BIOCOM chief believes in leading by example



Good leaders lead by example and give people a reason to follow them, according to BIOCOM President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Panetta.

Panetta lives in Carmel Valley and leads BIOCOM, a San Diego County-based trade association for the local life sciences industry. The nonprofit represents 550 member companies, including international giants Merck and Pfizer, which both have a presence in Southern California. He joined BIOCOM as its leader 10 years ago.

“I expected to take this organization to a new level and stay maybe five years or so,” Panetta said. “But we continue to take it to new levels, and I have taken advantage of the opportunity to do so.”

He said leaders need to know how to reward employees and motivate them to perform and to support them in their area of responsibility and expertise.

He says his days are best spent engaged with members of the organization and building bridges with other organizations locally and on state and national levels.

BIOCOM’s members include universities, research institutes, life science companies, service firms including law firms, public relations firms and human resources experts.

“It is really a network of opportunity to bring together people that can further the goals of the industry locally,” Panetta said.

He said he has no typical day but has been spending more and more time meeting with local chief executive officers to hear personally about the challenges they face and working to draw greater attention to the local life sciences industry.

“It is great to put a face to a company and getting to know the needs of members,” he said.

Formed 20 years ago as an advocate for the local life science firms, BIOCOM continues it mission locally, at a state level and nationally on behalf of the 37,000 life science employees in San Diego County.

BIOCOM has four major initiatives all aimed at positively influencing the life science community in the development and delivery of innovative products that improve health and quality of life. They are focused on capital formation, public policy advocacy, work force development and member services including member-to-member networking opportunities and a group purchasing program.

In recent years, BIOCOM has beefed up its public policy advocacy initiatives and capital formation efforts.

Panetta has been spending a significant amount of time lobbying for health care reform and patent reform in Washington, D.C. He will be traveling to Washington again this month with six local CEOs.

Last year, BIOCOM teamed up with BayBio and the Southern California Biomedical Council associations to promote the state’s life science industry. The three organizations from the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego County have worked together to address a range of public policy issues.

San Diego is one of the top three life science clusters in the U.S., but venture capital invested in this innovative field has dropped by 50 percent from two years ago, according to Panetta.

BIOCOM continuously brings a spotlight to Southern California life science firms by numerous programs, including an annual investor conference.

The Fourth Annual BIOCOM Investor Conference will take place Oct. 26 and 27 at Hyatt Regency La Jolla. Nearly 60 companies, including San Diego-based Arena Pharmaceuticals, Torrey Pines-based Burnham Institute for Medical Research and Carlsbad-based Life Technologies will conduct presentations to more than 400 attendants, including the venture capital community and big biotechnology and pharmaceutical licensing representatives.

Panetta moved to San Diego 21 years ago as an executive for an agriculture biotechnology firm. He was responsible for government relations and regulatory affairs at Mycogen Corp., now owned by a division of Dow Chemical Co. Mycogen commercialized the first genetically engineered crops.

He has a background in biology and environmental health science and spent years working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory boards.

About the CEO

Name: Joe Panetta

Title: President and CEO

Company: BIOCOM

Company location: University Towne Center

Number of employees: 21

Number of members: 550

Main line of business: Nonprofit for the life sciences industry in San Diego

Hometown: Carmel Valley