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Biotech conference heading to Chicago

By Robert Frederick, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – The rivalry between Illinois and Missouri over biotechnology is rearing up again, this time over the international "BIO" conference coming to Chicago in mid-April.

The annual BIO or Biotechnology Industry Organization conference attracts thousands of companies from over sixty countries.

Jack Lavin is the director of Illinois' Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

"We have sold this from the beginning as a Midwest event. BIO doesn't just want a conference to have business and tourism," Lavin said. "They want to go to places where there's a hub of biotechnology. But they've become such a size, that Chicago is really the only place in the Midwest that can host this."

About twenty thousand attendees are expected. According to a spokesperson at the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, the America Center would easily accommodate that number.

Lavin also says that Illinois' support of stem-cell research was an advantage over other states in attracting the conference to Illinois.

"We think the fact that Governor Blagojevich is investing in stem-cell research is a strength that we have here in Illinois, and we want to take advantage of it," he said.

The conference alone is expected to pump more than $20 million into the Illinois economy, and an additional $100 million in venture capital investment to the state over the next five years.

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