What to expect at this year’s BHCR Forum

Year four of the regional flagship event is just days away and many wonder what’s in store this year.

April 11, 2018

In preparation, let’s take a look back at the Forum’s history and how it’s evolved over the past four years.

Year one, the event actually started as the Maryland Regional Biotech Forum back in 2015 was initiated to fill a void that was felt in a regional leaders who felt that the industry cluster wasn’t living up to expectations.  The first forum was met with great excitement and anticipation drawing a crowd of more than 400.  Included was a unique parallel event – the region’s first Leaders of Tomorrow Summit that was also the region’s first student- and postdoc-led, cross-functional and inter-generational leadership summit, and is designed to engage and influence the next generation of biotech leaders and ignite innovation in the future bioeconomy.

The outcome of this first event included four specific goals, including;

  1. to tell our story better,
  2. brand the region,
  3. attract more large biotech tenants, and
  4. increase capital. 

Most importantly, this first forum produced a battle cry!  Top 3 by 2023″ 

“Bringing the top business, scientific, government, academic and policy organizations in this region together through the Forum paves the way for creating the common vision crucial to making this one of the leading biotech regions in world. This can only be accomplished with increased collaboration of our resources and networks.” – Richard Bendis, BHI President and CEO.

Year two, the event was titled the Regional Biotech Forum and produced some really great momentum.  First, some very good data was released showing where our region ranked among others according to variables like talent, R&D, Commercialization, Venture Capital, and other components of a healthy cluster.  The good news is that we ranked #1 in Talent, but had some work to do in the other areas.

The sophomore event also unveiled a new brand for the region, “The BioHealth Capital Region” and a call to action for us to be a more united region between Maryland, DC and Virginia.

Year three, The BioHealth Capital Region Forum was born under the new brand and the same mission – Top 3 by 2023!  Now that we have a brand, this year we got a logo and a website.  With three years of collaborative effort and hard work, the event had grown to over 1,000 attendees and this year organizers focused on how to get regional players to learn how to collaborate and work better together.  The event sessions were broken up according to focus areas that were identified in years past and there was a real feeling of momentum happening.

Year four; what will be in store?  

Things have really seemed to take shape these past three years and I for one am anticipating that this year’s forum will be the best year.  The BioHealth Capital Region effort has paid off in many ways for the region and I hope that this year will also be a time to celebrate some of those successes and then refocus as we start to approach the midpoint to the Top 3 by 2023 goal!

We do have a lot to celebrate as a region.  There have been a number of significant win’s based on the goals set forth in that first meeting four years ago.

Investment has improved – just look at what’s happening with TEDCO 2.o and some big raises like with PGDx and the recent spin out of Viela Bio from MedImmune.  We’ve also had some big exits like Harpoon Medical.

Tech Transfer has improved quite a bit thanks to the collaborative efforts and what’s going on at incubators like Johns Hopkins Fast forward and Inova Personalized Health Accelerator; who’s first tenant, by the way, came from Maryland (good regional synergy there).  In fact, there is a lot of sharing going on in the startup ecosystem between universities, states and other collaborations (stay tuned for another post on that).

The talent development pipeline is continuing to be improved and we’ve realized that our #1 Ranking back in 2016 that we boasted wasn’t really aligned well with what our companies actually needed.  The MABRC Conference last November really shed the light on that issue.  But the universities are responding, BHI and Worksource Montgomery are partnering to help post-docs get better trained for industry and many other efforts are underway.

What about another big anchor company though?  That one seems to be avoiding us – or is this the year we’ll hear about a big new tenant?  Don’t get me wrong, the decision for GSK to locate their Global Vaccine R&D center in Rockville back in 2016 was big, but they were kind of just picking up the HGS jobs.  I want to see a big name company expanding and planting roots here to create NEW jobs and new collaborations.

Maybe that’s not too far fetched.  We shall see next week.

No matter what is in store, the BioHealth Capital Region Forum is now a great event that celebrates our region and all of the amazing people and companies that make it great.  At the very least it’s important to all be together under a common roof, common brand and common mission to build new relationships and strengthen old ones.

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