Although Tom Wiggins, president of the Association ofBiotechnology Companies (ABC) denied it, his group and theIndustrial Biotechnology Association (IBA) are rushingheadlong toward merger.

"I can't comment too much because there is no merger now,"said Wiggins, alluding to the failure of the two associations tocome together two years ago during an earlier attempt tomerge. But two anonymous sources, one affiliated with eachassociation, said the details would be finalized in February, andothers, such as Henri Termeer, president of IBA memberGenzyme Corp. and a strong proponent of the merger discussedthe union as a fait accompli.

Each association primarily serves different segments of thebiotech industry. The ABC caters to start-ups and smallcompanies with fewer than 500 employees, providing servicessuch as networking and help with regulatory issues, financing,marketing and manufacturing. The IBA functions mostly as alobbying organization.

Despite the different missions there is wide support for themerger. The industry needs to speak with one strong voice, tocombat threats such as the quest to cap the cost of drugs, whichwould "cap investment in research," said Samuel Ronel,president of Interferon Sciences Inc., and a founding memberof the ABC.

While acknowledging the broad support, the source affiliatedwith ABC accused insiders from both sides of "havingminimized dialog, and opportunities for evaluation, becausethese issues if raised would derail the merger.

"Everything is being left to the 'incoming (trade association)president,'" the source complained.

Furthermore, people who work in service-oriented areas willnot be represented on the board, yet they will pay "horrendousdues," said the source. Representatives of companies with morethan 2,000 employees, from companies in the 150-2,000-employee range, and from companies with fewer than than 150employees will each comprise a third of the board.

Responding to the accusation that the merger is beingrailroaded, Jerry Caulder, past chairman of IBA and chairman,president and chief executive officer of Mycogen Corp., said: "Ican assure you that most of the people have felt the need for amerger for a long period of time. Nor was anyone operatingunder the illusion that the merger would be perfect. But this isone of those cases where you don't want to let the perfect bethe enemy of the good."

Regarding the lack of representation from the service sector onthe board, Caulder said, "The service people exist because ofthe companies, not vice-versa, and I think that the people onthe board who use those services will do well in representingthem, because they are so vital."

As for determining policy positions, the new board, not thepresident, will do that, said Caulder.

Still another question is how well the emerging companies ofABC will be represented by the new association. "We aremerging from a position of strength," said the ABC's Ronel.

Tasks that must be completed prior to the merger includemerging bylaws and articles of incorporation, and approval ofthese by the boards and membership of both organizations,said Bill Small, executive director of ABC. Ratification of themerger terms, as well as nomination and election of a newboard will occur in February, according to both anonymoussources.

Currently, a committee of six, three from each association, isinterviewing candidates for president of the combinedassociation.

-- David C. Holzman Special to BioWorld

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