How the Hottest Biotech Sprouted in Iowa

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NewLink Genetics Has Attracted Big Dollars for its Cancer, Ebola Research; But Can It Keep attracting Talent?

But one small firm here is drawing notice for its cutting-edge research on Ebola and cancer, despite being far removed from the drug industry’s usual hubs.

NewLink Genetics Corp. has recruited scientists from around the world to work in laboratories nestled between Iowa State University and crop fields. The company’s biggest shareholder is a large soybean company owned by Iowa’s sole billionaire.

NewLink stands out at a time when the drug industry increasingly is congregating around hubs such as Boston and San Francisco. The company’s success so far, including the signing of lucrative research partnerships last year with Roche Holding AG and Merck & Co., suggests drug R&D can still thrive outside of these urban clusters.

“The Midwest has spawned many great, innovative companies,” says NewLink’s co-founder and CEO, Charles Link, pointing to Minnesota’s medical-device makers and Indianapolis drug company Eli Lilly & Co. “I think sometimes my friends and colleagues from the coasts underestimate the potential of the Midwest.”

But as NewLink grows, it may face a crossroads: Can the company hang onto its Midwestern roots while still attracting talent, or will it ultimately need to make a change? Already, the 130-employee company is investing in locations far away from its core.

Last year it leased space in Austin, Texas, because that city has better flight connections and is more appealing to sales workers. NewLink also opened a small satellite office near Boston for Ebola research. Dr. Link acknowledges the Ames headquarters may not appeal to every job prospect, and says the newer locations could serve as alternatives for new hires if the firm continues to grow.

“Building an early-stage biotech company is a really hard thing,” says Peter Barrett, a partner with venture-capital firm Atlas Ventures in Cambridge, Mass. “Trying to get very specialized people in a remote area may be very difficult.”

Dr. Link, 55 years old, says he wanted a Midwestern upbringing for his children when he moved to Iowa in the 1990s. A former National Cancer Institute oncologist in Bethesda, Md., he relocated to work for Iowa Methodist Medical Center in Des Moines, where he led research into cancer treatment, including a cutting-edge approach called immunotherapy, which harnesses the immune system to fight cancer.

In 1999, he started NewLink by spinning out some of the immunotherapy technology from the hospital, which will receive royalties on sales of any resulting products.

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NewLink researcher Sanjeev Kumar at the firm’s Ames, Iowa, lab. PHOTO: STEVE POPE FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

For help with the startup, Dr. Link called an old colleague from the National Cancer Institute’s Maryland campus, Nicholas Vahanian,who initially rejected the idea of moving to Iowa. A native of Turkey, Dr. Vahanian says he didn’t think Iowa was “where the action was.” But he changed his mind after visiting, and agreed to cofound the company and serve as its president and chief medical officer.

NewLink recruited other scientists from NCI and elsewhere in the U.S., and from as far away as China and Russia. It also tapped a local institution for chemistry graduates: Iowa State, which dominates Ames.

NewLink was and remains one of few biotechs in town, though Iowa State’s strong veterinary program makes Ames a hub for animal research. The town is home to an animal-health division of Germany’s Boehringer Ingelheim and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Disease Center. The Ames Laboratory is part of the Department of Energy and is on the ISU campus; it specializes in materials science, among other things.

During a tour of NewLink’s labs, Gary Potter, vice president of manufacturing and supply chain, pointed out the window to a new Boehringer Ingelheim animal-health R&D site under construction. “Up until a couple of months ago, that was a cornfield,” said Mr. Potter, who used to work for the biotech Abgenix in California.

Dr. Link raised cash for NewLink from investors including soybean billionaire Harry Stine, whose Stine Seed Farm Inc. owns about 25% of NewLink shares.

Based in Adel, about 50 miles southwest of Ames, Mr. Stine’s seed empire was built partly by licensing proprietary seed genetics to other companies. He sent scientists to Ames so that they could vet NewLink, and then agreed to invest because he wanted to support anticancer efforts, says Dr. Link. Forbes has estimated Mr. Stine’s net worth at more than $3 billion. A spokesman for Stine Seeddeclined to comment on New Link.

NewLink’s focus on one of the hottest areas of cancer treatment—immunotherapy—has attracted interest from one of the industry’s most respected R&D shops: Roche Holding AG’s Genentech unit.

A team of Genentech scouts flew to Ames from their bayside headquarters near San Francisco last year to visit NewLink. The Genentech group included Bruce Roth, one of the company’s heads of drug discovery. Dr. Roth is known for inventing the blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor at a predecessor company to Pfizer Inc.

Dr. Roth says he was eager to visit Ames because he earned his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Iowa State more than three decades ago. In October Genentech agreed to pay $150 million to co-develop and potentially market an experimental NewLink cancer immunotherapy in early-stage testing for breast cancer and other tumors. Genentech may make additional payments of more than $1 billion if drugs from the collaboration reach the market.

What started as a side project at NewLink drew more big-pharma attention last year: Ebola vaccine research. In 2010, NewLink licensed an experimental Ebola vaccine from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

As last year’s Ebola outbreak in West Africa worsened, NewLink contacted Merck for assistance in putting the vaccine in vials. This led to Merck’s agreement in November to pay $30 million to license the vaccine, one of two the U.S. government is now testing in a large clinical trial in West Africa. The study’s start in February triggered an additional $20 million Merck payment to NewLink, which will also receive sales royalties if the vaccine makes it to market.

NewLink went public in 2011. Income from the deals with Merck and Genentech helped the firm turn its first profit last year, though it still has no products on the market. Its lead drug in development—which isn’t part of the Merck or Genentech partnerships—is an immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer that is in late-stage testing. The company plans to double its workforce in the next year, including adding jobs in Austin.

The company has a market capitalization of about $1.57 billion. The stock had a big drop last year after a clinical trial of the company’s experimental pancreatic-cancer drug didn’t meet the threshold for an early halt, but the stock has since regained its losses and the trial continues.

Dr. Link says he’s heard the skepticism about NewLink’s location. A lawyer representing Bay Area venture-capital firms once likened the firm to the solitary cliff-side branch that Wile E. Coyote clung to in the old Road Runner cartoons. “That little branch is your company,” Dr. Link recalls the lawyer saying. “You’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

DOW Venture Wire Covers Hydra Biociences’ VC Backing to Move Diabetes Drug into the Clinic

Venture Wire Hydra

The large number of diabetes cases and related illnesses have increased cash flowing into the biotechnology space. Hydra Biosciences recently secured $11M to move their TRPA1 inhibitor, HX-100 for painful diabetic neuropathy, into a Phase 1 study.

Full story is available for subscribers here.

Dipexium Pharmaceuticals Inc. Appears in The Life Sciences Report

Life Sciences Report Dipexium

Dipexium Pharmaceuticals Inc. is a late-stage pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of Locilex® (pexiganan cream 0.8%), a potent and broad-spectrum topical antibiotic peptide for the treatment of mild and moderate skin-and skin-structure infections.

See Expert Comments here.

NewLink Genetics Vaccine to Fight Cancer Appears in Ames Tribune

NewLink Using the Human Body to Develop Vaccine to Fight Cancer

By Grayson Schmidt
Staff Writer
gschmidt@amestrib.com

Dr. Charles Link looks forward to work every day because he likes doing something that matters in the world and impacts people’s lives. And creating a vaccine for cancer just seems to fit that description.

“Not everyone has the opportunity to get up in the morning and go out and do something you can be excited about,” he told the Ames Tribune on Friday.

Link is the CEO and chief scientific officer of NewLink Genetics, an Ames-based biopharmaceutical company that specializes in immuno-oncology, in which the body’s own immune system is used to fight cancer. He and Dr. Nicholas Vahanian started the company in 1999 after realizing immunotherapy was rather untouched by the biotech field.

After 15 years, the company has expanded from one building to a 60,000-square-foot campus with more than 160 employees at the main site at the Iowa State University Research Park, with other locations in Austin, Texas, and Boston. NewLink’s expansion is not limited to just size and location. It has dipped into other fields as well, a major one being the vaccine for the Ebola virus, which it worked on with the Department of Defense, Canadian government, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and World Health Organization.

Still, cancer research and immuno-oncology remain NewLink’s primary focus, and have been for 15 years. But Link said the treatment has only started to gain popularity in the biotech industry within the past five years.

“A number of laboratories around the word have found this basic science, immuno-therapy, (to be) working really well in animal models and those antibodies were made into drugs that could be used in humans,” he said. “So you have to sort of take the basic science stuff, and then do all of the FDA regulatory process, which is quite deep and complex.”

NewLink is in the final stages of its most advanced study in the HyperAcute Immunotherapy Platform, the immunotherapy for pancreatic resectable cancer survival study, or IMPRESS. The study monitors the effects of an immunotherapy called Algenpantucel-L, which combines pancreatic cancer cells genetically modified to express a carbohydrate known as alpha-gal.

According to Link, humans and other old-world primates do not produce alpha-gal, so it is taken from lower mammals, such as pigs. Since humans do not produce it, it is recognized as foreign to the body, triggering the immune system to attack the carbohydrate and the cancerous cells surrounding it.

NewLink eventually wants to pair this with the other major platform in immuno-oncology, IDO pathway inhibitors, which disable the defense mechanism of tumor cells so they can no longer evade the body’s immune system and spread, which is why they are testing them with metastatic breast and prostate cancer.

“To see these scientific ideas, that were just animal experiments, go into human beings and start to show promise makes for a really exciting time,” Link said.

But right now, IMPRESS is the most advanced study. It started in 2010 and is now in the last phase of human trials.

A random group of patients is monitored, with half receiving regular chemotherapy and half receiving the algenpantucel-L plus chemo. Link said the average life expectancy of a pancreatic cancer patient is about 20 months, and in order to get this therapy FDA approved, the results have to show that the subjects’ lives increased by an average of 20 percent to 25 percent.

Though he has seen some statistics, the final results will not be collected until sometime in 2016, Link said.

He has not seen specific numbers, and he doesn’t know results from individual patients, but he has seen that on a blended curve of vaccine and non-vaccine patients, the median number of months survived has run into the high 20s.

“We believe that the final analysis of the trial will turn positive,” Link said. “We don’t know (for sure), but we believe that. And if we look at the scientific evidence here, we think the drug is working.”

Along with IMPRESS, NewLink also has PILLAR (pancreatic immunotherapy with algenpantucel-L for locally advanced non-resectable disease), which focuses on borderline resectable and unresectable pancreatic cancer, and studies in non-small cell lung cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

As exciting as scientific discovery and the possibility of creating a cancer cure are, Link has stayed focused on the real reason he started NewLink Genetics.

“In the end, if we are not doing this for people, then what are we doing?”

– See more at: http://amestrib.com/news/newlink-using-human-body-develop-vaccine-fight-cancer#sthash.ZZ3vPKi7.dpuf

BOSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL and BioSpace Announce Plans of Sirion Biotech GmbH of Munich to Move to Massachusetts

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German Gene Therapy Firm Plans Move to Mass. and Up to 25 New Hires

Jun 16, 2015, 1:39pm EDT Updated Jun 16, 2015, 2:42pm EDT

A German company that provides materials that biotech companies can use to improve gene therapies and vaccines is moving to Massachusetts.

Sirion Biotech GmbH of Munich expects to hire as many as 25 employees in research and development and business development over the next 12 months. The company is now weighing whether to move to Boston, Cambridge or the Fall River area.

Currently, just three regions in U.S. are known for gene therapy: Philadelphia, Massachusetts, and South San Francisco (basically, Genentech).

The state will likely provide some incentives, but in an interview today, Dieter Lingelbach, COO of Sirion, said that “what we found most interesting is the investment by the state in viral vector manufacturing… The state has understood that viral vectors are key.”

Sirion, founded in 2006 with about 20 employees worldwide, partners with companies in biotech manufacturing and process development. The company expects to generate about $1.7 million in revenue this year, and is seeking between $5.6 million and $11 million in funding. It specializes in the vaccines and gene therapy markets, which together are expected to be a $57 billion market by 2019.

Sirion sent its first employee to Massachusetts in May and set up a small office in Cambridge. Lingelbach said he “found it so much easier to get meetings with companies like Voyager Therapeutics.”

“Skype is not enough,” he said. “There is always that ocean in between.”

The Fall River process development facility is run by Mattapan-based MassBiologics, the publicly-owned biomanufacturer that is part of the UMass Medical School in Worcester. The center opened last year and it is hoped that it will attract biomanufacturing and services companies to the South Coast, where are costs are less expensive than Boston or Cambridge.

State Sen.Michael Rodrigues, D-Westport, is in Philadelphia this week for the BIO conference and was excited that the Fall River facility played a role in Sirion’s decision.

“We have over $30 million in public investment in that center in Fall River for exactly this purpose,” Rodrigues said, “to serve as a magnet for private investment by companies like Sirion.”

Don Seiffert contributed to this story.

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BIO2015: SIRION Biotech Sets Up Shop in Boston Bio-Hub and Plans for 25 New Hires

June 17, 2015
By Alex Keown, BioSpace Breaking News Staff

BOSTON – Germany-based Sirion Biotech GmbH plans to join the ever-expanding biotech party in the greater Boston area by establishing its own presence in the area, the company announced at BIO International today.

In addition to coming to America, the company plans on hiring 25 employees in research and development and business development over the next year, the company told BioSpace this morning. SIRION Biotech provides materials for biotech companies to use to improve gene therapies and vaccines.

Sirion told the Business Journal it was drawn to the Boston area specifically for “viral vectors,” a gene therapy science that enables the replacement of disease-causing genes with healthy genes. Gene therapy uses genes to treat or prevent disease. In the future, this technique may allow doctors to treat a disorder by inserting a gene into a patient’s cells instead of using drugs or surgery. There are several experimental techniques for gene therapy including replacing a mutated gene that causes disease with a healthy copy of the gene, deactivating an improperly functioning gene or introducing a new gene into the body to help fight a disease.

Sirion, which launched in 2007, said it first came to the Boston area in May in order to establish relationships with U.S. companies. The company currently has about 20 employees, and following its move to the U.S., will more than double its staffing.

“With its constant growth in the preclinical sector and a successful track record worldwide, the time has come to spearhead a move towards the US science community, enabling easy access to this advanced technology platform,” Sirion said on its website.

On its website Sirion said its specialists in Boston are available to talk with other companies about custom adenovirus service for individual adenovirus construction, custom lentivirus vector service an in vivo applications for adeno-associated viruses (AAV).

Last year Sirion announced a new line of cell specific AAV construction plasmids, controlling expression in brain and retinal sensory cells, liver, cardiac and skeletal muscle.

Sirion is looking for revenues of about $1.7 million this year and is seeking between $5.6 million and $11 million in funding, theBusiness Journal reported. The vaccines and gene therapy markets, which Sirion specializes in, are expected to be a combined $57 billion market by 2019.

The greater Boston area, including Cambridge, has been the booming biotech hub on the east coast, with more and more companies announcing a complete move to the area, or opening of satellite offices to collaborate with other pharmaceutical companies or research universities and institutes. One of the reasons for the greater Boston area becoming such a major hub in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries is the plethora of research universities in the area. Boston also has one of the highest educated workforces in the nation. Not only are smaller companies calling the Boston area home, but many larger and established pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE), GlaxoSmithKline GSK), Takeda Pharmaceuticals(TKPYY), Sanofi (SNY), Biogen Idec, Inc. BIIB) and Novartis AG(NVS) have presences in the city. The close proximity of so many pharmaceutical and university laboratories provides researchers and scientists easy access to clinical studies and building partnerships between companies.

“It is much easier to have collaborative relationships when you can visit each other’s labs and have face to face meetings easily,” Ann Taylor, Novartis Global Head of the Program Office, told BioSpace (last summer.

According to the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, which makes its home in Cambridge, Mass., the heart of the state’s biotech industry, the biotech and pharmaceutical presence in the state grew by 41 percent between 2004 and 2013. Across the state the industry employed 57,642 in 2013, the most recent year with complete data.

Recent growth in the Boston area includes IBM Corporation (IBM)’s new health unit, which will employ 2,000, as well asGlaxoSmithKline’s new innovation center in Boston.

There are a number of sites in the area being marketed to smaller biotech firms, including 340,000 square foot facility that formerly hosted Vertex Pharmaceuticals VRTX). The area, which includes three buildings, will be rebranded as Sidney Research Campus by BioMed Realty Trust, which owns the buildings. Vertex vacated the space in 2013 when it moved a few miles into Boston.

BOSTON GLOBE REPORTS…Charlie Baker, Top State Officials Skip Biotech Meeting But State Says Its Support Still Strong

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Industry players gathered at the Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in Philadelphia

Philadelphia–As governor, Deval Patrick used the biotechnology industry’s premier convention as a launching pad for one of his highest-profile business-development initiatives. But neither Governor Charlie Baker nor any of his top economic officials are making the trip to this year’s Biotechnology Industry Organization convention, at which a large Massachusetts pavilion opened Tuesday.

It fell to Pamela Norton, the usually low-profile vice president of industry relations and programs at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, to gamely represent the state at a news conference unveiling a new Internet portal linking biotech companies around the world with academic researchers at teaching hospitals from Boston to Worcester. Her former boss, center president Susan Windham-Bannister, stepped down this spring, and the Baker administration has yet to announce a successor at the quasi-public agency.

While governors from Delaware and South Dakota appeared Tuesday at the BIO convention to drum up business in the hopes of building their own biotech clusters, the ranking public officials from Massachusetts were state Senator Michael Rodrigues, Democrat of Westport, state Representative Jeffrey N. Roy, Democrat of Franklin, and Boston economic development chief John Barros.

The contrast to years past was striking. In 2008, Patrick launched a major initiative to support the life sciences industry in Massachusetts and promptly led a big state delegation to the biotechnology convention, where he was named BIO Governor of the Year. In later years, Patrick was a reliable presence on the convention exhibition floor, pressing the flesh of out-of-state drug manufacturers as the Bay State’s salesman in chief.

Paul McMorrow, spokesman for the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, insisted support for the biotech industry has not diminished under the Baker administration.

Patrick had committed more than $600 million to tax breaks, working capital grants, and other incentives to attract companies to locate or expand in Massachusetts.

“We will be represented [at BIO] by the life sciences center,” McMorrow said.

“Anything that needs a push will absolutely get a push from the administration. It’s actually just a scheduling thing. It’s a transition thing, not a value judgment on how we see the industry. The governor and the economic development secretary [Jay Ash] have gone to pains to say how much we value the industry, how important it is as a driver of broad-based economic development.”

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Members of the Mass. Life Sciences Center spoke with attendees at the BIO Conference in Philadelphia.

The state’s 1,500-square-foot pavilion was sandwiched into a corridor on the exhibition floor near the booths for BIOKorea and a Danish company, CMC Biologics. Inside, there were Red Sox hats, the buzz of dealmakers huddling at small tables, and snippets of talk about everything from global partnerships to the advantages of doing business in Somerville.

“All my friends are here, so I just stopped by to say hello,” said Pravin Chaturvedi, chief executive of IndUS Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Woburn drug developer that licenses biomedical technology from India and elsewhere.

The steady traffic largely reflected the draw of Massachusetts as a global biotechnology hub.

“When we have our clam chowder tomorrow, the line will be down the corridor,” said Bob Coughlin, president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council trade group, who said he had scheduled dozens of meetings at BIO with out-of-state companies.

Officials from MassBio and the life sciences center were joined at the pavilion by representatives of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Marlborough.

“We have a lot of opportunity with [the hospital group] Partners HealthCare moving to Assembly Square,” said Amanda Maher, a Somerville economic development specialist. “We’re literally a stone’s throw from Kendall Square, so we have an opportunity to provide space for the spillover from Kendall Square — and for half of what the space costs there. Not $90 a square foot, but $45 a square foot.”

There was no shortage of visitors to the Massachusetts pavilion from across the United States and overseas. Dieter Lingelbach, chief operating officer of Sirion Biotech, a German supplier of drug-delivery technology to gene therapy companies, said his firm planned to open a Bay State research and business office to serve US biotechs. He hoped to have more than 20 people there in two years.

Bethany Edwards, cofounder of Lia Diagnostics, a Philadelphia startup developing a pregnancy test, said she, too, was considering Massachusetts. “There’s a lot going on there,” she said. “You get access to resources and people, all the schools.”

The chief executive of Selvita, a cancer drug company in Krakow, Poland, that recently opened a Cambridge office, said he planned to stop by the Massachusetts pavilion during the BIO convention.

“We are the first Polish biotech company to open an office in Boston,” Pawel Przewiezlikowski said proudly. “I was there five or six times last year and two times so far this year. It’s my favorite American city. It’s a good model for Krakow.”

Some biotech leaders from Massachusetts were hanging out at the pavilion in between meetings they had scheduled with potential partners or clients from elsewhere.

“We’re trying to find companies to occupy our space,” said PC Zhu, president of Mass Innovation Labs, which is subleasing 124,000 square feet of research space in Kendall Square.

“The overseas companies can move their scientists right into our space. Most of the Chinese companies have an interest. They want to partner with American innovation-based companies.”

Somerville-based life sciences consultant Leora Schiff said that having the word Massachusetts on her BIO badge opens doors for her at networking events here.

“It helps start a conversation,” she said. “Just being part of the Massachusetts community confers a lot of respect.”

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.

BOSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL Announces Xcovery and Tyrogenex Move to Needham, Massachusetts

Members of the Mass. Life Sciences Center spoke with attendees at the BIO Conference in Philadelphia.

The state’s 1,500-square-foot pavilion was sandwiched into a corridor on the exhibition floor near the booths for BIOKorea and a Danish company, CMC Biologics. Inside, there were Red Sox hats, the buzz of dealmakers huddling at small tables, and snippets of talk about everything from global partnerships to the advantages of doing business in Somerville.

“All my friends are here, so I just stopped by to say hello,” said Pravin Chaturvedi, chief executive of IndUS Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Woburn drug developer that licenses biomedical technology from India and elsewhere.

The steady traffic largely reflected the draw of Massachusetts as a global biotechnology hub.

“When we have our clam chowder tomorrow, the line will be down the corridor,” said Bob Coughlin, president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council trade group, who said he had scheduled dozens of meetings at BIO with out-of-state companies.

Officials from MassBio and the life sciences center were joined at the pavilion by representatives of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Marlborough.

“We have a lot of opportunity with [the hospital group] Partners HealthCare moving to Assembly Square,” said Amanda Maher, a Somerville economic development specialist. “We’re literally a stone’s throw from Kendall Square, so we have an opportunity to provide space for the spillover from Kendall Square — and for half of what the space costs there. Not $90 a square foot, but $45 a square foot.”

There was no shortage of visitors to the Massachusetts pavilion from across the United States and overseas. Dieter Lingelbach, chief operating officer of Sirion Biotech, a German supplier of drug-delivery technology to gene therapy companies, said his firm planned to open a Bay State research and business office to serve US biotechs. He hoped to have more than 20 people there in two years.

Bethany Edwards, cofounder of Lia Diagnostics, a Philadelphia startup developing a pregnancy test, said she, too, was considering Massachusetts. “There’s a lot going on there,” she said. “You get access to resources and people, all the schools.”

The chief executive of Selvita, a cancer drug company in Krakow, Poland, that recently opened a Cambridge office, said he planned to stop by the Massachusetts pavilion during the BIO convention.

“We are the first Polish biotech company to open an office in Boston,” Pawel Przewiezlikowski said proudly. “I was there five or six times last year and two times so far this year. It’s my favorite American city. It’s a good model for Krakow.”

Some biotech leaders from Massachusetts were hanging out at the pavilion in between meetings they had scheduled with potential partners or clients from elsewhere.

“We’re trying to find companies to occupy our space,” said PC Zhu, president of Mass Innovation Labs, which is subleasing 124,000 square feet of research space in Kendall Square.

“The overseas companies can move their scientists right into our space. Most of the Chinese companies have an interest. They want to partner with American innovation-based companies.”

Somerville-based life sciences consultant Leora Schiff said that having the word Massachusetts on her BIO badge opens doors for her at networking events here.

“It helps start a conversation,” she said. “Just being part of the Massachusetts community confers a lot of respect.”

Robert Weisman can be reached at robert.weisman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.