Joe Panetta is spending more time on flights to Washington D.C. than ever before. Lobbying has always been part of his job in the decade he’s spent running Biocom, the trade association for San Diego’s life sciences industry. But now he’s under instructions from the Biocom board to make doubly sure industry interests are heard on Capitol Hill at this moment in history when a whole lot of new federal policy is getting made.
“Obama and Congress want to create jobs, and they’re talking about putting money into infrastructure projects, so why not stimulate cutting-edge industries of the future like biotech?” Panetta told me a couple weeks ago during an interview in San Francisco.
A whole host of meaty issues are on the table in Washington these days that can swing the fortunes of Biocom’s 575 members in biotech, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. The economic stimulus package is really only the warm-up act of things Biocom is pushing for in D.C. these days. Panetta, in a unusual move for a regional trade group chief, is planning to make at least one trip a month to Washington, working closely with the Biotechnology Industry Organization that’s based there.
Here’s a brief rundown of the issues I discussed with Panetta in a 30-minute conversation, which he’s looking to cover with members of Congress:
—Biotech companies would like to see an increase in the $27 billion annual budget of the National Institutes of Health. An estimated $1.8 billion of NIH funding usually flows to Southern California research centers, which are the seedbeds for new companies. This budget has essentially been frozen for about five years, making it much tougher for academics to win federal support for their research ideas.
—Universal health care could put a squeeze … Next Page »