Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe represented Sri Lanka at the BIO 2003 Annual Convention held from 22nd to 25th June 2003 at Washington Convention Center, which was organized by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.

"BIO 2003 provided an unique opportunity to determine how Sri Lanka can move forward in developing a biotechnology sector and attracting foreign direct investments" said Ambassador Subasinghe.

More than 16,000 participants from 55 countries and 47 states took part in the four-day conference, which included more than 1,000 speakers discussing business development, science and regulatory affairs, global health, bioethics and patient advocacy. The exhibition featured more than 1,000 exhibits. And of the 55 countries represented at BIO 2003, seven countries were attending for the first time, including Sri Lanka, Armenia, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Malawi and Mauritius.

In his, keynote speech by President Bush who emphasized the vital importance that biotechnology plays said that the biotechnology industry is 'advancing knowledge and relieving suffering.' The address of President Bush marked the first time that a U.S. president has ever appeared before a BIO annual conference.

In addition to President Bush, several other high-ranking government leaders were present at BIO 2003, including Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Mark B. McClellan, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Additionally, nine U.S. state governors were in attendance at the conference seeking to attract biotech development to their states.

Other high-ranking federal officials spoke at the June 21 - 25 Convention include Tom Ridge, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security; Mark B. McClellan, FDA Commissioner; and the directors of the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The convention featured 199 sessions across 25 tracks of programming, including tracks on policy, business and finance, drug development and regulatory affairs. The event also encompasses a two-day Health Festival on the National Mall, special forums on bio ethics, global health and patient advocacy; a two-day 'Thinking Beyond Tomorrow Lecture Series'; 345,000 square feet of exhibit space etc.

Ambassador Subasinghe discussed with officials of the National Institute of Health their support to define the institutional framework necessary to develop the biotechnology sector. Executives from leading biotechnology companies offered their insight in developing this vital knowledge economy sector in Sri Lanka.

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

25 June 2003


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