Developing a more streamlined permitting process is essential if cities and towns want to improve their chances of landing biotech companies, the president of the Massachusetts Biotech Council said Friday.

Developing a more streamlined permitting process is essential if cities and towns want to improve their chances of landing biotech companies, the president of the Massachusetts Biotech Council said Friday.


While touting the state's lofty status as a prime destination for biotech industries, Robert Coughlin, president and CEO of the council, said that Massachusetts is the worst to do business in "from a permitting standpoint."


He said biotech companies should not be expected to wade through a permitting process that could drag on for several years. Creating streamlined permitting packages throughout the state is an issue the Biotech Council has been working on, Coughlin said.


"We need pre-permitted sites," Coughlin said.


Coughlin, spoke at the annual meeting of the Waltham West Suburban Chamber of Commerce at Waltham Westin Hotel. Despite a tough economy, Coughlin said Massachusetts should continue to be a popular destination for biotech companies because of increased government support - such as last year's passage of a $1 billion life sciences initiative - efforts in work force development, and the state's large pool of acclaimed colleges, universities and hospitals.


''If you're going to be sick, you should do it right here because there is some really smart person trying to help you," Coughlin said, drawing laughter from the crowd.


Coughlin said Massachusetts is now home to more than 420 biotech companies.


A former state representative who was also an aide to Gov. Deval Patrick, Coughlin said the Massachusetts Biotech Council has also worked with schools across the Commonwealth to get them to foster students' interest in science.


Massachusetts faces global competition for biotech firms, Coughlin said. He said if the state doesn't step up its efforts to recruit or retain them, those companies could choose to go overseas.


Speaking about the need for more funding, Coughlin said that it takes too long to develop new medications and treatments, requiring an average of 10 years and $1 billion to get new medications from the "bench to the bedside."


The Massachusetts Biotech Council is the largest trade biotech trade association in the country.


Also, at the Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting Friday, former Waltham Library Director Thomas Jewell, who retired from the job last year after 32 years of service, received the chamber's 2008 Community Achievement Award.


"When I heard earlier who the past recipients were, many of who are here today, it's very special for me to be considered in their company," Jewell said.


Richard Conn can be contacted at781-398-8004 or rconn@cnc.com.