Vice President Al Gore wowed top representatives of the biotechnology industry last week, leaving the leadership basking in the warmth of nice words and good intentions, even if they were not accompanied by concrete deeds and promises.

By all accounts, the vice president was completely prepared, intently interested and sympathetic. After taking an hour and fifteen minutes from a busy schedule to confer with 17 biotech representatives in a conference room at the San Francisco Airport Hilton, Gore extended the meeting by an extra hour. He said what the audience wanted to hear. And he avoided making any specific commitments.

All in all, a bravura political performance for an audience starved for some compassion from an administration whose early appeal evaporated in the rhetoric of health care reform. If our sampling of comments from participants is any indication, the biotech execs were highly impressed.

Dwarfs Quayle

"Time is gold, and he spent a long time with us and was engaged with what we were talking about," said Lisa Conte, president of Shaman Pharmaceuticals Inc.