BARRINGER: A focus on clinical research and drug development at the General Assembly

Research laboratory. FILE PHOTO

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at a forum of scientists and researchers from across the nation hosted by QuintilesIMS, the world’s largest contract research organization (or “CRO”), which is headquartered right here in North Carolina. Quintiles merged with IMS Health last year to become QuintilesIMS. Quintiles began as a technology transfer from UNC Chapel Hill and was founded in the Research Triangle Park 35 years ago and now estimates over $4.3 billion in revenues and employs 35,000 people worldwide.Speaker after speaker cited the many reasons drug manufacturers and researchers come to our state not only to build their factories, but to also process the data and develop the research for the next generation of cures. Data from shows that biopharmaceutical companies and local research institutions have conducted over 7,000 trials of potential new medicines for a wide range of diseases. Over 1,035 clinical trials are currently accepting patients. Clinical tests may provide a new alternative of care for chronic disease sufferers who are still searching for the medicines that are best suited for them. These trials benefit patients, scientific progress, and our state’s economy. A recent study by TEConomy Partners found that the life science industry supports more than 259,000 jobs across North Carolina. Most of these jobs are skilled labor, and the presence of manufacturing facilities like Biogen, GSK, or Pfizer have a ripple effect across all sectors of the economy. Biopharmaceutical research companies support $77.6 billion in economic activity in our state, including the direct economic output of the sector itself, the output of the sector’s vendors and suppliers, and the output generated by the buying power of its workforce.Last year, I joined my colleagues in the N.C. General Assembly to ensure that this crucial sector of our state’s economy is represented on Jones Street, as a founding member of the North Carolina Life Science Caucus.With my fellow co-chairs, Sen. Angela Bryant from Rocky Mount, Rep. Ed Hanes from Winston-Salem, and Rep. Susan Martin from Greenville, we plan to lead, foster and support our education infrastructure, especially STEM education, to ensure our workforce is competitive. We will support our community colleges and research universities, and the public-private partnerships that drive innovation.Our infrastructure is first rate, with the largest highway system in the country, three international airports, and several industrial research parks. We consistently rank as one of the most business-friendly states in the country, with a tax structure that attracts industry investment.We need to support legislation that fosters innovators and innovative companies who create jobs to support our families. The footprint of the life science industry is not limited to the Research Triangle Park. Cities and regions across the state are investing in healthcare innovation, research, and manufacturing. Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem, PPD in Wilmington, and Merck manufacturing in Wilson are examples of the state-wide commitment to the life sciences.The average cost of developing a new drug is $1.2 billion spent over 10 to 15 years, prompting biopharmaceutical companies to locate in states with business-friendly and thoughtful laws and regulations.During this legislative session, the N.C. Life Science Caucus will address specific policy priorities the legislature can act on now to encourage this all-important job creator.Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Republican, represents southwestern Wake County in the General Assembly.