Biotech industry to Obama: ‘We can help the economy’

By Ike Wilson
News-Post Staff

President-elect Barack Obama would do well to recognize that biotechnology is one of the leading growth industries for the future, industry representatives told him in a recent congratulatory letter a few days after his election.

“Biotechnology is one of the most promising sectors of America’s burgeoning innovation economy,” Biotechnology Industry Organization’s president and CEO Jim Greenwood said in a recent press release.

From health care to energy to climate change to environmental sustainability, Obama will enter office facing a daunting array of challenges threatening the well-being of the nation and the environmental health of the planet, and biotechnology is uniquely suited to help provide answers to these challenges, Greenwood said.

Patrick Haley, chief executive officer of BridgePath Scientific, one of Frederick’s 65 biotechnology companies, agrees with Greenwood.

“We are going to be the innovators, we’re going to be the ones creating high-paying, high-wage jobs,” Haley said. “We hope (Obama) has the foresight to continue to fund programs to assist our industry so we can continue creating these jobs and making a difference in health care and the environment.”

BridgePath Scientific assists researchers and companies with the preclinical development of pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and research tools, including recombinant protein production, antibody, antigen and virus production from multiples cell types. The company also provides antibiotic assessment, cell-based assay development, endotoxin testing and quality control and assurance services.

Michael Dailey, executive director of Frederick Innovative Technology Center Inc., works to spawn new biotech companies in the county.

“I want to second Jim Greenwood’s remarks and say that biotechnology companies’ product advances are already helping to solve some of the problems of the health care crisis by making huge technological improvements in not only the level of care but also huge reductions in the cost of that care,” Dailey said.

Dailey said FITCI has had several companies that are working on health care technologies, including:

– technological improvements that dramatically reduce the cost of traditional blood tests in clinics;

– vaccine and therapeutic treatments for staph infection that reduces the damage done by the disease;

– a cervical cancer diagnostic that is dramatically less costly, much more accurate and more easily administered than the current method on the marketplace;

– a high speed biological diagnostic technology that will more accurately, more quickly, and more inexpensively test for some of the evolving genetic diseases.

For environmental issues, Dailey said FITCI clients are working on alternative energy sources including:

– biodiesel fuels from a variety of agricultural sources;

– improved performance capabilities in stored energy (better batteries);

– green air conditioning mechanisms for over-the-road trucks that do not rely upon pollution creating energy sources for operation;

– risk assessment technologies that are better able to measure the security and safety threats to schools and factories.

“These are just a few of the technologies that local FITCI clients are working on to improve the world in which we live,” Dailey said.

Biotechnology provides hope for millions of people suffering from debilitating diseases like cancer, HIV and AIDS, Parkinson’s and diabetes, and by reducing the incidence of disease, the industry can dramatically reduce health care costs and help spur economic growth, Greenwood said.

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