Hillary Clinton: We Can't Afford to Lose Biotechs

The United States could start losing biotechnology companies if the system doesn’t change, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

The former First Lady made the remarks during the keynote presentation Tuesday at the 2014 BIO International Convention in San Diego.

“I don’t want to see biotech companies or pharma companies moving out of our country simply because of some perceived tax disadvantage and potential tax advantage somewhere else,” she said.

One major concern of the U.S. biotech industry is risk on investment. Clinton used the example of a biomedical company that doesn’t get through clinical trials or doesn’t get approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

“You’ve got sunk costs, which could mean the end of your business, but you still have expertise that might be useful,” she said.

Clinton said she would support forming a national committee of science leaders and regulators to create a kind of “insurance policy” to reduce this risk. She also encouraged the states to take the lead on this issue.

“If Washington is not welcoming to this kind of effort, maybe it could be put together by the states that are the leaders in hosting biotech companies,” she said, citing California funding stem cell research when the federal government would not.

“States have a role to play, but we need a national framework,” she added.

As Clinton spoke, opponents rallied outside the convention center. Some protested Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack that killed four men, including three with San Diego ties. Others protested GMOs – genetically-modified organisms – produced by the biotech agriculture industry.

“I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record, you say, and are scientifically provable to continue to try to make the case to those who are skeptical,” Clinton said when asked about her stance on GMOs.

She said she promoted drought-resistant seeds while combating food insecurity in Africa, which “by definition, they have been engineered to be drought-resistant.”

The former New York senator stayed tight-lipped on any presidential ambitions.

“We have time for one more question. What could that be? What could that be,” the moderator Jim Greenwood asked at the end of the presentation, as the audience laughed. Clinton just smiled.

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