State biotech leaders to debate potential of controversial industry

Melinda Rogers

Minnesota’s biotechnology leaders will gather today at the Radisson Hotel Metrodome to discuss the future of the state’s lucrative yet sometimes controversial industry.
MNBIO, a Minnesota biotechnology trade association, is sponsoring the event which will feature several University professors speaking about the potential to enhance the biotechnology industry in Minnesota.
“This particular conference is focused on how Minnesota can take advantage of discoveries in biotechnology to help the people of Minnesota,” said Mark Paller, professor of health science special programs and a MNBIO board member.
“The ultimate goal is to enhance the Minnesota biotechnology industry and to gain additional knowledge,” he added.
Besides having several University faculty members on the MNBIO board, Paller said advancements in the biotechnology industry could be lucrative for the University.
“The University is interested in successful industries that can fund research and provide donations,” he said.
The biotechnology industry has contributed more than $45 billion to the U.S. economy, according to a study released by the Biotechnology Industry Organization in July.
According to the report, much of that revenue has been generated by Minnesota biotechnology companies.
“We’re basically focusing on developing a local biotechnology industry here, to create what we have developed in the medical device industry,” Paller said.
Topics of discussion at the conference will include current progress of the biotechnology industry in Minnesota and what methods can be taken to continue progress in the future.
“The essential message is that we’ve got all the things in place for a healthy biotechnology industry, now how do we take the next step?” said Jess Meyers, a communications coordinator for MNBIO.
One session during the conference will discuss threats to the biotechnology industry, including strategies for handling protesters opposed to the practices of the industry.
With speculation of protests surrounding today’s conference, Paller and Meyers both said security precautions have been taken to avoid problems.
“I don’t expect there to be a major issue. In general we at the U encourage discussion about these issues,” Paller said.
“I don’t know that (today) is the time for it,” he said.

Melinda Rogers welcomes comments at [email protected]