I just returned from the BIO 2006 conference in Chicago. It was a fantastic meeting with lots of excitement in the biotech arena. Almost every U.S. state had a booth and lots of governors and state officials were in attendance. With sponsorships going for over $200K, there were big bucks being splashed around – including a lot of tax dollars. It’s not hard to see why. All the states (and countries) want a piece of the growing biotechnology industry pie given its revenue and employment opportunities. A report by Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice shows bioscience employment was 1.2 million in 2004, which represents more than a 1% increase over the 2001 level, with workers earning an average annual wage of $65,775.

This week’s worldwide biotech industry meeting at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center drew almost 20,000 registrants (and apparently half of them were in line at Starbuck’s when I arrived Monday morning. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft made the rounds over at the Ohio exhibit headed up by Tony Dennis of Omeris. I had a chance to meet up with clients, associates, trades people and even other bloggers (a nod to Ellen at Life Science Communicants)

There was a wide diversity of life science beyond therapeutics that plays to the strengths in the Midwest including medical devices (surgical, orthopedic, cardiovascular, etc.), diagnostics, nanotech, Agbiotech, and industrial/environmental (e.g., biofuels). Agbiotech really was shining bright – you could almost smell the biodiesel. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton gave a speech touting biodiesel as a way to combat global warming. BASF announced it would dedicate more than $320 million over next three years to development of next generation biotechnological optimized crop plants. DuPont and Syngenta announced a joint venture to facilitate the out-licensing of seed genetics and biotech traits.

While not everyone thinks this is all good, most had a fantastic time. The exhibits from Scandinavia, Scotland, Wales, UK, and many others were a wonderful chance to meet people from all around the globe. And for just a short time, the world felt like a kinder, gentler (and smaller) place.

I’ll see you next year in Boston.

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