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Continued: Former congressman travels world in support of biotech industry

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 16, 2013 - 8:51 PM

Q: What’s your biggest legislative challenge in Washington, D.C.?

A: In this tough budgetary climate, ensuring appropriate incentives for innovation, whether they be funding, reimbursement or intellectual property, continues to be our top challenge so that our companies can bring life-sustaining and life-improving new treatments and cures to patients at the earliest point in time.

Q: You were here recently to visit Segetis, a growing company that uses plant-based substitutes for chemicals in certain products, including detergents. CEO Atul Thakrar at Segetis is expected to announce a plant expansion soon. Any idea if it will be in Minnesota?

A: I don’t have any inside information on Segetis’ plans. I will say, however, that the United States needs a policy environment at both the state and federal level that encourages commercial development of new technologies born here. The United States has abundant agricultural resources, which yield numerous low-cost energy resources.

This is very attractive to industrial biotech companies like Segetis. But access to the capital necessary to build manufacturing facilities is still a challenge. Other countries are offering tax and grant structures that help companies raise this capital, and we should, too. There is a proposal before Congress to create a Qualifying Renewable Chemical Production Tax Credit, whose adoption will help the United States remain competitive in manufacturing and encourage companies like Segetis to commercialize homegrown technologies. U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Rep. Collin Peterson have been champions for the renewable industry.

Q: What’s the future for biotechnology?

A: Without a doubt, the future of biotechnology is strong. I envision a day when breakthrough drugs lead to a world without cancer, or AIDS or Alzheimer’s. The biotechnology industry has come a long way in a short time. The goal now is to build on this momentum and to make sure the U.S. remains a leader in innovation and discovery. That means having the right public policy and regulatory environment in place that encourages innovation and investment.

Bringing a drug to market, so it may be used to treat and help patients, is quite different from developing a new mobile application or creating a new social media tool for use on a smartphone or computer. It requires policies and programs that reflect the significant time and investment required to bring lifesaving drugs to the marketplace.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144

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