Q&A: Helen Stimson prepares Delaware to lean into biotech mega-conference

By Dan Metz
Special to Delaware Business Times

Helen Stimson is the president and CEO of Delaware BioScience Association, one of the host organizations of the 2019 BIO International Convention, which will take place in Philadelphia in June of 2019.

Among the Delaware representatives, Dr. Eric Kmiec from Christiana Care has been chosen to chair the program committee for Gene Editing for the convention.

We talked with Stimson about her preparations for the mega-convention, and what it could mean for the Delaware Biotech industry.

What is BIO 2019?

BIO 2019 is BIO’s annual convention and trade show. Last year, in Boston, there were over 18,000 attendees. BIO 2019 is different from a traditional trade show. There’s a programming element, a trade show floor, but the thing that differentiates BIO 2019 is they have what they call “one-on-one partnering.”

What is one-on-one partnering?

People who attend the trade show register in advance and they have the opportunity to electronically connect with the other trade show attendees to set up one-on-one partnering meetings. Most of the trade show could be folks who are doing economic development, could be technical people, could be business people trying to find contacts for their company, venture capitalists. Last year, there were 46,916 partnering meetings that took place at the trade show. It was a Guinness world record for the most partnering meetings to ever take place at a trade show.

As a host, how is Delaware Bio preparing for the event?

We are reimagining how Delaware shows up at the convention, and it’s going to be in a way that’s much more inclusive. I think we’re really in a position, as a small state, to shine as brightly as we can with things that we do really well. So, legal, IT, incorporation, gene editing, bioinformatics and oncology would be the things that we want to focus on. It is important right now for us to show up and look a little bit bigger than we are. I want to do that by focusing on the things where we really have leading strength.

Is that “reimagining” going to continue in the future or is that just taking advantage of this year’s geography?

Well, I think what we have to do first is focus on this year. As we move forward in the future, we are going to attempt to be as inclusive as we possibly can and as representative of all of the strengths we have in
the state as we possibly can.

What do you think the Delaware biotechnical industry has to gain from their participation in this event?

There’s a number of things. One is that we may be able to attract some companies to relocate to Delaware. Equally importantly, in this tough hiring market, it’s difficult to find talented employees. We want to make sure that people can envision Delaware as a place that they would want to go to work, where there are many opportunities. We also want to highlight the attractiveness of Delaware, because there’s a lot of attractive tax benefits, cost-of-living benefits, legal benefits, and easy-to-work-with political representatives here. We want to show the strengths so that they will take a very serious look at relocating to Delaware or starting up in Delaware.

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