If the latest performance analysis of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap is any indicator, the industry is on the right track to succeed. The state has sustained its momentum and continues its long-standing trend of impressive job growth and high wages.
The Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation commissioned the review as part of its coordination of the Roadmap, a long-term strategy to guide the state through 2025 with a goal of increasing access for Arizonans to health innovations while diversifying and strengthening the state’s economy. The data — the first new metrics for the Roadmap in two years — was provided by TEConomy Partners, formerly known as Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.
“There is evidence of innovation throughout Arizona and many positive economic signs, as the number of high-paying bioscience jobs continues to increase at an impressive rate,” said Mitch Horowitz, principal and managing director of TEConomy Partners.
Highlights from the most recent data include:
- Arizona added 36,700 bioscience jobs between 2002 and 2014, a 49 percent jump that brings the total employment to 110,410, including hospitals. By comparison, bioscience jobs grew just 14 percent nationally during same period.
- Bioscience salaries have increased 50 percent since 2002.
- Excluding hospitals, the largest bioscience subsector, Arizona has 24,040 bioscience jobs in 1,284 establishments with an annual wage of $76,360.
- Risk capital has reached its highest figure in four years. In 2015, Arizona experienced its highest venture-capital investments for bioscience firms since 2011. In its third straight year of growth, $82 million was attracted.
- Contributing to the activity were venture-capital and angel-investment firms opening in metro Phoenix to fund startups. Angel Capital Group will provide between $1 million and $5 million. VA Angels, a Canadian angel-investment firm, opened at Gateway Community College’s Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation in Phoenix. Wasabi Ventures opened a Scottsdale office with cohorts in Tucson and Flagstaff, and plans to start 20 companies.
- Bioscience tech transfer at Arizona universities outperformed other university research disciplines in tech-transfer activities. University bio-related startups increased 24 percent during 2014 – 2015 compared to the previous two years. Additionally, during the same time period there was a 72 percent increase in patents and a 54 percent increase in invention disclosures.
There were a number of major developments through partnerships and collaborations involving private-sector companies, Arizona’s public universities, hospitals and research labs in 2015:
- Arizona State University and Nantworks, led by billionaire physician and entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, announced they will build a research hub on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.
- On the same campus, The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center opened its new facility.
- Banner Health completed its acquisition of The University of Arizona Health Network and is investing in new hospital construction while becoming the academic partner of UA’s medical schools in Tucson and Phoenix.
- The Flagstaff Business Accelerator has opened in a new 28,000-square-foot building featuring offices, wet and dry labs, and light-manufacturing spaces for startup companies. The Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology manages the accelerator.
“As the new data show, the investments made during the early years of the Roadmap are paying huge dividends for Arizona today,” said Jack B. Jewett, president & CEO of the Flinn Foundation.
The Roadmap was commissioned in 2002 by the Flinn Foundation, a philanthropic grant making organization, with a goal of increasing access for Arizonans to health innovations while diversifying and strengthening the state’s economy. The long-term strategy was updated in 2014 to lead the state through 2025. The Roadmap’s vision is for Arizona to become globally competitive and a national leader in the biosciences in such fields as precision medicine, cancer, neurosciences, bioengineering, diagnostics and agricultural biotechnology.
“The ongoing collaboration among our leading institutions has created an opportunity for innovation and for the bioscience industry to continue its momentum through the years,” Jewett said.
Beside the Roadmap, the Flinn Foundation contributes to the bioscience cause in others way. To recognize its 50th anniversary, the foundation recently awarded a $1 million grant to St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center to establish and endow the Dr. Robert S. Flinn Cardiology Fellowship Program. Flinn, a leading cardiologist at St. Joseph’s for decades, created the foundation with his wife, Irene, in 1965.
“We are very encouraged by the continued growth of the bioscience industry and our best risk-capital performance in four years,” said Ron Shoopman, chair of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee. “But leaders must emerge in the state to make the necessary strategic research investments. If not, we risk falling behind in not only developing new treatments but in the commercialization of this research, which is crucial for continued job growth and building a critical mass of companies.”