message from CURE President Paul Pescatello
2011 will be a year
of important decisions. If we get them right we build
the framework for a productive and prosperous future. A few
missteps, though, and we could see the Great Recession
linger on far longer than it should.
Connecticut, we have a huge budget deficit ($3.6 billion)
coupled with an even larger unfunded state employee pension
liability. And as with so many federal policies, the hard
work of national health insurance reform is delegated to the
states. Mostly this will mean finding revenue to fund a
significant increase in Connecticut’s Medicaid bill and
making some socio-economic sense out of the health insurance
exchanges each state is supposed to devise.
we do no more than close our budget gap, fulfill past commitments, and meet
newly imposed mandates on the back of business, we will have
only a short-lived respite from our budgetary woes. It is
essential that we grow Connecticut’s economy — that
we implement policies that draw talented people and new
business into Connecticut.
Connecticut's bioscience sector, with a solid track record
of attracting investment capital and enabling R&D spending,
is well positioned to help improve the state's economy.
For example, a
recent editorial in the New Haven Register points
out that it takes 10 to 20 years to bring a new drug to
market, at a cost of $1 billion or more. The years of
research and development spending behind each new medicine
developed in Connecticut translates into a huge biopharma
investment in the Connecticut economy. The payoff is a wide
range of high paying jobs. In Connecticut, pharmaceutical companies support an estimated 53,000
workers and spend nearly $4 billion annually on research.
Register editorial notes in particular that research on
Alzheimer's has become an important focus of Connecticut
research activity, involving small biotechs like Axerion
as well as large pharmas like Pfizer.
connection with National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness
Work for Health Connecticut has been active, meeting
with national groups, the media, and companies working on
Alzheimer’s therapies. The Alzheimer's Association has put together several
informative publications. See
the Association's website for details.
recent success story is that of CURE member Amarin Pharma. A late stage trial of its
cardiovascular medication AMR 101 targeting triglycerides
met with notable success. Amarin stock, which a year ago
could be bought for less than $1 per share, reached a
year-to-date high of $5.85. Click
here for news report in The Day.
far-sighted decision to support stem cell research is also
paying dividends. A
study reported recently in the journal Nature Biology
indicates that the States, not the federal government, fund
the majority of human embryonic stem cell research conducted
in the United States. Connecticut is one of six states
mentioned that have adopted programs to fund stem cell
research, with Connecticut devoting 97% of its grants
specifically to human embryonic stem cell research. Click
here for more on study.
for the next round of grants under Connecticut's continuing
program are due by January 14, 2011. Click
here for the 2011 RFP.
a briefing on trends in Connecticut's bioscience industry,
Senator-elect Richard Blumenthal joined CURE members in the
board room of Achillion Pharmaceuticals November 23. CURE's
presentation outlined several important issues that need to
be monitored at the Federal level.
importantly, we emphasized the need to reauthorize the $1
billion Therapeutic Discovery Program. This innovative
policy benefited 35 Connecticut companies, paying them over
$14 million to further their important early stage medical
here for a list of companies.
meeting was also a good opportunity to discuss the regulation
of large-molecule biosimilar medicines. Paramount is
insuring that companies hoping to manufacture such products
provide a safety and efficacy profile equal to that which
the innovator companies provide for their medicines.
addition, we underscored the need to: (1) amend the Small
Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) to allow venture
capital-financed companies to apply for SBIR funds; (2)
clarify that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment is not intended to
ban embryonic stem cell research; and (3) distinguish
biopharma venture capital firms and their long term
investments from short term hedge funds in the tax treatment
of "carried interests." We stressed the need for
increased funding for the FDA and NIH and that any future
reform to U.S. patent law should "do no harm" to
the intellectual property protection fundamental to the
and perhaps most importantly, we discussed the nature of
"risk tolerance" and how important it is that
regulators not stifle innovation in a misplaced quest to
eliminate all risk.
meeting was well attended and further evidence of
Senator-elect Blumenthal's interest in the bioscience sector. During his
recent campaign, Blumenthal
called for making Connecticut's R&D tax credit permanent
and addressed other issues of interest to CURE members.
We look forward to working with him here in Connecticut and in
the sluggish economy (and colder than usual weather), the
mood was upbeat at CURE's annual Holiday Party December
for a report with photos.
in the New Year on a positive note, Leonard Bell, co-founder
and CEO of CURE-member Alexion Pharmaceuticals in Cheshire,
was runner-up in TheStreet.com's "Best Biotech
CEO" of the year poll. Click
here for details.
congratulations to Leonard, and my best wishes to all of you
for a joyous Holiday season and a great New Year.
Paul R. Pescatello is President and CEO of CURE.
to Paul's other columns