President Clinton and several key administration officials heldan audience Wednesday with a small group of high technologyentrepreneurs and associations, including Henry Termeer, chiefexecutive officer of Genzyme Corp., Lisa Conte, CEO of ShamanPharmaceuticals, Inc., the Biotechnology Industry Organization(BIO), and three other high technology and entrepreneurialassociations.
The entrepreneurial groups tendered a list of six shared policygoals, including appointment of an Rassistant to the presidentfor entrepreneurial and emerging industry affairs;S permanentextension of the R&D tax credit and modifications to permitemerging companies to use it; an increase on the ceiling of thetargeted capital gains incentive to $100 million; and a change inthe internal revenue code so that emerging growth companiesmay retain net operating loss deductions when they secureadditional financing.
Besides BIO, entrepreneurial associations present included theAmerican Electronics Association, American Entrepreneurs forEconomic Growth and the National Venture Capital Association.
BIO presented Clinton with a wish list of two policy goals: noprice controls and that the FDA refrain from requiring labels ongenetically engineered foods.
Administration officials at the meeting included White Housecommunications chief David Gergen, assistant to the presidentand director of the National Economic Council Robert Rubin andadministrator of the Small Business Administration ErskineBowles.
RThis was a unique opportunity for representatives of thebiotech industry to make a direct, emphatic statement to thepresident several weeks before he makes his announcement (ofthe health-care reform program),S said Chuck Ludlam, BIOUsvice president of government relations.
Early on, during discussion of the North American Free TradeAgreement, Clinton indicated that his goal was not to preservethe jobs of yesterday but to create the jobs of tomorrow byencouraging high-technology entrepreneurship. Moreover, theadministration clearly wants to demonstrate that Democratsfavor entrepreneurial growth, and hopes to build a politicalconstituency among high- technology entrepreneurs, Ludlamsaid.
For biotechnology executives, the price control issue washighest on the wish list. The President reiterated his oppositionto direct price controls on drugs. But the specter of indirectprice controls -- some sort of pricing board to pass judgment onprices of existing or new drugs, with power either to preventpurchases by Medicare or even merely to publicize its findings-- continues to worry the industry.
The biotechnology group told Clinton that Rsuch a committeewould have the same impact as direct price controls,S saidTermeer. The group also pointed out that biotechnologycompanies remain short of capital, even while they outspendthe National Institutes of Health, as well as the largerpharmaceutical companies, on Rreal breakthrough research,Ssaid Termeer.
Although he made no promise to eschew indirect price controls,Clinton understood the issue, said Termeer.
Laura Tyson, chairman of the presidentUs council of economicadvisors, cheered the biotech contingent when she said thesolution to overspending on health care is not to artificially capspending on certain sectors of the budget, such as drugs, but toallocate overall spending more efficiently. A ceiling on drugscould Rshift costs into more expensive treatments,S added LisaRaines, GenzymeUs vice president for government relations.
Clinton also wanted recommendations as to what kinds ofincentives would encourage high technology in general andbiotechnology in particular.
One incentive the group suggested was more RoutcomesresearchS -- comparisons of how well different medicalinterventions treat patients. RWe talked about software thatprovided much better information to physicians and patients,Ssaid Termeer. New software programs are making it easier toperform outcomes research and to evaluate alternativetreatments.
Another incentive would be to provide greater access to bankloans for companies which are still relatively small, yet too bigto seek venture capital.0909CLINTON
-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor
(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.