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Mayors Boost NC Life Science

By Jim Shamp, Senior Editor

Life-science innovation and commercialization have put North Carolina on the map, and mayors across the state say they want to keep the momentum going.

They weren't alone Tuesday -- Gov. Beverly Perdue and former Congressman Dick Gephardt, among others, joined them with messages of agreement and support.

Dozens of mayors, economic development specialists and other statewide leaders gathered at the City Club in Raleigh for their second annual meeting aimed at supporting the life sciences to create jobs and boost lifestyles.

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Center, told the gathering that the life-science sector has been the only bright spot in the state's economic landscape during the recession, adding jobs when virtually all other sectors declined.

NCBIO President Sam Taylor spelled out details of the trade association's efforts during the past year, and invited the community leaders to suggest ideas for improving the statewide growth of life science business activity.

Gov. Beverly Perdue dashed over to give the group a brief lunchtime pep talk before returning to government headquarters to oversee finalization of the state's 2010-11 budget.

Though the $19 billion spending plan included many reductions, the final budget also includes several provisions that maintain support for the life sciences statewide.

Gephardt, a long-time Missouri Democratic Congressman who is now retired from politics, spoke to the group as chairman of the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI).

CAMI was formed to support policies that can enhance innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Gephardt brought his CAMI message to North Carolina leaders on the heels of a similar visit to Delaware, as he drums up grass-roots support for continued growth of the pharmaceutical industry.

"The purpose of health care is extending life with quality," said Gephardt. "We've done that."