Dr. Stephen Sherwin, BIO Chairman and Chairman & Co-founder of Ceregene, Addresses Attendees at BIO International Convention
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to add my welcome to all of you to the BIO 2010 International Convention.
It has really been my honor to serve as the Chair of BIO's Board of Directors - your Board of Directors - during the past year and it is indeed a privilege to have a few minutes to speak with all of you today during this keynote luncheon.
In my comments today, I would like to begin by providing you with the Board's perspective on BIO's major policy achievements during the past year.
This policy work has one common underlying thread and that is to create and sustain an environment which over the long term can allow the innovative work of our industry to continue to flourish.
The importance of creating a supportive long term environment for innovation in biotechnology cannot be overstated.
We are not an industry of overnight successes.
We need time to achieve our goals, time that is often measured in years or even decades, not weeks or months.
And to drive this point home, I have decided to devote the majority of my time today to share with you a story of how patience and persistence in one area of endeavor is, after years of frustration and disappointment, finally beginning to pay off.
But let me begin with a brief review of BIO's major policy achievements during the past year:
The BIO Board of Directors believes that this has been a year of very substantial achievement with respect to successful advocacy on behalf of BIO's members.
We believe this is true across all of the areas represented in our organization including health care, food and agriculture, energy and the environment, and emerging companies.
As a reminder, BIO's Board operates through four sections each devoted to the highest priority policy work in one of these four areas.
1. In the health area, BIO successfully advocated for healthcare reform legislation that supports continued innovation by including, as you know well, a new regulatory pathway for biosimilars and a thoughtful, measured approach to comparative effectiveness research.
2. In agriculture, BIO continues to work tirelessly with the Obama administration to ensure that biotechnology's contributions to feeding the world's rapidly growing population are supported. At the same time, we are working to ensure that there is a well-informed and efficient regulation of our industry with respect to both plant and animal-derived products.
3.In the energy area, BIO is successfully helping to shape the Obama administration's policy for renewable energy. We are working to ensure that the advanced biofuels, bioplastics, and renewable chemicals being developed by our companies can be commercialized as efficiently as possible, including by means of public-private partnerships.
4.And finally, with respect to our emerging companies, BIO successfully advocated for elements in healthcare reform legislation that will provide much needed new sources of capital and job creation, including one billion dollars allocated through the Therapeutic Discovery Project Tax Credit and hundreds of millions more through the Cure Acceleration Network.
It is the Board's view that the past year was one of BIO's very best years with respect to successful advocacy for our member companies.
And I can assure you that this would not have happened without the outstanding leadership and tireless efforts of Jim Greenwood and his team. Please join me now in a show of appreciation for Jim and the BIO team!
Let me turn now to why I think this advocacy work for our industry is so terribly important. The best work of our companies, whether in healthcare, agriculture or energy, takes time and, as I stated earlier, often very long periods of time.
A very wise mentor from my early years in biotech, Bob Swanson, the cofounder of Genentech, once said to me: "Steve, like it or not, there are no shortcuts in biotech!"
How right Bob was. This is why BIO's policy work must focus, as it does, on efforts to create and maintain a favorable environment for long term research and development work by our companies.
There are many examples I could chose to illustrate this point.
Examples of the long and winding road from development to market for products can be found across all of the areas in which we apply our technology.
But the example I've chosen today is from healthcare, and specifically from the field of gene therapy.
Could there be an area of medical research where the pendulum has swung as sharply from unreasonable expectation for quick and easy success, to utter skepticism and even despair?
To say that gene therapy has been badly bruised is, to say the least, an understatement.
It's been more than twenty years since the first gene therapy trials were carried out at NIH for a rare genetic immune deficiency disease with only limited success, and ten years since the field endured real and significant setbacks in other clinical trials.
Yet scientists and clinicians in gene therapy have been patient and persistent and because of their persistence, today I can present to you the remarkable story of a young boy living with a congenital blindness syndrome whose sight is being restored by gene therapy.
Would this important work have been possible in an environment which did not support high risk research and product development over a ten to twenty year time frame? I think not!
As a result of the efforts of BIO and other groups to support innovation over the long term, the challenges in fields such as gene therapy can be taken on for the ultimate benefit of patients.
Today there are dozens of ongoing gene therapy clinical trials in patients with cancer, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease and a number of different genetic disorders.
I firmly believe this would not have been possible without the patience and persistence of those who work in the field, and equally without the dedication of those who strive to maintain a supportive environment for high risk, innovative work in fields such as gene therapy.
Let us now turn our attention to the remarkable story of Corey
Corey and his parents could not be with us today due to work and school schedules, but I know if they were here, we would all want to acknowledge their courage and applaud the progress that has been made by Dr. Bennet and her team. Please join me in doing so now.
The work behind Corey's successful treatment is still in its early stages.
To be sure, more clinical trials need to be done.
Once again, there are no shortcuts in biotech!
But I believe BIO's successful advocacy for innovation over the long term will continue to support an environment where such work can go forward.
And I should add that this advocacy work will be bolstered by a new communication initiative at BIO that can help our policy makers and the general public better understand the substantial value of innovation from biotechnology.
You may be wondering whether the story of gene therapy is an isolated example of the time frame that can be required for pioneering work in biotechnology.
One only needs to turn to other areas of work such as monoclonal antibodies, for example, to see how twenty years of innovation and hard work can pay off.
Indeed, it was a very long journey from the discovery of monoclonal antibodies in the mid 1970's, to the first real clinical and commercial successes for these products in the mid-1990's.
And so it is that the lessons we can learn from remembering the time frame for success with monoclonal antibodies can help us sustain our commitment to other areas of innovation such as gene therapy and guide our future expectations in even newer areas of research such as stem cell therapy.
And there is one other lesson that I think we can all learn from the story of gene therapy that I have shared with you today.
And that is the lesson that patience and persistence can indeed pay off, sometimes with wonderful results.
I believe that all of us who have committed ourselves to biotechnology – the entrepreneurs who build our companies, the investors who finance our work, the scientists and clinicians who conduct our research, and of course the patients and families who wait for our cures -- must all embrace the lessons of patience and persistence.
If we do, and we must, then we will all learn that patience and persistence can always lead to possibility.
Finally, in this meeting where we have shared our time with Presidents, I can think of no better way to close than by sharing with you the words of our sixth President, John Quincy Adams.
Does everyone here remember him?
Well, even if you don't remember much about John Quincy Adams, here are some of his words that are well worth remembering.
"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect, before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."
I would urge all of us who are part of the global biotechnology community to remember his words as we all go forward in our efforts to heal, fuel, and feed the world.
Thank you very much!