Arizona’s bioscience industry is maintaining impressive growth in terms of jobs and firms, and is drawing renewed attention from venture-capital investors. This suggests the public and private sector investments made in recent years to strengthen Arizona’s biomedical research base are beginning to produce the desired results.
Those are some of the key findings in the latest status update on Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, the plan released five years ago to guide the state’s transformation into a major bioscience hub. Consultant team Battelle, which helped design the Roadmap, was asked to gather information and appraise the impact of five years of plan implementation and investments. To compile its analysis, Battelle assessed data from numerous areas and reviewed Arizona’s progress toward implementing the Roadmap’s recommended actions.
“Arizona has reached the midpoint on the Roadmap’s 10-year timeline, which makes this a particularly apt moment to assess how the state is doing,” said Walter H. Plosila, Ph.D., vice president of Battelle Technology Partnership Practice. “Arizona has some impressive accomplishments to celebrate and if it continues the momentum of the past five years, it will be in a strong position to achieve the vision laid out for Arizona’s biosciences for 2012.”
Plosila will spell out those achievements and outstanding action steps at gatherings of regional stakeholders Dec. 3-5 in Flagstaff, Tucson, and Phoenix.
“Job growth in the biosciences has been strong in Arizona since 2002, far outpacing nationwide growth, and bioscience jobs in Arizona pay significantly better than jobs in the overall private sector,” Plosila said. “Additionally, the state has shown impressive growth in the number of bioscience firms, and for 2007, private investment in biotech startups may hit a five-year high. However, the state still has miles to go before it achieves its fair share of the nation’s venture-capital pie.”
Among the 2007 hallmarks for the biosciences in Arizona were: groundbreakings and grand openings for several new research facilities around the state; the opening of the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University; completion of the first round of grant-making by Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz), along with a major funding commitments to SFAz from the state Legislature and Stardust Charitable Group; the selection of Gov. Janet Napolitano as Bioscience Governor of the Year; and the establishment of the Partnership for Personalized Medicine, which will position Arizona as an international leader in proteomics research, with $45 million in start-up financing from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust and the Flinn Foundation.
The year 2007 also saw initial steps toward implementing the Southern Arizona Bioscience Roadmap and the unveiling of the Northern Arizona Bioscience Roadmap, two regional plans developed by local leadership with support provided by Battelle. Ahead, on the agenda for the state as a whole, according to Plosila, is to fully implement all 19 of the Roadmap’s recommended actions. To date, substantial progress has been made on eight of those, some progress has been made on eight more, and three others have not yet been implemented.
“Overall, the Battelle data shows Arizona has made strong progress in building its research infrastructure,” said John Murphy, president and CEO of the Flinn Foundation, the Phoenix-based philanthropy that commissioned the Roadmap project. “Now we must turn our attention to the commercialization of this research into products, jobs, and firms. We need greater venture capital and start-up resources for new firms that best match our research strengths and our existing industry base.”
To the surprise of many observers, federal research grant support to Arizona slowed in 2006. From 2002-2005, Arizona achieved a growth rate for National Institutes of Health grants—the “gold standard” of medical research grants—that exceeded the average growth rate for the 10 states with the greatest amount of NIH funding. In 2006, NIH grants declined nationwide; Arizona, however, was impacted harder than the U.S. average. The state now stands slightly behind the target growth rate of the top-10 NIH grant-recipient states.
“The record time for a state and region to build a biosciences-driven economy is 12-14 years,” Plosila said. “The lesson to take away is that Arizona has made significant progress in five short years, but the state can’t rest easily.
“The biosciences hold enormous potential to strengthen a region’s economy and improve quality of life for its citizens,” he continued. “For that reason, building up the biosciences is important to diversify and grow the state’s economy. To achieve that goal requires continued commitment over the next five years or more.”
For more information:
Additional information on Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap is available at www.flinn.org.
General background on the biosciences in Arizona can be found by visiting www.arizonabiobasics.org.