Arizona has many of the essential elements needed to become a national leader in the biosciences, but must strengthen its medical research base and build a critical mass of bioscience firms and jobs, according to a study released today at events in Phoenix and Tucson.
The study outlines a 10-year roadmap that can “fast track” Arizona on a path to achieving national bioscience stature and a diversified economy. The findings describe the need for increased public- and private-sector investments plus collaboration among Arizona’s higher education, industry, and nonprofit sectors.
The study was conducted by the Battelle Memorial Institute, the world’s largest private, nonprofit organization recognized for technology development. It was commissioned by the Flinn Foundation and overseen by a 25-member committee of state, business, university and economic development leaders.
Bioscience, one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, offers an opportunity to establish a high-wage, technology-driven employment base of highly skilled workers. According to the study, the biosciences builds upon Arizona’s strengths in electronics, optics and advanced engineering, and would bring stability to the state’s economy by balancing more cyclical industries.
“The report finds that the Arizona biosciences cluster is youthful but growing three times faster than the national average,” said Walt Plosila, Battelle Memorial Institute’s vice president for Public Technology Management. “But the challenge is for Arizona to ‘catch-up’ to other states by building a world-class research base.”
According to the Battelle analysis, Arizona should focus its near-term efforts on three existing and emerging research fields: neurological sciences, cancer therapeutics and bioengineering. Arizona already has a critical mass of researchers and facilities in these areas.
The potential return on investment is significant. The Battelle study states that an annual Arizona investment of $140 million a year in biosciences for the next 10 years could triple annual funding from the National Institutes of Health; generate more than 32,000 direct and indirect jobs and 120 bioscience firms; and return more than six dollars for each dollar invested to leverage other financial support. More than a quarter of this investment goal is already met through existing commitments and resources.
“Arizona has reached a crossroads,”said John W. Murphy, executive director of the Flinn Foundation. “We have made great strides in the biosciences and have an opportunity to continue the momentum. An additional investment of $140 million per year seems unrealistic in a down economy. But through investments in university research, Proposition 301, and an additional tax on tobacco products (Proposition 303) Arizona has made a significant down payment toward the goal Battelle cites.”
The Battelle study describes the creation of the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and recruitment of the International Genomics Consortium (IGC) in 2002 as important first steps in the “catch-up” strategy. Continued success requires that Arizona mobilize public and private leadership; increase the general public’s understanding of the biosciences and its impact on the state’s quality of life; invest in bioscience facilities, labs and faculty at the state’s universities; attract a greater share of federal bioscience research funding; and build â€œtrees of talentâ€