BIO Alabama: State’s bioscience ecosystem built on collaboration

BIO Alabama: State’s bioscience ecosystem built on collaboration
BIO Alabama Executive Director Sonia Robinson is among those participating in the virtual annual conference. (contributed)

The second day of the BIO Alabama Conference covered a range of topics from biotech investors to grant opportunities and scientific research positioning Alabama as a bioscience leader.

BIO Alabama Board Chairman Blair King, HudsonAlpha‘s Amy Sturdivant and BIO Alabama Executive Director Sonia Robinson provided a recap of key takeaways from Day Two panels and speakers:

  • Collaboration is the name of the game for Alabama’s bioscience ecosystem. Researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, businesses, elected officials and other organizations in the state are working together to grow this sector, and BIO Alabama helps connect the dots.
  • Day Two started with a panel of representatives from bioscience firms around the Southeast talking about the venture capitalist (VC) environment for bio companies. Experts reaffirmed the investment landscape is active, with investors responding well to virtual roadshows and pitch meetings from entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees and entrepreneurs were encouraged to establish relationships early with VCs, before the financial ask, and to build out an investor relations plan.
  • Michael White of Founder Advisors Healthcare spoke about merger and acquisition strategy, re-emphasizing the importance of developing investor relations communication plans and strategies. White encouraged entrepreneurs to think about exit strategies early in the process and to do due diligence on potential partner companies to ensure the best fit culturally and purposefully. Identifying past deal flows – what went well and what were opportunities to improve – was shared as a tip for companies looking into mergers and acquisitions.
  • BIO Alabama is the leading advocate for Alabama’s bioeconomy, representing the state on a national and international stage to promote the intellectual and innovative capital that makes Alabama a premier place to invest, start and grow in bioscience. (BIO Alabama)

    Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs offer nondilutive research and development funds to small businesses, including biotechnology companies, to explore high-risk/high-reward technology.

  • The third panel addressed the importance of these programs for biotech companies and provided key tips for writing and submissions, including the importance of intellectual property protection as companies work through the grant process. Experts recommended strategically showing how companies are going to protect intellectual property as part of grant applications, while  being mindful of details included in submissions. SBIR/STTR matches or supplements in the state are needed and were referenced in this panel, as well as the Innovate Alabama discussion, to be considered to help scale bio startups in Alabama.
  • State policymakers are engaged and interested in bioscience and the newly formed Alabama Innovation Commission, established by Gov. Kay Ivey in July, is set to make innovation a priority for Alabama. Commission members Peggy Sammon of GeneCapture, state Sen. Greg Reed and state Reps. Bill Poole and Anthony Daniels talked about Innovate Alabama’s focus to grow the state’s innovation economy and tech-related industries, with the bioscience sector being of critical importance. The forum and platform have been created for entrepreneurs and innovation, with policymakers and business leaders keen on how they can move things forward. Speakers encouraged entrepreneurs and startups to reach out to their legislatures and share an invitation for virtual tours or presentations.
  • Andrew Burnett, legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, delivered a fireside chat on the importance of funding for bioscience. Burnett shared Shelby’s focus on advocating for funding, with an increase over recent years. In 2019, Alabama was granted more than $390 million in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, ranking the state third in comparison to Southeast peers.
  • The three afternoon panels were science-driven, with representatives and scientists from Alabama’s research institutions and universities providing updates on cutting-edge progress. Presentations addressed the caliber of research in the state and how that research translates to products and applications on the commercial market. From precision medicine that helps tailor treatments to individual patients, how plant genomics are improving crop yield for beans and barley, and nanotechnology’s ability to deliver medication to exactly the right place in the body, leading research is happening in Alabama. Rural areas of the state have an opportunity in plant genomics research for economic development and can benefit from advancements in this field.
  • Science, capital and policy were highlighted Tuesday, with Wednesday focusing on economic development practitioners and how they fit into the ecosystem to push it forward.

To find more information and register for Days Three and Four of the BIO Alabama conference, click here.

BIO Alabama is the leading advocate for Alabama’s bioeconomy, representing the state on a national and international stage to promote the intellectual and innovative capital that makes Alabama a premier place to invest, start and grow in bioscience.

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