Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Q&A with NC Senator Kay Hagan

If you were not one of the more than 900 attendees at CED's Biotech Life/Science conference you missed remarks from nationally renowned thought leaders in biotechnology, biopharma, personalized medicine, diagnostics and state government. Among them, North Carolina State Senator, Kay Hagan. The following is a Q&A with Senator Hagan about partnerships and the commitment of the state and federal government to biotechnology and research and development.

Q: CED - In what ways do you see public-private partnerships helping grow the biotech/life science sector in North Carolina, and are there any examples you can cite?

A: Hagan - Expanding public-private partnerships is the key to growing the robust biotech and life science sectors in North Carolina. The state was at the forefront of the biotechnology movement when almost 30 years ago Governor Hunt and the N.C. General Assembly established the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the first biotechnology effort of its kind in the country. Today, the industry supports more than 226,000 North Carolina jobs and contributes more than $64 billion to the state¹s economy. The Biofuels Center of North Carolina, which I was proud to support in the General Assembly, is another example of the public sector investing in emerging industries to create private sector jobs. And the One NC Small Business Program supports small business owners as they apply and compete for federal research dollars through the SBA's SBIR/STRR program. Meanwhile, North Carolina¹s incredible public universities and community colleges are producing the workforce necessary to fill these biotech and life science jobs, while developing innovative research that is driving the industries forward.

Q: CED - What does this annual gathering (CED Biotech/Life Science Conference is in its 20th year) of the biotech industry demonstrate about the state¹s commitment to the industry?  Why have you personally decided to address the audience?

A: Hagan - This conference is an excellent opportunity to bring together entrepreneurs, researchers, policy experts and state and federal leaders to examine the current state of the biotech industry in North Carolina, and more importantly, discuss where it¹s headed. It¹s because North Carolina has been having this conversation for 20 years that the state has become a national leader in the biotech industry. When people talk about the biotechnology industry in America, they talk about three places: Boston, Silicon Valley and North Carolina. And I hear from business owners all the time that they want to take their biotech company to our state, that this is where they want to live. I am excited to participate in this year¹s conference because my focus is ensuring that North Carolina can compete in a 21st century global economy, and that means supporting and investing in high-skilled, high-tech industries that are leading us into the future.

Q: CED - Do you see a continued commitment to basic research and development in the federal budget, despite concerns about spending?

A: Hagan - Investments in research and development, in addition to education and infrastructure, are critical if the United States is to compete in the 21st century economy and be the global leader in nnovation. Basic and applied research funding helps create a pool of knowledge that will power our economy for years in the future and solve some of the biggest challenges we face in the health, energy and agricultural fields.

I am committed to tackling our country¹s mounting federal deficit, but we only hurt ourselves when we fail to make investments in industries that will grow our economy, create jobs, and make life-saving advancements. That is why I have cosponsored legislation that would make the Research and Development tax credit permanent, and why I support robust funding for the National Institutes of Health. And it is why I am a co-chair of the Clean Energy Innovation Project supported by Third Way, a think tank devoted to moderate policies, which calls for strategic investments in clean energy R&D. These measures would create certainty for businesses that rely on innovative R&D, and the result would be jobs across our state.

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