Although young, Arizona bioscience industry gaining clout, report says

Posted By Mike Padgett

Feb. 6, 2009

Among the waves of challenging economic news hitting Arizona and the nation every day, there are some positive developments. Following are several key points Robert Atwell highlighted in his Feb. 3 letter to the membership of the Phoenix Community Alliance Health and Bioscience Committee. Atwell, senior vice president of AON Risk Services of Arizona Inc., is committee chairman.


Dear PCA Health & Bioscience Committee Members,

We are pleased to let you know that updated measurements were recently released by Battelle, the Ohio-based nonprofit contract research firm that has tracked the progress of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap since it was launched in 2002.

According to Walt Plosila, senior advisor to Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice, “Arizona has one of the nation’s fastest-growing bioscience industries. It’s not a major bioscience destination yet — that will require several more years — but Arizona has gained a national reputation as an emerging bioscience center.”

Among the updated metrics from Battelle’s annual tracking:

Federal Grants: Arizona’s growth in research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — the industry gold standard — grew 24 percent from 2002, the year of the Roadmap launch, through 2007.  Arizona’s growth is twice the rate of the nation’s top-10 states.

R&D Expenditures: Bioscience-related academic research and development expenditures at the state universities reached $415 million in 2007, a 48 percent gain since 2002, and exceeds the 42 percent mark of the nation’s top 10 states.

Bioscience Jobs: During 2002-07, Arizona bioscience jobs grew by 23 percent, compared to the U.S. average of 8 percent.  In a rarity among states, job growth occurred across all five subsectors that comprise the biosciences — drugs and pharmaceuticals; research, testing, and labs; medical devices and equipment; hospitals; and agriculture feedstock and chemicals.

Bioscience Firms: The number of bioscience establishments in Arizona grew by 22 percent during 2002-07, outpacing the national average of 11 percent.

Venture Capital: At $86 million invested in 2007, Arizona recorded its best year since the banner year of 2002, though fell short of the Roadmap goal of $100 million for the year.  Reflecting a national trend, Arizona venture capital investments in 2008 fell to $65 million.  The state continues to account for less than 1 percent of national venture capital investments.

University licensing income: While the state’s universities have been showing continued gains in spinning out new companies, securing more patents, and other measures of technology transfer, the universities experienced a 50 percent drop-off year over year in licensing income to $1.5 million.

While the data revealed statistical gains, 2008 marked profound developments that help to advance the Roadmap. Phoenix-centric examples include:

Leading Phoenix area investors form TRAC, a $20 million venture capital fund for Arizona biosciences.

The state legislature commits $470 million for two key facilities at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus (although the funds were reduced in the just-concluded 2009 budget process).

TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute), located in downtown Phoenix, and the Partnership for Personalized Medicine are awarded primary components of a $200 million bioscience project in Luxembourg.

In addition, Battelle has determined that 17 of the 19 Roadmap actions recommended in 2002 have recorded progress, including 10 with substantial progress.  Grants from Science Foundation Arizona, located in downtown Phoenix, moved three actions from “progress” to “substantial progress” in 2008.

We’re pleased to provide links to more detailed information:

2008 “Turning the Corner” brochure: (also available in print format if you would like multiple copies).

PowerPoint by Walt Plosila:

Press release:

Please feel free to disseminate the latest “facts and figures” about the biosciences in Arizona (one of the bright spots in our economy) to your key constituencies.  As always, thank you for your contribution to our organization’s efforts to make Phoenix an even more vibrant and dynamic place to live, work, and play.


PCA Health & Bioscience Committee


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Feb 6th, 2009

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