July 'On the Road' with Stephen Rapundalo
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
In Mid-June, GRCurrent, the Grand Rapids SmartZone based at GVSU’s Cook-DeVos Health Sciences Center, graciously hosted a BioMixer. The food and beverage had a distinctly World Cup flare and a flat screen hook-up allowed attendees to keep tabs on the games being played. It all made for good networking and a fun time. Thanks to Kevin, Jeff, Bonnie, Felip, Stan and the other staff for their hospitality and support!
Later in the week it was off the annual BIO International Convention in San Diego. Beautiful weather, a vibrant biotech community, not-to-be missed receptions, and great networking made for a valuable trip. The event was very well attended, and partnership meetings were at an all-time high (over 28,000). There seemed to be upbeat attitude amongst attendees. Sessions and speakers were outstanding and my pockets came back full with new business cards to add to the Rolodex. A re-tooled schedule, better pricing, and a more opportunities for meet-ups really raised the buzz level compared to prior years.
Somehow the weeks whizzed by quickly. Sunday was spent meeting with all the other state bioscience associations on a host of operational, policy, and service topics. On Monday, a related group of state bioscience educational institutes, gathered to discuss best practices and other matters in the areas of entrepreneurship, workforce/talent development, and STEM education. That left Tuesday through Thursday to hit some sessions, walk the Exhibit Hall, hear the release of the latest BIO/Battelle state-by-state analyses of regional bio-industry strength, party on the U.S.S. Midway and in the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter among other great venues, and generally wear out my feet. But all worthwhile as one is there to schmooze. To Philly in 2015!
No rest for the wicked I guess, as I was up the very next morning after getting back late from San Diego, and drove to Lansing where I moderated a session on immigration reform hosted by FWD.us. The session brought representatives from various Michigan congressional offices. They heard MichBio, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Farm Bureau, and other groups talk about how the absence of immigration reform is hurting our relative industries through the inability to keep skilled foreign nationals while job postings go unfilled.
I was an invited speaker at a related event on July 9th, the National Day of Action on Immigration Reform at the offices of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Steve Tobocman, director of Global Detroit, hosted the event and other speakers included Sandy Baruah, CEO of the DRC, and Karen Phillippi from the Office of New Americans for the State of Michigan. All spoke to the need for encouraging retention of skilled foreign nationals to support Detroit’s and Michigan’s economic recovery and future.
The end of last week saw me attend another meeting with Genesys Health System and their life science cluster planning efforts. Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of the Business Leaders for Michigan and I teleconferenced about moving forward finally with a statewide bio-industry strategic planning effort – stay tuned for that.
Then, just today I was in Lansing and testified before the Senate Health Policy Committee regarding SB 991. The proposed “Right to Try” legislation is an attempt to allow terminally ill patients access to investigational drugs and cut out the FDA in the process. While neutral on the actual passage of the bill, I raised several concerns on the record. I pointed out that once passed into law it would give patients a false hope for treatment and/or cure, as federal law and the FDA would preempt any state-enabled activities. In addition, there are legal, medical, ethical, and management issues that would give many companies great pause before allowing early, emergency access to investigational drugs. The bill was approved unanimously out of Committee and will go to a full Senate vote sometime in the future. A related House bill has not yet been taken up by committee.
So that wraps up the last month’s activities. The only other thing to mention is our excitement at the news that Margaret Hamburg, MD, Commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration will keynote our 2014 MichBio Expo & Conference—see more below.