By Kevin E. Noonan --
In his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation, President Obama emphasized the need for America to return to its innovator and entrepreneurial roots, and harness the ingenuity and commercial vigor long associated with this country to effectively compete in the global economy.
The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) agrees. On Wednesday, BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood issued the following statement:
We commend President Obama for highlighting the need to increase our nation's global competitiveness and job creation by stimulating investment and research in innovation. As the President said, "The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation."
There is no industry better poised to meet this challenge than biotechnology. With a strong and predictable patent system, science-based regulatory systems, and appropriate tax policy and incentives, America's biotechnology sector can help drive substantial job growth in the United States and advance our nation's competitiveness over the long term, while providing cutting-edge technologies to address pressing concerns in health care, energy independence and agricultural sustainability. Innovation is how we make our living. We are just what the doctor -- and the President -- ordered.
• Therapeutic Discovery Project (TDP) -- We continue to advocate for the extension and expansion of the Therapeutic Discovery Project (TDP) program, which awarded tax credits to small cutting-edge biotech companies to support research and development efforts to cure diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis. Targeted programs like the TDP can help spur continued medical innovation, create and preserve American jobs, and position our nation for continued leadership in the global marketplace.
• Alternative Energy Sources -- The President also renewed his call for the development of clean energy during tonight's speech. The biotechnology industry, which provides the key technology for producing advanced biofuels and biobased products from renewable biomass, stands ready to provide new green jobs in the United States by developing secure and sustainable sources of domestic energy.
• Regulations for Agricultural Biotechnology Products -- We welcome the President's call to support technology and to review regulations that are barriers to growth. Agricultural biotechnology provides innovative solutions to help feed and clothe the world, support energy security, and reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment. The U.S. government's regulatory review on the safety of these products needs to be far more efficient in order to sustain and grown jobs in the industry and bring innovation to market.
America is the world leader in biotechnology. Our nation's biotechnology industry is comprised of scientists, entrepreneurs, and large and small companies in all 50 states engaged in translating the latest scientific discoveries into innovative new medical therapies and environmental products, increased agricultural production and farm incomes, and greener bio-based products and biofuels. Nationwide, our industry directly employs more than 1.4 million people and indirectly generates jobs for an additional 6.6 million people. These are high-quality jobs, paying substantially more than the average U.S. wage.
We look forward to working with President Obama, members of his Administration and the Congress in support of public policies that encourage investment in biotechnology innovation. The right policies will help create jobs, propel continued innovation, and increase our nation's competitiveness, and security, in the global marketplace for years to come.
The history of the last generation can be interpreted as American ingenuity -- as represented by the biotechnology and computer industries -- lifting the U.S. from its mid-1980's doldrums to the economic prosperity that characterized the years between 1992-2000. The success of that ingenuity can be exemplified by a simple image: in 1998 everyone had a Sony Walkman®, and in 2008 everyone had an Apple iPod. That type of innovation may be less visible in biotechnology, but the pre-eminent biotechnology companies -- Amgen, Genentech, Biogen, Genzyme, and dozens of others -- were American companies. Mr. Greenwood reminds us that the qualities the President extolled about our country and culture -- risk-taking spirit, availability of venture capital, and acceptance of failure, to name a few -- are just those qualities that support small startup companies, the hallmark of the biotechnology industry. And his statement brings to mind an apt aphorism by the anthropologist, Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.