9 top tips for nailing BIO International

Dr Chris Doherty, managing director, Alderley Park

As we countdown to the BIO International Convention - the biopharma industry’s biggest event of the year which will see 16,000 biotech leaders come together in Philadelphia, it’s time to sharpen up your tools and make the most of what is potentially a business development goldmine.

1. Prepare to succeed

Whether it’s your first BIO or your 10th, it’s essential to go with a robust plan to make the most of the numerous opportunities available. Pull together a shortlist of contacts you’d like to meet and reach out to them beforehand.  Study the schedule well in advance of arriving to get the best of the networking opportunities – with so many events to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Consider the layout of the event space and the locations of your various meetings, making sure you leave yourself enough time to get around.

2. Pitch perfect

At an event of this scale you need a polished elevator pitch as you will constantly be introduced to people to explain your business.  Write down some key bullet points and weave them in to conversations where appropriate. You want potential new contacts to walk away knowing who you are, what you do and how you can help them - and with your business card.

3. Improve chances of landing quality partnering meetings

It is likely that large and mid-size biopharma firms will have teams to filter their partnering requests. Often, requests will be triaged and cross-checked with Business Development Managers – do we want to meet company x, y and z? It will be tough going if you have not managed to create an awareness of you and your business, so make sure you focus on the business development teams in advance, making contacts and connecting. When the partnering meetings do happen it’s important to take a slide deck that does an exemplary job of presenting your program and its data.  Take nothing for granted. Get a fresh pair of eyes on your slide deck before you present - you need honest and informed feedback.

4. Show good judgement re meeting requests

It’s not unusual for a delegate to do 50 or more partnering sessions. For drug development companies, consider the motives of anyone wanting to explore a collaboration.  Do they look like they have the funding and overall capability to work with you? Might they simply have a competitive interest in what you are developing?  

5. Pack for success

Put together a small ‘survival kit’ to carry around with you, ensuring you have everything you need. Must-haves include comfortable shoes – there’s a lot of walking involved and business cards. Keep hydrated and carry healthy snacks to maintain your energy levels.

6. Keep up your homework

Social media savvy? If not, now’s the time to sign up. Have a scroll through who’s using the hashtag #BIO2019 on Twitter once you arrive and stay on top of what people are talking about, noting who tends to be vocal and what discussions are circulating.

7. Mind your language

Remember, this is an international conference, not all the companies you want to meet will speak English as their first language so remember to communicate in clear and easy ways listen and seek to understand to establish relationships and trust.

8. Play the long game

Attending the conference is just one step in a long process. Big pharma is more willing than ever to collaborate and enter into partnerships, but it’s not the only compelling industry trend. The growing maturity of mid-sized biotechs is already one of the stand out features of this year. One striking example is the Cambridge cancer therapy specialist F-star taking a step back from its immuno-oncology collaboration with Merck. Instead, it has set its own course to take its lead candidate forward – sure to be one of the talking points of this year’s BIO.

9. Explore and enjoy!

Immerse yourself in the conference and generate some new leads but don’t forget to find time to take in a spot of the local culture.

  • Be sure to sample a traditional Philly Cheesesteak – a delicious sandwich made from thinly sliced pieces of beefsteak and melted cheese in a long, crusty roll

  • Take a trip to see one of the world’s most recognisable symbols of freedom, the Liberty Bell, which is less than a 15-minute drive away from the conference

  • Walk, jog or run across the Benjamin Franklin bridge, the largest single span suspension bridge in the world, at 1.8 miles. A great opportunity to fill your Instagram feed, too!

Katie Droogan