Bioscience industry highlights role in West Virginia - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Bioscience industry highlights role in West Virginia

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Scientists and officials are hoping the bioscience industry will be the next big success of West Virginia science, a state already highly recognized for its successes in the chemical industry.

According to industry officials, innovations in the field of bioscience are expected to make an even more significant impact than it already has in the state.

According to a 2008 WVU study, the biosciences industry has a private-sector impact of $7.2 billion and supports more than 21,000 West Virginia jobs. The bioscience industry includes research in the fields of agriculture, industry, health care and the environment.

Grady S. Vanderhoofven, fund manager, Meritus Ventures LP and a keynote speaker at the Biosciences Summit, said he wanted to encourage entrepreneurship, innovation and aggregation of capital in his address to the industry.

"I think of everyone in this room as hot coals. If you take hot coals and put them up against each other sometimes a fire will burst out," Vanderhoofven said. " … This is a chance to put a couple of hot coals together."

The West Virginia Biosciences Summit, held at the Marriott in Charleston Jan. 25, was sponsored by the Bioscience Association of West Virginia, or BioWV, with sponsorship from BIO, PhRMA, Amgen and TechConnectWV. The event featured public officials and bioscience industry professionals touting the role of the emerging industry in the state.

Vanderhoofven called entrepreneurs the "secret sauce" of economic development.

"You never know who is going to be an entrepreneurs," Vanderhoofven said. "… Entrepreneurs are the key component."

Vanderhoofven said life science investments have been decreasing since 2007, but bioscience is a larger focus of total venture capital.

"The pie is shrinking, but the piece focusing on biosciences is getting bigger," Vanderhoofven said.

The success of companies such as Protea and other companies is essential, Vanderhoofven said, because of their potential to be magnet for jobs, wealth and investment in the state.

John Deiriggi, senior vice president of North American operations at Mylan Pharmaceuticals, touted his own company's success, including its ranking as the third largest generics and specialty pharmaceutical company. The company has a global workforce of more than 18,000 employees with products available in more than 150 countries and territories.

"At Mylan we want to open the door and expand access," he said, citing high expectations and lofty goals of providing the world with affordable medical care focusing on quality, scale and reliability.

In a video statement presented at the conference, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said soon biotechnology will be mentioned as a core industry in West Virginia mentioned in the "same breath as coal, steel and chemical manufacturing."

"That's a remarkable and important development for our state," Rockefeller said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., also sent video remarks for presentation at the summit. Manchin's spokeswoman Kelly Goes said telling the story of the work "being done right here in West Virginia" is one of the more important elements of this week's summit. Manchin said he was proud of the work that was done during his tenure as governor and the work that has continued after.

"The bioscience industry has had a powerful role in our state's economic growth," Manchin said. "… I truly believe it is the biosciences field that will continue to grow and expand our economy."

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also spoke at the summit, calling for more research-based efforts to economic development in the Mountain State.

"The science of biology is as much as a specific discipline as it is an art," Tomblin said, praising the experts in the field of biosciences in West Virginia.

Tomblin congratulated the universities involved in creating biological science opportunities, including West Virginia University and Marshall University. He added that the "footprint of biosciences" is expanding and that the industry, while not the largest, is certainly "flexing its muscles" in West Virginia.

Tomblin touted legislative efforts to provide funding to research in the classroom, which he says will end up with results in the marketplace in places such as the forensic, chemistry and medical industries.

"I believe an investment here would be worthwhile and extremely wise," Tomblin said to Vanderhoofven before highlighting a number of successful bioscience companies. Tomblin congratulated Protea, a company he also recently praised in his State of the State address.

Combining the innovative minds at the state's universities with a Legislature supportive of their efforts will ensure a thriving bioscience field in West Virginia, Tomblin said.

"Keep up the good work for West Virginia," Tomblin concluded.

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