PHILADELPHIA - BIO's top brass, President Jim Greenwood and newly installed Chairman Jim Mullen, promised a more public face in the coming months as the trade association looks to increase its lobbying efforts and public outreach initiatives.
Expect Greenwood to tackle more of the latter labors as the industry's impact on health care, agriculture, energy and the environment continues to expand into the public consciousness. Along those lines, the former Pennsylvania congressman said he soon would begin a public effort to ensure the defeat of a drug price-control referendum scheduled for a vote in California this fall. He'll likely begin frequent travels out west as part of that endeavor, as well as other trips throughout the country alongside Mullen, to promote the organization's agenda.
Both spoke of focused communications through the media, including desires to appear on television shows hosted by Oprah Winfrey and Larry King to reach broad audiences. "The story can't be told in 30 seconds," Greenwood said.
At the same time, Mullen, chairman and CEO of Biogen Idec Inc., stressed BIO's transformation "into a world-class advocacy organization." In addition to last year's hiring of Greenwood, a five-term Republican from a suburban Philadelphia district, the Washington trade association recently has added several staffers who formerly held high posts within federal health care agencies. Their hirings represent BIO's decision to better position its lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, though Greenwood himself is prohibited from such dealings with legislators for six more months per guidelines from the House Ethics Committee.
The biotech industry needs a "fertile" policy environment conducive to fostering growth, Greenwood said, noting that issues such as potential slowdowns in the drug approval process are among many in which BIO is playing a larger role in influencing the legislative process. The organization remains opposed to any legislation that would create another government entity to oversee product safety and instead supports proposals to use Medicare data for such monitoring. Other recent efforts have included backing bills that would allow venture capital-owned biotech companies to get funding from the Small Business Innovation Research grant program, expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and ensure the passage of President Bush's energy bill, which includes biotech-related measures.
In addition, Mullen discussed the organization's long-standing opposition to a short approval path for follow-on biologics, which he stressed "need to be studied clinically" to a lengthy degree to prove bioequivalence.
Both Greenwood and Mullen also indicated that BIO is urging Congress to approve Lester Crawford's nomination to become the FDA's permanent commissioner, a move that both said would signal a clearer near-term regulatory picture for investors and other industry observers going forward. "Let's get on with it," Mullen said, "and solidify leadership at the FDA."
Overall, Greenwood stressed BIO's need to "devise policy solutions and offer them proactively to Congress" rather than standing aside as a bystander and fighting for its members from a defensive posture.
Their wide-ranging comments came during the second day of the BIO 2005 conference here, which both labeled another success as evidenced by continued growth among total attendees (more than 18,000), partnership meetings (more than 7,200) and exhibitors (more than 1,500). Calling biotechnology the "growth industry of the future," Greenwood declared that "the biotech century is officially under way."