Italian San Diego Leader Recipient of Inaugural Convivio Award

Joseph Panetta and Jim Cardinale

Joseph Panetta and Jim Cardinale shaking hands in front of new Biocom headquarters

Joseph Panetta, President and CEO of Biocom, was the inaugural honoree of the Convivio Communitas Award for Leadership, underscoring his impact on the San Diego community receiving what the organization termed, “long overdue accolades.” “Congratulations on receiving the Convivio Communitas Award for Leadership,” said wife Karin, adding that it was particularly special as Panetta is so proud of his Italian heritage. “Over the years you have shown your remarkable leadership, always with dedication, integrity and humility,” she added. “I could not be more proud of your accomplishments. “At an early age our dad exposed us to the reasons for having pride and love in being Italian-American,” said son Christopher.

Daughter Lauren said she was constantly fascinated by the determination her father puts forth in everything he does and “the self-evident passion you display for politics, life sciences and the colorful Italian culture,” ending with “I love you.” In a recent, informal meeting with Jim Cardinale, President of the Sons of Italy in San Diego, Panetta explained that he comes from a strong Italian heritage. “I have kind of pushed my Italian heritage in the background,” said Panetta who recalled memories of his Italian ancestry stemming from grandparents who migrated to America, from Calabria, Italy, adding that it has been a fascinating experience bridging Italian and American cultures. “When my dad was in the military, he said ‘look, I’m fighting a war here and I am not even a citizen; either send me home, or make me a citizen.’ So his commander said, ‘We’ll make you a citizen, when you get home.’” In seeking to reconnect with his Italian ancestry, Panetta has gained dual citizenship through the efforts of Italian Vice-consulate representative, Roberto Ruocco.

Reconnecting with his Italian roots has enabled Panetta to travel more freely to Italy as well as give greater attention to speaking his native Italian language. “I did it for the whole family, dual citizenship,” explained Panetta. “I gave my son a Eurail pass and he had a great time. Who knows, I might decide to go back; I’ve lots of relatives back there,” mused the CEO, adding that he and the family go back to Italy every couple of years. Answering a question from Sons of Italy President, Cardinale, about his Italian heritage, Panetta replied, “I’m 100% Italian, but proud to be an American.” The President and CEO of Biocom is also a member of the Board of Directors and advocates for 620 companies, service sector firms, universities and research institutes working in the biotechnology and biomedical device arena. He is also active on various boards, business coalitions and committees addressing issues regarding the life science industry. Panetta was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown in January, 2014 to the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee which serves as the governing and oversight Board for the CA Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Panetta attended Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. He then went on to the University of Pittsburg receiving a graduate degree in Public Health. According to Panetta, the biotechnology industry took shape in the 1980s. “Biocom was just getting off the ground,” said Panetta. “I got to Biocom in 1999, and we began producing proteins and cells. These are sprayed on crops and help control damage from mice, caterpillars and other insects,” said Panetta, pointing to an artist’s rendition of two large orange orbs. “That’s basically what the proteins look like.” Panetta explained that after Biocom “got off the ground, things started getting busy.” Due to the industry’s rapid growth, Panetta was promoted to the sector of global government relations. According to Panetta, this put the industry on a world trade status.

He recalls beginning to work with universities in San Diego to train employees and specifically working with the University of California, San Diego in the Master of Business Administration Program. “The three biggest concerns we face are talent, money and advocacy,” said Panetta. “Companies need to raise enormous amounts of money to get products through testing from the Food and Drug Administration. Then there is the talent factor and all the different kinds of regulations and taxes regarding stock options.” He disclosed that this weekend he would be on Capitol Hill and leaving for Japan after that.

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