Former President Bill Clinton was in Philadelphia Monday to speak at a biotechnology conference, bringing his global perspective to bear on digital health innovation.
The Klick Health Ideas Exchange, associated with the major Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) conference in town this week, took place at the National Museum of American Jewish History. Scholars and CEOs developing new digital products — such as personal monitoring systems and data exchange networks – met to talk about the future of health care.
One of the big topics of the conference was how to recoup the cost of new products without pricing them out of the average consumer’s reach.
Clinton compared the issues drug companies face with Internet services providers including Comcast and Verizon. Although the Internet was invented in the U.S., he said its possibilities are being most fully realized in South Korea, where speed can be 100 times faster.
“In South Korea, the government built the infrastructure and then let the companies come in and provide the services,” said Clinton. “In America – this also led to the net neutrality debate, by the way — we allowed ATT and Verizon and other big companies to build the infrastructure, and they have a right to recover their investment.”
During his wide-ranging talk — touching on topics such as Nelson Mandela, solar power, and ISIS – Clinton called for creative and inclusive solutions in which companies developing new drugs are allowed to make money without burdening the health care system.
“The last thing we want is for you to quit doing what you’re doing,” Clinton told the room of doctors and bioengineers. “If we get in a position where the alternative is socially unacceptable economic impacts, or you quit doing what you’re doing, we are hosed.”
Clinton posited that the most exciting thing in medicine right now treating cancer by manipulating genes, rather than by removing localized tumors. While president, Clinton funded the massive Human Genome Project.