Although the papers have yet to be signed, the twobiotechnology trade associations are already behaving like amarried couple.

Staffers are working together and the Association ofBiotechnology Companies (ABC) and the IndustrialBiotechnology Association (IBA) are speaking with a unifiedvoice as the Clinton administration debates health care reform,said Carl Feldbaum, the new president of the de factoorganization.

The timing of the merger is propitious; as two voices, theindustry's message would have been badly diluted.

At the ABC's annual meeting, which begins today in ResearchTriangle Park, N.C., the membership is expected to voteoverwhelmingly in favor of the merger. The IBA has alreadyapproved it.

Feldbaum said he wants the new entity, the BiotechnologyIndustry Organization (BIO), to be a model trade association,"the one the American Society of Association Executives pointsto when people ask them who is doing everything right."

"Just as biotechnology is justifiably presented as the technologyof the next century," Feldbaum told BioWorld, "the associationthat represents this technology should be state of the art interms of its responsiveness to its members and to theadministration and Congress."

Feldbaum is an industry outsider who has spent a scant sevenweeks at the helm of the industry, following tenure as a stafferto Sen. Arlen Specter, R.-Pa. He is making an effort todemocratize biotechnology. "We are initiating an industrywidesummer jobs program, having our companies identify whatjobs need to be done, and then post job descriptions at localschools," he said. "We need to make an effort to identifydisadvantaged students and bring them in," he added.

Feldbaum's schedule involves not only meeting with CEOs andcompany scientists, but surveying their communityinvolvement. He is happy to report that this sort of thing "ismainstream thinking for biotech people. Some companies,particularly outside of Boston, have forged highly creativeworking relationships with the local community governments, apublic/private cooperation that I want to clone."

He is also reaching out to the patient advocacy groups, "who aredeeply viscerally interested in the products we have. We wantto be helpful, and we want them to know what our industry isdoing for their diseases. These people are our ultimateconsumers."

They are also "much more effective spokespeople than evenyour most-esteemed association executive," Feldbaum said.

As president of BIO, Feldbaum said he's riding a wave ofenergy. "In the Senate, I used to see people from everyindustry, the widget makers and others. Biotechnology peoplecan't see how vibrant and energetic their own people look tooutsiders. They are involved in a great endeavor, and they'vegot hope in their pockets."

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

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