Ahnold terminates the competition at BIO

About two dozen state economic development programs were showcased at last week’s BIO conference in San Diego, but for at least one afternoon the show floor belonged to a megastar from the host state.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger took center stage at the huge international biotech meeting, first during a laugh-laden keynote address and then at a walk-through and press conference in the California booth.

In his keynote, the Governator bragged about California’s impressive leadership in biotech, including 3,000 companies generating more than $73 billion in revenue and a $3 billion initiative to fund stem cell research.

”And that’s without counting the sales of botox to Joan Rivers,” Arnold quipped, flashing a large grin that strangely did not produce any wrinkles on his famous visage.

You have to admire a guy—known throughout the world for getting his face blown off by a shotgun, being dipped in a vat of molten metal, and then emerging brand-new in the sequel—making fun of plastic surgery.

Arnold also revealed a heretofore secret prowess for osmosis. ”This room is sizzling with brain power and creativity,” he said. ”I will walk out of here with a 10% increase in my IQ just for being here.”

Schwarzenegger was smart enough to couple his Hollywood sizzle with plenty of substance. He was accompanied at BIO by Robert Klein, chairman of the state-funded California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Health. At a press conference in the California booth, the trio announced a three-year, $100 million agreement between California and Canada to collaborate on stem cell research.

Hewing to his reputation as a bridge-building political leader who gets things done, Arnold deftly avoided comparing California’s bold leadership in stem cell research to the continuing failure of the federal government to allocate any funds for such research, which may unlock treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and cancer, among other deadly ailments. He diplomatically pronounced that ”no one state or nation should do this alone.”

Schwarzenegger was far less diplomatic during a brief Q&A with the press when asked about President Bush’s demand that Congress immediately authorize offshore drilling for oil on the California coast.

”They have done nothing in Washington about an energy policy for 10 years and now they want to drill here,” he declared. ”It is not going to happen.”

For a brief moment, we envisioned the 43rd president looking up from his desk at Arnold and asking, with a sheepish grin on his face, ”Hey Terminator dude, mind if we mess up your coastal waters to get some high-grade crude?”

Then we see the Governator, neck-muscles bulging, raise his arm and glance down at Bush.

”Talk to the hand,” he says.