I recently had the opportunity to attend two different events — the Society of Toxicology ToxExpo (SOT) and the Drug, Chemical, and Associated Technologies Week (DCAT). Both took place during the same week and at opposite sides of the United States. SOT was held in San Francisco and DCAT in New York City. As a result, I found myself flying back and forth to make it to both events — my own form of March Madness. Both provided great insight and networking opportunities.
What I Learned At SOT
My first stop was SOT. Being my first time at this event, I have to admit I was surprised by its size as well as the number of vendors. As I walked the show floor with the other 7,400 attendees, I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about this side of the industry. In addition to meeting with executives with companies of which I am very familiar (e.g. BASi, MPI), I also took the time to learn more about companies with which I knew little about. For example, I met with Thomas Kurz, founder of Advion Bioanalytical Labs, a Quintiles Company. Tom explained to me that one of the biggest challenges for his company over the years has been forecasting demand for services. According to Tom, in the preclinical space it is very difficult to forecast beyond six months, which makes it difficult to plan for staffing needs, budgeting, and so on. Another difficult decision for Tom was deciding whether or not to allow his company to be acquired. He informed me that his company had a lot of suitors for acquisition, and in November of 2011, he decided to sell to Quintiles. I asked if he might be interested in putting together an article on how he approached the decision for a future industry leader article in Life Science Leader. Stay tuned.
Battelle is another interesting company I had the opportunity to learn about at SOT. I sat down with David Monson, Ph.D., director of AgriFood Health and Life Sciences Global Business; and Michael Brooker, VP of business development. Battelle’s tagline, “The Business of Innovation” caught my eye, and I was curious to learn more. Brooker and Monson explained how Battelle partners with experts at national laboratories and universities to conduct innovative R&D. Headquartered in Columbus, OH, Battelle Memorial Institute is a 501(c)(3) charitable trust employing more than 22,000 people at more than 130 locations worldwide. I admitted to Brooker and Monson that until meeting with them, I had never heard of this organization, which I came to learn, is the world’s largest independent R&D organization — conducting $6.2 billion in global R&D annually. To put this in perspective, Pfizer’s (NYSE: PFE) R&D budget is around $6.5 – 7.0 billion annually.
Want Innovation – Look At What You Already Have
One of the most interesting conversations at SOT occurred with Mark Crane, VP of business development at SNBL USA, a preclinical laboratory with expertise in nonhuman primate (NHP) toxicology. Crane demonstrated SNBL’s patented procedure cage, originally designed more than 20 years ago by Dr. Ryoichi Nagata, current SNBL Chairman of the Board and son of SNBL’s founder. What made the conversation interesting? Until this year, the procedure cage, which has a number of benefits including being safer and less stressful on primates, was only utilized internally at SNBL for animal-handling processes. Crane, a relatively new member to the SNBL team, saw the cage as not only an internally strategic advantage, but also as an opportunity to improve studies globally. As a result, SNBL is now planning to lease the cage to sponsors conducting NHP studies, which will serve as a new revenue stream for the company. In my discussion with Crane, he described how sometimes being innovative means taking a look at the assets you already have and how you might be able to utilize them in a different manner.
If You Want High-Level Networking Go To DCAT
DCAT is one of the largest gatherings for the pharmaceutical and related industries and is held annually in March at the Waldorf-Astoria and InterContinental Hotels in New York City. I arrived near the conclusion of the event, which culminated in a black-tie affair keynoted by former president George W. Bush. Despite missing a few days of DCAT, I still had the opportunity to network with a number of executives and industry experts, which should result in some excellent future editorial for Life Science Leader magazine. Next year, I hope to spend more than just one day at DCAT.