BIO: Growth of Australia in biotechnology sector and the similarities with the US

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Video title: BIO: Growth of Australia in biotechnology sector and the similarities with the US
Released on: December 08, 2010. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to James C Greenwood, President and CEO of Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO). They discuss:

• Growth of Australia in biotechnology sector

• Similarities between Australia and US in biotechnology industry

• Cooperation between BIO and AusBiotech

• What are the effects of healthcare reforms on investments in biotech sector in US?

• Future plans
Growth of Australia in biotechnology sector
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at AusBiotech in Melbourne. On this show I have James C. Greenwood, who is President and CEO of BIO based in the US, welcome to the show.
James C. Greenwood:
Thank you, thanks for having me.
Fintan Walton:
James C. Greenwood , you are here in Australia, what do you think of Australia?
James C. Greenwood:
I think Australia has made incredible strides and they have very clearly articulated ambitions when it comes to biotechnology you know just yesterday the premier of Victoria where we are sitting came out what I think what is their third biotech plan, there are not very many states in the United States that have biotechnology plans, so to see that in a place like Victoria is really quite impressive. And what they've done is amazing and particularly if you think in terms of the investment in dollars per capita, this is a country of 22 million people, it is a state Victoria is a state of 5 million people and yet they have been invested in huge make huge investments I am talking about half a billion dollars in a new cancer centre hospitals at the La Trobe University where I was yesterday the AgriBioscience commitment that they've made is astonishing. So you have a government here that understands both the need for a generally favorable business climate and then specifically understands the potentiality in terms of not only economic growth, but in terms of quality of life for their citizens, Australia I think very much aggressive.
Similarities between Australia and US in biotechnology industry
Fintan Walton:
Right, and of course you've mentioned how important or how the track record of Australian innovation is very well known in science but in particularly in biotechnology as well, but you've mentioned something which is really important which is how policy, government policy can greatly influence, how this industry can grow and then your observations you've mentioned some of the important things that have changed here equally those things are happening in the US, so how would you compare Australia to the US? Are they completely different countries in terms of what they are trying to do or are there similarities?
James C. Greenwood:
Well I think there are similarities I think its fundamentally just frankly a time difference. America got into the process in a big way earlier in biotech hubs like San Francisco in Boston, so I think it's probably fair to say that Australia got into the game a bit later and they are building from scratch and the thing that I always say as I travel around the country the US and also around the world is that biotech is not a zero-sum game. It's not that there is only so much biotechnology business available and if you want to build something in Australia you have to go steal it from San Francisco, in fact the matter is that we have an infinite amount to learn about biology and about how to apply that knowledge and it all begins with great universities and you have them here in Australia, so I think what's important is for Australia to continue to increase it's funding of research at the university level and at the applied level, resources are key not only the intellectual resources but the financial resources. I think that Australia needs to continue to work on and then transferring that technology into commercial start-ups, and then the very difficult thing is how do you help those emerging companies to get through the valley of death you know 10-years ago it was fairly simple for companies in the US to take a ride on the biotech bubble and venture capitalist were throwing money frankly at companies, because of the promise of the human genome project, now not only the United States but everywhere investors are much more cautious particularly in the wake of this global credit crunch and so not only here in Australia, but around the world I think governments are going to have to take a very hard look at what is necessary to provide the resources for early stage companies.
Cooperation between BIO and AusBiotech
Fintan Walton:
You are here on the invitation of Anna Lavelle from AusBiotech, and how does two organizations like yourselves can grow or co-operate to ensure that you work to mutual benefit, because clearly there are things that you can do a cross exchange in terms of ideas and flow process and even learning's, so how does that work between the two of your organizations?
James C. Greenwood:
Sure, with these national conventions whether it's our international convention we hold once a year or AusBiotech's convention here are necessary opportunities for that kind of cross fertilization, so when we have our meeting I think I've just said today that 535 meetings occurred between Australian's and other partners from the US and around the world last year in Chicago and that provides the setting for collaborations, and investments, and partnerships to begin to develop. And similarly here at this convention just yesterday they had their investor portion of the convention and I think 120 some investors where here and many of them where American's so they come here and they take a look at these companies and out of that grows this collaboration and it's not only a collaboration that involves dollars and cents, but it's a way to share knowledge and information and that's really the way the global industry is growing that constant cross fertilization.
What are the effects of healthcare reforms on investments in biotech sector in US?
Fintan Walton:
Right, let's just flip back to the US, because that's where your main operations are obviously, now one of the things that you've mentioned in your speech today was the healthcare reforms, so what is the current, what's the current view here for people in the biotech industry in the US, how do you feel about where we've got to in terms of the legislation there is another round of elections coming in and so forth this could all change again, so how is that affecting the mood and particularly the investment mood within the biotech sector in the US?
James C. Greenwood:
Well the mood was quite bleak prior to the conclusion of the debate on healthcare reform, because no one knew how is it going to come out. It was clear from the beginning that the Obama administration and the Congress intended to place a much of the burden for the cost of expanding access on the industries not only the pharma industry and the biotech industry, the device industry, the insurance industry et cetera, and that has meant for the biopharmaceutical industry more rebates, more taxes, more fees and of course that all digs into revenue which means there is less revenue available for innovation, and so for us it was a constant battle to say don't forget about innovation, what has been accomplished in terms of the healthcare reform bill is we've managed to put 30 or 40 million more people into America's broken healthcare system, and I say it's broken because it's a fee for service system where you get paid for a volume of service and not quality of service and not certainly not based on your prevention of diseases and emotion of wellness, so all of that has to change, because what we have now is unsustainable. We at BIO came out with some good wins, we've got our biosimilars legislation as we've spoken before into the bill in a way that we think is going to be good for the enterprise with biologics, we've got a billion dollars of refundable tax credits we've been distributed in just next several days, so those things were good, you've asked about the coming election cycle there appears to be a Republican wave coming towards Washington that would probably mean that the house of representatives goes republican, probably we'll not mean it that senate goes republican and although will become more republican. That will bring about lots of hearings, and challenging, and questioning of the healthcare reform legislation, it will tiered up for as a major issue in the 2012 Presidential election and who knows what will happen from there. I hope we don't simply go back to square one, I hope we can learn from our gains and learn from our mistakes and continue to try to perfect a system that accomplishes access, bends the cost curve down, ensures quality and promotes innovation.
Fintan Walton:
But I suppose in the end politics is a comprise it may zigzag, but in the end it progresses?
James C. Greenwood:
Well politics should be a compromise unfortunately in United States and Washington compromise is sometimes seen as a dirty word and some of the great (indiscernable) and compromises in the congress have lost their seats you know in the sort of wave of you know ideological rigidity, but then hopefully lessons will be learn from that as well.
Future plans
Fintan Walton:
Right, but lets remember our science, let's remember biotechnology, US President of BIO and CEO of BIO of the US organization, what do you see now going forward?
James C. Greenwood:
I worry right now about the model, I look at the challenges that we're finding in the science just turns out that the biology and disease were more complicated than we thought. I worry about the problems with capital formation and investors being recently worry about investing in biotechnology. I worry about the increasing difficulty of getting things approved at the FDA and the over emphasis on risk as opposed to benefit there, and I worry about our products being reimbursed to given the budgetary problems. As a result of all that worrying I've, we at BIO have initiated a new project which we are calling for wanted better terms perhaps "The Next Big Thing" and we are looking for some new paradigm shifting, game changing, booster rocket ideas that might change the climate. And so I've recently hired on as a consultant Elias Zerhouni, who used to be the head of the NIH in the United States and we are touring the country talking to thought leaders, to Wall Street, to CEOs and we are gonna come up with a list of big ideas and then taking to our board in December and pick one or two and see if we can give the system a jolt.
Fintan Walton:
And that's comes all the way back to policy changing?
James C. Greenwood:
Yes a policy change is well can be a part of that, there may be something's we can do that don't require policy change. If you have noticed in the Alzheimer's as a front lot of companies big pharma companies have been frustrated with their inability to achieve results, and so they decided voluntarily pretty much outside of the balance of government to pull their data in the sort of precompetitive space and instead of saying let's let our competitors go down the same blind alleys that we went down, the thought yes well then we may go down the same blind alleys that they went down that's been a (indiscernable), so I think that's an intriguing concept and I think we at BIO might want to consider whether that's something that we want to promote for a variety of diseases so we can put the cards more on the table more face up and learn from one another and then go back to our laboratories and compete anew.
Fintan Walton:
James C. Greenwood , thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
James C. Greenwood:
My pleasure, thanks for having me again.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
James C Greenwood
President and CEO
James C. Greenwood is President and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organisation in Washington, D.C., which represents more than 1,200 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. 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. Since his appointment in January of 2005, he has markedly enhanced the trade association's capacity " increasing both its staff and budget by nearly fifty percent. BIO is now 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. Mr. James C. Greenwood 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. Greenwood served 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. He led hard-hitting investigations into corporate governance at Enron, Global Crossing and WorldCom; terrorist threats to our nation's infrastructure; and waste and fraud in federal government agencies. Prior to his election to Congress, Mr. Greenwood served six years in the Pennsylvania General Assembly (1981-86) and six years in the Pennsylvania Senate (1987-1992). Mr. James C. 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.
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Biotechnology Industry Organisation
Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO) is the world's largest biotechnology organization, providing advocacy, business development and communications services for more than 1,200 members worldwide. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. Corporate members range from entrepreneurial companies developing a first product to Fortune 500 multinationals.