Join Date: 04/06/2010
Copied below is a guest commentary submitted to the Delaware State News. You can post yor opinions by clicking on "Reply."
U.S. must recommit to its biomedical sector
By James Wolfe
Investments in bioscience are increasingly vital to a strong American economy. As Gov. Jack Markell has said, “It is critical to our national and economic interest that we own medical innovation in the future as thoroughly as we owned mechanical innovation in the past.”
The governor knows what he is talking about and has done a great job of championing that philosophy in our state. Already,Delaware’s biopharmaceutical sector generates $4.5 billion in annual economic activity, directly and indirectly supporting 27,000 jobs.
A recent study from Battelle found that the biomedical industry supported over 4 million American jobs in 2009. The total economic output from these positions amounted to more than $900 billion.
The United States surged to the forefront of biotech research and development starting in the 1990s. Federal policies, including a transparent regulatory-review process, robust intellectual-property protections for new drugs, and well-funded research institutions working collaboratively with the private sector, all helped put the United States on top.
The results are easy to see. In 2009, the United States accounted for 51 percent of the world’s biotech patents. American biopharmaceutical companies invested more than $67 billion in research and development for new life-saving treatments in 2010.
Our position as global leader is hardly guaranteed going forward, however. Unfortunately, there are warning signs that the United States is losing ground in biotech innovation.
According to a recent study from the Milken Institute, other nations are taking aggressive steps to encourage the growth of their own biopharmaceutical sectors. China and India are rapidly becoming centers of pharmaceutical research and development. The number of clinical trials in these two countries increased threefold at the beginning of the decade. A McKinsey study predicts that by 2013,Indiawill have nearly 3,000 clinical trials under way.
The United States cannot idly allow our competitive edge to slip away. Congress must take steps starting now to foster this crucial field and maintain our global advantage.
Federal lawmakers can start by upping the tax credit for research and development. This will incentivize investment in innovation — much of which will happen here in Delaware. To ensure certainty for these investment decisions, the tax credit must be made permanent.
To his credit, our own Sen. Chris Coons has been at the forefront of the effort to make the tax credit permanent and to retool it to make it effective for start-ups, not just companies that are already making a profit. A tradable R&D credit could help start-ups, such as Delaware’s Elcriton and Evozym Biologics, gain the investments they need to grow and create jobs.
Sen. Tom Carper has been a long-time supporter of the biotech community. He was recently honored as a “Champion of Jobs Creation through Innovation” by the We Work for HealthDelawarecoalition and reaffirmed his commitment to the sector. “Delaware has become a leader in the biotechnology industry and I will continue working with my Congressional colleagues and the Administration to ensure the continued success of this innovative industry in Delaware,” said Sen. Carper.
Another important step in maintaining competitiveness is reauthorizing the Prescription Drug User Fee Act. Since the act’s original passage in 1992, it has improved patient access to over 1,500 new medicines. Review times fell approximately 60 percent. By providing a consistent funding source, PDUFA reauthorization will encourage investor confidence and expedite the drug-review process. It will ensure strong and globally competitive U.S. Food and Drug Administration policies going forward.
Hopefully, the colleagues of our senators in Washington will come together to pass these important safeguards to our biotech industry.
Editor’s note: James Wolfe is president and CEO of Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.