Xconomist of the Week: Five Questions with Biocom CEO Joe Panetta

9/8/11Follow @bvbigelow

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appreciation of the importance of innovative products and away from a risk-averse mindset in product review. We can’t afford more situations such as the rejections and delays in review of Arena’s obesity product, and Amylin’s new diabetes drug.

Our overall priorities are: 1) To anticipate and shape the legislative landscape in Sacramento and Washington. For the last two years we’ve been most focused on DC, given the activity around health care and patent reform. We achieved a victory with the 12 years of exclusivity for biosimilars; we’re still fighting the medical device excise tax that imposes a $20 billion tax on our young companies. 2) To aggressively attract more capital and investors to the Southern California region. This year we launched our first global life science and pharma partnering conference. A couple of months ago, we released a new video presentation on the strength of the Southern California life sciences cluster. 3) To provide more opportunity for member-to-member networking and collaboration. It’s what we are known for as a cluster, but we’ve expanded our role in this area to creating a new section for CROs, which now account for a large and important sector of the regional industry. 4) To continue to create what I refer to as a “home grown workforce.” Our BIOCOM Institute is partnering with high schools, universities, member companies, and other associations to ensure that we drive economic growth in existing and emerging clusters. They brought $9 million in grant funding last year to develop programs to train a range of professionals from laboratory technicians to biofuels engineers. They’ve just created a post-doctoral immersion programs to give PhD’s some experience in an industry environment so that they are prepared and know what to expect when moving from academia to the private sector.

X: A freebie: Is there anything else on your mind these days?

JP: China is big on my mind these days. I’ve visited China with our members and with state legislators five times in the past 18 months and I’m returning again in October. China is rapidly moving to expand its health care system into the countryside, and to an ever-more affluent population. The portion of the Chinese population today that can afford private health insurance is equal to the entire population of the United States. We’ve created relationships with five key organizations in China that want innovative drugs and devices, and they also want to tap into the experience base that we’ve created in San Diego. The Chinese government will provide funding to companies interested in setting up operations there. The Chinese government also is addressing the issue of intellectual property protection. They have begun to realize that their own move toward creating an innovation-based life science industry will be thwarted without strong IP protection. My goal is to build a working relationship between Southern California and China’s pharma and device companies, and associations in such places as Beijing and Shanghai.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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