Over seven-thousand people worldwide attended this year’s BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization) International Convention from June 8-12, 2020, which was held online for the first time. Our team participated in the historic event and enjoyed catching up with old SeedSprint members, meeting new ones, and attending world-class sessions like a fireside chat with Dr. Fauci(!!) and several sessions led by BIO’s new President and CEO, Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath.
The week-long event highlighted how global and diverse our community is and the unique perspectives each of us bring to the fields of biotechnology and open innovation. Both at the convention and outside of it, many of us have been engaging in essential public dialogue about equity and the dire need to better support and foster the development of Black, Indigenous, and Latinx members of our community and others who are underrepresented in STEM and open innovation. Many have expressed the need for real change, and we are excited that so many thought leaders in our field—from BIO to AUTM to the Innovation Research Interchange (IRI)—are contributing to the much-needed conversation. We recommend checking out AUTM’s reading list, the IRI’s statement as well as some words from member companies like Michelin and General Electric, and our plan of action for furthering social justice through our work at SeedSprint.
BIO contributed to the conversation on equity and inclusivity by hosting a series of sessions on these topics during the convention. Our team attended a few of these talks, including “Leading Through Crisis: Speaking Up and Out on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Issues Impacting our World.” In the session, Black biotechnology company CEOs, allies, and BIO leaders shared their perspectives as pioneers in their fields. They discussed the challenges and victories they’ve encountered along the way and suggested tangible ways for other biotechnology leaders to advance social justice in their organizations. Dr. McMurry-Heath hosted the session and speakers included Dr. Ted Love, president and CEO of Global Blood Therapeutics; Dr. Jeremy Levin, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Ovid Therapeutics; and Dr. Tony Coles, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cerevel Therapeutics. The speakers covered topics including the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented populations, what we can do to drive systematic change in our businesses, and the importance of advancing diversity in clinical trials. You can watch the full session (and several others!) here.
We should all be looking for tangible ways to make our workplaces more inclusive, and Dr. Coles spoke to this point. He shared that at his company, the first step he took was to have frank conversations with employees about diversity and inclusion and ask how he and other leaders could help Black, Indigenous, and Latinx employees feel valued and supported at work. He suggested practical steps that biotechnology CEOs can take to advance this mission, like hiring people from diverse backgrounds. He emphasized that diverse representation within the company can build trust not only within the organization itself but also among the communities the company serves.
Dr. Love echoed Dr. Coles’ sentiment, urging organizations to be intentional about diversity, work to bring the best out in everyone, and keep in mind that since we serve a diverse population, we have to get input from everyone. We can only build a strong team when we include diverse voices and focus on the value employees contribute to the organization, he said. Both Dr. Coles and Dr. Love pointed out that instead of feeling ashamed of what has happened in the past, we should instead put our energy into making tangible improvements in our own organizations and communities. Dr. Levin added that if we fail to live, lead, and act with equity and inclusion in mind, we will eventually lose our way and fail to adequately address the needs of the communities we aim to serve.
As Dr. Love summarized, we have to move from emotions to actions. Dr. Levin urged us to lead by example by setting high standards for ourselves, proactively and consistently communicating these standards to our teams, and being relentless about having these conversations on a daily basis. He continued by asking the audience to pay special attention to team dynamics, support opportunities for teamwork and team bonding, and be intentional about building a culture of collegiality.
At SeedSprint, supporting the diverse and international community of inventors and innovators as they take their technology from the lab to the marketplace is at the heart of our mission. We’re thankful for organizations like BIO for helping us advance this mission and we look forward to learning more from BIO and other thought leaders about how we can work together toward achieving greater equity and inclusivity in open innovation and STEM!