This article originally appeared in the Philadelphia Business Journal.
A collaborative effort spanning three states will promote the region‘s life sciences sector to the 16,000-plus people from 67 countries coming to Philadelphia next week for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s annual international convention.
“Our target is the visitor from outside the region who we’d like to see expand here or start a company here,” said Matt Cabrey, executive director of Select Greater Philadelphia.
The BIO 2019 campaign is being led by the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia’s Select Greater Philadelphia and CEO Council for Growth divisions. Also involved as part of the Regional Host Committee are the life sciences industry trade organizations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and dozens of area companies including Comcast, Independence Health Group and Penn Medicine.
Chamber Vice President Claire Marrazzo Greenwood said the campaign is part of a three-year, $1.65 million initiative the organization is spearheading to support and grow the region’s life sciences industry — particularly in gene and cell therapy and connected health, where this region is a leader. Examples include the CAR T-cell therapy (Kymriah) developed at Penn to treat certain type of cancers, and Philadelphia-based Spark Therapeutics’s Luxturna, the first FDA-approved gene therapy to treat an inherited condition.
Marrazzo Greenwood said 11 area businesses, universities and research institutions are each contributing $150,000 over three years to fund the initiative, which includes developing shared messaging, supporting infrastructure and the needs of startups and growing companies, and attracting talent.
“(The BIO 2019 campaign) will be the backdrop in a much bigger initiative,” she said.
Cabrey said in planning for the BIO convention, everyone agreed it was important to collaborate and promote the region as a whole instead of having different sectors compete among themselves for the same audience. “We aren’t just focusing on University City,” he said. “That may be the anchor, but that doesn’t mean interesting things aren’t happening at, for example, Christiana Care (in Delaware) on Rowan University (in South Jersey).”
Cabrey said when planning for the event, they purposely didn’t want to just ask people for money, but they instead sought ways organizations could help support the effort. Comcast donated amphitheater space in its Comcast Technology Center for the campaign’s signature event: the Greater Philadelphia Life Sciences Innovation Showcase. “It will be a series of TED-styled talks from people like Carl June from Penn and Jeff Marrazzo from Spark, followed by panel discussion,” Cabrey said.
The showcase will also have a series of videos, including the one used to promote the region for its Amazon bid and another featuring startup life sciences companies like Tmunity Therapeutics, which Comcast put together working with Philadelphia-based communications firm Devine + Partners. The showcase will also have a demonstration area highlighting local innovators. Other examples of collaboration include the Philadelphia International Airport providing digital billboard signage at its terminals and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia contributing billboard sites it controlled along I-95 for additional signage.
Among the rotating messages on digital billboards are “Welcome to Cellicon Valley,” and “Greater Philadelphia: Innovation is in our genes.”
Tours of sites — including CHOP’s Clinical Vector Core, the Jefferson Institute for BioProcessing, The Pennovation Center and Incyte’s new Delaware headquarters — will also be part of BIO 2019.
“Greater Philadelphia’s life sciences ecosystem is driven by a spirit of collaboration combined with innovation,” Cabrey said. “There is a desire and willingness to not only try new things, but to help innovators and entrepreneurs grow, learn and be successful.”