With over 200 established biotechnology companies, Argentina has the second largest concentration per capita in Latin America. The largest category of biotech companies in Argentina belongs to Human Health. Its R&D investment intensity surpasses that of the Seed sector and receives roughly 146 million dollars, participating in almost 20% of total biotechnological R&D. This dynamism is further highlighted by the fact that two-thirds of these biotech companies were founded less than a decade ago. There over 40 research institutes dedicated to bio sciences and notable university programs specializing in this field.

The strength of the biotech sector in Argentina, the strong biotech sector in San Diego and Thousand Oaks, and the over 15 years of experience that the Institute has organizing professional journalism training workshops for Latin American journalists, brought together top tier journalists from Argentina for a week-long workshop focused on Biomedicine. From April 15th to 19th, the Institute of the Americas and Amgen co-hosted this program and invited eight distinguished Argentinian science journalists: Alejandra Folgarait, Federico Kukso, Valeria Román of Infobae, Florencia Ballarino of Perfil, Nora Bär of La Nacion, Florencia Maria Cunzolo of Clarin, Matias Loewy of Medscape, and Lucas Viano of La Voz for this unique opportunity to conduct innovative, hands-on, and experiential learning through this pilot program.

In San Diego, the distinguished guests were introduced to its innovation and biomedicine ecosystem. Dr. Mary Walshok, Dean of UC San Diego Extension and also an Institute Board Member, opened the event by framing the San Diego case within a sociological context that outlined important factors leading to the creation of this vibrant ecosystem. The event included representatives of important innovation intermediaries including Devora Rossi, Senior Innovation and Commercialization Manager at the Office of Innovation & Commercialization of UC San Diego, Jennifer Landress, Sr. VP and COO of Biocom, and Steve Hoey, VP of the Springboard Accelerator Program and Innovation Research at CONNECT San Diego.  The program also included a presentation from Argentinian serial entrepreneur Diego Miralles, CEO of Vividion Therapeutics and dinner with local ex-pat scientists and researchers.  Additionally, Matthew Bresnahan, Partner of Intellectual Property at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, discussed intellectual property and patents and Albert Vazquez, Business Angel at Tech Coast Angeles San Diego, shared the importance of angel investment for the growth of an innovation economy.

The workshop facilitated the opportunity for journalists to visit innovation centers such as Biolabs, Calit2, Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, and Illumina. These site visits enabled the journalists to see firsthand the processes and investigations which occur in the facilities and be inspired by the prospects of bio medicine for the future.

At Thousand Oaks, the delegation visited Amgen’s headquarters to analyze more in depth the case study of a successful bio pharmaceutical company that started small and has now become a world leader in biotechnology and medicine that addresses serious illnesses. The journalists enjoyed an engaging overview from Sr. VP and General Manager of the Intercontinental Region, Gilles Marrache before presenting their own analysis of the Argentinian ecosystem.

The highlight of the program for the journalists was the first and second sessions of a modified Amen Biotech Experience (ABE) which the Amgen Foundation offers to empower teachers to bring biotechnology to their classrooms. Led by Professor Martin Ikkanda, creator of the content for the ABE Program, the delegation explored how to engineer DNA molecules to express genes coding for human biologic medicines. They inserted a gene, made a protein, and purified it during two short lab sessions.

The program included TED-style talks (TAD Talks – Technology, Amgen, and Design) to present and discuss important topics to science including Biosimilars, Science Education, and Immunology  presented by three Amgen executives.

Motivated by the newly restructured focus of the Institute: Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Energy & Sustainability, we hope to continue to offer journalistic programs focused on innovation reporting and innovations to reporting methods as one of our pillars in the Institute’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) Program.  These efforts seeks to convene different stakeholders of the innovation ecosystem in order to help educate, inform, and inspire leaders that will have a multiplying effect on these important hemispheric issues. Capacity building workshops, journalism initiatives, and STEM student and teacher camps are ways that we are helping harness the innovative potential in Latin America. The Institute seeks to increase its involvement throughout the region and continue to provide opportunities for collaboration and growth.