Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Biotech Park by Any Other Name

Moniker change intended to promote "regionalism."

Posted By on Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 4:42 PM

It’s always curious when a business entity changes its name.

Philip Morris, a name long associated with tobacco and its ill effects, made its parent firm the more neutral-sounding “Altria.” Comcast sounds creaky, so it’s pushed the “Xfinity” brand. And who can forget back in 1898 when “Brad’s Drink” became “Pepsi-Cola.”

So we learn today that the Virginia Biotechnology Park Corporation Board, one of two entities that oversees the 34-acre downtown office park, is now the “Innovation Council.”

What does that mean? It is supposed to show that the 30-something-year-old park is looking to promote research on a “regional” basis.

Hmm. That makes about as much sense as calling Richmond the “Capital of Creativity.”

The park has more than 60 companies that deal with biotechnology and life sciences. They got underway back in the 1990s when every burg from Battle Creek to Bangor saw biotechnology as a panacea for all ills.

Fact is, the Richmond version hasn’t been a real stunner. It's had only a few standouts. One went bankrupt. Another, Health Diagnostic Laboratory, figured in a national health testing price scandal. The biggest entity, owned by Altria, does proprietary research for Philip Morris USA. But its chief products play a role in killing 480,000 Americans annually, so maybe it’s not really a “health” firm.

The “Innovation Council” is supposed to lend the idea that the park supports innovation and creativity across the region and not that slice of Richmond in the shadow of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Good luck to them.

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