Venture capitalist offers expertise; 2016 progress featured during Bioscience Roadmap events

April 14, 2017

By Matt Ellsworth

The Flinn Foundation hosted its annual Bioscience Roadmap events in Flagstaff, Tucson, and Tempe April 11-13 to highlight the recent bioscience successes of each of the three regions and introduce a Bay Area venture capitalist who provided his insights on how Arizona could attract more risk capital.

More than 400 people attended the events, during which the Flinn Foundation released the 2016 Progress of the Biosciences in Arizona brochure, which highlight the major bioscience advancements during 2016. The report also identifies the priorities for Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap over the next 12 months.

The keynote speaker in Tucson and Tempe was Phil Wickham, CEO emeritus and executive chairman of the Kauffman Fellows; and co-founder and managing director of Sozo Ventures, who spoke about “Investing in Innovation.” The University of Arizona graduate talked about the importance of developing ecosystems conducive to capital formation, noting that one effective step would be further development of regional accelerators and incubators, which not only offer assistance to entrepreneurs, but also allow a venture capitalist to be introduced to many companies at one time.

Among other observations, Wickham suggested that civic leaders can make change happen through policymaking that embraces Arizona’s needs over the long term; and he explained that venture capitalists often back the “deviants” who pursue creative ideas beyond current consumer trends and that capture points of convergence in distinct economic sectors. He also called on Arizona to understand its unique genius and identify what it does best. He said branding and storytelling are key to attracting investments.

The Tempe event featured comments from Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell, while in Tucson, Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, and Paul August, vice president of Icagen, made presentations.

In Flagstaff, Northern Arizona University president Rita Cheng, along with university-based researchers and local entrepreneurs, talked about the latest bioscience innovations happening both at NAU and in Flagstaff’s research and business community.

Over the past year, some of the most prominent long-term investments in the state included a $43 million federal precision-medicine research grant for University of Arizona in Tucson; Translational Genomics Research Institute’s new affiliation with California-based City of Hope and the Phoenix institute’s planned expansion; the announcement of the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in partnership with Arizona State University in Scottsdale; and the unveiling of plans for a major biotech campus along Tempe Town Lake.

Since the launch of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap in 2002, the Flinn Foundation has commissioned a third-party to track progress on performance measures involving the state’s bioscience sector, including jobs, wages, firms, and federal grant funding. Since the update of the Roadmap in 2014, which now extends through 2025, data is presented every other year. New metrics will be released again in 2018.