Biocom - Life Sciences Association of California
San Diego  |   Los Angeles  |   Washington, DC  |   Tokyo


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David Hale, President and CEO of CancerVax: Maureen O’Conner was mayor (1991). We had a significant drought. One of the solutions that had been proposed by her and the City Council was that they were going to shut our water off for two to three hours a day, all manufacturers.

Kennon W. Baldwin AIA, President, McGraw/Baldwin Architects Inc: The city didn’t have a real high sense of awareness that the industry was so dependent on a reliable water source, so they just kind of said, ‘OK, everybody bite the bullet, you’re all going to have to go without water for a couple of days a week.’

David Hale: When I heard that, I called a number of the CEOs and a few of the service providers and we met in my conference room at Gensia. We decided that this would be a disaster for the biotech industry in San Diego, and that we needed to try to do something about it.

Brent Jacobs, Senior Vice President, life science group at Burnham Real Estate: We went to a breakfast, which he (Jim McGraw) put on, which if I can remember was at the University Club. Jim suggested that a lot of our mutual clients had problems. He said, ‘Why don’t we get an organization together that will support the industry?’

Ken Baldwin: Jim McGraw and a whole bunch of people on the service side, Brent Jacobs, Guy Iannuzzi, Wain Fishburn, gathered together and went down to the city as advocates for the biotech industry - but not members of the biotech industry - and said, ‘Your guys are nuts, this is going to kill them.’ Parallel with that, the BIC folks went down and made a bunch of noise on their own.

David Hale: I presented an overview of the biotechnology industry (to the city council). It was amazing, because it was very clear that they had no idea about the potential for the industry and the potential impact it could have on the city of San Diego. After that meeting, the problems didn’t go away. I pulled together the same group and started the Biotechnology Industry Council. (Jim McGraw and I) talked about whether there should be one organization or two, service providers or industry. We then brought in Bill Otterson and Wain Fishburn. After talking about it, we decided that we would have better political clout with two organizations.

Ken Baldwin: Then the rains came, so they didn’t have to do the water rationing. Everybody called that the Miracle March. Way late in the season, we got all the water we needed and decided not to do the rationing. The benefit was that it kind of galvanized those two sister organizations into a sense that we could be more effective as an integrated entity.

M. Wainwright Fishburn, Jr., Partner, Cooley Godward LLP: The original reasoning behind keeping both organizations separate was that there were some issues that needed to be addressed, but it was determined that CEOs need not be in the line of fire. Animal rights would be one example.

Ken Baldwin: Biocom was really a nickname, if you will, for the San Diego Biocommerce Association. We needed a logo, and a bug, something that was a little easier to say, and Jim McGraw and I were sitting around in our office, and I said, ‘Well, biocommerce, biocommunication, biocommunity, how about just Biocom?’ and it stuck.

Guy Iannuzzi, President, Mentus: Everybody’s agendas were very clear and nobody had any issues with that. If we did a program and needed a CEO, we called BIC. If they needed a sponsor, they called us. A lot of it was incredibly informal, ‘Who do you know who could help?’ All the lawyers were close with us. All the minutes, all the bylaws were done very well. Same with accounting. We kept all our houses in order.

Elliot Parks: When it came time for the first CalBioSummit (1992), Jim tapped me to help organize the event along with Bill Otterson and others. I found myself in the unenviable position of moderating the whole day’s event, including a live satellite feed from the Governor’s office. It took a while, but we did successfully get Gov. Pete Wilson projected onto on the big screen in the front of the room. But he could not hear the audio feed from San Diego and had to ad lib his whole discourse without benefit of the questions that we had worked so hard to choreograph.

Duane Roth, Executive Director, CONNECT: One of the most memorable times was our first lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., in 1993. The team was David Hale, Bill Rastetter, Ken Widder, Ted Roth and me. Our congresswoman at that time, Lynn Schenk, and her chief of staff, Bill Bold, served as our guides. They walked us from office to office the entire day with no break for lunch or anything else. I recall Lynn finally asking if she could stop for a bathroom break! These were tough meetings and we learned that lobbying in Washington was a blood sport. Nevertheless, we made an impact. BIO would go on to establish an annual “fly-in” based on the concept of CEOs visiting Washington on an annual basis to discuss issues important to the industry directly with Congress. San Diego CEO participation has been outstanding in these events.

Wain Fishburn: Back when both organizations were separate, Biocom Board meetings used to be myself, Jim McGraw, Peter Preuss, Bill Otterson, Ann Randolph and Bill Rastetter during cocktail hour at Tutto Mare. One of the defining moments in its history was when we decided to merge with BIC on a “dare-to-be-great” strategy that would seek to have the biotechnology industry companies directly linked to both the funding sources and supporting companies.

Ann Randolph: I was talking to Guy Iannuzzi and another CEO one night, and they looked at me and said ‘You’re the right person.’ Guy said, ‘I’m going to call Bill Rastetter first thing in the morning.’ I said, ‘Give me 24 hours to think about this.’ The next morning, I get a call from Bill Rastetter and Duane Roth saying, ‘We want you to be the first managing director.’ That was pretty persuasive.

On March 7, 1995, we had our first big Biocom meeting after the merger, and had the membership vote on the merger and approved it. That was the launching of Biocom as we know it today.

Duane Roth: Ann Randolph was the first managing director and I was the first chairman after the merger. We were working on budgets, financials, committees, etc. We needed an office for Ann. Ray Dittamore at Ernst & Young asked Jerry Caulder at Mycogen for space and he obliged.

Ann Randolph: We had two offices and a storage room. Jerry could not have been a better host. I was there many nights till 9 or 10 o’clock, and Jerry would be cooking for Japanese visitors on his barbeque grill outside of my office and would come in and offer me dinner.

Duane Roth: We were always battling the animal-rights group and the need for a low-level radioactive waste disposal site (Ward Valley). When you look back, these issues are all still with us.

Ann Randolph: Government was extremely interested in supporting the industry, because it had the highest-paid salaries on average in the state. It’s a clean industry, so manufacturing was not an issue. Everyone was affected by health issues, everyone could be interested in some company in biotech, because of the diseases they were working on.

Former state Sen. Dede Alpert: After I had been to Australia visiting our sister state there, I had met with some biotechnology representatives on my trip there, and offered to facilitate a meeting with industry representatives here. Biocom, Ann Randolph and CONNECT not only made this meeting happen, they made it a stunning success. The feedback I got from the Australians was that they were incredibly impressed that an association existed that made each of its individual member companies stronger by its relationships not only with each other, but with public officials and decision makers.

Ann Randolph: We grew substantially. We really didn’t have enough staff to do all the work, so I kept forming new committees. Everybody was so interested in this organization that you would have the senior people from all the service sectors in the committees. David Hale and Ken Widder asked me to form a purchasing group, which was a great idea. Lana Thurman was then at Viagene, and she had already founded a small group of five companies, and they had together developed the beginning of a purchasing group by doing a deal with VWR Scientific. She was a very instrumental person in getting the Purchasing Group off the ground.

Guy Iannuzzi: The Purchasing Group was one of the first things to define the member-centric attitude of Biocom, which was a key to its success. It’s one thing that almost every member of Biocom can make use of. It’s a win-win. It’s good for the members and it’s good for Biocom.

Ann Randolph: We also developed a number of educational programs through Biocom, which became seminars through Biocom, which became Extension programs, which were subsequently developed as part of the curricula of UCSD and other community colleges. Our education and work force efforts were stellar in those days.

(Working at Biocom) was the best thing I ever did. I learned so much from those CEOs. It was a blast. A lot of hard work and lonely hours. I made fabulous connections.

In 1999, the board brought Joe Panetta, formerly vice president of government and public affairs at Mycogen, on as the association’s first President and CEO.

Joe Panetta, President and CEO, Biocom: I remember thinking I was going to have an enormous amount of work on my hands and I didn’t have much of a staff. I was taken aback by the opportunity the board gave me to take on the organization and build it. I had a few people that I knew on the board, but a lot of people that I had to get to know. The Nobel Laureate Dinner came about in a meeting between John Norton (the Consul for Sweden) and me at Tutto Mare one day. He told me the dinner that he had been hosting at his house was growing out of the space. John really had the vision for what the Nobel Dinner should be, the production of the Great Hall, and the recreation of Swedish traditions. I said, ‘Well that sounds like a great idea, let’s get on it.’

William H. Rastetter, Ph.D., Executive Chairman, Biogen Idec: Now, having dinner with San Diego’s Nobel Laureates is quite something, but nothing like sharing the podium with Tina Nova. Actually, it was always two podiums - or if you like, podia. Somehow, I was always to the left of Tina. Now that’s quite impossible, if you think about it. I’m actually quite “purple.” Of course, our events were always scripted. And we’d cover the history of the prize and the particulars of our own Nobel Laureates. I quickly learned with Tina, however, to be on my toes for her impromptu banter. The second year at the opening of the session, Tina in a magnificent red evening gown scolded me in front of the assembled crowd for wearing the same tuxedo I’d worn the year before! Well, gosh. At least she noticed.

David Hale: Probably the biggest thing (to happen to San Diego) was having the BIO Annual meeting here. That was a huge success, and really focused the attention of San Diego and the world on the San Diego biomedical community.

Joe Panetta: My strongest memory of BIO 2001 was how the city came together to support us, from the politicians, to the business people downtown, to the convention center people and to the police. We thought there were going to be 10,000 protestors. I went to a meeting of the security agencies with Ray Briscuso (executive director of BIO) and there were 200 people there.

David Hale: I remember coming to the convention, worried about all of the protestors and how we were going to handle them. They didn’t bother us at all. I just remember what a great meeting it was. It didn’t turn out to be a problem.

Ken Baldwin: If the first CalBioSummit (in 1992) put San Diego on the map in terms of the state, the first Bio conference here put San Diego on the map in terms of the world.

Brent Jacobs: Joe has been the catalyst. I contribute a level of success we had in this community to his unwavering interest and his focus. I just got back from the East Coast, and everybody loves Biocom. They want to franchise it, they want to know how we got it going, they want to know how we got it together.

Thanks to all who contributed their memories to this project, and apologies to those whom we could not include. Special thanks to Guy Iannuzzi of Mentus for photos, graphics and timeline information.