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Executives and scientists attending BIO 2005, the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual trade show being held this week at the Philadelphia Convention Center, didn’t have to wait long after their arrival in town to receive a welcome from local lawyers. Woodcock Washburn purchased billboard space near Philadelphia International Airport and raised a banner in 30th Street Station extending their best wishes to the projected 18,000 participants. And Philadelphia lawyers believe they have a lot to be excited about when it comes to the biotechnology industry. Unlike the health care and financial services industries, which have been riddled with consolidation and moves outside the Delaware Valley, biotech is one of the few industries to actually expand its local footprint. That was cemented Monday when the Philadelphia metropolitan area was ranked third, trailing only Boston and San Francisco, in the 2005 Milken Institute’s Life Sciences Index — which measures the current strength and the growth potential of the industry in 11 metropolitan areas. The survey, unveiled at the conference, defines the Philadelphia area as including Princeton and Wilmington. The report found that the life sciences industry accounted for 8.2 percent of total employment growth in the Philadelphia region between 1997 and 2003. When all jobs attributed to the industry are included, over 40 percent of the area’s total employment growth during that time period can be attributed to life sciences. The study, though, said Philadelphia needs to do a better job of retaining students graduating with life sciences degrees from Delaware Valley schools. “When you look at University City, Route 202, Princeton … . There is a dynamic client base here,” said Woodcock Washburn partner Joseph Lucci, a patent litigator who represents pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers. “You have [institutional] companies relocating here, you have spin-offs starting here and universities thriving. It’s similar to San Diego or Massachusetts.” Dechert partner James Lebovitz said as the local biotech industry has grown, so has competition from both Philadelphia firms and national firms. He said with so many big pharmaceutical companies situated nearby and a number of academic medical centers and funding sources, Philadelphia possesses all the required elements for continued growth. That is the pitch that Lebovitz and his fellow Dechert partners from several practice disciplines will make as they operate the firm’s booth at BIO 2005. Lebovitz said lawyers from the firm’s corporate and intellectual property practices as well as the products liability, antitrust and class action litigation practices will all take turns in the booth and working the floor. Law firms don’t expect to swipe one another’s mega-clients at the trade show. But each views it as a long-term opportunity to build upon their respective reputations among industry heavyweights and up-and-comers. “You attend for the same reason that the companies themselves attend,” said William McNichol, a partner in the intellectual property department of Reed Smith. “You want to know who the players in the industry are and have a chance to exchange information with a variety of people.” “It’s such a huge conference that it becomes hard to run into people you know when you are talking about a room filled with 18,000 people,” Cozen O’Connor intellectual property partner Mark DeLuca said. “And this isn’t just patent attorneys. It’s an interdisciplinary conference so you have to track people down.” Blank Rome used its sponsorship of BIO 2005 to gauge how other law firms are marketing themselves and to make inroads with some of the industry’s big names. “This is the first time we have been a sponsor for this convention,” Blank Rome litigation partner Mary Ann Mullaney said after returning from the event late yesterday afternoon. “So we learned about how other firms run exhibit booths and are being more aggressive than we are.” Blank Rome lawyers working the floor passed out invitations to a wine tasting event that was held at the firm’s offices last night. Manya Deehr was clearly in her element during an interview from the convention floor. She said Philadelphia being chosen to host BIO 2005 justifies her decision to move here in October 1998. Deehr, a Morgan Lewis & Bockius partner in the business and finance practice whose clientele is wholly from the life science industry, said she moved to Philadelphia because of its close proximity to big pharma in Princeton and the emerging biotech clientele. And now she said the region is being recognized for its significance in the industry by being awarded hosting duties for BIO 2005. “I think the whole region is more focused on the biotech industry now,” Deehr said. “I think firms were more esoteric back then and now we understand what we are talking about. I think some of the earlier stage companies are still struggling, but we had three IPOs in the region last year out of 29 nationwide. That’s still behind the Bay Area, which had 11, and San Diego, which had five. But I think we have a much larger pharmaceutical sector while California is more willing to push things with financial backing. Philadelphia is a lot more conservative when it comes to that.” Deehr said one big industry trend she has noticed is that big pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer are moving away from entering strategic alliances with biotech companies and focusing more on acquiring companies or product lines. McNichol agrees with that assessment but said large firms such as Morgan Lewis, Reed Smith or Dechert don’t much care whether firms enter into alliances or make acquisitions. “Either way, it’s still generating work for the firm,” McNichol said. “It’s just different lawyers doing the work.”

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