Positioning Arizona To Be A Center of Bio and Health Innovation Excellence

In October, we came together to recognize the achievements of leaders in bio-innovation from across Arizona and to celebrate the “birthdays” of initiatives and organizations that have brought us to where we are today.

Celebrations and recognition are important opportunities to recharge and reconnect.  Each achievement is a mile marker along the road we have been traveling to make Arizona a tier one bioscience state.  We have made significant progress over the last decade as noted in the Battelle/BIO  State Industry Development Report for 2012 but we still have more road to travel and obstacles to overcome as does our industry as a whole.   These challenges and opportunities are outlined in a recent article by the Brookings Institute relating to the September release of the Report from the  President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in September:

Biomedical Innovation in a Challenging Fiscal Environment

The U.S. biomedical “innovation ecosystem”—encompassing the universe of stakeholders and activities directed toward understanding disease areas and developing novel treatments for them—is in a period of stress. As noted in the September release of the  report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), significant scientific advances over the last 25 years have moved us toward a better understanding of the biologic underpinnings of some of the most debilitating diseases that affect the U.S. population. While novel treatment options for many of these disease areas have been developed over this time period, recent history has demonstrated that advances in basic research have not consistently translated into substantial progress in the production of novel treatments and cures. The rate at which new biomedical products are entering the market has remained relatively constant over the last few decades, while the cost and time associated with the development of new products appears to have steadily increased. Seeing the advances in novel treatments that have been made during this time may lead many to believe that increased funding for early stage research and development can relieve the stress on the innovation ecosystem. In today’s economy, however, this notion may well prove unachievable as additional public funds are unlikely to be available and private investment is constricted. These trends point toward the need for novel strategies to improve productivity in biomedical innovation and efficiently move medical products from scientific discovery to clinical practice.

Click here to read the full article on the Brookings Institute “Up Front” Blog.

The author, Gregory W. Daniel, Managing Director for Evidence Development & Innovation at the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform at Brookings, is speaking to the challenge our industry must rise to meet, but he could be equally be speaking to us here in Arizona.  The next decade is ours to shape and Arizona’s ‘collaborative gene’  could be the catalyst we need to progress to a leadership position nationally and globally as a center for bio-innovation.

Collaboration begins with connecting the dots.

Here in Arizona we have multiple centers of excellence that have developed or grown over the last decade including (but not limited to):

Global Leaders

  • Ventana Medical Systems, Inc., a member of the Roche Group, is a world leader and innovator of tissue-based diagnostic solutions for patients worldwide.
  • Sanofi, a global healthcare leader, discovers, develops, and distributes therapeutic solutions to improve the lives of everyone.  The team at Sanofi works to prevent and treat today’s diseases , as well as those we may face tomorrow.
  • Cord Blood Registry is home to the largest private cord blood stem cell collection in the world and is a leading center for stem cell research from processing to application.
  • Medtronic’s Tempe Campus is home to teams that  develop and manufacture innovative medical device technology and therapies to treat chronic disease worldwide.
  • W.L.Gore  and Associates, through its Gore Medical Products Division have provided creative therapeutic solutions to complex medical problems for 35 years.
  • SynCardia Systems, Inc.  is the privately-held manufacturer of the world’s first and only FDA, Health Canada and CE (Europe) approved Total Artificial Heart.
  • Ulthera has pioneered new ultrasound applications and has the only  non-invasive procedure FDA-approved to lift skin on the neck, chin and brow

Health Information Technology

  • GlobalMed, a privately held telemedicine company headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, is the leader of telemedicine companies in telehealth hardware and software R&D, design, engineering, manufacture and support. #95 on the Inc. 500 list and #7 in healthcare, their team of telemedicine software developers and engineers work closely with scientific and medical professionals—from concept to application—to understand and translate unmet needs into next-generation integrated telemedicine tools unsurpassed in quality, affordability and flexibility.
  • The Arizona Telemedicine Program is a large, multidisciplinary, university-based program that provides telemedicine services, distance learning, informatics training, and telemedicine technology assessment capabilities to communities throughout Arizona, the sixth largest state in the United States, in square miles. The program has succeeded in creating partnerships among a wide variety of not-for-profit and profit healthcare organizations, and has created new interagency relationships within the state government.
  • The CSS Institute, organized as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit medical research entity, was established in 2011 with core funding from Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his wife Michele B. Chan, who have pledged through their family foundation $1 billion for healthcare and health information projects. The CSS Institute currently operates in both California and Arizona and is exploring relationships with other states. In April 2011 it announced the construction of data centers in Phoenix and Scottsdale dedicated to health information storage, and also the construction of a dedicated supercomputer in Phoenix. All these have since become operational and are now being connected with National LambdaRail. The CSS Institute’s funding for NLR comes through the Institute’s National Coalition for Health Integration, itself a 501 (c) 3 established in 2009 specifically to advance bio-informatics, the health grid and the creation of a national health information network.

Research Centers of Excellence

  • The Critical Path Institute is setting the standards that make cures. C-Path improves efficiency of the development of drugs, diagnostics, and medical devices by creating new data standards, measurement standards, and methods standards.
  • The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the International Genomics Institute (IGC) are leading in ground breaking genomics research
  • TGen and the University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC) partner with NFCR Center for Targeted Cancer Therapies (NCTCT), created in 2002, which is dedicated to discovering new therapies to treat pancreatic cancer, the nation’s fourth leading cause of cancer death.
  • The Keim Lab at Northern Arizona University and TGen North are national centers of excellence in pathogen genomics
  • The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University is working to make a difference are: biomedicine & health outcomes, sustainability and security that are “use-inspired,” as well as “bio-inspired” solutions.
  • BIO5 at the University of Arizona is home to teams collaborating across  five disciplines: Agriculture. Engineering. Medicine. Pharmacy. Teams work together to forge solutions to the complex biology-based challenges affecting humanity today.
  • The Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium (AAC)is the nation’s leading model of statewide collaboration in Alzheimer’s disease research. Established in 1998, the Consortium capitalizes on its participating institutions’ complementary strengths in brain imaging computer science, genomics, the basic and cognitive neurosciences and clinical and neuropathology research to promote the scientific understanding and early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and find effective disease-stopping and prevention therapies. The Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium is a 501(c)(3) organization that includes the state-supported Arizona Alzheimer’s Research Center (AARC), the National Institute on Aging (NIA)-funded Arizona Disease Core Center (Arizona ADCC), and independently funded research programs. Its seven member institutions include: Arizona State University, the Barrow Neurological Institute, the Mayo Clinic Arizona, the Banner Sun Health Research Institute, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), the University of Arizona, and the recently established Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. Its three affiliated institutions include Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System and the University Physician’s Hospital at Kino.
  • The UA’s College of Medicine Phoenix is setting new standards in medical education as they pioneer new programs as the first medical school to be built from the ground up anywhere in the US in the last three decades. A collabroative effort between the UA, the City of Phoenix, and
  • Science Foundation Arizona funds STEM Education and research grants in areas of strategic importance, helping to ensure Arizona’s competitive future.

These are only a few examples of the many assets our bioscience community has produced.  Each of them stand out as great examples of collaborative innovation and connect us to the national and global bioscience efforts. They also serve as magnets, attracting top talent that is drawn to opportunities to work with others towards a common goal.

When we combine this with emerging health  innovations from companies including Calimmune (HIV/AIDS), Regenesis (Regenerative Medicine), Global Cancer Diagnostics (Lung Cancer). VisionGate (Lung Cancer), and many more, we begin to see patterns of dots that can be connected in improve both health and the economy of the state.  (To view hundreds of companies that dot Arizona’s Bioscience Landscape, click here.)

Connecting the dots and activating our ‘collaborative gene’ to create new solutions that will allow us to do more in ways that are both efficient and effective will create new opportunities in 2013 and beyond.


Tip #4 for Moving Forward Faster in 2013

Work with AZBio to help you “connect the dots.”

As Arizona’s statewide bioindustry association, AZBio is uniquely positioned to connect individuals and organizations inside Arizona and across the country.  AZBio members come from all sectors of Arizona’s health care and life science industry and lead in the discovery, development, and delivery of new  technologies that will deliver solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges relative to Health, Energy, and Agriculture.

In addition to making connections across our industry, AZBio also works with Arizona’s economic development and elected leaders to help make Arizona competititive and attractive to current and future bioscience enterprises by fostering an environment where lifescience companies can launch and grow.

The Medical Device Tax: Repeal it for the sake of innovators and patients

As industry leaders we all need to stay in the loop on key issues that affect our industry and our state.  One of those issues is the 2.3% Medical Device Tax.  When we were out in DC last April,  AZBio leadership met with all of our Congressional teams to share information on how this tax impacts our industry and our state .  In addition to sharing with them what is happening here in Arizona, we asked them if they would keep us “in the loop” on what is happening at our nation’s capitol. 

On Thursday, June 7, 2012 we got some important news from Capitol Hill. 

Read on for a special “In the Loop” guest post by Congressman Paul Gosar, R-AZContinue reading

A look back and the way forward

Doctor Cartoon #1602 by Andertoons

Hindsight Cartoon Courtesy of Mark Anderson at Andertoons.

On May 17th, we wrapped another successful AZBio Expo.  Our community came together to share ideas, spotlight technologies, make connections and more.    Over the last two weeks, I have been looking back as I edited hours of great videos that are full of insights shared by leaders from across our community.

The last of the videos is below.  It begins as it should with a note of thanks to everyone who helped us make the AZBio Expo 2012 a great day.  It ends with a look at what comes next as we move forward.  We can learn from hindsight but our forward facing activities require focus on the road ahead and the a driving force to take us there.

In case you missed it, here are the closing remarks from the 2012 AZBio Expo…


Looking back, the lesson is that we need to reach more people both here at home and outside of Arizona.  When we get the word out; when we stand out and get noticed, great things can happen. So going forward, how can we best spread the word?


We have a lot going on and a lot coming up at AZBio as we move forward faster.

Now is the time to nominate our leading companies and individuals for the AZBio Awards coming up in September 26th.  Nominations close July 15th.

This is about more that just getting nominated or winning.  The AZBio Awards create the opportunity for these companies to tell their story, get noticed and most importantly, get connected to the media and others as the big day approaches.  It’s our way of making sure Arizona Bioscience Innovation is where it deserves to be…in the spotlight.  Learn more at www.AZBioAwards.com.  Please help us aim that spotlight.  Nominate someone!


Thanks to a significant investment made on behalf of our industry by the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Arizona Pavilion at the BIO International Convention is something we can all be proud of.  This gives us the ability to showcase what is happening here in our community to the world from June 18th to June 21st.  Here in Arizona we are changing things up and we are making the most of our opportunities in the pavillion.  Our leaders are stepping up to tell our story, including Mara G. Aspinall, President, Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. and Head of Roche Tissue Diagnostics, representatives from the International Genomics Consortium and others.  If you will be at BIO 2012 in Boston, reach out to us so that we can get YOU on  the schedule too.  If you can’t be with us LIVE in Boston, we will have a way for you to tell your story…virtually.

The AZBio Expo Online is being built to showcase the amazing work being done here in Arizona. It will officially launch at the BIO International Convention and be accessible 365 days a year.  The system includes:  Video, Data Sheets, White Papers, Webinar Sessions and more.  This virtual experience brings together a cross section of our AZ Bio Industry from universities and institutes to medical device companies and diagnostic companies, as well as drug developers and industrial biotech firms.  Our incubators show how they can help new companies grow.  Our law firms, risk management experts and suppliers share information key to growing businesses, and every panel and presentation from the May 17th AZBio Expo 2012 is just a click away for instant replay.

Our AZBio Expo 2012 Exhibitors already have logins to the new system and are adding in their content now.  You can join them in showcasing what YOU are doing here in Arizona also.  Contact AdvancingBio@AZBio.org for more information and take your place on this virtual stage.

Doing great research and discovering new breakthroughs is not the end of the road, it is the beginning of the journey.  Moving forward faster means getting the word out, finding new partners to work with, and sharing what you have developed with the world so that it can make a difference.  Creating impact starts with making connections and AZBio and the AZBio Expo Online can help you do just that.

So are you ready to connect with the world?  The doors open June 18th, but this is your invitation to come inside and to help us build the virtual experience now.   Won’t you join us?


As I shared in the video above, none of this is possible without the support of our community.  The video below is in appreciation to the organizations who support AZBio so that we can support you.  Get to know them, they are investing in our success.

Wondering who are the companies that together are AZBio?  Click here to visit the AZBio Member Directory.