If It Happens At BIO International It Gets Attention

By Rob Wright, Life Science Leader

This year’s 2012 BIO International Convention is being held June 18-21 in Boston, and I can’t wait to see the final program. Last year’s event was my first exposure to this conference, and it did not disappoint. Not only was it huge in scale, it was large in scope — having captivating topics littered throughout the program. One that I decided to attend was the Diversity in Biotechnology Summit, and I am glad I did, as it resulted in other opportunities for Life Science Leader.

Post Show Blog Gets Noticed

The focus of the Diversity in Biotechnology Summit session was to expose the inequities which continue in drug development. I had the opportunity to listen and meet with such influential figures as Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, M.D. chief medical officer, Pfizer (NYSE: PFE); Dr. Vivian Pinn, M.D., NIH’s director of the office of research on women’s health; Gary Puckrein, Ph.D., president and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum; Dr. Elena Rios, M.D., president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association; and Dr. August White III, M.D., professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School. These thought leaders discussed how clinical trials continue to underrepresent various races and ethnicity — even for drugs developed and indicated for diseases known to be prevalent in a specific race.  After the show, I wrote a post-show recap which appeared as a blog on www.lifescienceleader.com. One of the subtitles within the blog, Clinical Trial Diversity Still Sits at the Back of the Bus got the attention of James Gillespie, Ph.D., J.D., president at the Center for Healthcare Innovation. He decided to give me a call about my blog. I expected the call to be a criticism for my choice of words, but to my delight, it was just the opposite. He thought the edginess appropriate to drawing attention to the issue regarding having appropriate representation of diversity in clinical trials. Gillespie wanted to get me up to speed on his organization and pitch an opportunity.

Center for Healthcare Innovation

I admit I was not familiar with the Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI). But, when someone like Dr. Gillespie, who has attended Harvard, MIT, Northwestern, Princeton and Carnegie Mellon, picks up the phone to get my opinion, I got familiar. Gillespie explained to me that CHI is a purely nonprofit organization developed to serve the life sciences innovation community. Its primary goal — to exercise thought leadership that increases the quality and quantity of innovation in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceuticals. Gillespie went on to tell me about one of his current plights — recruiting gender diversity for CHI. Always willing to help, I told him how accommodating the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA) and Women In Bio (WIB) organizations were regarding Life Science Leader magazine’s diversity initiatives. So, we began sharing contacts within our networks and working out how we could help each other. That led to Gillespie asking me to participate in CHI’s Diversity and Clinical Trial Symposium, an invite-only event.

BIO Leads To Collaboration On Diversity

In 2011, CHI, the National Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical Association, and the National Hispanic Life Science Society, collaborated to launch “Diversity and Clinical Trials: Opportunities and Challenges for the Life Sciences Industry” in Chicago. This was CHI’s first symposium in this area, and according to Gillespie, it went exceedingly well, with about 90 high-quality participants. He thought I might be able to help him connect with even more qualified people for this year’s event. In addition, he invited me to moderate a panel discussion in what he described as a “Donahue approach” so as to create a vigorous and engaging discussion. I gladly accepted and look forward to attending this event, which happens to be the week before the BIO International Conference. Here is a link if you want to learn more about CHI – www.chisite.org. Had I not attended BIO, Gillespie and I might not have ever met and Life Science Leader would have missed the opportunity to collaborate with CHI on the important issue of diversity.

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