The state’s biotech and biopharma industries are getting a new voice advocating for them at the Capitol and with regulatory agencies.
The Connecticut Business & Industry Association has formed the Connecticut Bioscience Growth Council. The group is tasked with representing the interests of biotech and biopharma companies, offering advocacy support and resources, and developing a plan for better positioning companies statewide, regionally, and nationally.
“These industries represent new and emerging technologies as well as key economic drivers for the state,” CBIA President and CEO Joe Brennan said in a statement.
“As they develop lifesaving medicines, new medical treatments, critical medical devices and other innovative products made possible with life sciences technology, we need to make sure that Connecticut is a great, desirable place for these companies to operate and invest,” he said.
CBIA’s Paul Pescatello, a longtime advocate for the biotech industry, is the council’s leader. Part of his job is to work to enhance policies like the research and development tax credit.
The state offers companies a tax credit equal to 20 percent of its research and development expenditures in Connecticut during a given tax year. Companies can carry forward unused tax credits and income-eligible companies can sell their credits to the state for 65 percent of their value.
Companies that have 251 to 800 full-time permanent employees in the state get a 5 percent tax credit as well as an R&D credit of between 1 and 6 percent, depending on type of expenditure and size of the company.
“Biotechnology and related industries are a keystone for Connecticut’s future,” Pescatello said in a statement. “The value they bring to the state and, most importantly, to patients and consumers, will be more effectively represented and communicated by the deep bench of government affairs talent and resources at CBIA.”
The new council is forming at a time when bioscience is gaining momentum in the state, said Fred Carstensen, director of the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis at the University of Connecticut.
The sector has made great strides in Connecticut since 2011, when Jackson Laboratory decided to launch a billion-dollar medicine project at the University of Connecticut Health Center campus in Farmington, he said. The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine was a collaborative effort among the company, the state, UConn, and Yale University.
The presence of Maine-based Jackson Laboratory in the state has made people within the bioscience community take notice of Connecticut, Carstensen said.
“[It] is working out extraordinarily well,” he said, noting Jackson has launched spinoff projects here, filed for new patents and prompted venture capitalists to take a closer look at Connecticut companies. “We really are on the map.”
There are still challenges when it comes to growing the industry — most importantly, the state needs to make IT infrastructure improvements — but the bioscience sector is “already having very visible payoffs for the state,” Carstensen said. “(CBIA) recognizes that bioscience is a very big part, potentially, of Connecticut’s economic future.”
The new council, according to CBIA, supports the use of tax credits to encourage companies to create jobs in the state and will advocate for policies that make Connecticut more attractive to businesses that want to relocate. (When Jackson Laboratory came in 2011, the state contributed $192 million in a secured construction loan and $99 million in research partnership participation, which played large roles in the company’s decision).
According to CBIA: “The council supports well-funded basic, translational and industry research, coupled with robust clinical and product development, which leads to new medicines on pharmacy shelves, new medical device options for patients and higher-quality foods for consumers.
In addition to leading the council, Pescatello is president of the New England Biotech Association, chairman of We Work for Health Connecticut and works closely with the Biotechnology Industry Association. He formerly was president of CURE, Connecticut’s largest bioscience industry group.