Biotech leader previews big industry events, new communication tool

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.

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