What Our Community Can Do Together: AZBio’s CEO Looks Back and Forward

On March 21, 2011, I was granted the opportunity by AZBio’s Board of Directors to become our association’s president and ceo.  What’s happened since then is a testament to what can happen when we come together as a community. —- Joan Koerber-WalkerPossibilities Join AZBio 240 240 copy


2011 was a key year for AZBio and for our industry.  The  economy was beginning to turn but we were far from being out from under our financial woes as an organization, as an industry, as a state, and  as country.    AZBio’s Board of Directors had key decisions to make on how our organization could best add value to our bioscience community. It was a time of change and challenge.  It also was a time for us to embrace the unique possibilities that our organization and industry could create.

“On March 21, 2011, I was granted the opportunity by AZBio’s Board of Directors to become our association’s president and ceo.  What’s happened since then is a testament to what can happen when we come together as a community.”

— Joan Koerber-Walker, President and CEO, Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) 

AZBio’s Board of Director’s met in April of 2011 and set out a new strategic plan that focused on AZBio’s Mission:

As the unified voice of the bioscience industry in Arizona, AZBio strives to make Arizona a place where bioscience organizations can grow and succeed. It accomplishes this by creating a forum for the bioscience community to join together, educating policy makers and the public, influencing public policy, and advancing the economic interests of individual organizations as well as the sector as a whole.
Simply put, AZBio committed to building a top-tier life science industry in Arizona and we would work with our member companies to do just that.
Over the last three years, thanks to the hard work of our Board of Directors and the support of our Members and our Community, AZBio has grown both in its membership and in  its activities to truly become the unified voice of the bioscience industry in and across Arizona.
We connect when our community gathers for leadership conversations, showcases biotechnology at the AZBio Expo each Spring, reaches out to the global biotech community at gatherings including the BIO International Convention and AdvaMed’s MedTech Conference.  We celebrate success each Fall at the AZBio  Awards and spotlight both established and emerging leaders from across our community and end each year by recognizing the elected leaders who are key to paving the way for industry growth at the AZBio Trailblazer Luncheon.
AZBio TV Home
We communicate regularly to keep our industry and our community “In The Loop” and recognize the achievements of our members and  share  opportunities where they can connect and engage.  Thanks to the help and support of IMS Health/360 Vantage, AZBio.org go a facelift and has grown to become one of the most informative state-based bioscience resources on the web with over 1400 pages of news and events and over 200,000 page views.  Through our relationships with BioPharm Insight, Fierce Markets, AZBusiness, The Arizona Capitol Times, the Phoenix Business Journal and BusinessWire, we support channels across the state and across the country.
We launched AZBio.TV to help share your stories here at home and where ever we go thanks to the generous support of NewAngle Media.  Today, over 100 videos represent our industry through a growing library of presentations, educational videos, and inspiring stories.
We advocate for the  innovators, entrepreneurs, educators, and patients that are the heart of our industry.  Conversations that educate and inform take place all year long with our elected leaders here at home. And, since 2011, AZBio has benefits from the support and guidance of the team from Willetta Partners who has helped us develop the full range of options needed to achieve our goals.
At our nation’s capitol, AZBio is actively engaged with our national partners at BIO, AdvaMed, and PhRMA on key issues including research funding, SBIR/STTR funding, intellectual property, FDA funding and performance, taxation, and ensuring that patients have adequate access to the life saving, life supporting and life enhancing innovations our industry creates and delivers.  Thanks to relationships that we have developed with our elected leaders, AZBio is a resource to our leaders and your voice on the national stage.
Looking Forward:
D1 D2 D3As we move forward, all of these initiatives must and will continue. But there is one area where we have a gap that must be filled here in Arizona is we are to take our place as a top tier bioscience industry – Growth Capital and the resources we need to continue our growth across the continuum from Discovery (D1) to Development (D2) to Delivery(D3).  To achieve top tier status, Arizona must excel across the 3D’s.
  • Discovery – Without a steady stream of discoveries, there is no pipeline to grow from.  AZBio is committed to working with our elected leaders to ensure that our research institutions (both public and private) have the resources they need to achieve the aggressive performance goals  they have set for themselves.
  • Development – Arizona life science companies need greater access to both private-equity and non dilutive sources of growth capital.  AZBio will work to make this happen as we go forward.
    • August 2014 – AZBio will host 6 program managers from NSF and NIH at SBIR – Ask the Experts which will be held in Tucson at Ventana on August 20th and at the Flinn Foundation on August 21st.  The goal of this program is to connect our Arizona innovators to the experts that can provide guidance on how to build success via the SBIR funding path.
    • white hat 900September 2014 – AZBio will host the 1st Annual White Hat Life Science Investor Conference here in Arizona. In 2012, Bioscience Leader of the Year Harry George of Solstice Capital shared with us how dire this situation is and how far our innovators must travel in search of capital.  In partnership with leaders from across our Rocky Moutain/Southwest region, we are addressing this great challenge.  White Hat is just the beginning.
    • Public Policy & Economic Development –  Arizona’s Legislature has provided the Arizona Commerce Authority with a suite of competitiveness programs to support local innovators and attract new ones to our community.  But we can  and must do more to make Arizona globally competitive.  AZBio will continue to advocate with our elected leaders to develop both expanded support  for Research & Development and a new matching grant program for companies who win and complete SBIR programs.
  • Delivery – Since we began to be measured in 2002, Arizona has risen in the rankings from the lowest tier (Tier V) to a respectable Tier III ranking.  Moving up the ranks requires a focus on delivery of products and services that drive both scale and job creation.  AZBio will work with our innovative companies, healthcare delivery systems, patient advocacy groups, and  educational institutions to insure that Arizona has the educational infrastructure to deliver a trained workforce, an economic environment that fosters growth and provides for  the delivery and access to Arizona life science innovations that benefit the people of Arizona.


This may seem like a tall order, but at AZBio we embrace possibilities and working together with our Members, our supporters, our national partners, and our elected leaders we have already made great progress.  Now is the time to renew our commitment to building across the 3D’s and to working together to make Arizona a top tier bioscience state.  It’s more than just  a possibility.

Posted in AZBio News, In the Loop.