Joe Panetta President and CEO
"The lifecycle of new product introduction into the market will now be shorter, as companies have fewer years to recover revenue as a result of the IRA."
Can you give an overview of Biocom California’s main activities and achievements over the past year?
2022 was another year of growth for Biocom California across the state and our membership is now nearing 1,800 in total. A significant percent of the growth has been in the San Francisco Bay area, a huge life sciences cluster with approximately 2,400 companies. We have nine staff in the Bay and have grown our statewide team to 85. We also expanded our efforts to help companies locate sources of capital and connect with strategic partners. We recently moved into an expanded office to ensure we have room and capacity for the exponential growth we are experiencing, and have implemented more flexible work schedules and operations as a result of learnings during the pandemic. Over the past year, Biocom California has focused on how we can help our member companies in this post-Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) environment, along with addressing other regulatory challenges.
What is your outlook on the regulatory environment in the US moving ahead?
Our elected representatives in Congress were short-sighted in passing the IRA. It will have a detrimental effect on investment in innovation. Beyond large pharma, the bottleneck will slow the pace at which smaller companies can raise the capital they need to sustain their discovery and development efforts. Biocom California and our member companies are now beginning to focus on how we can ensure that there is a strong pipeline of early-stage, innovative products that small companies can develop and then partner with pharma companies.
Can you speak of the importance of the life sciences industry for California?
The life sciences industry has close to a US$400 billion economic impact on California and creates more than 400,000 direct jobs. Many states, including New Jersey, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and even Texas are extremely aggressive in bringing biotech into their regions, providing economic incentives in terms of both the capital to build facilities and cheap land, but nobody has the engine of innovation and the depth and breadth of life sciences workforce, talent, and experience that we have here in California.
The state could have a global presence. State leaders can ensure that there are connections to some of the key biotech clusters around the world. Doing this will place us a level above places like Maryland, North Carolina, and even to some extent Massachusetts. We are excited to see the development of universities and biotech communities in smaller-scale clusters like Riverside, where land and housing are less expensive. California is a powerhouse in terms of innovation and talent, and the clusters are well connected logistically; we need to do more to take that in hand and capitalize on it.
What therapeutic areas do you see becoming more in favor in 2023 and beyond?
Cell and gene therapy is an extremely exciting and attractive area for investment. California also renewed investment in regenerative medicine research with a US$5.5 billion influx of capital into the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. We continue to see a growth in investment into neurodegenerative diseases, an area that has long been starved for funding. Another area that has grown as a result of Covid-19 is interest in developing diagnostics and therapies to treat infectious diseases.
What effort is Biocom California putting toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I)?
Biocom California recently appointed a new Director of DEI. When we develop products, we need to ensure we are testing across a diverse population during clinical trials. We also want to create opportunities for employment for people across the entire population, and one of our big areas of focus is to expand our workforce initiatives across the entire California community. We want to do more to interest students in the life sciences space and bring more diversity, experience, and thinking into the industry.
What will be the main point of focus for Biocom California heading into 2023?
Biocom California will focus on increasing California’s global presence. We have an office in Tokyo and have signed memoranda of cooperation with biotech clusters in the UK, France, Sweden, and Australia. Over the past year, we have been active in exploring opportunities for partnership and membership of companies in India and Korea, two of the fastest-growing countries in life sciences.