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Massachusetts Biotechnology Council



Mass Bio Council Defends Coughlin Appointment Against Ethics Charges
In its first public comment on the topic, the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council this week defended the actions of its new president in pursuing the job against ethics charges lobbed by the state Republican Party, and rejected complaints that it needs to change the makeup of its 23-member board of directors.
The state GOP filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission Aug. 30, alleging that Robert Coughlin had pursued the council’s presidency in June, a month before disclosing to the ethics panel he was a candidate for the position, and recusing himself from handling biotech issues as undersecretary of commerce and economic development. The Republican party cited reports in the Boston Globe, which included comment from Coughlin and a lawyer representing him maintaining they did nothing wrong.
Biotech Council spokesman John Lacey told BRN this week that Coughlin’s first contact with the group in June consisted of attending a networking event: “Bob was not a candidate for the MBC position at that time. It was more or less a meet-and-greet. It was, ‘What is the MBC?’ It was not an interview.”
Lacey said the issue would not impact the council’s work, including its lobbying on state issues such as the $1 billion, 10-year Life Science Initiative proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick. He noted Coughlin is barred from lobbying state lawmakers for a year from the day he gave up his seat as a member of the state House of Representatives last January to join Patrick’s administration as undersecretary of commerce and economic development, and cannot lobby Patrick’s administration for a year from Sept. 4, the day he took office as council president.
The council spokesman also dismissed two issues raised in a Sept. 4 Globe report:
  • The need to retain staff; only one of nine council staffers five years ago still works for the group, a former board member complained in the Globe article. “Staff retention is not an issue with us,” Lacey said. “It’s kind of the normal nature of any organization that has different layers of people who have been here different periods of time.”
  • The desire to attract CEOs of larger biotech companies, an argument the Globe attributed only to “some.” Of the council’s 23 board members, Lacey said, 11 are presidents or CEOs. Four board members are senior vice presidents reporting directly to CEOs. The remainder consists of a venture capitalist, a former Genzyme executive, and professionals from Deloitte and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Education Foundation, which oversees school programs and worker training efforts.

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