Cancer research

Focusing on discovery, development and delivery will
drive Arizona’s bioscience industry and quality of life

May 29, 2014

AZ Big Media

Bio industry focus: Discovery, development, delivery

Imagine a total artificial heart that keeps you alive when your heart can’t, or diagnostic tools that help doctors identify disease early so that they can treat it early and get better results. Envision pacemakers about the size of your pinky nail or therapies that alleviate pain or combat the deadliest of diseases. Can we develop new agricultural products that can drive new industries and help the planet too? This is not a wish list for “someday.” These are just a few of the innovations that are being produced by Arizona’s bioscience industry today.

The life sciences focus on living things. So, if it’s alive, was alive or keeps things alive, it’s bio.
Arizona is home to one of the fastest growing, emerging bioscience industries in the country thanks to a concerted effort by leaders from across the state that is supported by the Flinn Foundation and the unflagging efforts of innovative companies from Flagstaff to Tucson and points in between. The Arizona Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee, more than 100 leaders from philanthropy, industry, government, and academia, work together to map out objectives, establish programs, and measure progress. They’ve been guiding the process since 2002, making this collaborative effort the nation’s longest running bioscience industry development project.

Rising to the level of a top emerging bioscience state is a significant accomplishment in 10 short years. In the overall rankings, this places Arizona in a very respectable place in the middle of the pack. The Biotechnology Industry Association ranks states on a scale from 1-5, with a 1 being the top tier. Today, Arizona ranks as a 3. But, Arizona can be much more. Moving up the ranks is our next goal. Top tier bioscience states have mastered the three D’s — from discovery to development to delivery — and strike a balance between investments and results across a continuum. Over the last decade, Arizona has made remarkable progress, but we still have gaps to bridge to get to the top tiers. Discovery comes from the exploration of what might be possible. It occurs in our universities, in our private institutes like the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Barrow, C-Path, International Genomics Consortium and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), in our private companies and in the clinical setting. We have attracted top talent and we will need to attract more. That means more investment and support will be required from government, industry and philanthropic partners. Development comes next in the form of university tech transfer, translational research, industrial development, or clinical development and trials. None of this happens without capital. Development capital is increasing both from state governments and private sources.

It just is not here in Arizona at the needed levels yet. This means innovators must waste time traveling to “follow the money” and sometimes relocate to receive it. Unless Arizona resolves its investment capital crisis in a meaningful way and at bioscience scale, the benefits of our discovery will be realized elsewhere. Delivery — taking products to market and gaining market acceptance — is the final step. All the discovery and development in the world will mean little if there is not a final benefit for customers, patients, and investors. Delivery requires still higher levels of investment and a labor force that can support it.
Arizona’s success in biosciences to date has been derived through collaborative efforts, strategic investment in research facilities and talent, innovators committed to bringing new life saving and life sustaining products to market, and partnerships between philanthropy, industry, government, and academia. Success comes through deliberate actions and activities. Here are just a few that will happen in 2014:
• June 19, 2014 – Exciting Arizona based companies and innovations will be showcased at the 2014 AZBio Expo, with speakers including the leader of one of Arizona’s most respected medical device manufactures and the CEO of Insys Therapeutics, the top performing biotech IPO of 2013. Learn more at AZBioExpo.Com.
• Aug 20-21, 2014 – Program mangers from the National Science Foundation and the Nation Institutes of Health will travel to Arizona and provide insights on how to best access Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants.
• September 17-18, 2014 – Arizona will host companies from across the Rocky Mountain and Southwest region and life science specific investors at the First Annual White Hat Life Science Investor conference in Phoenix. Learn more at

Investments by the State of Arizona have helped to get us to where we are today. Our elected leaders have the opportunity to continue drive our momentum. Here are two ways we can move forward faster:
• Investing in research infrastructure at our state universities: Our universities have committed to doubling the research dollars they bring into the state by growing from today’s rate of $1.1 billion per year to $2.2 billion by 2020. The Arizona Board of Regents is asking for State approval of a one-time, $1 billion bond initiative to put in place the facilities they need to achieve this goal. Just do the math. That’s a smart investment.
• Leveraging federal investment via SBIR: Federal SBIR programs provide grants to companies that are discovering and developing new life science innovations. The Federal Agencies evaluate the potential, award the grants and measure the accomplishment of the outcome of the project. Today, 10 states provide matching grants to these small business innovators to help them drive from discovery to delivery. It’s time that Arizona does too. To become a top tier bioscience state, Arizona must master the three D’s and support our intentions with committed and sustainable investments across Arizona’s public, private, and philanthropic sectors. When we do, we grow. If we do not, Arizona life science innovations will still emerge, but the benefits of increased employment and an increased tax base will be harvested elsewhere. That’s not the way we do things in Arizona.