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Protect Maryland's Bioscience Industry
Date:9/10/2008

ROCKVILLE, Md., Sept. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following was released today by the Tech Council of Maryland:

Maryland has made an investment in biosciences that is paying off but it must be safeguarded and trouble looms.

As the American economy struggles and other states seek 21st century economic engines we Marylanders can take heart and pride in one of our state's economic drivers, the bioscience industry. This blossoming industry has expanded over the years with previous start-ups becoming national business leaders and new start-ups appearing on the scene regularly.

These bioscience companies create amazing medicines that improve and save lives as well as bring high quality jobs to Maryland. In just eight years between 1998 and 2006, the number of people employed by bioscience companies in the state increased by more than 50 percent, from 14,490 to 23,300. These jobs are well-paying, with an average salary of nearly $80,000.

To their great credit many of our state and local policymakers have worked with scientists, doctors and entrepreneurs to understand and create a positive environment for economic growth in the bioscience industry in Maryland. In June, the Milken Institute released their 2008 State Technology and Science Index and Maryland was ranked #2 in the country. The index measures states in the best position to achieve high-quality economic growth thanks to its vast array of technology and science assets.

Despite this good news, there is reason for Marylanders to be concerned. There is federal legislation being considered in Washington that could have a great impact on biosciences.

Biosciences are the most advanced and complex of all medicines. Unlike a chemical prescription drug which is a mixture of stable chemicals, biologics are made from proteins and living organisms. Because of their complexity biologics are the most expensive medicines to research. Instead of having 20 or even 200 parts like many chemical prescription medicines, a biologic may have 2,000. The research required to take a biologic through the approval process is daunting, expensive, and mostly unsuccessful.

In fact, it can cost an average of $1 billion to develop a new product and even with all that investment there is no guarantee of success.

To encourage companies to take such risks in the search for new medicines the government offers incentives such as intellectual property protection. Without this protection a new product's patent can be used up while it is still being researched.

In 2005, only one-third of bioscience companies in the state of Maryland were profitable. Part of the reason for that is because the development of a new biological product can take an average of 12-15 years to bring to market.

With this in mind the Food and Drug Administration provides "data exclusivity" to the makers of new, innovative products. This prevents third parties from using the research conducted by innovators for a set period of time providing innovators an opportunity to recoup their heavy investment. Without the opportunity that this exclusivity provides, it would be nearly impossible for companies to embark on the development process.

Federal legislators are now working on establishing the approval process for "follow-on biologics," or third-party imitations of innovative biologic products.

If that legislation does not provide for an adequate period of data exclusivity for the researchers that have spent years -- and millions of dollars -- developing the original products, future research and development could be stifled as backers see no possible return on their already risky investment.

The effect would be felt across the bioscience industry, especially here in Maryland. Large businesses will be damaged and it could topple many small ones. In Maryland more than 60 percent of bioscience companies are made up of less than 20 employees.

These companies have created remarkable biologic products that have improved and even saved lives. In fact, the health care of our future may largely be affected by advances made in the field of biosciences. These advances are not possible without intensive research and development -- which is ultimately not possible without intellectual property safeguards.

Ben Franklin said, "An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."

Let us all hope while it debates this issue that Congress takes into account the vital role investors play in the discovery and innovation of new medicines. Discouraging investment could slow or stop lifesaving products from reaching the market and cause major economic harm to Maryland.

Julie J. Coons

Chief Executive Officer

Tech Council of Maryland

The Tech Council of Maryland (TCM) is Maryland's largest technology trade association with over 500 members.

CONTACT: Dan Ronayne, +1-202-429-4390, fhoward@howardconsultinggroup.com, for the Tech Council of Maryland


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SOURCE Tech Council of Maryland
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