Release Date: June 27, 2006
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As part of the grand opening of the University at Buffalo's New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, a group of Buffalo "expatriates" are spending time this week in the city they love to help boost the Center of Excellence and the life sciences industry it is generating.
The meeting, called Bio-Network Summit II, brings together Buffalo expatriates with backgrounds in law, venture capital, life sciences and marketing eager to put their expertise and knowledge to work for the benefit of their hometown. The group held its first summit in 2004.
"The members of the Bio-Net group are highly successful individuals in the biotechnology world who are generously giving their time in partnership with the Center of Excellence to help create new commercial opportunities," said Bruce A. Holm, UB senior vice provost and executive director of the Center of Excellence. "Summits like this one represent a vital component of the Center of Excellence's economic development mission."
The summit opens this evening with a dinner hosted by UB President John B. Simpson and continues tomorrow with a roundtable forum at the Center of Excellence coordinated by the center in conjunction with Buffalo Niagara Enterprise.
"The whole genesis of this Bio-Network idea was that there is a population of people both inside and outside Buffalo that have a loyalty to the area," explained Terry McGuire, co-founder and managing general partner of Polaris Ventures in Boston and founding member of Bio-Network.
McGuire, who grew up in Lancaster, focuses on investments in the life sciences. He co-founded Inspire Pharmaceuticals; Advanced Inhalation Research, Inc.; and MicroCHIPS.
"This is a great forum for generating ideas and for figuring out how to grab people who can solve important problems," he said.
Drawn together by a desire for their hometown to succeed, these individuals now serve as an external advisory board to the research and commercialization initiatives generated by the Center of Excellence and its partners.
The main topics to be discussed are how to make Western New York a more attractive city for conducting clinical trials and how best to commercialize technologies developed in Western New York.
While the Bio-Net members agree that the establishment of the UB Center of Excellence is a very promising step in catalyzing the region's life sciences industry, they are candid about what it will take for this effort to succeed.
"Now comes the tough part," said Kenmore native Peter Barton Hutt, a partner in Covington & Burling, a Washington, D.C., law firm; former general counsel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and a Bio-Network member. "Every institution involved is going to have give up power – everybody."
At the same time, Bio-Network members see the potential in the region.
"There's an enormous amount of technology coming out of the university and the teaching hospitals here and a lot of money that's being spent on research," said McGuire.
He added that the region is home to some very good examples of entrepreneurship.
"Why hasn't the spark happened yet?" asks McGuire, "I think the only thing missing is precedent, you need one prominent success. Maybe the chance is now."
McGuire added that like his fellow Bio-Net members, he feels sure that Buffalo has what it takes.
"I have enormous appreciation for where I grew up," he said, "and for the people I grew up with and for the strength of this community, its aspirations and all of the virtues of being an upstate New Yorker."
In addition to McGuire and Hutt, the other Bio-Net members are:
* Maureen L. Suda, owner of Suda Communications, a consultant to health-care and high-tech companies and former associate director of public policy and media spokesperson for Millenium Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
* Richard W. Mott, chief executive officer of Kyphon, Inc., a health care company in Sunnyvale, Calif., and former chief operating officer at Wilson Greatbatch Technologies
* William Gressor, president of Gressor Enterprises, LLC, and former chief executive officer of Biofortis
Local companies and UB spin-offs that will be represented at the summit include Empire Genomics, Kinex Pharmaceuticals, Nanodynamics, Gaymar Industries, Zeptometrix, National Grid and Tailored Sensors and Materials, Inc.
Also attending will be researchers and administrators from UB, RPCI, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, life sciences company executives, economic development leaders, technology transfer officials and local entrepreneurs and investors.