SHERIDAN — Sheridan College is hosting a conference this week aimed at bringing together leaders in biotechnology-related fields to teach and field questions about emerging issues like intellectual property rights, telehealth, genetically modified organisms and other subjects centered on the interface of technology and biology.
The third annual Wyoming Biotech Conference sponsored by Forward Sheridan will be at Sheridan College Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, and will feature guests who are national leaders in their fields.
Forward Sheridan Director Jay Stender said the area of biotechnology is often intimidating to non-scientists, but it shouldn’t be.
“Every rancher out there who’s using (artificial insemination) is using biotech,” he said. “The person who goes down and picks up the probiotic yogurt is doing biotech.”
He also noted that there likely isn’t a female in the community that doesn’t know about the breast cancer gene.
Stender said another prime example of biotechnology incorporated into everyday life is the implementation of GMOs in food supplies around the world.
The keynote speaker, Daniel Cleveland, practices law exclusively in the field of intellectual property and is the director of Lathrop and Gage, LLC. Other presenters are:
• Dr. Phil Hirsch, a nationally recognized leader in telemental health, who will discuss the development and implementation of telemedicine in the practice of psychology.
• Harvey D. Blackburn, animal geneticist and coordinator of the National Animal Germplasm Program. He’ll discuss genetic access implications in the livestock industry.
• Eric Welch, associate professor and director of the Science and Technology Research Group at the University of Chicago.
• Anne Alexander, economist and director of Internal Programs at the University of Wyoming.
“These are not minor league speakers,” Stender said.
“These people spend a lot of time going to conferences where they talk to other geneticists,” Stender said. “It’s like preaching to the choir. Our conference is bringing people from different disciplines in so they can actually have a conversation with other people who are trying to solve problems in the world.”
Stender said his goal is to have the annual conference in Sheridan eventually become an invite-only event. This year, registration is open to scholars, entrepreneurs and general inquiring minds.
“If someone wants to be educated about some of the policy and social issues associated with GMOs and intellectual property genes and telehealth, this is a chance for them to understand what some of the emerging issues are,” Stender said.
Stender said Forward Sheridan started the conference in Sheridan because Wyoming’s economy lacks a strong presence from the industry.
“Wyoming and Montana are both barren in terms of biotech-type companies. We’re pioneers, if you will,” he said, adding that in Wyoming, only approximately 600 people work in biotech fields, and most of them are associated with the University of Wyoming.
That number, he said, is small compared to other states.
Neltje, local businesswoman, philanthropist and artist, will provide opening remarks about what Sheridan has to offer.
In addition to biotech business networking and recruitment, Stender said the conference provides exposure to several four-year colleges, including Auburn University, Clemson University, Texas A&M, the University of Chicago and the University of Wyoming.
For a complete schedule and registration information, contact Ziola Perry at Forward Sheridan at 673-8004.