Thomas Joos was at the first Chips to Hits conference four years ago at Berkeley, Calif.
“Everything was new then,” said Joos, head of the Natural and Medical Sciences Institute in T bingen, Germany. “Back then, there weren’t any questions from the audience.”
At the most recent Chips to Hits, held in Philadelphia last week, much had changed. Not only was there an abundance of audience questions, more than 100 speakers showed up to inspire them. For four days, some 1,400 people — scientists, journalists, academics, and business types — filled the spacious confines of the Philadelphia Marriott for this annual industry gathering. The official attendance was marginally larger than last year’s gathering in San Diego — by 50 attendees, according to Derek Kealy, who manages the show for IBC Life Sciences of Westborough, Mass.
Most of the players in the microarray industry had a presence on the tradeshow floor. One marked absence was Affymetrix of Santa Clara, Calif.
“I don’t think they really care about this, they are doing other things” said Joos. Still, he said, Affymetrix was present without officially showing up. “A lot of data is being published from their system, they were on the posters, they were all over the place.”
Any marketplace vacuum created by no Affymetrix booth on the show floor was filled by large contingents of Amersham and Agilent employees among the 115 vendors in the exhibition hall.
The design of the show maximized booth traffic. The poster display and the noshing and networking events took place within the exhibition hall, with tasty nibbles like a mashed-potato-and-caviar bar.
“I didn’t get as much out of the show scientifically as I wanted, but what I saw was good,” said Andrew Dubitsky, technical director for Pall Corp. of Port Washington, N.Y., who was his company’s sole booth worker. “People just kept coming to the booth and I can’t complain about that. I guess we could have used another person.”
The conference and seminar sessions of the show overlapped the exhibition so booth workers had time on the first day and the last to absorb PowerPoint-propelled talks and product demos. This mix of commerce and science left some showgoers in an elevator at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, examining the credentials of a presenter — scientist vs. business developer or marketer — to decide whether to attend or not his session. Scientist credentials trumped marketing.
For many, the conference offered an opportunity to get plugged in to the latest trends in microarray application.
Sigrid Scheek, a protein chemist with Axaron Bioscience of Heidelberg, Germany, said she traveled to Philadelphia to learn about new applications and new ideas and to return home and share what she had learned with her colleagues.
Yoon Seok Yang, a senior researcher with the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in the province of Daejeon, Korea, traveled across a dozen time zones also in search of new ideas.
Joerg Baier, director of high-throughput applications for Third Wave Technologies of Madison, Wisc., said he, too, came searching for new ideas: he found them in a charge-switch technology and a technology to move droplets.
"The state of the art is where I expected it to be,” he said. “No big surprises.”
Others came to sell. Jurgen Osing, chief executive officer for Allegro Technologies of Dublin, Ireland, had one day at the show, dropping in on Thursday as he prepared to travel to California and raise $1.6 million to fuel the early-stage development of the nanotechnology dispensing devices his company is commercializing from Trinity College technology.
Tom Manuccia, director of biotechnology operations for Schafer Laboratories of Silver Spring, Md., traveled a relatively short distance north to show off a prototype array device of microelectrodes and seek prospective partners for commercialization.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “And, I developed some business leads. It was immersion.”