Technology & Innovation: Arizona Bioscience Roadmap

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The 10th anniversary of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap was celebrated recently. The Bioscience Roadmap led to development of the Arizona’s bioscience sector. Find out more about the roadmap, its development and the status of Arizona’s bioscience sector from Martin Shultz, Chairman of the Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee, and Brad Halvorson, of the Flinn Foundation.

Ted Simons: December, marked the tenth anniversary of the Arizona bioscience road map, it's a long range plan to make Arizona's bioscience sector globally competitive. Here to talk about the progress made is Marty Shultz, chairman of the Arizona Bioscience Road Map Steering Committee and Brad Halvorsen, of the Flinn Foundation, which launched the road map back in December of 2002, good to have you here.

Both: Thanks.

Ted Simons: Let's define the terms, bioscience road map, what are we talking about?

Marty Shultz: What we are talking about, about bioscience, and bioscience can be defined as health, science for health and research. It can be defined as bio agriculture, the scientific and the technical aspects of agriculture, and what this is, is an encouragement over the last ten years, and an investment over the last ten years, and some serious money to grow an industry that will help improve the health of Arizona, personal, of course, the world, and also, grow the economy, very specifically, grow the economy.

Ted Simons: When it was first developed back in 2002, what were the original goals? Have they changed over the years?

Brad Halvorsen: The bottom line goals, two of them, one is to improve the economy. One is to diversify our economy, and help us to get away from the economic cycles of downturns by adding high wage jobs. And another one is health care. And we wanted to, to bring to Arizona first access to the latest health care innovations.

Ted Simons: And as far as the original intent, and the first development, this was after, a study was conducted, and recommendations were offered, something along those lines.

Brad Halvorsen: Yes, the Arizona bioscience road map was a study that the Flinn Foundation commissioned, and it was done by Battelle, the largest nonprofit research and development organization. So what they did was they took stock of what Arizona had, and as bioscience's sector, did a SWAT analysis, and came back with a comprehensive plan of recommendations about what Arizona can do to be competitive region in the biosciences.

Ted Simons: Marty it, sounds like the report suggests the essential elements were there. Everything just needed what, push?

Marty Shultz: Well, it needed more than push. If needed to have an investment. So there were investments from, from proposition 301, which was sent to the voters, from the private sector, from the Arizona legislature in a number of areas. For example, when the Government funds the roads, it, actually, facilitates stimulating the economy. So, the Government helped to fund research labs. It helped to fund T-GEN, helped to fund the University activities, but what this did is spun a lot of private sector research and a lot of private companies, which we enjoy today. Those private companies, of course, employ thousands and thousands people, and as Brad said, we wanted an economic focus that would be stable over a period of time. So, while nothing is recession proof, we've been able to grow jobs in the bioscience and the sectors that are the biosciences, and at a greater level than, than other sectors, number one, and number two, when we have the downturn in the economy in the last five years, the growth of the biosciences has been up about 6%.

Ted Simons: Interesting. And one last history question here, back when the policy issues were pushed and Government leaders went for them, how receptive initially were they? Was there a lot of, I don't know, how difficult was it getting these ideas across?

Marty Shultz: It was a challenge because it was new thing. On the other hand, there were a lot of early adopters. Governor Jane Hull was an early adopter going back to the ten-year period, the leaders of the legislature, local Government officials, and in fact, thinking of the current Mayor, Greg Stanton, he was an early adopter when he was on the city council in Phoenix. So, and by the way, that's the Phoenix story. You have got stories in Flagstaff with a major investor, Gore manufacturers. You have got stories down in Tucson and southern Arizona with, with the Ventana Medical Systems. You have got major universities that have created bio design centers. We are really on the field, and we're playing an international game.

Ted Simons: And Marty has led us to this idea of improvements. How are we doing as far as science, as far as business, as far as policy, as far as collaboration between different organizations?

Brad Halvorsen: Doing well. The first five years of the road map was focused mostly on building the research infrastructure, and helping us to become more competitive for national grants from the national institutes of health, and other activities along those lines. And then as the road map continues, the focus is turning more towards commercialization, and turning this research into new products and new firms and to high wage jobs for Arizonans.

Ted Simons: It's interesting in a sense that Arizona kind of got this going. You were young state, everything we try is relatively new and we're the new kid on the block, if you will. And how do work that into bioscience and technology? It has to be a moving target because there are other areas, whether it's the bay area or back in the northeast or San Diego, even, that were up and running were we started walking.

Brad Halvorsen: It's right, and what the bioscience road map tries not to do is to replicate what San Diego is, what the Bay Area is, what Boston is. And they have been at it longer, and they have a concentration of research institutes, and companies long before we really got in the game. So, what we're trying to do is pick what the road map focus on is picking our niches where we excel in a national and international level, and really leveraging those niches. So, that would be cancer, neurosciences, personalized medicine. Those areas where we already excel and we're trying to help that drive Arizona forward.

Ted Simons: Is that how you see it, these are established areas, because we were not established we could do what we wanted to do?

Marty Shultz: I think first of all, we recognize that it was a very competitive environment. We are talking about these other centers around the country and around the world. So what we did, when we say the road map steering committee, what we're really talking about is 100 individuals who might be University presidents, rock star researchers, business folks. You name it. And we put them all together and say, based on the data from Battelle, let's look at this road map ahead of us and see what we need to do it improve investment: public investment, private investment, and venture capital. What do we need to do in research? Research labs and that kind of thing? So, yeah, we, actually, created our own fortune, and now we are competitive now. Are we as big as San Franciscos, the San Diegos and the Bostons? No. We competitive? Dr. Michael crow in our tenth anniversary celebration, made a comment that his analysis was that we were on the field. Well, that's pretty good because we were nowhere ten years ago, and now, being on the field play on an international competitive area, that, that improves the health status of not only Arizona, but also, of the nation, because of the areas that Brad talked about, and others. I would like to point out Alzheimer's because of the number of individuals who are the senior level, the work that, that Banner Alzheimer Center is doing, this is, actually, international level research to, to end Alzheimer's Disease in a generation. We have so much to be thankful for, and so much talent that this talent is focused on the criteria that, that was established ten years ago, and it's, everybody involved is making a difference.

Ted Simons: Is Battelle still involved? Are they assessing the progress?

Brad Halvorsen: Absolutely. Yes. Since the beginning, we put in a requirement, really, that every year the progress of the bioscience road map would be measured. And the Flinn Foundation reports that progress back to the community on an annual basis. So, we want to bring numbers and metrics to this to see how we are doing.

Ted Simons: And how are we? Marty alluded to this but how are we doing, not only nationally, but on a global scale?

Brad Halvorsen: We're doing -- well, very well in terms of job creation, firm creation, and Arizona is now one of the fastest growing bioscience states in the nation. And new bioscience jobs, jobs here in the biosciences are growing about four times faster than they are across the rest of the nation. Bioscience firms are also outpacing the rest of the nation in terms of growth. So, we have added about 235 firms since the road map began back in 2002, and thousands of jobs in the biosciences, as well -- More than 30,000.

Ted Simons: So, jobs and, and businesses, and startups and these things. Are those the metrics you look at? How do you know and what do you measure?

Marty Shultz: We are, actually, measuring the number of jobs, the number of firms, and the investment about 30 billion a year worth of, of investment; that means investment in the ground, infrastructure, and salaries, and that kind of thing. And I also like to look at the other side, the early stage, what's the early stage of developing these jobs and these research capabilities. Is what we have called in education, STEM Education: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. And those kinds of skill sets, coming out of our, our elementary schools, ultimately, high schools and community colleges and through the universities, give individuals like my kids, grandkids, the capability of going into these, these relatively high paying jobs because the average salary starting is in the neighborhood of $45 to $55,000, significant dollars, plus the opportunity to grow, and then to do good things to deal with these diseases of, of, that have been mentioned, plus others. And make, a real difference.

Ted Simons: So, we're ten years down the road here, and what are the challenges? What are, what do we see in the next ten years?

Brad Halvorsen: Capital is always a challenge. There is always need for, for more money, and resources, public and private. And that's an ongoing battle that, that Arizona has, San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, and they have that, too. The Venture Capital is hard to come by these days after the recession. And that's true in Arizona, it's true nationally. And I think in Arizona what we're really focusing on from here is continuing to build the critical mass of the bioscience firms. We have come a long way since 2002. We want to attract the top talent from other states, and keep creating the high wage jobs that Marty was talking about.

Ted Simons: You know, we hear about Venture Capital all the time here in Arizona. Why is it so tough? It's tough all around but it seems like in Arizona we have a hard time. Is that an accurate figure there?

Marty Shultz: That is an accurate figure. Actually, we were doing a lot better in the last several years, but as the continue turn occurred, Venture Capitalists, individuals focused in this area decided to pull back and be a little more selective so we, actually, have a squat of, a squad of our group of the bioscience road map committee that is working on developing new Venture Capitalists, and a new focus, and frankly, a new, a new cache of cash for Venture. One thing about investments of this kind, they are, they are somewhat risky in the early stages because you have an idea to, to help cure kind of cancer. To help eliminate or at least stage Alzheimer's Disease. These kinds of investments do cost money. Then in the later stages, as they become proven and closer to clinic trials, you could see the payoff in health and in profit. And people will jump in, so, we need to be very strategic, and we have been and continue to be.

Ted Simons: Very good, good to have you both here and thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

Both: Thank you.

Ted Simons: And that is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have great evening.

Martin Shultz:Chairman, Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee; Brad Halvorson:Flinn Foundation;

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