Looking Back…Moving Forward

As we prepare to say good-bye to this century’s teen years, and move into our 20’s, it’s time to celebrate the life science industry’s  successes of this decade and look forward to the decade to come.

by Joan Koerber-Walker, president and CEO, Arizona Bioindustry Association

When I joined AZBio in March of 2011, I knew that Arizona’s life science industry had great and exciting potential. Now as we approach the end of 2019 and  look towards the decade to come, it is our opportunity to look back at some of the Arizona bioscience industry highlights that shaped this decade and look forward to the opportunities ahead as we move forward into 2020.


  • Celgene acquires Abraxis Biosciences for $2.9 Billion.  Abraxis’s flagship product, Abraxane®, had gained its first FDA approval in 2005 for the treatment of Metastatic Breast Cancer.  Approvals would continue to grow during the decasd including for the First-Line Treatment of Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (2012), for Late-Stage Pancreatic Cancer (2013); and Genentech’s Tecentriq in Combination With Abraxane Accelerated Approval for People With PD-L1-Positive, Metastatic Triple-Negative Breast Cancer (2019).
  • The International Genomics Consortium is awarded two federal contracts together worth nearly $59 million to participate in the Cancer Genome Atlas project. 
  • Sanofi-aventis officially opens its new Tucson Research Center in Oro Valley’s Innovation Park. The 110,000 square-foot facility is designated the global headquarters for Sanofi’s combinatorial chemistry research efforts.
  • Gov. Jan Brewer creates the Arizona Commerce Authority as a public-private partnership designed to attract and retain firms in key growth areas, especially aerospace and defense, science and technology, and solar and renewable energy.
  • W.L. Gore, the state’s largest non-hospital life science employer, expands into Phoenix adding to its operations in Flagstaff.
  • Arizona is home to 867 bioscience establishments including Arizona hospitals. (Source)


  • Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center opens in Gilbert
  • Stand Up to Cancer and the Melanoma Research Alliance award $6 million to a nationwide “Dream Team” of researchers led by Jeffrey Trent of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, with key contributions from Joshua LaBaer of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, Aleksandar Sekulic of Mayo Clinic Arizona, and Waibhav Tembe of TGen.
  • The FDA approves Anascorp, an antivenom for scorpion stings shepherded through the clinical-trial process by a team at UA and tested in medical facilities throughout Arizona.
  • An FDA advisory committee recommends approval of a brain scan – developed in significant part by Banner Alzheimer’s Institute researchers – that can identify plaques characteristic of Alzheimer’s
  • AZBio honors Dr. Jessica Langbaum of the Banner Alzheimer’s Research Institute as Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year and SynCardia as Bioscience Company of the Year.
  • Arizona is home to 892 bioscience establishments including Arizona hospitals. (Source)


  • Inaugural Arizona SciTech Festival attracts 200,000 participants
  • UA and NAU partner  to open the Health Sciences Education Building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus
  • Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, under the leadership of Eric Reiman,
    launches a $100 million clinical trial of an experimental drug that could help to delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The study focuses on members of an extended family of 5,000 in Colombia who are genetically predisposed to the disease.
  • Phoenix Children’s Hospital creates a $50 million institute of molecular medicine to assist children with difficult-to-treat and rare cancers through whole-genome sequencing with the help of TGen.
  • PADT creates the now iconic AZBio Award. Dr. David Alberts of the University of Arizona Cancer Center and Dr. Raymond Woosley, AZ CERT receive the first AZBio Pioneer Awards for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Arizona is now home to 1,382 (1,266 non-hospital)  bioscience establishments including Arizona hospitals. (Source)


  • Thomas M. Grogan, MD, founder of Ventana and SVP Medical Affairs, Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a Member of the Roche Group honored with the AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement, W.L Gore and Associates , Flagstaff & Phoenix, AZ takes home the 2013 Bioscience Company of the Year award and Leslie Boyer, M.D., of The  University of Arizona is named Bioscience Researcher of the Year.
  • The Flinn Foundation launches the Bioscience Entrepreneurship Program designed to foster entrepreneurship through partnerships with nonprofit, public university, community college, and governmental organizations and is focused on helping early-stage bioscience firms develop into thriving businesses.
  • Calimmune initiates HIV Stem Cell Study at two California Research Sites
  • Mayo Clinic  tests Sideline Teleconcussion Robot at Northern Arizona University football games
  • BrainState Technologies goes global
  • Medtronic gains approval of First Artificial Pancreas Device System with Threshold Suspend Automation


  • Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap was updated by the Flinn Foundation in 2014 and now extends through 2025.
  • Banner Health merges with UA Health Network: The $1 Billion-plus merger enables Phoenix based Banner Health to acquire the University of Arizona Health Network’s two-hospital system and additional assets, and become the primary clinical partner for the UA Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix.
  • Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Novartis announce a partnership to test two experimental drugs that aim to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in older, high-risk adults
  • AZBio Hosts the inaugural White Hat Life Science Investor Conference 
  • Ulthera, a Mesa based medical device company, is acquired by MERZ for $600 Million.  Merz Medical Device Innovation Center begins to grow in Mesa.
  • Arizona is now home to  1,411(1,284 non-hospital)  bioscience establishments including Arizona hospitals and Arizona’s life science distribution sector. (Source)


  • The University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health’s St. Joseph’s opens on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus
  • Mayo Clinic, TGen launch national melanoma trial: Mayo Clinic and the Translational Genomics Research Institute launch a national  clinical trial to treat advanced melanoma using advances in genomics, informatics, and health-information technology
  • HonorHealth is the new name of Scottsdale Lincoln Health Network, created in 2013 with the merger of Scottsdale Healthcare and John C. Lincoln Health Network. The combined organization has five hospitals in Phoenix and Scottsdale, including a cancer center, and significant research activities
  • Gordon Steere, Medtronic Tempe Campus (1997-2008) honored with 2015 AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement; Theranos opens clinics across the state and takes home Bioscience Company of the Year honors; and Wayne D. Frasch,Ph.D., Arizona State University School of Life Sciences is named 2015 Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year.


  • AZBio hosts the inaugural Arizona Bioscience Week (AZBW) including the second White Hat Life Science Investor Conference.
  • Dr. George Poste receives the AZBio Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement, GlobalMed takes home Bioscience Company of the Year honors and Stephen Albert Johnston, PhD is named Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year.
  • The Helios Education Foundation and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) celebrate the 10th anniversary of their joint internship program, Helios Scholars at TGen, which prepares students for college and career, helping to produce the next generation of Arizona’s biomedical workforce. The eight-week, paid summer internship pairs students with TGen’s world-class scientists on research projects that aim for new molecular-level discoveries about neurological disorders, infectious diseases and different types of cancers.
  • Arizona is now home to  1,446 (1,1310 non-hospital)  bioscience establishments including Arizona hospitals and Arizona’s life science distribution sector. (Source)



Posted in AZBio News.