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Rockefeller and Sen. Joe Manchin, also D-W.Va., spoke to conference-goers via pre-recorded videos from Washington D.C.

Rockefeller talked about the importance of biotechnology to West Virginia's economy.

"We are quickly coming to a time when we can consider biotechnology one of our core West Virginia industries and I'm really happy about that," Rockefeller said. "One day in the not-so-distant future, we will mention biotechnology in the same breath as coal, steel and chemical manufacturing and the sooner that day comes, the happier I'll be."

Keynote speaker for the conference was Grady Vanderhoofven, fund manager for Meritus Ventures and the Southern Appalachian Fund. Vanderhoofven spoke about the trends in bioscience investing and about the importance of entrepreneurship.

"To me, entrepreneurs are the sparkplugs in the engine that is the U.S. economy -- any economy," Vanderhoofven said.

Vanderhoofven explained that the U.S. venture capital industry is getting smaller. Of all the venture capital deals that are being done, 40 percent are in California, he said.

Venture capital involves investment in startup, often high-risk companies, and usually includes investment in software or information technology, as well as biotechnology.

"Two-thirds of the venture capital deals and dollars in the United States are invested in three states and then the other 47 states get a share of the rest of it," he said. "We're an underinvested region, there's no doubt about it."

Still, the percentage of venture capital funds invested in the biosciences industry is increasing, he said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin spoke about the importance of growing the bioscience and innovation industries in the state. 

"The biosciences footprint in the hills of West Virginia is expanding," he said. "And when we focus on the economic impact of this industry, it all starts at the research lab."

The Bioscience Association of West Virginia hosted the summit.

PO BOX 20065 | Charleston, WV 25362 | (304) 546-5500