WASHINGTON - Biotechnology Industry Organization President Carl Feldbaum on Monday said he'll retire and move to Idaho as soon as the group's executive committee hires his successor.
During his 11-year tenure, Feldbaum led the charge to build BIO from a small trade association to a powerful lobby with enough muscle to convince the president of the United States to speak at its annual meeting.
When asked why he wants to retire at the young age of 60, Feldbaum told BioWorld Today: "The timing is just right. The organization is running as well as it ever has, it's bigger than it's ever been, it's healthier, and 2004 will be an excellent year to recruit new leadership because of all the high-caliber, high-profile political people changing jobs in an election year in Washington."
BIO's executive committee, chaired by Richard Pops, CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Alkermes Inc., is expected to begin its search for a replacement within weeks. Feldbaum would not speculate as to how long it will take to hire a new president.
Whatever the case, Feldbaum and his wife, Laura, are preparing to head west to live full-time in their Idaho home. In the next phase of his life, Feldbaum, who originally is from Philadelphia, plans to give speeches and possibly write a book. He will remain affiliated with BIO as president emeritus and expects to continue contributing to the group as the new leadership deems appropriate.
In a prepared statement, Pops referred to Feldbaum as one of the pioneers of the biotechnology sector, saying, Feldbaum had a "profound impact on the evolution of this young industry." He went on to say Feldbaum leaves behind "an accomplished organization of talented professionals and a track record of success."
When Feldbaum became BIO's first president in 1993, he had a staff of 16 and an annual budget of $1.7 million. Today, BIO employs nearly 100 people and manages a $40 million budget yearly. At BIO's first annual meeting, held in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., 1,700 people attended. By comparison, 17,000 people attended the meeting last year, held in Washington, and Feldbaum shared the stage with President George Bush.
Feldbaum said BIO has created a single political voice with a reasonably strong presence, and for its companies, the organization has helped bring together potential investors and partners in a neutral setting for business negotiations.
"We've had a series of challenges come at us from every corner, from Clinton's first health care plan to intellectual property issues to Dolly to stem cells to Medicare," he said. "We've succeeded in getting the biotechnology industry a seat at each of those tables where the issues are being wrung out."
Feldbaum, a father of two, moved to Washington 30 years ago after earning a biology degree from Princeton University and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
As a young man in the early 1970s, he assisted former District Attorney Arlen Specter, now a Republican senator from Pennsylvania, in criminal cases, before moving to Washington to work as an assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, during which he organized the technical investigation of an 18.5 minute gap in a key presidential tape recording.
Feldbaum also has worked as an inspector general for defense intelligence; as an assistant to the secretary of energy; as president of Palomar Corp., of Washington; as vice president for planning at System Planning Corp., of Roslyn, Va.; and as administrative assistant and chief of staff to Sen. Specter.