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BIO convention kicks off with cocktails on aircraft carrier

BIO attendees boarded the USS Midway for a reception.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey/globe staff

BIO attendees boarded the USS Midway for a reception.

SAN DIEGO — What do biotech folks do when they’re not discovering, discussing, and selling treatments for debilitating diseases? They watch the World Cup. They have lunch with Hillary Rodham Clinton. They get business advice from British billionaire Richard Branson. They drink cocktails on an aircraft carrier.

Some 15,000 scientists, executives, public officials, and others involved in the world of life sciences and biotechnology descended on San Diego this week for the annual BIO International Convention. But along with all the business taking place, conference organizers mixed in some pleasure.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey/globe staff

A panel was underway in the Massachusetts pavilion as the US-Germany World Cup game played in the background.

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The conference kicked off Monday with a lavish party aboard the USS Midway, a massive aircraft carrier anchored in the downtown. There were jugglers, dancers, an open bar, and fireworks over the bay, all sponsored by the state of Georgia.

At the convention center later, between meetings, soccer fans stopped by the World Cup lounge to watch their teams compete.

Keynote speakers at the convention included Virgin Group founder Branson, who started his talk by admonishing the men in the audience for wearing neckties and immediately cutting the tie off his host, BIO chief executive James Greenwood; and Clinton, the former senator and secretary of state, who was less eccentric but received bigger ovations as she promoted her book and discussed public policy.

Big drug developers, including AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson, sought to draw visitors to their booths with free lattes and cappuccinos. Merck had one of the most popular attractions, a soft-serve frozen yogurt machine.

Various states and countries tried to bring their local flavor to the convention. Massachusetts hosted a reception with Sam Adams beer and bacon-wrapped scallops. And even though San Diego is a coastal city, the team from Massachusetts wasn’t taking any chances with Pacific seafood. These scallops were flown in from Massachusetts.

There was a line for frozen yogurt at the Merck pavilion.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey/globe staff

There was a line for frozen yogurt at the Merck pavilion.

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@ Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.
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