The Biotechnology Industry Organization has amped up its contributions to Democrats by 13 percent since the 2006 elections, according to OpenSecrets.org, a website that tracks political contributions.

BIO is an industry trade group that represents more than 1,100 biotech companies across the country, many of which are based in San Diego.

In the current election cycle, Democrats are getting 51 percent of the funds doled out by BIO’s political action committee for federal candidates. That’s a change from past elections when Republicans got the majority of donations. Democrats got 38 percent of BIO’s funds in the 2006 election and only 24 percent in 2004.

Industry insiders I’ve talked with in San Diego generally agree that Democrats have been good — or better than Republicans at least — on the National Institutes of Health budget, the Food and Drug Administration and embryonic stem cells funding.

As for the presidential campaign, the trade organization has concerns about both candidates because of their support of direct price negotiation by the federal government for Medicare and the re-importation of prescription drugs, BIO Chief Executive Officer Jim Greenwood, who was a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania before taking his post at BIO in 2005, has said.

Re-importation of drugs, generally from Mexico and Canada, could lower prices for patients, but BIO members argue that the cost savings would come with increased safety risks, chill investment in the field and erode patent rights. Direct price negotiation, a proposal to save seniors money on prescription costs, is opposed by BIO members who argue that the mandate would limit the drugs available to patients.

But patient advocate groups have said that BIO’s positions on issues involving drug pricing are aimed at protecting the profits of drug manufacturers more than the health of patients.

DARRYN BENNETT

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