What Virginia’s next governor should do to protect innovation, help prevent the next pandemic

The ongoing struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of its delta variant have highlighted the critical role of Virginia’s life sciences companies in combating significant public health threats. In near-record time, biotechnology companies developed effective COVID treatments, vaccines and tests, all while being a major economic and jobs driver in the commonwealth.

However, Virginia’s continued leadership in the life sciences is not a given. It is critical that Virginia’s next governor pursue policies that protect our innovation ecosystem and incentivize the development of the cures and treatments of tomorrow.

It is difficult to overstate the impact of the Virginia life sciences industry, which supports more than 24,000 jobs, includes more than 200 bioscience companies and generates more than $8 billion for the Virginia economy. Major biopharmaceutical manufacturers and many smaller innovative companies that have been integral in the fight against COVID and other significant diseases have a pronounced presence in the state.

Our top-rated universities and research centers are educating the life sciences leaders of tomorrow and leading the way on important public health research. These life science assets, combined with proximity to critical federal resources like the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health and more, make Virginia a national epicenter for life sciences innovation and an attractive destination for companies looking for a place to call home.

The next governor will help determine whether the commonwealth is prepared for the next pandemic and whether Virginia remains committed to protecting jobs, supporting strong public health and fostering life sciences industry growth. With our state’s physical and fiscal health on the line, it is vital that whoever is elected enacts policies that foster innovation, not harm it.

The next governor should continue funding and improving existing incentives for the life sciences and biotechnological industries, including the Angel Investor Tax Credit, the Refundable R&D Expenses Tax Credit and the grant funds for translational research. Incentives such as these help unleash the potential of life science companies to bring innovative products and services to market. They also help keep Virginia competitive with other states that are passing their own tax incentives to lure life sciences companies.

The next governor also should oppose policies that jeopardize future investment in research and development. For instance, the General Assembly has signaled that it may consider legislation to establish a state-run entity to artificially set prices for prescription drugs. Although such entities have been proposed elsewhere in the name of lowering costs, such price controls — as seen in some European countries — mean less investment in research of innovative treatments and less access to new therapies for American patients and their families.

Virginia continues to grapple with the devastating effects of the pandemic. In the commonwealth, COVID has led to more 10,000 related deaths, left more than 100,000 unemployed and shuttered at least 25% of our small businesses.

As Virginia continues on the path toward recovery, now is the time to invest in the life sciences industry that is leading us out of this pandemic and preparing for the next, and bringing lifesaving innovations to us all. Regardless of which candidate wins the election, we urge the next governor to make biotechnology a priority and to pursue policies that protect the Virginia innovation ecosystem.

Read more at Richmond Times-Dispatch

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