BIO: The Future




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Video title: BIO: The Future
Released on: July 15, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In this interview, Fintan Walton speaks with Jim Greenwood, the CEO of BIO, at their recent annual meeting in San Diego where over 20,000 attendees gathered from more than 70 countries around the world. They discuss what the future holds for the industry with the affects of the ongoing credit crunch and the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Mr. Greenwood agrees that, based on the voting records of both Senators Obama and McCain, whoever wins the election will certainly make one of their first acts the reversal of President Bush's restriction on embryonic stem cell research. In addition to that potentially monumental change, the industry also faces upcoming battles over patent reform in the U.S. courts and the appointment of a new FDA commissioner. Looking towards the future, Mr. Greenwood sees two of the most exciting areas for growth in the fields of gene silencing and the continued advancements in the area of biofuels production.
The prominent speakers at Biotechnology Industry Organization's convention.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVentures Business Review here live at BIO in San Diego, California. On this show we have the honorable James Greenwood, who is the CEO and President of BIO. Welcome to the show.
James C. Greenwood:
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Fintan Walton:
Pleasure. How has BIO gone this year?
James C. Greenwood:
Well this convention or..?
Fintan Walton:
Yes, this convention.
James C. Greenwood:
Yeah the convention has been great. We've had something around 20,000 people come here from something like 70 countries. We have the biggest exhibition hall as you can see here in our history 20,000 square feet 2200 companies. Our business for our partnering forum has just been a buzz again record breaking number of one on one meetings that we scheduled, we think it will end up somewhere around 13 to 14,000 of those, we've had 175 panel discussions, we've had super sessions, we've had great plenary speakers, we've had great venture, we've had couple of governors, we've had with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and today Colin Powell who is just magnificent.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah. All great speakers?
James C. Greenwood:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
All great speakers?
James C. Greenwood:
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
And actually brings in an important aspect to biotechnology it's that these Governors and the senior politicians in this country recognized the importance of biotechnology?
James C. Greenwood:
I think they do increasingly so and the reason that you know Spain and London and every country England and every country that's out here and all of the states are out here is because the leaders of those states recognized that the economic development opportunities in the future are going to be in the biotechnology field. And so they are scrambling to be attractive and that's good for the industry, it's good for the patients because the more of those states try to become attractive places to do business the more business will move there and be created there and we've had Governor Deval Patrick who is our BIO Governor of the year, he just this week signed a $1 billion life sciences initiative for the State of Massachusetts. And then I am gonna meet later with the Governor of Maryland who has just proposed a $1.1 billion initiative to attract life sciences and we think that the fact the states were that competitive here and the marketplace is good for us all.
Biotechnology industry over the past year.
Fintan Walton:
Absolutely. Now we interviewed you a year ago at the Boston BIO Convention and over the past year how things have gone from your perspective?
James C. Greenwood:
Well for the industry if you look at 2007 it was another record breaking year with the exception of the 2000 bubble which was probably irrational amount of investment, we've then gone back down to about every year the amount of investment in our industry worldwide and in the US has increased in 2007, 2007 was another one of those years now with this worldwide credit crunch there's been a shrinking of the economy in the first two quarters, but we think that will pass. It's not been the greatest year in terms of new products approved by the FDA, some argue this because the FDA is risk-averse in the wake of buy outs and some other issues others and I think I put myself at this camp would say that they just we've had a slowdown in inputs into the FDA and there is a phenomenon here where we picked a lot of the low hanging fruit and then science has to continue to produce and bring new applications to the FDA and I am completely confident if that's going to happen.
Fintan Walton:
So it's back to the technology back to the science that has to address that issue really?
James C. Greenwood:
Yeah. And there are increasingly better ways to do that, I think the whole phenomena of biomarkers how can we find ways to test whether a product is being effective sooner and more precisely than we have in the past, I think will begin to help us accelerate the process of discovery it's always difficult, it's always challenging. And when I reflected back upon the past year not only do look at the investment side the science side with the policy side and we've had some big battles to fight. We had to get there that pharmaceutical drug user fee act reauthorized we did that. We have fought battles over a patent reform in the United States Congress for its withdraw. We've been trying to get a follow on biologics pathway stretched to a pathway created here as it's been done in Europe and we haven't succeeded in that yet, but we are very active at least nothing bad happened in the congress towards the issue.
Presidential Elections, the challenges and issues for BIO.
Fintan Walton:
Sure, right. And of course things are changing politically, this year in 2008 we've got Presidential Elections coming up Obama versus McCain from BIO's perspective does it matter if it is a republican or democrat?
James C. Greenwood:
I think what we assume is that regardless of who wins this election the new administration will take a fresh look at healthcare. I think that there clearly will be an attempt to see what can be done to reduce the cost of healthcare in the United States and particularly as it applies to our Medicare systems because the baby boom generation is barreling towards the Medicare system. What we think is important is to make sure that whom ever the next President is and whatever the next congress looks like that they resist the short sited temptation which is to say well we have to reduce cost so lets, lets reduce reimbursements.
Fintan Walton:
So quick fix type?
James C. Greenwood:
Quick fix type and you know if you want to get today's drugs cheaper it's not hard to do, I think there is six or seven things you can do to reduce the price of drugs by 25% if you do reduce the drugs the cost of drugs by 25% you will save about $50 billion a year, which is compares to about $60 billion a year that the drug industry is putting into research and development. So the good news is you get cheap drugs, the bad news is you wouldn't get better drugs in future years. So it's clearly that's not the way to address that cost of a healthcare system. We think that the way to address the cost of the healthcare system is to reduce the incidences of chronic diseases, because if you can reduce the incidences of diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease and diabetes by even 10% you would save three times as much money as you would by cutting the drug cost, you save $150 billion a year. And what we hope our policy makers and the next President will understand is that we are part of the solution that we think that we can make products that will reduce the incidence of chronic disease and the way there to have your cake and eat it too is to enable us to do that and enable us to get better at it every year so that the cost of disease is less.
Fintan Walton:
So legislators must work on in creating the right environment so that those innovative medicines can get through?
James C. Greenwood:
Sure, we can bring that our companies have the best scientists in the world, our companies and when I say our companies I mean the biotech industry as a whole worldwide, with the best entrepreneurs and the ability to attract a lot of capital so far, but in the wrong public with the wrong public policy in place that all goes away and it's frustrated and the investments moves elsewhere.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So we look at the Presidential Elections coming up what are the challenges what are the issues that you see coming up over the next year or two for BIO?
James C. Greenwood:
Well I think a bigger end would be the next FDA commission. You know we've had a hard time in the US with having FDA Commissioners stay very long and clearly it appears that Andrew C. von Eschenbach will be leaving, as I said he will be watching the inauguration of the next President from his aeroplane on his way out of Washington, so we will certainly have an acting commissioner and we are working now to make sure that both Senator McCain and Senator Obama in their camps understand the importance of thinking about who the next FDA commissioner is going to be and making there an early appointment. And it's tempting for them not because it got a whole cabinet to appoint. We are gonna work in getting a good FDA commissioner to give the agency a strong leadership and then boost the moral there.
BIO's perspective: Future of biotechnology industry.
Fintan Walton:
The other thing of course which is good about our technology about our industry is the innovation, the technology and the new challenges that's been through some of those issues have been little around for a while things like stem cell research and science, are things moving there as well now in the US?
James C. Greenwood:
Well on the stem cell issue that issue will be moot in six months, because when President Bush leaves office we know that from their voting history and from the (indiscernable) that both Obama and McCain support a funding through the National Institutes of Health for embryonic stem cell research. So we would expect that an early action by either a new President will be to reverse President Bush's limitation on that research, so that issue will go away.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. And when you look now into over the next couple of years, what things do you see happening within biotechnology?
James C. Greenwood:
In terms of the science? Well, what I find you know really fascinating is the potentiality of gene science and you know it's at a relatively early stage but if you look at the other company like Alnylam which has patented the whole platform of gene science and when you look at the huge contracts that big pharma has made with Alnylam to buy that to and it's not exclusive just to allow them to use that technology, it tells me there is something there.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
James C. Greenwood:
And it's pretty very exciting to be able to think about actually preventing mutated genes from expressing the diseases that they do, so I hope to see more progress in that area for sure. And then it's not just that we talked about the health side, but I think on the biofuel side we expect to see continued advancement in the ability of our companies to bio to bio engineer enzymes and microbes they can break down cellulose in corn stalks, in corn crops in wood chips and convert that into sugars and to distill into ethanol because as everyone in the world knows we got to stop burning so much petroleum and other fossil fuels.
Fintan Walton:
So biotechnology is back in there trying to resolve lot of the world's problems?
James C. Greenwood:
Well I believe that what's happening in the history of mankind right now is that what took 4 billion years to evolve the DNA in all living things is now more quite recently in history of mankind subject to real scrutiny and we are beginning to understand 4 billion years gives you a lot of trial and error and a lot of genius inside of those genes. And we are beginning to decode that and then figure out how to solve all kinds of problems health problems, food problems, energy problems, pollution problems. And I think in the future a whole host of new applications that haven't even been conceived up yet.
Fintan Walton:
James Greenwood, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show. Thanks a lot.
James C. Greenwood:
My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
James C. Greenwood
President and Chief Executive Officer
He represented Pennsylvania's Eighth District in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 1993 through January 2005. A senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, he was widely viewed as a leader on health care and the environment. From 2001 to 2004, Mr. Greenwoodserved as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation with oversight authority over issues in the full Committee's vast jurisdiction. Prior to his election to Congress, he served six years in the Pennsylvania General Assembly (1980-86) and six years in the Pennsylvania Senate (1986-1993). Mr. Greenwood graduated from Dickinson College in 1973 with a BA in Sociology. From 1977 until 1980, he worked as a caseworker with abused and neglected children at the Bucks County Children and Youth Social Service Agency.
Biotechnology Industry Organization
BIO represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and 31 other nations. It has evolved into a world class advocacy organization playing a leading role in shaping public policy on a variety of fronts critical to the success of the biotechnology industry at the state and national levels as well as internationally. BIO members are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. Corporate members range from entrepreneurial companies developing a first product to Fortune 100 multinationals. BIO also produces the annual BIO International Convention, the world's largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world.