Economic Growth: Medical Device Incubator

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The City of Peoria is teaming-up with the nonprofit BioAccel to grow medical device companies, and jobs, in the West Valley. Learn more about the “BioInspire” project from Maria Laughner, Peoria’s Business and Real Estate Development Manager and MaryAnn Guerra the CEO and co-founder of BioAccel.

Ted Simons: We're getting all sorts of pitches tonight. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: The city of Peoria is teaming up with bioaccel A. nonprofit economic development firm that helps start-up bioscience companies get their products to market. The goal is to assist homegrown medical device businesses and then keep those businesses in Peoria. I recently spoke with Maria Laughner business and real estate investment manager for Peoria's economic development department, and Maryann Guerra, the CEO of bioaccel. Thank you for joining us tonight on "Arizona Horizon." Good to have you here. Let's start with some basics. What is bioinspire?

Maryann Guerra: Bioinspire is a new medical device incubator that we are launching in the city of Peoria in partnership with the city of Peoria, plaza companies, and with the hope of accelerating new companies and jobs in the medical device area. Here in Peoria in the valley.

Ted Simons: Interesting. How did Peoria get involved in this?

Maria Laughner: Well, it's -- that's a very good question, Ted. We did an -- our economic development implementation strategy about two years ago, and in the community assessment we learned that 93% of residents in Peoria that work out commute from the city of Portland, Oregon, we don't have a lot of jobs to offer, and are in that assessment we determined we need to find a way to attract companies to our city so we could have jobs locally, and when you look at the rest of the valley, metro Phoenix is well built up and a lot of great assets, Peoria doesn't have a lot of those assets, so we brainstorm how can we be creative and start creating assets? And so that's how the idea of the incubator came about.

Ted Simons: And it is an incubator. What exactly does that -- a bioscience incubator, what are we talking about here?

Maryann Guerra: Well, first of all, medical device incubator, because one of the things that I think the city of Peoria did that was a bit unusual is to focus on medical device and to build an industry niche. So we keep saying medical devices, and there's a lot of good reasoning why we landed on medical devices, because of international markets, and the paying jobs, etc. The incubator is really an organization or an entity, a concept of trying to help those early start-up companies to make sure that they are formed, and they're designed, and their technology moves along so it's much more hands-on than just basically leasing space to a group and saying, you know, you're on your own, and hopefully you'll do well and we have a than incubateddor. We built the business in technical support to go along with some other financial support.

Ted Simons: Talk about that. All the -- the overriding support for some of these start-ups. What will they experience and what have you found to be the things they need most?

Maria Laughner: Well, I'll take a stab at it. We found some of the support we're going to offer includes business acumen, help with intellectual property, issues they might have, just everything that a start-up company might need to be successful. In addition to that, BioAccel offers a wealth of knowledge when it comes to financial services, entrepreneurship overall, access to venture capital, how to get through proof of concept, thousand get to commercialization.

Ted Simons: Talk more about BioAccel's role.

Maryann Guerra: So BioAccel, our two programs we have, one is a proof of concept program, technology advancement program, and that's to help late stage research get through that first valley of death to ensure that that technology is sound and can be commercialized. Our second program is called the new venture development program, and that is to take those successful technologies and then see the company and then build that company with the right financial structure and the right staffing, and CEOs and advisory boards. And what the city of Peoria allowed us to do was to embed that model into the medical device incubator into bioinspire. So when we look, we use our review process, we use our programs, we find the right technologies for proof of concept, we find the right companies and then we place them in the incubator with strong business and technology infrastructure around them.

Maria Laughner: And also what the city is doing is, we are helping to invest in those companies by providing $1.6 million in funding to help them get through proof of concept, to help them get to a point where they're stabilize and can work toward commercialization.

Ted Simons: Was it difficult to get the city leaders folks in Peoria to say $1.6 million for seed money, and the valley of death, sometimes these folks can't make it out of there, a little risk.

Maria Laughner: It is risky. I wouldn't say it's difficult -- it was difficult. It took some education, of course. Because there's a big process. And understanding what BioAccel actually does and how it works and what the return to the city would be. We had to lay all of that out. But our city council is actually quite aggressive and strategic minded, so they understood it, they understood what the ultimate goal was, which is to grow companies. And they saw this as a great opportunity because we honed it down to a niche that is -- gives us an advantage, we're building on assets we already have, and we partnered with great partners that know how to do it.

Ted Simons: Indeed. And you have partnerships going here, I know plaza companies also has a role regarding the real estate aspect. The challenges of having a partnership. The more -- the more not necessarily the merrier. Talk about that.

Maryann Guerra: Chefs in the kitchen.

Ted Simons: There you go.

Maryann Guerra: I have to say that the city of Peoria and Scott white, the economic director and Maria is with him, have been really amazing to work with. This is a high-risk endeavor, and it's got the potential because we're going to be seeding companies and expectation and managing expectations with how many jobs will the companies be successful, but they've really been open to understanding what it takes and so when we talked about the incubator and we said, OK, you don't have anything in Peoria, so if you want to get something going in Peoria, we have to be creative. We have to be at the edge, and so they were willing to put the funds into the space and work with plaza companies to create the facility, to the able to offer the first year free space to the tenants that will occupy that to do the seed funding, and to also this proof of concept funding which is so important to create the downstream pipeline that's needed to keep the incubator occupied. So -- but -- so the partnership, while you've got the private sector plaza companies, and public -- and we're nonprofit, we all have the same objective, which is to drive economic development for the local area. So I have to say that while you have the work your way through what is the right contract structure, what are the right policies and procedures which we had to do, everybody's been open and we've done it.

Ted Simons: Last question -- everything succeeds, seed company takes, you got a medical supply company going great guns. What keeps them in Peoria?

Maria Laughner: Part of the agreement that they've agreed to when they entered our space is they will stay for five years. That will allow us to get the ROI we're looking for from the graduates from the incubator.

Ted Simons: OK. And what kind of response are you having so far?

Maria Laughner: Excellent. In fact, so good, on Tuesday we announced a negotiation agreement with technology University, they have a lot of engineering, including biomedical engineering, and they said they were interested in Peoria because of our commitment we showed in proof of the incubator.

Ted Simons: Very good. Good luck to both of you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Maryann Guerra: Thank you for taking time to share this with everybody.

Ted Simons: That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Maria Laughner:Business and Real Estate Development Manager, Peoria; MaryAnn Guerra:CEO and co-founder, BioAccel;

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