BioBuzz Community Thriving as Showcased in Recent Return to In-Person Events
after Nearly Two-Year Hiatus
Around 200 attendees joined BioBuzz’s first gathering since pre-COVID at Brookeville Beer Farm last week, reveling in the feeling of being face-to-face with other community members of the BioHealth Capital Region after a year and a half of Zoom meetings. The event, which CRB sponsored, highlighted the importance of safely getting back together as a community.
“If you’re not familiar with BioBuzz, our mission is to bring together the people and the companies in this region and make meaningful connections,” said Adam Van Bavel, head of business development and marketing at BioBuzz and Workforce Genetics, while addressing the crowd Wednesday night. “So I think tonight is a testament to that.”
Many attendees were thrilled to see peers they hadn’t in quite some time, while others experienced their very first BioBuzz event. Lauren Pogue, marketing specialist for McBee Moore & Vanik IP, LLC, met many people she had only corresponded with via email and Zoom at the happy hour.
The law firm has been a BioBuzz sponsor since 2019 to help reach potential clients in the biohealth community, and the I-270 Corridor in particular since much of McBee Moore & Vanik’s intellectual property work is with foreign clients. But Pogue said the importance of meeting in person and putting a face to a name is one of the most important benefits of networking events like BioBuzz.
“This is one of the best, most well-attended events I have ever seen for a singular entity,” Pogue said about the event.
Jacob Greenwood, director of business development at CRB, was excited to get back into the swing of things after a year and a half of shutdowns. He had only entered into his role at CRB about six months before the pandemic started.
“So getting back to this, it’s been incredible. I feel like I’ve missed so much time expanding my network in this industry,” Greenwood said. “And apart from that, it’s just so much fun to see people.”
Like many companies, CRB has transitioned its employees into working from home over the last year and a half. But now that people have been coming into the office more, Greenwood feels more confident about cultivating the company culture and getting to know people one-on-one.
“It was easier to get a hold of people for a first touch, virtually. But there is nothing like shaking hands, or sitting across from somebody,” he said. “That stuff is so much more valuable and builds a much deeper relationship than people get virtually.”
Jeff Galvin, the CEO of American Gene Technologies (AGT), said that creating a company culture remotely was near-impossible. But during the pandemic, AGT has tried to support its employees as best as possible.
“One of the issues that we face is: how do people cope with their stress bucket overflowing? What’s gonna give?” Galvin said.
To help its employees, AGT started offering COVID testing and in-house childcare. Still, the company has not brought all its employees back full-time to remain as safe as possible.
“But at least they have a little bit of time at the office and they get reminded of the excitement. Because that’s the thing with the best part of AGT is not the pay,” Galvin said. “The best part about AGT is that you’re doing something that excites you personally. You feel like you’re on a mission to do something big.”
David Anderson, quality site head at Kite Pharma in Frederick, has been cultivating a local company culture within an already-established corporate culture. The commercial cell therapy facility in Frederick is currently going through site readiness and could be up and running fairly soon to deliver personalized cancer therapies to patients.
“We kept essential people there as much as we could and then just did as much as we could… focusing on stuff that’s not just work, but also learning who we are as Kite grows so rapidly,” Anderson said. Kite has hundreds of jobs to fill to meet the demand for their cancer therapies and they look for new teammates who embrace their culture of teamwork, creative thinking, and most importantly a commitment to keeping the patients at the center of their work.
In a highly competitive job market operating at full employment, many companies have also learned the importance of telling their story and sharing it often. Since every hire you make will most likely be someone leaving their current company to join yours, employers have learned to be very clear about their value proposition to attract the right workers.
The BioBuzz community is a great place to tell that story, which several Featured Employers, including Kite, AGT, and BioFactura, got to do with a captive crowd at the event.
Companies have learned a lot from the past year and a half. Galvin said that he appreciates the decreasing need to travel for his job. With less travel, he has been able to accomplish a lot this past year with the company, including advancing their Phase 1 clinical trial for a gene therapy that is expected to provide a functional cure for HIV and also launching a successful COVID-19 testing division.
“Now, it’s so easy to get face-to-face time virtually and to get 90% of what you would get being in-person, and at whatever hours convenient for them,” he said.
Still, some aspects of in-person interaction just can’t be replaced. Thomas Blake, principal at Meridian BioGroup, was happy to get back to events and catch up with colleagues.
“You really can’t replace that in-person contact, that idle chit-chat about their families and their backgrounds,” he said.
Alison Demarest, also a principal at Meridian, thought the beautiful weather and the outdoor venue aided the event’s successful turnout.
“What’s so nice about this is that they knew it was going to be outside, and I think that made a lot of people more comfortable,” she said. “It’s nice to remind everybody what we’ve missed for 18 months.”
Word from the BioBuzz team is that they are planning more events and will get back to their monthly scheduled gatherings and industry events very soon.
A special thanks to Jim Jackson, Vice President, Manufacturing Operations and Site Head at Kite in Frederick, MD. for sharing his BioBuzz event experience with Bio Innovation Conference attendees while discussing the importance of community in fostering collaboration.
Speaking of community…
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