Representatives from venture capital firms and both biotech and medical device companies will converge at the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis this evening to kick off the third annual BIO Mid-America VentureForum.
"We have a great lineup" of panels and presenters, said Ray Frost, senior vice president of Medical Alley/MNBIO, the life sciences and biotech association for Minnesota, which is co-hosting the event with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Eight other state associations - Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin - are co-sponsoring.
The three-day event begins with a reception this evening, and will feature presentations from more than 60 companies Thursday and Friday. More than 400 people have pre-registered for the event, and Frost said additional registrants are expected on site.
Last year's event, held in St. Louis, drew about 450 attendees, and companies that presented during the conference collectively secured about $89 million in venture funding over the last year.
Frost said organizers chose Minneapolis for several reasons. The city offers a central location, is easy to get to and is home to a number of medical technology and medical device companies that, for the first time, will be invited to join biotech at the Mid-America conference.
"Minnesota is a major capital of medtech," Frost said, "So it seemed logical to hold the conference here."
While the biotech industry in the Midwest has not built up as quickly as it has along the east and west coasts, it has developed a solid foothold in the region.
"We have some of the largest research institutions," Frost said, listing the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan and Michigan State, to name a few. "We also have some top-notch research hospitals, like the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic."
He added that the nine-state region could easily compete with the country's biggest biotech hubs.
"When all of us pull our resources together, which is something we do well in Midwest," he said, "then we have a lot of what is needed to be successful and to build success."
BIO began the annual event in 2003 to bring together young biotech firms from the Midwest and other areas, along with investors and other industry leaders. This year, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to speak following opening remarks by James Greenwood, president and CEO of BIO. Keynote speakers include Leon Moulder, president and CEO of Minneapolis-based MGI Pharma Inc., and Joshua Boger, chairman, president and CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc.