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60 Seconds with Greg Simon, President of FasterCures

Since 2003, Greg Simon has been the president of FasterCures, an “action tank” that studies medical R&D processes in order to accelerate treatment and “save lives by saving time.” As chief domestic policy advisor to U.S. Vice President Al Gore from 1993 to 1997, Simon oversaw initiatives of the Human Genome Project, the National Cancer Institute, and the Food and Drug Administration. Simon has also been the CEO of a consulting firm specializing in biotechnology.

BF: How would you describe the state of today’s biotech industry and where do you see it heading in the future?

SIMON: The biotech industry is at the vanguard of changes in how we conduct medical research and practice medicine. But the barriers to discovery will continue to make success rare and expensive. The advent of personalized, genomic-based medicine favors the biotech industry in the long run but the investment required to realize the promise will be significant and risky and will require adoption of new funding, business, and organizational models.

BF: Do you see any industry trends that may affect where biotech companies choose to locate their facilities?

SIMON: We are entering an era when traditional biotech clusters near major academic centers will expand to global networks linked through dynamic systems, making physical location not as important. Modular manufacturing units will lower the costs of start-up facilities and lead to the use of more diverse locations to take advantage of differing labor and material input costs. The political aspects of global markets will make a global presence and world view more important for biotech firms. The biotech industry will need to address local and regional health needs in areas where it does research or manufacturing. This will require a real presence, not just a “facilities” presence.

BF: What economic effects do biotech companies have on locations where they choose to operate?

SIMON: According to the Milken Institute report “America’s Biotech and Life Science Clusters,” the 21st century biotechnology cluster race has many regional entries in the U.S. and around the world. These clusters of interrelated industries foster wealth creation in a region, principally though the export of goods and services. Because knowledge is generated, transmitted, and shared in close proximity, economic activity based on new knowledge has a high propensity to cluster in a geographic area. A region with a top biotechnology cluster will have more innovations, less of which will escape to other regions, or at least, will do so at a slower rate. Regions excel to the extent that the firms and talent in them can innovate successfully by being there. This is particularly poignant for an industry such as biotechnology whose survival is based upon continuous innovations streams.

GLOBAL AREA OF BIOTECH CROPS BY COUNTRY, 2007

(BY MILLION ACRES)

1. USA (142.6)

2. Argentina (47.2)

3. Brazil (37.1)

4. Canada (17.3)

5. India (15.3)

6. China (9.4)

7. Paraguay (6.4)

8. South Africa (4.5)

9. Uruguay (1.2)

10. Philippines (0.7)

Source: Clive James, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications

Biotech’s Worldwide Agriculture Activity

2008

• U.S. researchers announced the development of a biotech carrot with 41% more calcium than conventional carrots.

• New Zealand researchers announced the development of a tear-free onion through gene-silencing technology.

• Uganda approved field trials for biotech cotton.

2007

• Brazilian researchers began field trials for three varieties of biotech sugarcane with increased levels of sucrose.

• Australian officials approved field trials for biotech wheat that is tolerant to droughts.

• India approved its first large-scale field trial of a biotech food crop, a variety of the brinjal vegetable.

• Japanese researchers began trials for biotech blue roses.

• Italian researchers developed a new potato variety with enriched beta-carotene.

• South African researchers developed a biotech corn variety that is resistant to a growth-stunting maize virus endemic to Africa.

• Taiwanese researchers announced the development of a biotech eucalyptus tree that ingests up to three times more carbon dioxide than conventional varieties.

• Swiss officials approved three biotech wheat trials for varieties resistant to fungal diseases.

Source: Clive James, International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications

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