Newsday Editorial: Long Island's Biotech Future Brightens

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

October 08, 2010

Last year's sky-is-falling news, that OSI Pharmaceuticals was planning to flee Long Island for Westchester, has given way to some reasons for optimism. Astellas Pharma, the Japanese firm that bought OSI, is now deciding on its future here, and two of the possible outcomes are hopeful. 

In addition to the likelihood that Astellas will keep 90 OSI employees at the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park at Farmingdale State College, despite the loss of headquarters staff in Melville, Astellas may even decide to expand here. 

The park and the state's Empire State Development agency are working to attract another biotech tenant. Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) has come up with $9 million to expand the park. He and Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst), will be working on legislation to give the park more flexibility to meet tenants' needs, without having to run to the legislature. All that could affect Astellas' decisions and help build the major cluster of biotech firms that OSI believed Long Island lacks. 

There were good signs for biotech at a two-day Life Sciences Summit this week, run by Stony Brook University's Center for Biotechnology. What started as a regional summit is now national, moving to international. This year, it drew hundreds of scientists, biotech executives and investors. 

And here's another reason for hope. There's a new, closer relationship between the leaders of the State University of New York and Empire State Development. The SUNY chancellor will sit on the ESD board, and the two agencies together will be better able to clear obstacles - inside SUNY or in state government - to the ambitious jobs agenda that the strategic plans of both organizations lay out. 

After the OSI scare, the Island must remain ever vigilant, but for now, at least, the sky seems not to be falling.