A visitors five benefits of Bench2Boardroom 08

I attended the Bench2Boardroom 2008 for the first time this year at short notice, representing some German Biotech companies, and enjoyed the benefits of five different and complementary aspects of the event.

Coming in from the gloom of a rainy Wednesday morning, I entered the main hall at the delightfully unique Chilford Hall Vineyard to find a bustle of activity as delegates thronged, chatted and gazed at the exhibits. Taking a deep breath, I plunged in and almost immediately hit upon the first benefit – Networking.

In addition to the pleasure of catching up with existing contacts, such as Barbara Nasto, there was the enjoyment of meeting new ones. Having booked to late to take advantage of prearranged one2one meetings, these often turned out to be serendipitous conversations at a stand (Jane Knott, Norwich Research Park Enterprise), over coffee (David Latto, Oxford Gene Technology)  or at the buffet (Nick Gough, Cranfield University).

Of the Presentations (benefit no 2), I was interested in the Biomarkers session. Arriving somewhat late, I had a somewhat embarrassing entry to the event! Flummoxed by the apparent absence of an entry into the room, Jeff Solomon came to my aid. The door latch had jammed, effectively imprisoning the attendees already there and preventing others from getting in. We put our shoulders to the door and battled with the jammed latch whilst Penny Wilson, the moderator inside, similarly tried to help, until we burst in with the gaze of a now intent and curious audience upon us.

Penny calmly resumed coaxing elements and concerns affecting the biomarkers sector from the group. Two key aspects emerged; first, bridging the funding gap between the pure research to identify potential biomarkers and near market development of a commercial product and second, the need for a common forum to ensure better standardisation of samples and greater lobbying for biomarkers funding. We concluded with Penny gathering contacts and support towards a future provision of standard samples.

It was now time for a walk around the exhibits (benefit 3). It may surprise some to know that good product stands are not just there to ram their brands down your throat. The often postdoc level representatives have a wealth of experience, knowledge and contacts that they are happy to share. Initially, I fondly reminisced over Western blotters, microfuges and latex gloves – recalling those halcyon days in the lab, when life was great when the experiments were working and black with despair when they didn’t.  Letting curiosity get the better of me, I also engaged in a fascinating conversation on design with Director Danny Godfrey of eg technology. This then extended to the industry needs and characteristics sought in future employees coming out of academia when Jonathan Rand, research associate from Newcastle University researching the subject, joined us.

Tim Cheeseright of Cresset introduced me to a paradigm shift in looking at ligand interactions with binding sites; by looking at the shape and location of charged areas, it was possible to seek similarly functional ligands from often disparate chemical structures. On a practical level, talks with Jonathan Betts, of Sciencewarehouse, revealed a centralised purchasing solution that could also be applicable to one of my non-science company contacts.

Enough food for the mind, the body also needed sustenance, neatly bringing us to benefit 4 – the catering. Excellent is all I can say! You nibble at the coffee and tea breaks on buiscuits and more and plunge into the buffet with a wide variety of canapés, sandwiches and kebabs for the gourmet to the glutton. Most inspired however, was booking Toni’s ice-cream to dish out cornets in a multitude of flavours when all the verbal hot air had raised the room temperature (mine’s a rum and raisin).

Suitably refreshed, it was on to the workshops (benefit 5)! Surprisingly, the functional genomics table only had three participants. However, once my two other colleagues and established the travels and myriad social contacts that they shared, we not only discussed the current technologies and solutions for genomics currently available, we also moved on to proteomics, which was of additional interest to me with regards to my clients. Generally, workshops were well attended and I certainly benefitted from the two I managed to join.

I departed Bench2Boardroom well connected, more informed and better fed than at the start of the day! My recommendation for next year? Book earlier to also take advantage of pre-arranged one2one meetings.

Dr Chris Thomas
Director, Milton Contact Ltd

If you have an interest collaboration with one of two German companies experienced in proteomics/peptide library screening and enzyme discovery, optimisation and expression – please get in touch with me on 01223 440024 or chris@miltoncontact.com

Chris Thomas