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Unleashing the Promise of Biotechnology to Cure Disease and Save Lives

June 28, 2011
The other day I came across an article discussing vaccinations and the author mentioned his 15-year-old son asking him: “Dad, what’s polio?”

Many of us are old enough to remember a time when polio struck fear and caused suffering for millions.  Today, at least in the developed world, polio is something kids have to ask their parents to explain to them.

Imagine someday, our grandchildren asking us, “What was cancer?” How great would that be?

That is the future that we in biotechnology envision and work towards every day. To take cancer and aids and Alzheimer’s and malaria and all the other deadly and feared diseases that still end millions of lives each year—and move them from the medical books to the history books. Is there a reason that we shouldn’t envision a time when children will ask their parents what it was like back when people went hungry or worried about climate change?

This is the vision of the biotechnology industry, but we all know how much work it will take to get us there.

We at BIO are not the scientists. We’re not the entrepreneurs. We’re not the investors. But, we areyour voice, your advocates to the policymakers and decision makers. We work to create the right conditions so your work can go forward.

Despite all of our progress, let’s face it: we are not getting the cures to patients, the crops to farmers and the fuels to consumers nearly as fast as we need to.

Imagine if it didn’t take 10 or 15 years to get a new medicine to patients. Imagine if we didn’t have companies laying off researchers and killing promising projects because investors just can’t afford the risk of funding early stage companies.

Instead, what if when you went on a road show, the investors couldn’t line up fast enough to give you money?

What if the FDA review of new product applications was actually coherent, transparent and predictable? What if you could get your new drug or device approved in a timely way? What a concept!

What if the EPA, the USDA and the FDA actually worked together to approve new biotech plant and animal products? What a concept!

Imagine the difference it would make if every country’s government made biotech innovation a national priority. Is that too much to ask?

Last year, after our convention ended in Chicago, I decided that to truly unleash the pace of biotech innovation, we had to think bigger, bolder and more outside the box. At BIO we started what we call our "big thinking project." We asked biotech leaders, investors and patients across the country to give us their biggest and smartest ideas to radically change the policy environment. And we said, “don’t worry how controversial orhow politically difficult it would be to accomplish—that’s our job.”

With those ideas in mind, BIO has been hard at work constructing a comprehensive legislative proposal—BIO's first ever five year plan—that we're confident will accelerate our progress.

Our plan includes: new capital formation proposals, regulatory reform provisions, a new progressive approval pathway, and more investment in biotech research.

We are telling Congress and the White House that to balance the budget, we need more high-wage, tax-paying jobs. Well, when you put biotechnology to work, you put people to work – lots of them.

We’ve also put together a comprehensive Biobased Economy Jobs and Development Act that would give a needed boost to dedicated energy crops, renewable chemicals, advanced biofuels and next generation bio-refineries.

We also need bold policy changes to advance agricultural biotechnology.

Unfortunately, the U.S. regulatory system for plant and animal biotechnology is fast becoming the greatest impediment to the development of safe and beneficial products. Our plan calls on Congress to provide clear direction to the regulatory agencies to fix this mess.

These are the kinds of policies that will enable us to achieve the dreams we've imagined. Every day, our products reduce suffering, save lives, and provide hope and healing.

But for us, that's just not good enough.

If we really intend to leave our children a world with less disease, less hunger and less pollution, then we have to face the reality that our time is running out.

Download Jim's full speech to the 2011 BIO International Convention.