‘Meds and Eds’ encourages ‘big bets’ in Arizona bio

April 5, 2005

By hammersmith

A group of prominent Arizona community and business leaders has released a study which supports Arizona’s objective of more fully participating in the emerging bioscience economy. “For Arizona, the opportunity is clear: Prosperity and quality of life will depend, in large part, on the ability of a state to take advantage of opportunities to combine cutting- edge research and cutting-edge medical practice into a new economic driver and new quality of life amenity,” said, Don Ulrich, Co-Chairman of the CEO Healthcare Input Group and a former Arizona Board of Regents member.

The report titled “Meds and Eds: The Key to Arizona Leapfrogging Ahead in the 21st Century” was commissioned by the CEO Healthcare Input Group, a group of CEOs convened by the Arizona Board of Regents to focus on coordinating health research and health care. The report shows that Arizona has made tremendous strides in the past few years, largely in the pursuit of the “Three Big Bets”–more research dollars and facilities for its universities, attraction of TGen/IGC headquarters and bioscience researchers and the recent “roadmap” for bioscience. However, Arizona still has significant gaps in important assets and lags in important outcomes. For example, Arizona has among the lowest number of working nurses and physicians per capita of all 50 states. In addition, unlike most bioscience leaders, Arizona lacks a top 25 ranked medical school–more precisely, a research-focused medical school.

“The state must stay focused–and make more “big bets” to create the assets Arizona needs to leap ahead in areas that matter most in the 21st century,” said Mary Jo Waits, the principle author of the report. “Arizona won’t lead in medical discoveries unless its universities and research centers are loaded with top talent and research dollars. Additionally, it won’t lead in patient care unless its hospitals and clinics are filled with plenty of nurses and physicians. The 21st century will be driven by innovation, with a big focus on innovations to improve health care. That puts Meds and Eds–the collection of medical and educational institutions–high on Arizona’s must-have list.”

Meds and Eds are not the only sources of innovation, the report says, but they are proven generators of new ideas, smart people and new companies–all fundamental to economic growth. More profoundly, these institutions are deeply embedded in American communities–contrary to most worldwide trends today – and that makes them an excellent bet on prosperity in the 21st century.

“By investing in ‘Meds and Eds’ and keeping them in close proximity to each other, we will have the unique ability to cultivate an unprecedented economic opportunity. We will be creating healthy companies, ground-breaking products and higher wage jobs,” said Ulrich.

The report points out that other states are making bold moves to grab more medical and science talent, research dollars and entrepreneurial companies. Against this backdrop, Arizona’s “Three Big Bets” are starting to look more like “jump-start” moves, rather than “leapfrog” moves. The report recommends five bold things Arizona can do to leapfrog ahead, starting with setting some new BHAGs or Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Most people think “Cheaper in Arizona and Warmer in Arizona.” While that identity has served Arizona well so far, it’s time to move on to new ambitions: “Invented in Arizona, Discovered in Arizona, and Started in Arizona.”

These new ambitious can be the long-term guides for important public policy. Unless Arizona creates the assets it needs, it will not be able to “leapfrog ahead”. For example, Phoenix is by far the largest metro area in the nation without a four-year allopathic medical school and major academic medical center. After California voters solidly backed a $3 billion plan over 10 years to fund university and industry research that could offer treatments and cures for serious diseases, it increasingly looks like Arizona will need its own research “war chest”–and soon, if it expects to be “the place” in the biology century. Many people believe that California has made one of the savviest moves of all time to capture top researchers, top medical talent and innovative companies.

The report recommends establishing innovation districts in downtown Phoenix and along the light rail route between Phoenix and Tempe. An innovation overlay can help preserve land in these areas for uses that benefit from close proximity to universities, academic medical centers, TGen and IGC.

Finally, the report points out that Arizona must trump the competition with Arizona’s “Collaborative Gene”. “TGen (Transitional Genomics Research Institute) proved we could join forces in pursuit of a common goal of bettering our community to compete against long standing institutions across the globe,” said Peter Fine, President and Chief Executive Officer of Banner Health.

Dr. Jeffrey Trent, President and Chief Scientific Director for TGen stated that it was Arizona’s ability to work collaboratively that was instrumental in attracting TGen to Arizona. “Arizona leaders on every level understood that investing in intellectual capital actually has a ripple effect on the economy and on our collective quality of life,” he said.

The study also noted that with three distinguished University Presidents, Phoenix’s commitment to downtown revitalization, Scottsdale’s commitment to transform Los Arcos in to a tech hub and illustrious local Foundations such as Flinn, Rodel and Piper are strong indicators that Arizona is ready to seriously compete in the emerging bioscience economy.

“We are unified in our understanding that prosperity will flow to those areas that can connect the biosciences to clinical healthcare,” said John Rivers, President and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association. “Workers, retirees…individuals in general will be attracted to live in a place where good jobs, access to outstanding medical care and a strong educational system are readily available,” he added.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Frank D. Alvarez, President and Chief Executive Officer at Tucson Medical Center Healthcare. “I believe we are ready to declare our interdependence on one another,” Alvarez stated. “Our institutions, resources, assets and talented people are all one community that is intertwined with common goals.”

The report went on to explain that when it comes to implementing the recommendations made in the study, Arizona can learn important lessons from places like Austin and San Diego. The document pointed to the fact that there were common factors lined up during Austin’s rise in physics/computer based innovations era and San Diego’s tale of prosperity in biology based innovations in the 1980s. Essentially, both regions showed their power in five areas that included knowledge assets, talent, proximity, collaboration and bold moves.

“We have all the makings for the perfect storm; intellectual wealth, committed leaders, a real desire to collaborate and reach consensus,” Alvarez said.

Although Ernest Calder n, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents and Co-Chairman of the working group, believes Arizona is uniquely positioned to enter the next phase he cautioned, “We need to surpass other regions and states in order to assert Arizona as the leader in providing high quality healthcare. The opportunity is ours.”

A luncheon and in-depth discussion lead by Mary Jo Waits, ASU President Michael Crow, Linda Hunt and Don Ulrich is scheduled for Monday, April 25th, 2005 at the Arizona Biltmore. The gathering will serve as a forum to begin outlining steps to employ the recommendations made in the Meds and Eds.

For more information:

State needs to innovate to prosper,” Arizona Republic, 03/20/2005

Regents panel offers 21st-century strategy,” Arizona Daily Star, 03/22/2005

Meds and Eds: The Key to Arizona Leapfrogging Ahead in the 21st Century”