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WASHINGTON — A veteran senator and champion of the biotech sector beat back an unusually strong challenge Tuesday night — thanks in large part to loyal support from the industry.

North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, a Republican who has long protected the bioscience companies that drive his state’s economy, overcame a surprisingly robust challenge from Democratic candidate Deborah K. Ross.

Burr, now finishing his second term in the Senate, serves on committees with oversight of both the Food and Drug Administration and Medicare and Medicaid. He is also chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.


In both these roles, as well as in his earlier years in the House of Representatives, Burr has pressed for faster approval of drugs and medical devices and lower taxes for industry. He has found strong support in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, the powerhouse biotech district that touts itself as the third largest in the nation.

Burr benefitted from robust financial backing from the health care industry, as well as conservative political action committees that saw North Carolina as a crucial race in the Republican fight to keep hold of the Senate.


Drug and device companies, other health care political action committees, and the industry’s lobbyists and employees gave at least $1.2 million to Burr this election cycle, making them his biggest supporters, according to a STAT analysis. Ross, by comparison, received minimal industry support from company and trade association committees.

“The industry feels very positive about Senator Burr, because he’s always taken a strong leadership role in policy that we’re interested in,” Samuel Taylor, president of the state’s bioscience trade group, told STAT before the election. “He’s done a stellar job.”

In Minnesota, Representative Erik Paulsen, who was in a tough race to keep his seat, triumphed with help of contributions from the medical device industry, which considered him a valuable ally. The Republican won his seat quite handily, winning about 57 percent of the vote.