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California’s New Life-Science Lobby Alliance Begins Organizing Agenda

An umbrella group formed this past summer by California’s three largest regional life science-industry associations is preparing to step up its lobbying and organization-building activity this fall after spending the summer holding its first events aimed at hammering out an agenda of statewide and national priorities.
The new California Life Science Industry Alliance will hold a leadership meeting later this month “where we will be ironing out the details about the action agenda, the structure of the alliance, and future joint activities between the three organizations, Ahmed Enany, president and CEO of the Southern California Biomedical Council, told BioRegion News. “We are moving forward,” Enany added.
The Sept. 29 event is intended to help cement the alliance, a collaboration of Enany’s group, also known as SoCalBio, as well as San Diego-based BIOCOM and BayBio, the life-sci group for the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California.
Enany made his comments Aug. 15, eight days after members of the alliance met informally with Tevi Troy, deputy secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, at BIOCOM’s offices. The discussion touched on several issues affecting the medical device industry, including devising device-user fees, increasing reimbursements for med device makers under Medicare and Medicaid, and preserving the pre-emption of state and local legal actions against medical device makers, whose products are subject to FDA review.
According to a summary of the Troy meeting posted on the web site of SoCalBio, the discussion also touched on two broader issues troubling the life-science industry well beyond California:
  • The US Food and Drug Administration’s longer review process for new drugs, which the agency has said is intended to heighten the safety of new drugs, but which life-sci players say has hindered their ability to bring new vaccines and therapies to market.
  • The desire of life-sci companies for more certainty in the actions and policies of FDA and the US Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Industry leaders have argued that the tightening of standards for new drugs by both agencies has hindered companies from pursuing new collaborations, or even mergers and acquisitions.
“This meeting was, in summary, an intimate discussion with a very senior government official that I'm sure was just the beginning of the kind of relationships SoCalBio's new partnership with the California sister organizations, BIOCOM and BayBIO, will bring to the life science community in our region,” Robert Greenberg, a SoCalBio board member and the president and CEO of Second Sight Medical Products in Sylmar, Calif., wrote in his summary, available here.
Troy’s address came more than a month after leaders of the groups that comprise the alliance sat down for a dinner hosted by SoCalBio’s board of directors. The leaders used the July 9 dinner, held at the California Club in downtown Los Angeles, to continue discussing priorities for the alliance.
They include building support for measures sought by the industry — such as the proposed doubling of the net-operating-loss carry forward on California state taxes from 10 to 20 years, the same duration as with federal taxes [BRN, Aug. 11, July 7].

“This is only the beginning. This is going to take years to get into practice.”

“During the July 9 dinner, participants discussed initiatives for coordination, pooling of resources and information sharing among BIOCOM, BayBio and SoCalBio in response to the increasingly uncertain economic outlook in California and beyond,” according to a summary of that meeting posted by Enany on SoCalBio’s website.
The advocacy push helps fulfill a promise the heads of the regional life-sci groups made when they signed a memorandum of understanding to create the alliance during the 2008 Biotechnology Industry Organization International Convention in San Diego [BRN, June 23, 2008].
It also continues a trend of California life-sci groups devoting more time and effort to lobbying government officials. The alliance has spent recent weeks searching for a lobbyist, something BIOCOM has had for the past four years, according to Joseph Panetta, the San Diego life-sci group’s president and CEO.
And SoCalBio, which expanded last year when it merged with Orange County’s 100-member Life Science Industry Council, or LINC [BRN, May 28, 2007], is counting on the alliance to help it focus more on lobbying than it has in recent years.
In addition to lobbying, the alliance’s members also envision the organization helping them collaborate on life sciences industry events, joint purchases, and possibly some membership services — though the regional groups will continue to operate.
The alliance also hopes to convey the size of California’s life-sciences industry to officials and others beyond it. To that end, the alliance this summer launched a new web site that includes a state map designed to show the size and strength of the life sciences industry in California — through a county-by-county breakdown of both the number of California life sciences companies, and the number of their employees.
According to that map, which uses data compiled by Rich’s California BioScience Database, California has within its borders a total 3,140 life sciences companies with a total 195,536 employees. The state’s most concentrated county for life sciences activity is San Diego, which according to the map is home to 710 companies employing a total 39,231 people. The state’s second largest sub-cluster is Los Angeles County, with 519 companies employing 25,094.
LA County accounts for about half of the regional life sciences activity in the four counties served by SoCalBio — Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. The four racked up a combined 1,064 companies employing 63,441 people. But not surprisingly, the San Francisco Bay area’s six counties offered California’s largest regional life-sci concentration, with 1,023 companies employing 78,059 people in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa and Marin counties.
The alliance is the culmination of five years of dialogue by the regional groups dating back to the 2003 California Life Sciences Action Plan, a policy blueprint produced by the three life sciences industry groups and four other groups. That dialogue has increased in recent months, as the groups have spent growing amounts of time lobbying in Sacramento.
As much as the alliance has carried out so far, it has a long way to go to reach its goal of being a unified voice for the state’s biotech, pharma, and medical device sectors, cautioned Matthew Gardner, president and CEO of BayBio, the industry group for the San Francisco Bay Area and northern California.
“This is only the beginning. This is going to take years to get into practice,” Gardner said.

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