Coal and cowboys may be what comes to mind when people think about Wyoming’s economy, but organizers of the WYO BIO Innovation Summit in Casper are hoping to put bio-business on the map.
Bioscience, biomedical and biotechnology entrepreneurs and established businesses have a place in the state’s future economic diversity, according to Stephen Hanlon, director of the University of Wyoming’s Bioscience Innovation Hub – one of the summit’s sponsors.
Connecting these businesses to investors and offering a panel of experts in the field was the goal of the summit, scheduled for Aug. 12-13.
“What we want to do is provide a forum so that we can get a good interaction of entrepreneurs who have existing start-ups and entrepreneurs who are wanting to start something interacting with investors of all types,” Hanlon said.
He hopes those who have a great idea for a business will take the opportunity the summit’s mixer offers to share their idea with people who want to invest funds into new businesses.
“We want to continue to build an ecosystem in Wyoming that’s based on biomedical and bioscience that eventually provides economic opportunities for students, graduates, people moving in and companies wanting to relocate,” Hanlon said. “What we’re trying to do is work on diversification in employment in things other than the traditional Wyoming economical drivers.”
In addition to the mixer, the summit was scheduled to feature several keynote speakers who have already experienced success in their businesses, as well as panel discussions by other experts in the field.
“It’s hard not to be excited at the lineup for the WYO BIO Summit,” said Justin Farley, president and CEO of Advance Casper, in a press release. “Keynote speaker Edie Weiner is a global bestselling author and president and CEO of The Future Hunters, a consulting firm specializing in future global trends, adapting and welcoming change in a quickly changing world, and how change impacts the economy. I think her presence will be insightful for business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs.”
Penelope Shihab, a native of Palestine, a Cambridge graduate and owner of biotech company MonoJO, will give a second keynote address.
Panelists for the event included several Wyoming entrepreneurs, as well as members of the medical field who have already found success with their bioscience businesses in the state.
“We want to show that Wyoming does have a developing ecosystem in health and bioscience,” Hanlon said.
He pointed to several examples of Wyoming entrepreneurs who are building their businesses within the state. He said CellDrop Biosciences is a great example. The company uses biology and engineering together to place stem cells inside tiny gel marbles that can aid in minimally invasive tissue regeneration. The company is also working on rapid point of care antigen testing for COVID-19. Company co-founder Dr. Ben Noren will be one of those speaking at the conference.
According to Farley, Dr. Joseph McGinley of Casper is also an example of a Wyoming entrepreneur in biosciences. Another summit participant, McGinley developed an orthopedic drill that senses bone density.
Farley noted that Advance Casper, which is helping to put on the summit, also works to bring existing biomedical and bioscience businesses to Casper. He said they were successful in recruiting EVI, a medical device manufacturing company, to Casper.
“This ecosystem is just beginning to grow,” Farley said. “We worked very closely with another organization, Ridefor8 Ventures, that’s establishing a $100 million venture fund that would be around biosciences. We really are trying to lean more on the private sector and having dollars available for more mature companies that could relocate to Casper.” Dr. Nada Jain, founder of Ridefor8 Ventures will be part of the summit.
Though Advance Casper works to promote economic development there, Farley noted the summit is for statewide benefit.
“It’s not meant to be just a Casper thing – it’s meant to have a statewide impact,” Farley said. “It’s just showing how other companies have done it, that these companies exist, that we have investments available for people. We really, as a whole, need to work together as a state. There’s a half million people – we’re a small suburb of a regular city. It really takes all of us. We all have to identify our strengths.”
For more information, and to watch for details for next year’s sum-mit, visit www.wyobiosummit.com.