To Serve and Promote: A Conversation with BIO’s President and CEO

Cheryl Scott

May 12, 2015

8 Min Read

Jim-Greenwood-240x300.jpgBIO is the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial, and environmental biotechnology products. BIO plays a leading role in shaping public policy related to the biotechnology industry — at the state, national, and international levels.

Jim Greenwood has been BIO’s president and CEO for 10 years, during which time he has increased the trade association’s staff and budget by nearly 50%. Before his BIO appointment in January 2005, Greenwood represented Pennsylvania’s eighth district in the US House of Representatives (1993–2005). From 2001 to 2004, he served as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, leading investigations into corporate governance, terrorist threats to the nation’s infrastructure, and waste and fraud in government agencies. Before his election to Congress, Greenwood served six years in the Pennsylvania state general assembly (1981–1986) and six years in the Pennsylvania state senate (1987–1992).

What aspects of this year’s BIO International Convention program do you think will especially interest BPI’s readers? “BIO’s top-notch education program covers the industry’s most relevant and timely topics. Of particular interest to your readership will be the ‘Infectious Diseases’ and ‘Next-Generation Biotherapeutics’ tracks.

“With a keynote by Seth Berkley (CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance), the ‘Infectious Diseases’ track will look at the science behind vaccines, provide a global emergency case study for Ebola, and consider what’s next, as well as examine emerging markets and vaccine development.

“Condensed to one day, our ‘Next- Generation Biotherapeutics’ track will kick off with a networking breakfast and keynote address by Katherine Bosley (CEO of Editas Medicine), followed by panel discussions focused on the promise of gene editing, nucleic acid and cell therapy successes and challenges, harnessing the power of antibodies, and the future of nanomedicine.”

For a complete list of speakers at BIO 2015, visit org/program.

For BPI readers, the BioProcess Zone is a cornerstone of the exhibition at BIO’s annual convention. What other zones or aspects of the exhibition would you like to draw their attention to? “The 2015 BIO Exhibition will feature an assortment of product focus zones. These allow attendees to connect and generate leads through connections made on-site.

“One of the biggest challenges biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies face today is the increased cost of R&D and manufacturing of their innovations. The Contract Services Zone features suppliers who handle early stage research and small-to large-scale manufacturing services.

“The Discovery Zone features exhibitors offering tools for bringing innovative biotech companies from discovery to full-scale production. Exhibitors will focus on tools for R&D, stem-cell research, translational medicine, gene expression, laboratory automation, and next-generation sequencing.

“And at the heart of our event is a focus on business development. Within the Business Services Zone, companies feature a wide range of products and services needed to get laboratories up and running, to design and build productive working environments, and to keep up with growth demands. Companies in this zone will offer legal services, advertising, intellectual property services, logistics solutions, office equipment and supplies, and business support solutions.”

For a complete list of the product focus zones at BIO 2015, visit

This year’s convention is in Philadelphia, PA. Will there be any special involvement with the local biopharmaceutical community (e.g., Pfizer, GSK, Morphotek) and/or economic development groups? You have a pretty strong connection to Pennsylvania, yourself, right? “I grew up in Pennsylvania. Went to college in the state and spent 24 years in elected office, representing the people of my district in Harrisburg and in Washington, DC. The region has a long and rich tradition of medical innovation and biotechnology leadership, and the same can be said for the surrounding states of New Jersey, New York, and Delaware.

“This year’s convention is an opportunity to showcase the entire region’s biotechnology ecosystem and its amazing opportunities to build and grow your business. We have been working very closely with local companies and economic development agencies from across the region, and I am confident that this year’s convention will be the best yet.”

Can you tell us about some current initiatives BIO is pursuing that will affect biopharmaceutical companies in particular? “One of our top policy priorities is the 21st Century Cures initiative. I talked about it at the BIO convention last year, when the effort was just beginning. BIO has been engaged in this legislative effort at every level and every step of the way.

“21st Century Cures is a big, ambitious, bipartisan legislative effort to speed and improve the discovery, development, and delivery of new drugs and therapies. It is led by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R–MI) and Representative Diana DeGette (D–CO). I’ve had the opportunity to know and to work with them for over 22 years, and they are two of the most results-oriented, passionate, and pragmatic leaders in Washington, DC, today.

“BIO has been working closely with the committee and with patient groups on a series of proposals. The Senate also has been working on a parallel effort to address many of the same challenges we face in medical innovation. I am extremely optimistic about this legislation, and BIO will continue to work closely with Congress to produce the best possible legislative package. In addition to 21st Century Cures, we continue to work on issues such as patent reform, trade, tax, and capital formation.”

How about recent policy successes/ failures? What challenges are getting in the way? “2014 was a record year for our industry. The FDA approved the most drugs in nearly 20 years, including major advances against cancer, hepatitis C, and cystic fibrosis. A record number of biotech companies went public. It was a solid year in terms of venture capital. Behind each of these achievements, you can point to important policy and advocacy efforts. I always tell people that you can have the smartest scientists at your companies and savviest business leaders, but in the absence of an effective policy and regulatory environment, it is extremely difficult to succeed.

“Going forward, one of the biggest challenges we face as an industry is communicating the value of medical innovation — making sure that we articulate the importance of innovation to society, to our economy, and (most important) to patients. In addition, we need to continually ask ourselves, ‘Are we ready? Is the system ready for the types of cures and transformational therapies that our industry will bring to market in the coming years?’

“We know that patients are ready. But will regulation, reimbursement, and market access keep pace with advances happening in our laboratories (at research institutions and at companies) so we can get these breakthroughs to them? These are big, important questions — and our job at BIO is to work closely with leaders in our industry, politicians, academics, and patient groups to make sure that they are answered correctly.”

This is your 10th year as BIO’s president and CEO. What have been some stand-out moments in that time? What do you most enjoy about the position? “Every day, I have the opportunity to meet and work with incredibly talented scientists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders. I get to use the experiences and the skills I gained from 24 years in politics to help these men and women bring incredible, life-changing innovations to the people who need them most. Biotechnology is taking on the big challenges we face as a society — disease, pollution, hunger — and changing the way key sectors of our economy (health, energy, agriculture) operate in the 21st Century.

“In college, I made a commitment to devote my life to service. I worked in social work and then pursued a long career in politics. A little over 10 years ago, I was presented the opportunity to continue that focus on service and help BIO, its members and industry, to heal, fuel, and feed the world. It has been an amazing and rewarding experience. Every day, we work toward the noble goal of making a difference in the lives of patients, one patient at a time. This is a mission and a calling worth its weight in gold: saving patients and making their lives better, longer, richer, stronger. It is what we do and who we are. I am proud and privileged to be part of it.”

Looking ahead to 2016, where will the next BIO International Convention be located, and what do you see as BIO’s general direction for that near future? “Next year we will be headed to San Francisco, CA. We’re going to continue building on the momentum of recent years. We’ll draw on the latest innovations and continue to grow new areas such as digital health. BIO will continue to provide world-class advocacy for its members. We will continue to host important events. We are always working to make sure that our industry-leading partnering system allows companies and investors to connect and grow.

“One area I see us bolstering in coming months is that the industry can better make its case about the value of innovation and the need to invest and support long-term innovation. I want to make sure we are telling our story and ensuring that public policy and public opinion keep pace with the amazing cures, therapies, and innovations in energy and agriculture happening in laboratories across the country and around the globe.” •

Cheryl Scott is cofounder and has been senior technical editor of BioProcess International since the first issue.

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