PORTSMOUTH — The N.H. High Tech Council highlighted the importance of biotech and med-tech to the state’s technology sector with a forum Thursday at Pease International Tradeport.
The forum featured two Pease-based companies known for their biotech and med-tech work – Lonza Biologics and Medtronic Advanced Energy, where the forum was held.
About 80 people in a conference room at Medtronic’s International Drive building listened as three industry executives and a lawyer who specializes in regulatory compliance talked about issues related to doing business in the Granite State.
The panelists included Herve Berdou, site head of Lonza, which custom manufactures ingredients for pharmaceutical products; Suzanne Foster, vice president and general manager of Medtronic, creator and manufacturer of medical devices; Tom Burns, CEO of Resonetics, life sciences components manufacturer in Nashua; and Christina Ferrari, a lawyer in the Manchester office of Bernstein Shur, who counsels biotech, medical device and life sciences clients on regulatory compliance and business strategies.
With the forum, the N.H. High Tech Council, the state’s largest trade organization dedicated to technology, relaunched the outreach of its so-called “biotech/med-tech cluster” to get word out about trends, resources and growth opportunities in what it sees as New Hampshire’s rapidly growing life sciences industries.
The cluster, which has been around for about six years, was on hiatus the last couple of years, but regained momentum recently, according to Michelline Dufort, director of business relations for the council.
“The re-energizing of the council’s biotech/med-tech cluster at this particular time is highly relevant and highly appropriate,” Dufort said. “The work being done in this area in our state is admirable and is growing each and every day.”
Dufort moderated the forum with questions answered by each of the panelists, followed by questions from members of the audience.
They spoke of the need for partnerships, particularly with the state’s colleges and universities, as well as with lawmakers.
Herve noted the need to encourage students that “manufacturing is a cool place to be.” Foster said it was important for the life sciences industry to support the University of New Hampshire’s efforts to get funding to advance its biosciences programs, while Burns said partnerships with state schools and private schools, such as Dartmouth, could improve.
“We have an opportunity to do better there,” he said.
Ferrari noted on the regulatory side, “We have citizen Legislature, which is helpful to our business because we can easily meet with them. You have a seat at the table.”
Among the regulatory factors discussed by the panelists were patient safety, record keeping and health care reimbursement.
Foster raised the issue of quality of care performance measurement as a criterion for reimbursement. She noted Medtronic is about to introduce a knee replacement component that will be half the cost of what knee replacements are now. And she said Medtronic, as an example of performance measurement, is ready to guarantee in some form the long-term performance of the new knee.
Typically, according to Foster, if a knee surgery fails, it is redone and health insurance pays the cost not only of the first surgery but the second surgery as well. If Medtronic’s new knee fails the first time around, she said Medtronic is willing to pay for the second surgery.
In terms of the workforce skills they need, Burns noted his is an around-the-clock manufacturing operation with a lot of turnover. He’s looking for those trained in manufacturing and engineering. Berdou, noting Lonza is global, wants language skills and “the ability to be culturally savvy.” Foster said in general she likes to see people with innovation skills.
Ferrari said her biotech clients as part of their business are hiring more people who have creative and artistic skill sets to approach life science issues from a different way.