Stay connected. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

Life sciences can't be ignored

When President Obama visited Penn State University, he had the opportunity to witness the extraordinary research Pennsylvanians do each day to help realize our generation’s “Sputnik moment.”

Nowhere is this kind of innovation more critical to achieving our country’s potential than in the biopharmaceutical industry.

Unfortunately, with competition from abroad and a lack of support from within our borders, America is at risk of losing its global leadership in medical innovation.

As more and more industries close their doors in America and relocate overseas, it’s critical that our elected leaders — at the state and national level — embrace the biopharmaceutical innovation taking place within our borders.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama emphasized the need for investments in biomedical research. We agree, but innovation does not happen in a vacuum; it requires sound policies to support the high level of investment that is needed: roughly $1.3 billion and 10-15 years for the average new medicine. Even then, only two in 10 approved medicines will ever recoup their investment costs.

Support from policymakers will ensure that work being done in states such as Pennsylvania continues to help America lead the world in medical breakthroughs. And Pennsylvanians are no strangers to medical innovation.

The state was home to the country’s first hospital and is the birthplace of the polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh. Today in Pennsylvania, biopharmaceutical companies sustain nearly 200,000 jobs and invest billions of dollars in research and development each year in places such as Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for Applied Research — providing a pipeline of opportunities for collaborations and partnerships.

This is possible because policymakers in Pennsylvania have understood the value of public/private partnerships in enhancing research and yielding groundbreaking results.

For example, Pennsylvania Life Sciences Greenhouse Initiative is one of the largest industry-based economic development investments in Pennsylvania’s history.

The program has received national attention by becoming the model for successful state funding of early stage risk capital in the life sciences. It established three regional greenhouses, including the Life Science Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania, which has invested millions of dollars in university-based researchers, emerging companies and companies seeking to expand or locate in central Pennsylvania.

Even with Pennsylvania’s rich history in the life sciences, now is the time for our elected officials to focus on policies that foster an environment in which unprecedented biopharmaceutical treatments can be discovered, created and swiftly brought to those who need them most.

And just as Pennsylvania’s biopharmaceutical industry has already begun to help lead the region out of a prolonged recession by continuing to create high-paying jobs, America’s biopharmaceutical research industry can give our nation’s economy the jump-start it needs.

Doing nothing is not an option. It won’t just cost us America’s leadership within the field. It will threaten the development of new, life-changing therapies.

New medicines to treat chronic illness — that accounts for 75 percent of the country’s health care spending — are part of the solution. For example, by 2050, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates the cost of caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease will reach $1.08 trillion per year. That’s an insurmountable tab we can’t leave to our children and grandchildren in decades to come.

Even modest medical progress could change this forecast. If a medicine could simply delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years, then by 2050, 7.7 million Americans — instead of 13.5 — would have the disease — and Medicare alone that year would save $283 billion.

This type of progress might be closer than you think. A new imaging compound that might detect the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease has recently been developed and is awaiting FDA approval. This groundbreaking innovation is occurring at the University City Science Center research campus in Philadelphia. Progress such as this will allow more Americans to enjoy long-lasting health and a better quality of life.

We must make a conscious choice to continue down the path to greater economic security and improved patient care. As President Obama acknowledged: “The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Christopher P. Molineaux is president of Pennsylvania BIO, the statewide association dedicated to advancing the biosciences industry in Pennsylvania. John J. Castellani is president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Read More

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch Headshot 2024

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing