Members of the Arizona bioscience and healthcare community work every day to discover, develop, and deliver life changing and live saving solutions. Now, one Arizona life science leader aspires to take what he has learned as a bioscience company co-founder and CEO and use it to build solutions as an Arizona State Senator. Meet David W. Richardson.
David W. Richardson is co-founder of BioSyntagma. The company’s mission is to give cancer patients more time with their families by eliminating trial-and-error cancer treatments. AZBio recognized the team at BioSyntagma with a 2018 AZBio Fast Lane Award.
We sat down with David to learn why he is working to make the leap from the lab to the legislature.
AZBio: Please introduce yourself…
DR: I’m a native Arizonan, a product of Arizona public schools and a first-generation college graduate, and entrepreneurship is in my blood. My grandfather was a local stock car racer in the 50s and started a construction company that built a lot of the roads around Phoenix. I didn’t necessarily dream of starting a company of my own, but I saw a problem that needed to be addressed when my aunt died from cancer after developing drug resistance to her treatments.
In 2016 my co-founders and I spun out of ASU and bootstrapped a bioscience company with one goal in mind: to end trial-and-error cancer treatments. We moved rapidly from local incubator programs to winning federal grants to earning revenue and securing partnerships, and in 2020 we pivoted our skillset to serve the community by developing COVID tests.
AZBio: Why do you want to serve in the Legislature?
DR: After spending so much time in the business and bioscience worlds, it’s become clear to me that the skillsets and experience from these spheres can be incredibly beneficial for practical policy-making. COVID has highlighted that we need leaders in office who understand the scientific method, who are objective, who know how to interpret data, and know how to discern between good and bad sources. And Arizona specifically needs public servants who prioritize bold leadership, forward thinking, creative solutions, and a commitment to Arizonans over ideology.
With this in mind, I believe I have the experience and mindset to keep Arizona moving towards a bright future. I’ve spent time around the world and America is a wonderful place. And out of the whole U.S., I choose Arizona–it’s the best of the best. We have a strong economy, a great community to raise a family, to start a business, to thrive. I see an Arizona with abundant opportunities, natural beauty, and the potential for abundant water—yes, I said abundant water! But these things don’t happen by accident. It will take that bold leadership and an entrepreneurial mindset to address our problems and keep our state moving forward.
AZBio: Moving from the research lab to being a CEO and founder was a big leap. Now you are looking to make another big leap. Why now?
DR: I started as an engineer doing medical implants and then transitioned to a research role at ASU Biodesign, where I cut my teeth building designs from scientists. To make the leap from engineer to CEO requires a change in focus. You go from focusing on a design to focusing on a vision, a roadmap. Engineers are always looking down. CEOs are always looking forward.
I see that CEO mindset as invaluable in the realm of policy-making. If our legislators get stuck “looking down” (at the next election cycle, at whatever is trending on Twitter, at federal issues rather than local issues), they’re letting Arizonans drift instead of actively steering us towards a bright future. I’m making this leap now because we need more legislators who will look forward. I want to be a part of proposing long-term solutions that will keep Arizona on the road to prosperity.
AZBio: What have your learned on your bioscience journey that may help you be successful as an elected leader?
DR: To work in bioscience, you need patience and a long-term mindset. Improving people’s lives takes time. Drug development can be a 10+ year process. The findings from current cancer research might not reach the patient for 15 years. In bioscience you spend a lot of time identifying current problems (and predicting future problems), and you learn to invest in the problem-solving process in the absence of immediate gratification, because the solutions will ultimately improve people’s lives.
To improve Arizonans’ lives, we need to start addressing problems now before they become a disaster 10 years from now. We need more long-term minded legislators. Arizonans don’t benefit when candidates think short-term from election to election, trying to propose whatever helps their career survive as the political pendulum swings back and forth between red and blue. We need people who will put Arizona first, who will think 10 years down the road, who have a vision for where we need to go together instead of who we need to fight. Working in bioscience has given me that long-term mindset.
Working in bioscience has also taught me to reject the false choice between two binary options. The bioscience CEO has a commitment to inventing a third option, a creative solution. And this is what our current political climate needs. Instead of asking Arizonans to choose between two binary options, we need legislators who will propose creative third options!
AZBio: You shared that educational opportunities for Arizonans are very important to you. What is your experience with education in Arizona?
DR: I grew up under the poverty line in Phoenix, on food assistance, and I was getting into trouble at school. I’m grateful my mom firmly believed that education was my way out. She recognized my competitive personality and fought to put me in another nearby public school that had a more competitive culture. I went from troublemaker to excelling, because all that energy was re-focused. I’m grateful she was perceptive enough to understand the type of educational environment where I would thrive, and I’m grateful the Arizona public school system allowed her to make the best choice for me.
I worked full-time from my junior year of high school all the way through college, earned a full-ride academic scholarship to ASU, became a first-generation college graduate and even earned a graduate degree. Educational opportunity paved the way out of poverty for me, just like my mom believed it would. My life is a great example of how Arizonans can go from poverty to prosperity in one generation. And educational opportunity is how it happens.
AZBio: What are the milestones you need to achieve as you pursue this goal and how are you working towards them?
DR: We’re in the process of collecting the required number of signatures for nomination, so that’s priority #1 until early April. Arizona is one of the few states that gives candidates the opportunity to collect signatures online, so registered Independents and Republicans in the former LD18 can actually take advantage of that until March 5. 2022.
Beyond working to win an election, Arizona wins when candidates spread awareness about issues that vitally impact our state: water, educational opportunity, entrepreneurship and innovation. So I’m going to be talking about these issues whenever and wherever I get the opportunity, and we’ll continue raising funds to help us get the word out and keep these issues in the spotlight.
AZBio: Anything else you would like to share?
DR: There’s never been a better time to live in Arizona. We’re becoming a hub of healthcare, innovation, and manufacturing. There’s a reason people are moving here in record numbers. It’s a privilege to be running for State Senate, and my goal is to steward our resources and champion policies that will ensure Arizona continues to be a great place to work, learn, and live.
To learn more about David, visit votedavidrichardson.com
AZBio does not endorse candidates. We do encourage our community to get engaged in the process, learn about candidates, and vote.
One way to get engaged is by visiting E-QUAL and learning about the Arizonans in your community who are working to get on the ballot in 2022.
In Arizona, candidates are required to obtain a minimum number of petition signatures to appear on a ballot. Voters interested in assisting Statewide and Legislative candidates can now sign a petition electronically using the E-QUAL system at the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office. .https://apps.azsos.gov/equal/ Arizona’s E-Qual System is open for online signatures until March 5, 2022.
To start the process of reviewing the online nominating petitions available based on your registered voter profile and to select the nominating petitions you wish sign online, click here.
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