Tune in tonight at 7 p.m. to watch “Celebrating Life & Science,” an inspirational and educational program highlighting how Arizona’s life science community is working together to make life better before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event is part of Arizona Bioscience Week, which showcases how Arizonans are advancing life changing and life saving innovations along the path from discovery to development to delivery.

Over two decades ago, people in Arizona committed to investing to build our state’s bioscience and healthcare sector. Arizonans kept that commitment through good times and rough times. The result is today’s hospital systems, private research institutes, universities and medical schools. We trained, attracted, and retained our talent base, growing our workforce year after year. We built up our labs and research centers, trained scientists, and medical professionals, started new businesses, and invested in them so they could grow.

Arizona’s biotech, medtech, and healthcare industries are made up of over 300,000 Arizonans who work to help us stay healthy and support us when challenges arise.

Our hospital systems have also grown dramatically over the last two decades, more than doubling the number of skilled healthcare professionals. The non-hospital bioscience job growth rate was 15 percent between 2016 and 2018 in Arizona, more than double the national growth rate. Arizona’s hospitals are home to some of the most highly skilled healthcare teams in the country. People travel to Arizona for the best quality care and Arizonans know that these teams are ready and able to deliver the best possible care when it is needed most.

To meet the needs of Arizona’s growing population, medical schools at The University of Arizona in Phoenix and Tucson, Mayo Clinic, Midwestern University, A.T. Still, and Creighton University are training the next generation of physicians and medical professionals to help meet the needs of our growing communities.

Arizona’s biotech and medtech companies are the place where close to 30,000 life science professionals are working to develop and deliver the tests, medical devices, and medicines our healthcare teams use to help their patients. Venture capital investment in biotech and medtech reached a 20-year high in 2019, and millions of square feet of real estate are in development to house Arizona’s growing biotech and medtech industry.

Arizona-based small businesses and university researchers were working to discover and develop new treatments and therapies thanks to some of Arizona’s highest levels of NIH funding ever. The $263 million in research funding in 2019 also set a record high for the state for the second year in a row. The public universities received $214 million, with hospitals and research institutes at $32 million and bioscience companies at $17 million. University bioscience research and development grew to $628 million at Arizona’s three public universities in 2018, a 25 percent increase between 2016 and 2018 and the highest in the state’s history. That is double the U.S. growth rate of 12 percent for the same period and double Arizona’s growth rate from 2014-16.

Arizona teams at global life science companies including BD, Celgene, part of Bristol Myers Squibb, Dexcom, Medtronic, Merz, Roche Tissue Diagnostics, and W. L. Gore deliver lifesaving innovations to help people with cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic pain and more.

Arizona’s bioscience and healthcare sectors were well positioned for even greater success in the coming decade.

Then came 2020 and COVID-19.

There are moments in history that people remember throughout their lives. They can tell you where they were and what they were doing. 2020 and COVID-19 is one of those times.

Handshakes are a thing of the past. Wearing a mask in public is a sign of social responsibility and for many of us, working from home has become the norm. Others are working diligently to use their talents on the frontlines. For many 2020 has brought financial hardships, illness, or the loss of loved ones. Before this is over, COVID-19 will have touched all of us in one way or another. Some of us will have lost family or friends. Others will have memories of illness, of job loss, of new ways of learning, or have memories of serving in ways they never imagined possible in 2019.

Arizona’s bioscience and healthcare sector has been deeply engaged in supporting our community from the time COVID-19 began to spread and throughout the health emergency. Our research institutes have become certified to function as test labs, expanding our testing capacity across the state. Our researchers have developed new tests in record time, are working to develop new therapies and exploring how we can use existing ones. Biotech companies are developing, delivering and, in the case of new vaccines, preparing to support one of the largest global vaccination initiatives in history once a safe and effective vaccine has been approved.

The major investments Arizona’s hospitals have made in facilities and talent are now being fully deployed as our healthcare teams are meeting the challenge and serving on the front lines to help people with COVID-19 and all of the other health challenges that did not disappear when COVID-19 began to spread.

Medical innovators step up

Meeting this challenge takes a global response. AZBio member companies are developing solutions to help diagnose and treat those with COVID-19. In addition to applying their scientific expertise to find ways to diagnose, treat and prevent infections from the virus, the biopharmaceutical and medtech industry is providing financial support and in-kind donations to organizations and collaborating with U.S. and global health authorities to combat this global public health emergency. Everyone is doing their part to save lives and to get us through this crisis.

The decade ahead

When this crisis has passed, and it will, Arizona’s bioscience innovators and healthcare systems will shift back to doing what we have always done – combining business and science to make life better for people in Arizona, across the country, and around the world by discovering, developing and delivering life changing and lifesaving treatments and tools.

Arizona has the potential to become a national and global leader in the biotech and medtech industries. We will need the community’s help to realize this potential. As new innovations are developed, we need to move them forward. This will require funding for development, clinical trials, and all of the investments that make “miracles” possible.

AZBio is working to build a new model that will help fund early stage life science innovation in Arizona forever. It is the kind of big idea that Arizonans can get behind and that can make a lasting difference, just as our big idea to build a bioscience sector 20 years ago is paying off today. We call it AZAdvances because that is what Arizonans do and what Arizonans create when we work together.