Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent
President and Research Director
Since it was founded in 2002, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) has been helping people with neurological disorders and such diseases as cancer and diabetes through business spin-offs and commercialization of its research. Today, TGen’s president and scientific director, Dr. Jeffrey M. Trent, believes this Phoenix nonprofit has built an “underlying bioscience engine” in Arizona.
In fact, with TGen helping to attract and retain a knowledge-based work force, Arizona’s bioscience-research sector has held its own during the recession and even expanded. “As far as jobs are concerned, bioscience is still an area that shows growth in Arizona,” Trent says. That doesn’t mean the recession did not affect the bioscience sector as a whole.
“The area that has fallen the furthest is venture capital to seed new company formation,” Trent says. “There is no question Arizona has been behind the curve in venture capital for biomedical science.”
Last year, TGen announced the formation of its 10th business, but Trent says the organization must “look around the world for funding for these companies.” This is a national problem, he adds, but he is optimistic it will improve this year. Philanthropic donations for bioscience research also slowed during the economic downturn, but Trent already sees a return of that type of funding and is hopeful it will continue to gather momentum this year.
Still, TGen has managed to prosper.
“In less than three years, we doubled our economic impact, doubled employment and increased commercial activities 375 percent,” Trent says. “The biomedical sector and nonprofits are being hit as hard as anyone (by the recession), but we were able to not only maintain, but also to grow the last two or three years.”
In an independent analysis, Tripp Umbach, a Pittsburgh research firm, concluded that TGen generates an annual economic impact of $77.4 million, including spin-off businesses and commercialization. TGen’s economic clout is expected to reach $321.3 million annually by 2025, according to Tripp Umbach. Again, including business formation and commercialization in its calculations, Tripp Umbach reported that TGen produced $5.7 million in state taxes, created 461 full-time jobs and generated $14.07 for every dollar invested by the state in 2008.
In addition to federal funding and donations, and grants from businesses, foundations and individuals, TGen receives $5.5 million a year from state tobacco taxes. In 2025, the state’s return on investment is expected to reach $58.42 per dollar invested, tax revenues are estimated to climb to $27.4 million, and TGen is expected to generate more than 4,000 jobs when business and commercialization activities are factored in.
TGen reached several milestones last year, but from Trent’s point of view, the standout was its affiliation with the Van Andel Research Institute, a global organization headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“This affiliation brings a remarkably complementary scientific skill set under one roof,” Trent says. “Van Andel is basically a discovery engine and TGen gets to capture that and move it to a new test or treatment for patients. We are constantly renewing information that we can pull toward the patient.”