Friday, April 25, 2008

Colorado Gov Signs Biotech Incentive Bill

From the Denver Business Journal----

Thursday, April 24, 2008 - 1:53 PM MDT
Ritter signs biotech incentives bill
Denver Business Journal - by Greg Avery Denver Business Journal

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter signed a $26.5 million incentive package for biotechnolgy research and startup businesses into law Thursday.

He told onlookers at a signing ceremony at the state Capitol that the investment will help Colorado's economy and is part of the governor's larger business agenda.

"This is one of the pillars of our strategy," Ritter said. He likened biotechnology to aerospace and alternative energy development as industries that not only contribute economically to Colorado but help improve the state's quality of life with good-paying jobs and building an educated work force.

Ritter said the incentives would build on biomedical research already being done at Aurora's Anschutz Medical Campus at Fitzsimons, in Boulder and in Fort Collins "that will literally change our world."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Riesberg, D-Greeley, and Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins, provides grants for five years to Colorado startup companies and research institutions seeking to commercialize new biotech drugs, biofuels, medical devices and nanotechnology. The grants are capped at $150,000 for research institutions and $250,000 for companies.

About 400 biotech companies operate in Colorado and employ 16,000 people, most of them on the northern Front Range between Denver and Fort Collins. The average salary at the companies surpasses $70,000, making it one of the better-paying industries.

But the state still lags behind the leading biotech centers of San Francisco, San Diego and Boston, said Tom Cech, a University of Colorado-Boulder biotech researcher whose work made him the state's first Nobel Prize laureate.

Cech is the president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland, where he oversees a multibillion-dollar endowment funding biomedical research. He announced recently he is stepping down as the institute's president and is returning to CU to conduct research and help lead CU's Colorado Initiative for Molecular Biotechnology.

At Thursday's bill signing, he said the public support being shown for biotech in Colorado helped lure him back and promises great things.

"I would not be coming back to this state if I thought we were going to do something that is just good," he said to cheers.

After the ceremony, Cech said that having incentives for startups helps raise Colorado's profile nationally. More importantly, though, it should help increase the number of biotech companies with a good chance at commercial success, he said.

Cech estimated that Colorado needs to at least double the number of local biotech startups to attract the scale of private investment that makes leading biotech areas hotbeds of innovation.

"It's within realistic reach," Cech said.

Riesberg lauded language in the bill that requires recipients of the biotech grants to demonstrate their research at Colorado K-12 schools.

No comments: