By Lisa Seachrist
WASHINGTON — Last October, Vice President Al Gore addressed a group of biotechnology CEOs and asked them what the White House could do to help the industry. They said they wanted a contact person at the White House who could respond to their questions and input.
Six months later, Gore has named Genentech Inc.'s vice president of government relations, David Beier, his new chief domestic policy advisor, giving the industry a direct route to vice president's ear.
"When we made that request, we did not anticipate the enormous benefits of having someone like David Beier in the position," said Carl Feldbaum, president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). "David is unusually talented and really is a rare combination of a strategist and a tactician. I couldn't be happier."
The move comes at a time when Gore has been enjoying increasing prominence on policy issues confronting President Clinton.
Biotech Now Grabbing Its Share Of VP Attention
It also gives biotechnology a visible spot on Gore's technology friendly agenda. Heretofore, when the vice president spoke of technology, he was usually referring to telecommunications technology like the Internet.
"At the moment of such prominence, the fact that a clear biotechnology choice is being made is intriguing," Feldbaum said. "It is a very positive development. The opportunity to make things happen is now clearly there."
Feldbaum was careful to note the industry and Beier will be constrained by issues involving conflict of interest. Nevertheless, Feldbaum said biotechnology will benefit from having someone so familiar in such a senior position at the White House.
"At the end of the day, he is a very tough guy," Feldbaum said. "He won't be pushed or pushed aside. He knows how to get things done and then he gets them done." *