WASHINGTON _ Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, of New Jersey,received the Biotechnology Industry Organization's (BIO) first`Governor of the Year Award' on Wednesday for "creating afavorable business environment for biotechnology in New Jersey."

Whitman told a crowd of more than 100 executives gathered here forBIO's annual CEO conference that New Jersey's master economicplan ranks the field of biotechnology and pharmaceuticals as one offour key growth industries for the state, along withtelecommunications, trade and tourism.

According to BioWorld's records, the state of New Jersey has thethird largest concentration of public biotechnology companies(approximately 15) in the U.S., after California (approximately 66)and Maryland (approx. 28). Counting privately held biotechnologycompanies, New Jersey's total climbs to about 95 companies,according to state Sen. Robert Singer (R-30th District). The state isalso home to numerous large pharmaceutical companies.

"In New Jersey, biotechnology may be young, but it's critical to a farolder industry that we enjoy _ and that's pharmaceuticals," saidWhitman. "For that reason alone, it makes sense for us, the stategovernment, to support biotechnology."

Whitman's political profile has been heightened since Republicansswept the midterm elections last November. As a woman, aconservative and a proven tax-cutter, she is a valued asset of theRepublican party and was tapped to deliver the GOP's response toPresident Clinton's State of the Union address last month.

BIO President Carl Feldbaum called Whitman a "formidable politicalforce" on Wednesday and said she had "marshaled the forces of thestate government" to spur the growth of biotechnology.

Feldbaum said Whitman has supported legislation introduced by theNew Jersey legislature's bipartisan biotechnology task force and hasdirected the state's Commission on Science and Technology to targetthe needs of biotechnology companies in marketing campaigns. (SeeBioWorld Today, April 12, 1994, p. 1.)

"For the first time, biotechnology companies have a clear,consolidated path for accessing some of the many state businessdevelopment programs," said Feldbaum. "And the Governor'ssupport has translated into aggressive support from the rest of heradministration."

Feldbaum praised Whitman and New Jersey Secretary of Commerce,Gil Medina, for leading a fight recently to turn a vacantpharmaceutical company facility in central New Jersey into anincubator for biotechnology companies. Whitman said that start-upcompanies cite lack of access to appropriate space as their numberone problem and state officials hope that incubators _ centralizedfacilities where numerous tiny firms can rent space cheaply _ couldhelp. New Jersey's Department of Commerce hopes to establish a60-acre high-tech industrial park (150,000 square feet of lab space)for emerging technologies that will provide "low-cost, world classlab space" to small companies.

According to Whitman, her state's master plan recommendedspecific changes to foster the biotechnology industry, including:capitals gains tax cuts, tax breaks for large firms that provide spaceto developing firms, continued support for universities and advancedtechnology centers and for the Commission on Science andTechnology, and, streamlined regulations to make it easier forcompanies to obtain the permits necessary to set up shop.

Whitman also noted that New Jersey will attempt to helpbiotechnology companies raise capital by providing seed money todeveloping firms "with the proviso that they return a fraction of theearnings or royalties or license fees to the state." The state recentlyretained a venture capital fund manager to kick off its venture capitalfund and created a small business investment company that willmake equity capital available to small companies, includingbiotechnology. n

-- Lisa Piercey Washington Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.