GENET archive


BUSINESS: Biotech leader sees challenges ahead

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Biotech leader sees challenges ahead
SOURCE: The Boston Globe, USA
AUTHOR: Stephen Heuser & James C. Greenwood (BIO trade group president)
DATE:   06.05.2007

Biotech leader sees challenges ahead

The nation's biotechnology industry holds its annual conference this
week, with more than 20,000 attendees at the Boston Convention and
Exhibition Center. One of the industry's key leaders is former
congressman James C. Greenwood, a Republican from Pennsylvania, who as
president of the trade group BIO is its chief lobbyist in Washington. He
spoke with Boston Globe reporter Stephen Heuser on a recent visit to Boston.

Q. How has the new Democratic Congress changed the agenda for biotechnology?

A. The Democratic majority offers us some enhanced opportunities in
terms of stem-cell research [funding], though there will still be a
presidential veto. Hopefully we'll do better with NIH funding and FDA
funding. But we face some serious challenges, because Democrats as a
whole are less favorably inclined toward industry generally and the
biopharma industry specifically.

Q. What's the one thing you'd like the Democrats to understand?

A. The most important policy item for the biotech industry with this
Congress is, how much data exclusivity and market exclusivity do branded
biologics have before they face competition? We favor competition, but
we think that companies should be able to have 14 years of market
exclusivity in order to recover their investments in R&D. If you look at
the Waxman bill or the Clinton-Schumer bill, they're at zero and we're
at 14, so that's a pretty big gulf.

Q. What's the hardest message to get across in the current Congress?

A. That profitability of biotech companies and the health of society are
in fact very closely linked. Some members of Congress try to act as if
they're in opposition to each other. In the short run, these drugs are
going to be expensive. We can get cheaper drugs for a short period of
time by tightening the screws on the biotech companies, but we won't get
the real miracle cures that are scientifically possible.

Q. If we look at national spending on biotech drugs, the models say it's
going up 15 to 20 percent a year. In one sense that's a success story,
but does it concern the industry that it's driving up the cost of healthcare?

A. I wouldn't say that -- it's driving it up, but it's not the driver.
Biotechnology drugs are still only about 6 percent of Medicare spending.

Q. Some of these drugs are $50,000 or more per year. Couldn't the
companies just decide to charge less?

A. Obviously they can set their price where they want to, but they have
to take a long-term view, too. They have stockholders, they have a
research and development agenda they have to pay for, and they have to
create a return on their investment. It's a tough business, because it
can cost $1 billion on average to develop a drug, and you've got to get
it back somehow.

Q. In the early years of biotechnology, people debated ethics of genetic
engineering. What social issues is biotech facing now?

A. Cost and access are issues that we debate. Of course you have the
embryo stem-cell issue that the Congress is wrestling with. On the
agricultural side you have the animal cloning issue -- the Food and Drug
Administration has said that meat and milk from the progeny of cloned
animals is identical in every way to regular meat and milk and is
perfectly safe, but not everyone is in favor of that.

Q. And the concerns about genetically modified crops, are those also

A. They're completely misplaced. The fact is we've been producing and
consuming genetically enhanced crops for decades now, and there's not a
shred of evidence with regard to safety [problems]. If you're going to
feed a growing world population with a diminishing agricultural land
base, you have no choice but to increase productivity. You go to
developing countries, you see farmers who by virtue of the fact that
they use these products, their plants withstand pest invasions which
otherwise would wipe them out, and instead they're doing well and
sending their kids to school -- I think the ethics are on the side of
doing that.

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Low-key BIO protests expected
SOURCE: Boston Herald, USA
AUTHOR: Jay Fitzgerald
DATE:   05.05.2007

Low-key BIO protests expected

Protests at next week's BIO International Convention in Boston will be
smaller than demonstrations here and elsewhere in past years, both anti-
biotech activists and industry officials agreed yesterday.

No one is discounting possible disruptions by militant animal-rights and
anarchist groups, which police plan to closely monitor as the massive
convention gets under way tomorrow.

However, at a press conference yesterday, Brian Tokar, a faculty member
at Vermont's Institute for Social Ecology, expressed doubt that there
will be any violence or major disturbances at BIO 2007 events.

He said protesters he knows plan to hold seminars, rallies and parades
over this weekend and through the convention's end on Wednesday.

He added that the number of protesters should a "little bit more modest"
compared to 2000, when Boston hosted its last major biotech convention
and when 3,000 people marched down Boylston Street during one parade.

David Martosko, a director at the Center for Consumer Freedom, a food
industry group, said he thinks most protesters will be opponents of
genetically modified foods.

He said many members of hard-core animal rights groups have been
arrested and imprisoned for harassing individuals in the past - and may
not show up in force this coming week.

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