The pace of medical innovation is accelerating around the world and right here in the Arizona bioscience sector. Biomedical innovators are pioneering in the fields of diagnostics, treatments, medical devices, and health technologies.
The world waited and watched as the first COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines moved from the lab, into the development process, and then, upon emergency use authorization, to the people who needed them. For those who were waiting, it was a long and at times heartbreaking process when the innovation did not arrive in time.
For the pioneers who were developing new health solutions and pathways, things were moving at a breakneck pace. This unprecedented speed was possible thanks to decades of previous investments in research and development that were leveraged to build these new solutions. At the same time, due to the rapidly spreading virus, clinical trials were able to reach statistical relevance in record time because, tragically, people at risk for infection, affected patients, and the SARS-CoV-2 virus were everywhere.
Past investments pay off
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 challenging 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 healthcare delivery partners, at every level, work to help Arizonans stay healthy, provide high quality care to patients and their caregivers when health challenges occur, and partner with our research community to develop even better health solutions in the future. 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 help them when they need it most.
Arizona’s significant investments into our private and university-based research centers are delivering a double benefit as their teams develop solutions to improve health while creating the learning opportunities for our students that prepare them for the high-quality jobs this industry creates.
The work of these researchers, innovators, and healthcare professionals is further supported by Arizona investors and philanthropists who have a shared purpose for creating valuable products and services that improve health and make the delivery of healthcare more affordable by keeping people healthy and offering solutions when care is needed.
Through their combined efforts, Arizona’s bioscience and healthcare industry is one of the leading job creators in the state providing access to high-quality jobs that contribute to the health of our economy and our people. 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
Arizona’s life science 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 are exploring how we can use existing ones. Biotech companies are developing, delivering and, in the case of new vaccines, supporting one of the largest global vaccination initiatives in history.
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 the other health challenges that did not disappear when COVID-19 began to spread.
Up close and personal
Ten years ago, I was given an incredible opportunity. The board of directors of the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) invited me to join their team as the organization’s president and CEO. AZBio is more than just a collection of businesses. It is a community that works to discover, develop, and deliver the life-changing and life-saving innovations that will benefit the people of Arizona today and for generations to come.
Over the last decade, I have had the privilege to work with world class scientists, talented educators, inspiring entrepreneurs, accomplished business leaders, dedicated healthcare professionals, and committed public servants. They work with a shared purpose, to improve the lives of people in Arizona, across the country, and around the world.
Every year, our industry has grown. We have launched new programs and opened new facilities for research, development, manufacturing, and patient care.
The decade ahead
When this crisis has passed, and it will, Arizona’s bioscience innovators and healthcare systems will continue 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 top-10 state 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 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.
Joan Koerber-Walker is president and CEO of the Arizona Bioindustry Association and chairman of the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation.