Biotech and Bioinformatics Meet-up in San Francisco!

by Bradley Miller on January 19, 2010

UPDATE: Please RSVP to: windmiller [at] gmail

This Wednesday night – January 20th at 7pm I’ll be hosting what I hope will be the first of many meet-ups for entrepreneurially minded biotech and bioinformatics people here in San Francisco.  It’ll be at Crossroads Café in SOMA. In February the meetup will most likely be moved to a more permanent location at i/o Ventures, a start-up incubator space in the city.  Information will be updated on the meet-up’s page on Medicine Think and on my @medicinethink Twitter account (follow me!).  Feel free to pass this info on to interested friends.

Genome Valance by Ben Fry.  Ben's expertise is helping to graphically represent and interpret massive data sets and information.  This piece represents genomic analysis using BLAST.  More from Ben at (click to enlarge)

Genome Valance by Ben Fry. Ben's expertise is helping to graphically represent and interpret massive data sets and information. This piece represents genomic analysis using BLAST. I picked this piece specifically because it takes a new look at how to represent and understand genomics and informatics - something I hope this meetup will help to encourage more of. More about his work from Ben at (click to enlarge)

So, why the meetup?  I’ve spent the past 4 years in San Francisco in both the tech and biotech realms.  Actually, I’ve been a passively active member of the tech community – out of interest I go to events and meetups with friends.  I meet people through my wife who’s in tech PR.  I’m actually pretty well immersed in the community without really trying that hard – it’s a pretty open and warm community.

But as I’ve actively tried to network and attend events in the biotech and genomics space, it’s been much more difficult.  While I’m just about one or two degrees from most of the tech crowd here in SF, I can’t say the same about the biotech space.  And, perhaps with some good reason – the biotech/life science/genomics space rely pretty heavily on intellectual property and trade secrets, so that stunts people’s ability to be social.  Despite that, I think there’s much more room for building a more solid general community outside of the big players and established start-ups.

One of the beautiful things about the tech community in SF is the intermingling of different specialties and cross-pollination of ideas.  This leads to start-ups, improved technologies and a more healthy and vibrant tech community.  Often, these ideas, through start-ups, are passed up to the larger players through acquisitions – so from early start-ups to big behemoths the entire community benefits from this networking and open community.

The biotech community here could use more of this attitude and community.  San Francisco and the University of California has made a substantial investment in the Mission Bay neighborhood – there are very, very few areas in the country that have the foundation for success as does this very special part of SF.  And with visionary institutes like QB3, which is based at UCSF and Berkeley, I see a whole new generation of PhD and other grad students with an entrepreneurial energy that hasn’t been created at other campuses.  Combine that with Stanford’s legacy of doing the same thing and you’ve got the seeds for an amazing industry and community.

Don’t get me wrong, the Bay Area is already a leader in biotech – clearly there’s a lot going on.  But to take it to the next level, the community also has to kick it up a notch.  I hope this meet-up can serve as a partial catalyst (of course, there will need to be many, many more events, etc) to tap in to both the tech and biotech communities here and bring together a diverse and energetic crowd.  Ideally, I’d like to promote an interdisciplinary meetup – between not only biotech and bioinformatics people, but to bring in members of the tech community.  I think tech could greatly inform how bioinformatics and biotech does business – from improving how data is handled, to user interface and analytics and beyond – there is much room for tech to impact the biotech community.  And, to a certain extent, tech would also benefit from some of the thinking from leaders in biotech.  From algorithm and natural language specialties, to managing massive data sets and making meaning, to scalable software, SF and Silicon Valley is well positioned to inform biotech and informatics and help solidify the Bay Area as a leader in biotech and informatics.

If you’re in SF or the surrounding areas, please come by Wednesday at 7 to the Crossroads Café. Even if you are a tech person with a curiosity about biotech, genomics, personal medicine and the like, without a super deep background or expertise, we’d love to have you.  I think these two groups have much to learn from each other and that this type of social interaction will lead to new ideas, energy and companies that will help take the Bay Area to the next level and retain a leadership in the life sciences.

What do you think?  What would you like to see at these types of meetups?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cara June 2, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Hi — I would be interested in chatting with you about future events. Do you need help? I have a great deal of experience organizing meetings and I work with all of the biotechs in CA with early stage research programs.
Please let me know!
Thanks, Cara cell 415-860-5998

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