Opinion: Proposed regulation would limit life-saving research in Ohio

Dec 13, 2023 | Blog Post

Ohio has had incredible success in the life sciences in recent years. The first-ever novel gene therapy brain infusion for Parkinson’s disease was developed here, along with the first-ever gene therapy treatment for Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. Add state-of-the-art gene therapy manufacturing facilities, and it is easy to see why investors, scientists and policymakers across the country — from Boston to San Francisco — are talking about Ohio.

This industry is meaningful, not just for the lives it saves through scientific discoveries, but for the jobs it creates. The industry employs nearly 60,000 Ohioans, at average salaries of around $95,000 a year.

And we owe much of that success to the partnerships and relationships between our colleges and universities and the innovative companies investing here in Ohio. In addition to incredible institutions like the Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University, a recent report showed our state is home to 31 facilities representing 13 life sciences companies, which all play a critical role in bringing innovative research to patients. From breakthroughs in medical treatments to the education and training of skilled professionals, the impact of these organizations can be felt across our communities. Ohio’s commitment to fostering competition and collaboration has positioned the state as a leader in the life sciences arena, ensuring a robust future for continued scientific excellence. 

State and federal legislation and regulation can influence those relationships, for good or for ill, especially when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry. One important proposed regulation has, I believe, the ability to stunt or even stop the incredible growth this industry has experienced. The regulation, proposed by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice, would limit and restrict mergers and acquisitions in the life sciences.

Mergers and acquisitions allow life sciences companies, many that begin at our institutions of higher education, to scale up, to provide their research or therapies to patients on a national and global scale. That possibility allows universities and scientists to bring their discoveries to the public, changing, prolonging and saving lives.

Restricting business, specifically mergers and acquisitions, in our life sciences ecosystem may discourage much-needed investments, hinder scientists’ ability to collaborate and even curb the innovation and competition that antitrust enforcers seek to protect. Fostering a competitive environment for growth – where Ohio’s innovators can take advantage of industry’s resources, investment, and expertise – will be key to preserving the diversity and maximizing the benefits of Ohio’s burgeoning life sciences sector. M&A, such as in the case of the recent $620 million acquisition of Forge Biologics by Ajinimoto, makes it possible for Ohio companies to reach patients on a national and global scale and drives more investment here, ultimately creating a stronger economy.  

Ohio’s life sciences sector is at an inflection point for growth and innovation. Ohio’s health and biotech corporate leaders should not hesitate to call their congressional representative and senator to explain importance of M&A activity.

Eddie Pauline is president and CEO of Ohio Life Sciences, a trade association which represents Ohio’s life sciences ecosystems, builds collaborative partnerships and advocates for policies that help spur life science innovation and drive sustainable economic growth.