File 6, BIO `06: Puerto Rico’s committed to world-class R&D; governor wins BIO governor award

Monday, April 10 For the past few years, Puerto Rico has been moving beyond manufacturing, laying a foundation that will advance R&D innovation in pharma and biopharma. The island may not be able to devote the billions that Singapore is pouring into its recruitment and R&D efforts, but it is achieving significant results. Its exhibit at BIO illustrated its commitment and focus, and the professionalism and dedication of its workforce and educators. The going has not been too easy, given the current economic climate, but the island's economic development board has restructured and fine-tuned its priorities, one of which, clearly, is biotech R&D. Driving these efforts is INDUNIV, which is strengthening ties between industry and academia.  The University of Puerto Rico is very strong in engineering and life sciences training, and is an active member of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology and Education (NIPTE) which is advancing the science of drug manufacturing, and new NIPTE initiatives on the island are expected shortly.  The island's biocluster is gaining momentum, and the government is clearly devoting its resources to advancing upstream R&D efforts. So much so that BIO named Puerto Rico governor Anibal Acevedo-Vila Governor of the Year at BIO `06. At a celebratory dinner at Rumba Cafe, clearly one of Chicago's top restaurants, we saw a cross-section of the leaders of Puerto Rico's life sciences community, a diverse and cosmpolitan group. Seated at our table were trustees of the University of Puerto Rico:  Ram Lamba, Chancellor of the University of Puerto Rico, Cayey; Hilda Colon-Plumey, Chancellor of UPR Humacao and Gladys Escalona de Motta, Chancellor of the UPR Rias Piedras. Dr. Lamba, a native of Delhi who has been living and teaching in Puerto Rico for years, described a deep affinity with the culture and the people of Puerto Rico, illustrating the fact that pharma and biopharma is global and should know no borders. This global spirit was really the key message of BIO `06, although it was obscured at times by the appearance of competition---at one point, this competition became audible, as the strains of salsa from the Puerto Rican pavillion, of Irish music from Ireland's exhibit, and Chicago blues, from the Illinois pavillion, all competed for attention. There's clearly room for all in the pharma/biopharma world of the future, and it will be interesting to see how each center of excellence carves out its own niche and makes a unique statement. -AMS