The Exhibit Halls are open at the 2009 International BIO Convention, and today has been a fast-paced day. I started the morning visiting the California Pavillion, located in Exhibit Hall B-4 (Booth 4033.) I spoke briefly with Mary Ingersoll, who is the Executive Director of TeamCalifornia, as well as Tom Lease of California Business Investment Services, a division of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. Both were very interested in CHI and our member companies and want to continue the discussion when I arrive back in Sacramento as to how the life sciences industry can work with economic and business development organizations within the state government and in the private sector to attract more firms into the California marketplace.
The University of California and California State University systems have their booth set up adjacent to the main California Pavilion, and I discussed opportunities for the life sciences industry in need of laboratory and office space with Sandra Acton at Cal Poly Pomona. That University has various real estate opportunities for life sciences firms with the added benefit of being part of the vibrant research community at Cal Poly Pomona. For more information on opportunities to locate your company at Cal Poly Pomona, visit http://www.foundation.csupomona.edu/.
After checking in with the California exhibit, I ventured off to check out the competition -- visiting the state pavilions for other major biotech clusters in the United States, including Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts and North Carolina, to name a few. There are representatives from all 50 states and various international countries all putting their best foot forward and presenting their arguments for why the life sciences industry should locate with them. What started in California in the 1970s with recombinant DNA technology has truly spread to every corner of the globe -- it really is something to see. Speaking of which, I will have pictures posted on the blog tonight or tomorrow as soon as I get a chance to upload some of the shots from the convention floor.
After checking out the geographical exhibits, I made my way over to visit various CHI member company exhibits, including Abbott Laboratories, Life Technologies, Merck, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and Wyeth. This is just a small sampling of our member companies that are here in Atlanta, and I have a LOT more to see tomorrow and Thursday.
At 2:00 PM, it was time to head over to the Omni Hotel again for the BIO State Government Relations Committee meeting. While we are pretty focused right now on the budget situation in California (and again, if you're reading this before 8:00 PM on Tuesday, GO VOTE!) -- there are several issues coming to the forefront for state government relations personnel in the biosciences. Douglas Finan, Director of Environmental Health and Safety for GlaxoSmithKline provided a superb assessment of the recently emergent issue of pharmaceuticals in the environment (PIE.) In 2008, the Associated Press wrote a handful of stories about the existence of trace amounts of pharmaceutical compounds in surface and drinking water throughout the United States, which has lead to legislative action in several of the states around the country and federal action in the form of study bills being proposed in the 111th Congress.
Finan argues that phenomenon of PIE is nothing new, but that there are detection mechanisms available today that can pick up on the minute amounts of pharmaceutical waste in the environment. Unfortunately, the AP did not explicate how truly small the presence of pharmaceutical waste is in surface and drinking water. In a recent study in Erie, Pennsylvania, the United States Geological Survey was able to detect ibuprofen, one of the most commonly used medicines, at a level of three parts per trillion in the drinking water. At that level, one would need to consume two liters of water per day for more than 100 years in order to get a single dose of ibuprofen into their system!
Yet, Legislatures are paying close attention to PIE issues, and we as an industry need to be armed with solid data and arguments about proper disposal of pharmaceuticals. Many states, including California, have proposed take back programs for unused pharmaceuticals so that they can be incinerated. However, nearly all of the PIE comes from human excretion or flushing of unused pharmaceuticals -- not disposal in landfills. Landfills in the United States are well monitored for ground contamination, and pharmaceutical products can be safely disposed of through the trash. What the industry needs to impart to consumers is that flushing unused pharmaceuticals down the drain is not the most environmentally friendly means of disposing of unused products. Incineration is another safe way to dispose of pharmaceuticals, but it is also costly and has the negative consequence of air pollution. We all should be stressing that disposing of unused pharmaceuticals in the trash is a safe and environmentally sound disposal process, while incineration pollutes the air without any added benefit.
Most of us are familiar with the standard paradigm for product stewardship -- reduce, reuse, and recycle. For pharmaceuticals, however, reusing and recycling products prescribed as patient specific remedies that have expiration dates are not feasible. Our product stewardship should focus, then, on reducing the amount of pharmaceutical waste by encouraging patients to finish taking all medication as prescribed and properly disposing of unused medication in the trash.
Other discussion topics at the SGRC Meeting included activities at BIO, state level marketing legislation, and an update on biotech caucuses throughout the United States. Tonight, I am going to participate in numerous networking activities -- be sure to check back in with me in the morning for a full update on the evening (and hopefully some pictures from Atlanta, as well!)
CHI-Advancing California biomedical research and innovation