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Gingrich trumpets life sciences niche

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that upstate New York has an extraordinary opportunity to fill a niche in the emerging field of life sciences while raising its economic profile in the process.

Gingrich was the keynote speaker for the BioMedUpstate Summit meeting, a gathering of local life sciences proponents, in Adam's Mark Hotel downtown. The group is seeking ways to grow the region's life sciences industry through an industrial-academic collaboration.

"There's a huge opportunity to create a research-based community that could increase wealth for upstate New York by creating new products and new services and new technologies that could be marketed worldwide," said Gingrich, following his hourlong presentation.

Pursuing that goal, Gingrich said, would require fundamental changes in how services are delivered and how problems are approached and solved across the region.

"It's a whole new way of thinking about organizing activities," Gingrich said.

"But if they can find the leadership to do this over a 10- or 15-year period, they will find themselves creating a substantial industry that will have a worldwide market [and] that will come to Buffalo because, in fact, you get your particular problem solved in a way that lets you live a longer life with greater health," Gingrich added.

To get to that point, he said, locals will "have to deal head-on with question of cultural values."

"The problem with the very poor is not the system, but the culture [of the impoverished]," Gingrich said.

The author of the book "Saving Lives and Saving Money: Transforming Healthcare in the 21st Century," Gingrich outlined plans for a system that he said would turn health and health care from a problem to an opportunity, create good-paying jobs in the region and be a catalyst for foreign exchange.

"I think China and India are real challenges, and I don't think you can hide from them. I think you've got to figure out what do we have to change in our school systems, what do we have to change in our tax code, how do we maximize our creative ability?" Gingrich said.

The daylong summit also included presentations by David A. Shore, founding director of Harvard University's Forces of Change program, and Dr. Kent Gardner, president and chief economist of the Center for Governmental Research.

Proceeds from the event will support the Foundation for Healthy Living's efforts to boost the regional economy through its collaborative projects.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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