Philadelphia policeman dies guarding biotech conference

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, June 24, 2005 (ENS): The BIO 2005 Annual International Convention ended its four days at the Philadelphia Convention Center Wednesday with new records for attendance and international representation. The host Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) said total registration was 18,730, with representatives from 56 countries and all 50 U.S. states.

“This has been BIO’s best convention ever, and we could not have pulled it off without a tremendous outpouring of support from government and industry leaders in the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware,” said BIO President James Greenwood.

Innovation was the medical and scientific theme as researchers discussed new ways to predict, treat, and eventually cure some of the most stubborn diseases.

“The mapping of the human genome has given us a new starting point to analyze how diseases work and how best to research new therapies - nanotechnology, personalized medicine, new approaches to obesity and cancer," said Greenwood.

But protesters concerned about "BIO's closed-door agenda of medicine for profit, genetically engineered agriculture and bioweapons proliferation" attempted to press their views on delegates by surrounding the convention center.

A Philadelphia police officer died during a clash Tuesday near the convention center. Officer Paris Williams, 52, a 19 year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department assigned to the Civil Affairs Unit, "was involved in a scuffle with protestors," said police spokesman Inspector William Colarulo.

He collapsed and was immediately transported to Hahnemann University Hospital where he was pronounced dead within the hour. An investigation into the incident is underway.

Demonstrators say Williams was not involved in the scuffle.

Greenwood said, “We are especially grateful to the Philadelphia police officers who kept our attendees and the surrounding area safe throughout the convention. We join the city today in mourning the loss of one its finest, Officer Paris Williams, who died of an apparent heart attack while trying to keep protestors from entering the convention center.”

A dozen protesters were arrested during the four day conference and most are still in jail.

Guillaume Beaulieu of Canada, charged with two felonies, has had his bail set at $100,000. All the others arrested face misdemeanor charges. Initially their bail was set at $960 each, but Thursday afternoon during the arraignment hearing the attorney for the prosecution appealed the initial bail decisions. Three people in jail on misdemeanors had their bails raised to $50,000 each.

BIO 2005’s economic impact on the city of Philadelphia, its hotels, restaurants, taxi operators, is estimated at more than $35 million.

“But that’s only the beginning of the impact of this convention,” said Greenwood. “We scheduled 7,500 meetings between companies seeking partners for collaboration and development, and many thousands more discussions took place informally."

“The convention will yield a lasting legacy for the tri-state region’s biopharmaceutical industry,” said Greenwood. “It has put the local life-sciences community on the map globally and should boost venture capital interest in the region’s startup companies over the long term. As a Philadelphia native and resident, I am especially proud of that accomplishment.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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