Editor’s note: BioWatch is a regular feature on Fridays.Bill Bullock of the North Carolina Commerce Department, plans to rejoin the North Carolina Biotech Center next week.

Bullock spearheaded the concentrated, multi-booth presence North Carolina mounted at the BIO 2003 event in Washington D.C. this week.

Bullock says he’s stepping into the industrial development manager for the Biotech Center, where he worked for a year after graduating with an MBA from the University of North Carolina in 1993.

“I’ll actually be working some with both the State Commerce department and the Center,” Bullock says. “The state has so much to offer in biotech, I think it will be a lot of fun to be involved in it.”

Bullock says the strong, coordinated approach the Biotech Center and Commerce department took to its exhibit space at the BIO 2003 event “definitely affected our impact. It was something that companies, the universities, community colleges and economic development folks wanted to see happen for some time.”

The North Carolina pavilion at the event covered ten booths of 1,000 square feet, bringing together 51 companies, schools, and organizations. “We’re not the only area that sees biotech as part of their future,” Bullock points out. “There were 45 other states and 25 regions exhibiting.”

Bullock says the massive, focused approach “served our purposes. Part of the story we wanted to tell was the competitive advantage the state has. We do a lot really well, from world class research at the universities through the continuum to manufacturing with all the pieces between from service providers to job training at community colleges, world class contract research organizations and the Biotech Center to pull it all together.”

Bullock says many people from the companies that ranged from pharmaceutical giant Biogen to start-ups such as ChemCodes mentioned that it was helpful just to meet with others in the industry from North Carolina over the three days.

Bullock adds that many states funded their efforts with public money, but NC exhibitors paid from $1,000 to $5,000 each to participate. He says the state will probably mount a similar, if not exactly the same effort at next year’s BIO event.

By the way, Barry Teater, director of corporate communications at the Biotech Center, says the state made significant progress in wooing another company to come here, but wouldn’t divulge the name.

BOA downgrades Biogen/Idec

Teater also said the Biogen-Idec merger announced this week also created a lot of buzz at BIO 2003. Bank of America didn’t care that much for the deal, though. BOA downgraded Idec to neutral from buy, and said the merger doesn’t “make strategic sense” because the two companies lack “synergy across disease areas.”

Morgan Stanley cut Idec’s rating but raised Biogen’s, which it says will enjoy the greatest benefit from the merger.

Biogen said Monday that its second-quarter earnings would fall below analyst estimates and faces slower sales of its lead drug Avonex. But it has a promising pipeline that includes Antegren, which is in Phase III testing for multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

Georgia stays at ninth

Georgia kept its ranking as the ninth largest life sciences community in the 2003 Ernst & Young Global Biotechnology Report released earlier this week.

The life sciences industry in Georgia has grown at an average rate of 50 percent for the past five years. The state is home to more than 120 life science research and development companies, eight research universities and many resources for clinical research. The state’s life sciences industry employs more than 13,000 people and projects 30,000 jobs by 2010.

“Georgia has made great strides in establishing its life sciences community,” said Patrick Kelly, vice president of state government relations for BIO, state arm of the national industry organization. “The industry is still young in Georgia, but the support the state provides will ensure continued growth.”

NC Biotech Center: www.ncbiotech.org

Georgia Bio: www.gabio.org