Southern comfort

The governor of the state of Georgia explains why he is optimistic about the future of his region, the US and the biotech sector despite the current difficulties each faces as funding dries up.

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The US south is renowned for its hospitality, so Atlanta, host city for BIO 2009 and the veritable capital of the region, relished the chance to open its doors to the global biotech community. Governor of the state of Georgia, Sonny Perdue, was on hand to greet them, smile on face and cowboy boots on feet. Atlanta’s timing to be hosting BIO at a time when the sector is struggling and attendance levels are down from previous years was unlucky; but the governor was determined to make the most of it nonetheless.

“It is an opportunity for us to demonstrate the southern hospitality they hear about. To experience it, to enjoy it, to realise how open, progressive and welcoming this state and this region are to new ideas, new innovations and new companies coming in – I think it is a great opportunity,” he says.

“We can know someone well but when we go to their home we know them even better: we see what makes them tick and we smell the smells and we see the things they appreciate. That is what it is like inviting the international bio community here to Georgia and to Atlanta, to our home, to let them feel what makes our heart tick about business, about business culture, and about this whole industry sector – to get a feel for who we are.”

Transport hub

The governor welcomed the opportunity, as well, for BIO attendees to experience the easy connectivity of Atlanta, whose international airport is the world’s busiest by passenger volume and the global hub for Delta Airlines.

“When we talk about Atlanta being a global healthcare crossroads, how easy it is to get from Atlanta to any part of the globe through the connection at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Logistics is such a big part of a global world; being able to move easily from point to point is an important factor,” he says. “As these companies and their innovations collaborate, while they do much of it electronically, the face-to-face meetings are also very important, visiting one another’s labs and seeing the kinds of clean labs and other opportunities we have available for researchers.”

Visitors might also note that Atlanta hosts the headquarters of the US’s Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society, among other scientific institutions.

Good prospects

While the investment money for life sciences in Georgia has diminished, as in other states, and some of the start-ups are challenged in securing funding, the governor remains bullish on the survival prospects for the sector because it is engaged in the worthy task of finding what he calls “solutions for mankind”.

“We here in Georgia and the US and globally are willing to invest in ideas and knowledge and innovation and products that are going to make our lives healthier and our energy safer and renewable, to make the pharmaceuticals and the products that we potentially grow, to open up our agricultural sector to a whole new realm of products. Those are exciting things,” he says. “While this industry is impacted by the global recession it will bounce back and the quality will rise to the top. There will be distinctions. The good products, the good companies will still find the resources they need to continue.”

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Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland

Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts

Hazel McCallion, mayor of Mississauga

Jay Nixon, governor of Missouri

Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario

Jean Charest, premier of Quebec

Jim Doyle, governor of Wisconsin