More than 10,000 scientists, company executives and regional development officials attended BIO 2000 in Boston last week - almost double the number who attended the annual biotech industry conference in 1999. But the success of the meeting was countered by the presence of a 2,500-strong peaceful protest against genetically-modified (GM) food, according to a report in the Times newspaper. Agricultural biotechnologists at the conference called for a more aggressive response to the anti-GM lobby.
Christopher Reeve, the former Superman star paralysed after a riding accident five years ago, appealed to conference delegates not to let commercial competition get in the way of finding cures for diseases that are at present incurable. He also urged scientists and companies to tell people affected by illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease about new research findings. 'It's important to give them hope', he said.
Biotech stocks recovered slightly last week, after their sharp drop following the Blair/Clinton joint statement on 14 March calling for shared access to genetic information. After the initial confusion, many analysts now think that the statement was merely the trigger for a massive sell-off of over-valued shares. 'The markets were looking for a reason to correct in biotech' said one.