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Bioscience Conference approaching

U.S. Department of Agriculture Acting Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics Molly Jahn delivers her keynote address March 26, 2010, at the Regional Bioscience Conference in Worthington. This year's conference is scheduled for April 7-8.

WORTHINGTON -- The seventh annual Regional Bioscience Conference is just two weeks away, and speakers from California to the District of Columbia and Manitoba, Canada, are gearing up for their visit to Worthington to present information on the latest industry trends, research and development.

Among the long list of speakers is G. Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Co., a merchant bank based in San Francisco, Calif., that works with companies in the biotech, medical tech, pharmaceutical and diagnostic industries, to name just a few.

Burrill will present on the state of the world economy as it relates to the bioscience industry, as well as the impact on the industry in Minnesota, in a two-part program April 8 in the Minnesota West Community and Technical College gymnasium. The new location for the conference will provide better seating arrangements for attendees.

With the overall economy showing signs of improvement, Burrill said earlier this week that it is not as strong as we may think -- and that affects the capital market and the capital available to the bioscience industry.

"We're short of capital in Minnesota -- at least we blame that as part of the problem," said Burrill, a Wisconsin native. "I would argue that it is not part of the problem. The problem is we don't have the venture capitalists."

In a state that has already put itself on the map in the medical device and renewable energy industries, Burrill said there are "extraordinary opportunities" in Minnesota.

"The challenge in the end becomes an entrepreneurial challenge," he added. "There is a cultural issue also in the Midwest. It's risk-averse -- they don't tolerate failure."

Burrill said the conservative nature of Minnesotans is a hindrance when it comes to new concepts. He said in any science experience, people fail early and often on the way to success.

"We don't allow that in business," he said. "Where I sit (in California), we have a culture that's much more tolerant of failure."

That, he said, is what it takes to build a powerful economy and a powerful base.

Burrill is one of more than a dozen speakers lined up for this year's Regional Bioscience Conference.

Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. Manager Glenn Thuringer organizes the annual conference, and he's looking forward to some "high end" speakers presenting at this year's event.

Presentations will span genetic breeding in crops to livestock nutrition, community development and new and exciting product developments in the sciences.

In addition to the new location on the Minnesota West Worthington campus this year, Thuringer said industry tours have been moved to Thursday afternoon, which gives participants more opportunity for an expanded, two-hour tour. In the past, the Friday morning tours were just 45 minutes.

Providing tours for conference attendees this year are JBS and Ocheda Dairy, while a third option is to tour a hog confinement finishing unit in the area.

The Worthington Middle School Science Club will again have project displays at the conference on Friday.

"We just really encourage the general public, whether they're involved in the biosciences or not, to come and meet the people who are attending," said Thuringer, adding that speakers and industry guests represent potential keys to future expansion or relocation in this region.

"We'd like the community's help in marketing our community and our region -- we need the whole region to promote our strengths," he added.

All sessions of the Bioscience Conference are open to the public. For a complete schedule and to register, visit and click on the Bioscience logo.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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