Medical research thriving in state
Work creates treatments, jobs and tax revenue
CAPITAL REGION Scott Daly has never participated in a clinical trial. But he’s benefited from plenty, having lived with HIV for 27 of his 61 years.
“I found out I was infected in 1985,” he said. “It was when Ryan White was in the news and everybody was dying from this thing.”
His fiancée, who was also HIV-positive, died one month before their wedding. All the while, Daly didn’t even need medication until his 10th year living with the virus. Since then, the Rotterdam man has gone on two regimens of antiretroviral medications and his CD4 counts are the best they’ve ever been.
“When you first find out, you think you’re going to die,” said Daly. “I was thinking I just want to make it to my son’s graduation. I now have five grandkids. My son has served four tours of duty in the Navy. I just spent Thanksgiving with four of my granddaughters.”
Daly described himself as an example of how new medications developed through clinical trials are not just keeping people alive but healthy.
About one-third of all U.S. clinical trials of new medicines occurred in New York state in the past decade, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, otherwise known as PhRMA.
Capital Region researchers, scientists, economic development officials and elected officials gathered Tuesday at the University at Albany’s Cancer Research Center in Rensselaer to announce the findings and highlight the importance of clinical trials and the jobs, companies and tax revenue they spawn.
The report, titled “Research in Your Backyard: Developing Cures, Creating Jobs,” is one of a little more than a dozen statewide reports compiled by PhRMA to give the public a snapshot of the trials’ impact on patients, jobs and local academic institutions.
Before Daly ever began combination therapy to treat his HIV, clinical trials determined that the antiretrovirals he would eventually take were safe and effective — a typically long and expensive process.
These tests account for 45 percent to 75 percent of the average $1.2 billion cost to get one new medicine from the lab to U.S. patients.
“Clinical trials in New York are actually pretty enormous in the scope of the nation,” said PhRMA spokeswoman Kaelan Hollon.
Biopharmaceutical firms, medical schools, hospitals and research centers across the state collaborated on 6,282 clinical trials in the past decade. More than half of these target the nation’s most debilitating chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, asthma, heart disease, stroke and mental illness. Of these, 716 trials are currently recruiting patients.
Many of these tests are coordinated out of high-profile New York City institutions and research-heavy specialized centers in Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester.
Since 1999, 780 clinical trials have been conducted or are ongoing in the Capital Region. Of these, 439 target debilitating chronic diseases. And of these, 67 are currently recruiting patients.
Area institutions involved in trials include Albany Cancer Center at Patroon Creek, Albany Medical Center, Albany Medical College, Capital Region Medical Research Foundation, Community Care Physicians, New York Oncology Hematology, Urological Institute of Northeastern New York, Albany Associates in Cardiology and Upstate Clinical Research.
Local officials at Tuesday’s news conference surmised that clinical trials would continue to grow locally, given the region’s growing biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry clusters. Even nanotechnology is used in research, according to the report, to provide things like drug delivery systems, new treatments and diagnostics.
“Research is a fundamental attribute that sets our region apart from many leading industries, including biotech and life sciences,” said F. Michael Tucker, president and CEO of the Center for Economic Growth. “With a cluster of more than 50 biotech and pharmaceutical companies located in the Capital Region, we are clearly an emerging life science hub.”
Employment in the bio-pharm sector exceeds 200,000 in New York, according to the report. Employees working directly for pharmaceutical companies are paid $2.8 billion, which amounts to more than $9 million in state taxes and more than $646 million in federal taxes.
In the Capital Region, there are 7,878 employees in bio-pharm and life sciences who generate $520 million in annual wages, according to the report.