Biotech in Boston: The Present and Future

By Bob Seay & Michelle Liu

June 18, 2012

Listen to the complete interview:

convention setup
Crews set up for the conference on June 14, 2012. (BIO)

BOSTON — Boston is the hub of biotech, says Geoff MacKay, president and CEO of Organogenesis. But as the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) International Convention starts on June 18, some people are expressing doubts as to whether the sector is really creating jobs in the region and whether other parts of the world are catching up.


MacKay talked to WGBH News about the convention, innovative developments in biotech, potential job growth and how Boston can stay on top in the industry.
On why the convention is returning to Boston after 5 years
"Each year they go to a different city. It hasn’t been too long since they were in Boston. The reason for the quick return is just that it is the city that is the most successful for the event. We anticipate over 15,000 industry leaders and representation from almost every state in the country and 65 other countries. When you compare that to some of the previous states it just hasn’t been as big a draw."
On how biotech has created jobs
"Today we have 48,000 employees that come from 500 companies in the state working in the biotech industry … over the last decade, that’s a 50 percent increase in job growth. The ecosystem … is vibrant. It includes world-class academic institutions, medical centers and a venture capital community that puts hundreds of millions of dollars back into the community, investing in risky, innovative adventures every year."
On the problems faced when bringing new drugs to the market
"There are always challenges bringing these to market. If you look at the cost of getting a new drug to market, depending on the methodology of how you evaluate it, it’s anywhere from $500 million to $2 billion to get a drug candidate through the incredibly arduous pre-clinical, clinical and regulatory process just to demonstrate safety efficacy and tolerability to the satisfaction of the FDA. And that can take 10 to 15 years."
On innovative developments
"The thing that excites me more than anything is finally the arrival of personalized medicine — targeted treatments in cancer and other areas. The second area, which is more near and dear to my heart, is stem cells and regenerative medicine, which is what as an Organogenesis employee is what I focus on."
On Boston maintaining its prominent position in biotech
"The most important way it can hold on is to realize just how critical it is to the Massachusetts state system…It’s important that the message isn’t lost, we are in an ultra-competitive industry, biotechnology life science, and that we’re winning — by any measure, Massachusetts is the winner…We’re winning but it’s so fragile and the root cause of why Massachusetts is in the lead is because it’s the healthy cross section between industry, venture capital, academia, and government. And so what can we do? We have to foster that interaction."
On why the biotech industry is “fragile”
"It’s fragile because of the competition…I think some of the infrastructure that exists isn’t going to go away —the best schools, the best hospitals, the critical mass of industry… So I think we have to really look at the value proposition offered by Massachusetts and ask ourselves how can we continue to be the most competitive environment for young high-growth companies. The flattening of the world is and opportunity but it’s also a risk for us because the companies are more mobile than they’ve ever been before."

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