Derby Partnering Summit: The mid-west’s largest life science event.




Life Science professionals from around the world gathered in Northern Kentucky for the annual Derby Partnering Summit, hosted by the Kentucky Life Science Council.  The Derby Partnering Summit addresses the interests of academic and private researchers, entrepreneurs and industry executives, bringing together leaders to encourage collaboration and conversation about removing barriers and developing the industry.

Career Bootcamp

This year, the event began with a day for postdocs and emerging entrepreneurs to receive one-on-one mentoring with industry veterans.  Many scientists with advanced degrees have a limited perspective of how to begin a career in the private sector after years of academic research and work in the lab.  Lauren Celano and Josh Henkin, two life science career veterans, helped students understand the job market and establish a plan for networking with industry professionals.

“I can honestly say the workshop was THE most helpful informational session I have received on careers in the entire duration of my graduate school experience,” said Kaia Hampton, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky.

The second day of the conference featured speakers from across the globe as they explored opportunities to work together to build the life science sector and discover cures to chronic diseases that are challenging the healthcare system.  “As a parent of a child with cystic fibrosis, and speaking on behalf of all patients, we don’t care where a therapy or cure comes from,” said Robert K. Coughlin, president & CEO of MassBio. “We are especially intrigued by the potential of combining a good idea in Kentucky with a good idea in Massachusetts to create a great idea that provides value to patients, the healthcare system, and our respective clusters.”

Turnpike Partnership

The conversation culminated in the launch of the Turnpike Partnership, and effort to redefine the geographic nature of biotech innovation.  The Partnership is an alliance founded by MassBio and Kentucky Life Sciences Council, two regional non-profits focused on advancing the value of life science research for industry and patients. It’s apparent to innovators that collaboration and new partnership models open the doors to biotech’s promise.

The Turnpike Partnership extends biotech collaboration networks into the central United States, where inclusive partnership models emphasize quality research over quality of profits. Turnpike cofounder John Hallinan calls it “innovation without borders.”

Hallinan, MassBio Chief Business Officer, oversees the MassBio Innovation Services program. He has a background in venture financing, corporate development, technology licensing, and mergers and acquisitions. Hallinan currently sits on the Advisory Board of the MA Technology Transfer Center.

“There has never been a greater need for collaboration,” said Hallinan. “For industry to do well, we have to work together. This industry will not prosper if we stay in our clusters and let the rest of the network drown due to lack of attention.”

Known for its biologistics industry, Kentucky is ideally situation to intermediate the needs of biotech’s competing powers through a unifying need: access and distribution to patients. Geographically, Kentucky is the center of the US transportation and logistics industries. Home to Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul – the political clout that helped Cambridge flourish in the 1970s is now descending upon Kentucky. It has the potential to empower relationships between far-flung researchers through a clear regulatory environment.

According to Kyle Keeney, Turnpike cofounder and President/CEO of Kentucky Life Sciences Council, “In our partnership model, Massachusetts provides leadership in many ways. But we have to pay attention to the small organisms, the honeybees.”

“Our model pays attention to the pollinators. It mitigates the risk of the Midwest and the Central US turning into a research desert,” said Keeney.

The Derby Summit will continue to grow and is slated to return to Northern Kentucky again next year. For more information, visit the web site at