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California Proposition 8, BIOCOM, Bioconnex, Kansas Life-Sci Effort, North Carolina Research Campus, 2008 Charlotte Biotechnology Conference, University of Colorado-Boulder Systems Biotechnology Building

Biotech Executives: Massachusetts Life-Sci Effort Would Benefit if California Voters Pass Proposition 8
A group of 22 San Diego biotechnology executives have united to oppose Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that would roll back full marriage rights for gays and lesbians, contending it could hurt the Golden State’s life sciences industry — to the benefit of arch-rival Massachusetts.
Prop 8 — which would overturn a state Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriages under California’s state constitution — would put California at a competitive disadvantage to Massachusetts, because the Bay State allows gays and lesbians to marry, Laurent Fischer, chief executive of Ocera Therapeutics, told the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
As a result, the proposition could also compel gay and lesbian life-sci employees to leave California, said Fischer, who is also chairman of the AIDS Healthcare Network, a Los Angeles-based provider of medical care to AIDS patients worldwide.
Fisher’s group sent letters seeking to persuade the San Diego-based life-sci industry group BIOCOM to adopt its position and oppose Prop 8. But BIOCOM has opted not to take positions on any of the ballot measures pending on Nov. 4.
“Our industry is vitally important to San Diego and we cannot allow other states to become more appealing to our talented work force,” the executives wrote. “In today's economy we cannot afford to lose the potential of a single job or company.”

Life-Sci Execs: New York State Officials Choose Confrontation Over Cooperation
New York state has been unduly confrontational rather than cooperative in its dealings with life sciences companies, two panelists asserted at a discussion marking the fifth anniversary of the networking organization Bioconnex, the Times-Union of Albany reported.
"A lot of commissioners were brought in to catch New York businesses doing wrong," said Thomas D'Ambra, chairman, president and CEO of Albany Molecular Research. “At some agencies the attitude was "let's catch people and make examples of them."
Harold Mapes, vice president of operations at Queensbury-based medical instruments maker AngioDynamics, suggested the state needs a long-term, consistent vision for biotechnology, one that would last beyond a governor's term in office.
At present, D’Ambra said, the state has only a lukewarm commitment to biotechnology, and needs to do more both to help existing companies and to attract new ones. One example he cited: Several states send their governors to the life-sci industry’s largest annual event, the annual global conventions of the Biotechnology Industry Organization — while Gov. David Paterson did not attend this year’s convention in San Diego, where the state’s delegation was as a result more “grass roots.”
Despite these and other challenges, panelists agreed, life-sci companies are growing in New York. Regeneron has added 50 full-time employees to its upstate East Greenbush workforce to 250. And Mapes’ AngioDynamics has grown to 600 employees globally.
Mapes and D’Ambra cited the vibrancy of the region's research universities, as well as the state Department of Health's Wadsworth Center laboratories and the independent Ordway Research Institute.


Kansas Gov. Sebelius Praises State’s Life-Sci Effort; Cites Top 10 List, NBAF Competition

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius last week used a lunchtime issues forum sponsored by the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce to praise her state’s effort to expand its role in biotechnology, the Wichita Eagle reported.
Sebelius, a Democrat who took office in 2003, cited the Sunflower State’s inclusion in the Top 10 list of biotech states by the magazine Business Facilities as one sign of success in Kansas’ life-sci effort.
Another sign, she said, could come soon if the US Department of Homeland Security selects Kansas over four other states competing for the $451 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. In Kansas, NBAF would rise on the Manhattan campus of Kansas State University, immediately adjacent to the Biosecurity Research Institute; a decision is expected to be announced by year’s end [BRN, Sept. 15].
"Forty percent of the assets, right now, in animal health, in the world, are in Kansas," Sebelius said, adding that she wants to expand on that position, the Eagle reported.
Sebelius told the chamber luncheon crowd Kansas is better positioned to weather the current economic turmoil than many other states — but the state’s advantage could vanish, she warned, if the state backs off on investing in vocational education, transportation, biotechnology, aviation and alternative energy.
"No doubt we're in difficult economic times,” Sebelius concluded.

Financial Upheaval Poses Threat to Charlotte, NC, Region’s Life Sciences Effort
The trickle of venture capital and angel funding that has found its way to startups in and around Charlotte, NC, is only one of the challenges that faces the region as it tries to build a life sciences cluster, a panel of regional business leaders agreed during the 2008 Charlotte Biotechnology Conference, the Independent Tribune of Kannapolis, NC, reported.
Panelists said the infrastructure for a cluster have begun to come together, judging from the opening of the Core Research Laboratory at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis [BRN, Oct. 20], Steve Leath, University of North Carolina’s vice president for research, said at the event.
According to the Tribune, Leath said the core lab is a good economic development tool because the core lab brings disparate parties together under the umbrella of scientific research — but juxtaposed that with the fact the largest shares of the nation’s venture capital money are still flowing to California and Massachusetts, where life science hubs are more established around academic research giants.

University of Colorado Alumni Couple from Boulder, Colo., Pledges $2M for Bioscience Initiative
Jack and Jeannie Thompson of Boulder, Colo., husband-and-wife alumni of the University of Colorado, have pledged $2 million toward a new Vaccine Development Laboratory in CU-Boulder's Systems Biotechnology Building, slated for groundbreaking in 2009, the University of Colorado Foundation said.
The gift will boost the ability of the Colorado Initiative in Molecular Biotechnology, or CIMB, to spearhead scientific and medical advances, CU said.
Jeannie Thompson's 12 years of working in research labs, including at the National Institutes of Health and the University of Colorado Hospital, sparked the couple's interest in donating to the research lab. In addition, her position as incoming chair of the University of Colorado's fundraising arm motivated the couple to make a leadership gift, according to CU.
"We're excited about supporting research that's personally meaningful, and also holds so much potential," Jeannie Thompson said. "I am a firm believer in leading by example."
The Thompsons met at CU-Boulder in the early 1960s, and have evolved since then into benefactors of the university. Their gifts have included endowments that sponsor a history department graduate fellowship, writing awards for the Center of the American West, and the Jazz Studies Program at the College of Music.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.