge-based economy driven by the application of new technologies and new thinking. BioPartnering Future Europe is being inspired by European leaders themselves, to enable Europe to be more competitive in a rapidly changing global economy.
As I learned in an anatomy and physiology class at Berkeley: structure implies function. Hence, as the function changes, so does the structure and the structure of BPE is changing to BPFE to serve new and very exciting realities.