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Recent biotechnology conference featured first-time formalized media relations

Maurissa Messier, media relations organizer wiht Bioscribe, in discussion at San Diego's Plant & Animal Genome Conference.
Maurissa Messier, media relations organizer wiht Bioscribe, in discussion at San Diego's Plant & Animal Genome Conference.
B.J. Coleman

The Plant and Animal Genome Conference, held in San Diego from January 11th through the 15th, featured a formalized media relations operation for the first time, even though the gathering was in its 22nd year and San Diego is home to a vibrant collection of thriving biotechnology enterprises. Lead organizer for the professional media operation was Maurissa Messier, one of four regionally based employees at the firm Bioscribe, which offers public relations consulting services for biotechnology laboratories and businesses. Messier began planning for the conference, referred to by the shorthand designation PAG XXII, about three months prior to the event, organizing ideas, proposals and activities.

One challenge Messier encountered was finding reporters able to cover the conference so as to guarantee an on-site media presence. Messier described the problem not as vexing but as an opportunity to increase public awareness of the field of genomics research, which is most renowned in agriculture but not as familiar in other contexts. Over a dozen press representatives eventually covered the conference, including scientific journal editors and writers for trade journals covering life sciences and genomics companies. Some presentations at the conference precede journal publication.

Messier arrived to her current career after earning an undergraduate degree in marketing, with business administration studies but no science, from the University of Delaware. However, earlier in life she had envisioned herself as an oceanographer. She discusses her professional growth as following a learning curve based on working closely with companies and clients in guiding public relations and communications. “This is a translational job,” she declares. “The goal is to make the science digestible by relating the value of the science and how the research directly affects consumers.” Her emphases are on emerging biotechnology developments and bio-devices.

Messier has lived in San Diego for eight years. She represents the western sector for Bioscribe, working from her North County home while supervising her eight-month-old child.