GENENTECH CEO SWANSON MEETS WITH VP QUAYLE, COMPETITIVENESS COUNCIL
GENENTECH CEO SWANSON MEETS WITH VP QUAYLE, COMPETITIVENESS COUNCIL on March 20 to discuss the biotechnology industry. Swanson's meeting with the White House panel, which the Vice President chairs, also included a discussion of the firm's pending merger with Swiss-based Hoffmann-La Roche, as well as the biotech patent bills sponsored by Rep. Boucher (D-Va.) and Sen. DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and the Administration's proposed capital gains tax cut. Swanson addressed the council for 20 minutes and, for an additional 20 minutes, answered questions from individual council members, including Quayle and Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher. Swanson also met with the Competitiveness Council's recently formed Working Group on Biotechnology, chaired by James Wyngaarden, MD, the former NIH director and now a White House health advisor. Wyngaarden told a March 28 annual meeting of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council in Boston that the Genentech-Roche merger "triggered a series of questions in the Competitiveness Council." Wyngaarden said the council "asked Bob Swanson to come and talk to us, because there was a particular interest in the panel on financial matters -- as to what sorts of things would lead or force, whatever the word is, Genentech to go in that direction, rather than perhaps dealing with some American company, and what were the problems moving from where they were to the next plateau, and why could that not be met in terms of domestic initiatives alone." "Mr. Quayle was there, and seven or eight Cabinet members," Wyngaarden noted, "so it was really a very fine opportunity [for them] to hear, from one of the pioneers of this field, what [Swanson] saw as the major problems and opportunities" in the biotechnology industry. Two issues being studied by the council, Wyngaarden said, are product liability and the competitiveness of the U.S. biotechnology industry. The council's working group on biotechnology issues was formed in February, according to Wyngaarden. The Competitiveness Council, formerly the Regulatory Relief Panel, was established by the Reagan Administration and first chaired by then-Vice President Bush. Under Bush's direction, the Regulatory Relief Panel was credited with promoting the concept of expedited review for cancer and AIDS drugs at FDA. The panel was renamed by the Bush Administration. * The Competitiveness Council is not the only federal group to have turned its attention to the Genentech-Roche marriage. The interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, chaired by the Treasury Department's Steve Canner, recently reviewed the merger and concluded that there are no national security issues at stake in Roche's proposed purchase of 60% of Genentech, the biotech firm announced March 29. Under the 1988 Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act, the committee has the authority to review proposed mergers involving foreign companies for national security implications. Roche and Genentech filed for a CFIUS ruling on March 2 and the committee handed down its decision March 27. In addition, on March 23, the companies announced that the Federal Trade Commission had requested more information on the planned merger ("The Pink Sheet" March 26, "In Brief").
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