BOSTON -- Speaking at the annual meeting of theMassachusetts Biotechnology Council (MBC) on Wednesday, CarlFeldbaum, president-elect of the new biotechnology tradeassociation, said of the Clinton administration, "They want tolove us, but we have to show them how to love us."
Feldbaum, who will head the Biotechnology IndustryOrganization, was called upon to pinch-hit for Vice President AlGore's domestic policy adviser, Greg Simon, who canceled.
"The Clinton administration seems to love the term'biotechnology,' " said Feldbaum. "We're not sure they knowexactly what it is. ... You don't want them to give us a big bearhug, crack a few ribs and puncture a lung.
"We have tried to get our message across at every level of theWhite House. That for our industry, if the administration put acap on the introductory price of innovative drugs, that wouldjust cut us off at the knees as far as investment wasconcerned," he said.
"I'm confident they do not want to take us out," Feldbaum said."They recognize that this is one of America's great youngindustries. The high-techies among the new crew feel verystrongly about biotech, and we're doing everything we can atevery level to hammer our message across."
Part of the biotechnology industry's strategy in delivering thatmessage has been to distance itself from the pharmaceuticalindustry.
"We have not emphasized commonality with the largepharmaceutical companies." Feldbaum said. "We have notbashed them; we have just attempted to present a new voiceand a new face of young innovative companies, most of whichdo not have products on the market, do not get revenues fromproduct sales, rely on investment, are big job creators.
"As far as the past is concerned," he said, "if the administrationwants to point fingers, or raise prices and throw percentages atus, frankly, we won't stand there and get shot."
Mark Skaletsky of Alkermes Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., an MBCofficer, agreed with Feldbaum. He said that he and GeorgeRathmann, chief executive officer of Icos; Kirk Raab, presidentand CEO of Genentech Inc.; and Gabriel Schmergel, presidentand CEO of Genetics Institute Inc., met with a cluster of thehealth care reform group about a month ago.
"This cluster that was reviewing the issue with us is not veryknowledgeable about biotechnology," Skaletsky said. "And thereputation that the big pharmaceutical companies have on theHill in Washington is terrible. So I think we owe it to ourselvesto distance ourselves from that reputation.
"The key message that we brought there was that introductoryprice controls on innovative drugs could destroy this industry,"Skaletsky said.
Henri Termeer, chief executive officer of Genzyme Corp. ofCambridge, demurred: "The sole reason why we have any rightto stand up and say we are (distinct from pharmaceuticalcompanies) is innovation. We wouldn't exist tomorrow if wedon't innovate. And innovation is where the criticism is towardthe large companies. Too much margin for too little innovation.
"We exist because the large pharmaceutical companies did nottake the risks," said Termeer, "and we are independentlydependent on individual investors seeking investment, becausenobody knows what will and won't work. One in 10 may work;nine will fail. And the one that does work must get the paybackto pay for the nine that failed. Otherwise, you're out ofbusiness."
-- David N. Leff Science Editor
(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.