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May 21, 2019
This paid piece is sponsored by South Dakota Biotech.
South Dakota’s biotech industry is having another big year, and in the coming months, one of its key leaders will be telling the state’s story at major international events.
Joni Johnson, executive director of South Dakota Biotech, will represent the state at two major industry gatherings: the annual BIO International Convention and the BIO World Congress, which this year is coming to the Midwest for the first time.
Add to that ongoing advocacy work, new options for private equity and a newly revamped website to connect the biotech community, and it has been a busy 2019.
We caught up with Johnson to take the pulse of the biotech industry as midyear approaches.
What kind of biotech activity has the state been experiencing so far this year?
We continue to see strong activity. One of the areas we’ve long wanted to grow is the availability of private equity for early-stage companies, and we’ve seen some nice success this year with funding through South Dakota Equity Partners. We’ve also been seeing good collaboration between higher education and industry. South Dakota School of Mines & Technology recently held its first investor conference, and dozens of investors from across the region attended. That’s significant, and it’s the sort of thing we want to continue to foster and expand.
As you look ahead, does it feel like there’s continued momentum for the industry?
Absolutely, and I feel like there’s a buzz around it. I think a lot of it is because of some recent events we’ve held. We’ve brought in leadership from the FDA, the SBA, various federal agencies have come to town, and the business community has been connecting to those, along with the biotech industry – people you might not expect. So I think that’s got the community talking more about what’s occurring in the bioscience industry here, and it elevates what’s happening.
You recently redesigned South Dakota Biotech’s website. What kind of experience are you trying to create there?
A one-stop for anything you might want to learn about or access regarding the bioscience industry in South Dakota. You’ll learn about our advocacy work, events of interest, the latest biotech news, our leadership and our membership and the ways we can put our association to work for you. Take a look at it here.
Some businesses might think membership is only for organizations directly involved in research or production of biotech-related products, but how broad is your membership?
It is extremely broad – any company that might service our industry. That includes banks, law firms, accountants, insurance, real estate and many more. Any organization looking to connect to the bioscience industry will find value in a membership.
You have some significant industry events coming up, including the annual BIO International Convention in early June in Philadelphia. What will you be doing to represent the state there?
I attend annually, and I know several South Dakota businesses attend as well. We’ve had a great track record of winning or being nominated for some of the recognition they offer to startup biotech businesses, and we’re represented on several of BIO’s committees. It’s a really valuable opportunity to tell our story, make connections that turn into real business relationships and show the broader biotech industry all the promising work that’s happening in South Dakota.
The BIO World Congress is also coming up, and this year it’s practically in our backyard. What should businesses know about that event?
This is a huge event July 8-11 in Des Moines. It’s an annual event, and this is the first year it’s been in the Midwest. There will be about 1,000 attendees representing 40 different countries. They anticipate 750 to 800 companies. The content really is in the sweet spot for biotech in South Dakota: industrial biotechnology and ag-tech. BIO has expanded its reach to more broadly encompass agriculture, so there will be sessions on the latest advances in industrial chemicals and products, food ingredients, advanced biofuels and biorefinery platforms, synthetic biology, agricultural technologies and crop production.
We’ll be partnering with other neighboring states to host a Midwest reception that will provide a venue for the attendees to come meet business leaders from our region. We’ll talk about why they should consider doing business in South Dakota. So we encourage area businesses to not only attend the World Congress but also to reach out to us before so we can put our network to work for you at events like this.
The state’s biotech scene shows no sign of slowing down this year. Here’s the latest on big upcoming events, key developments and a new way to stay informed on the industry.