Groups Call for Aggressive Bioscience Strategies in IN, NY and PA

May 23, 2012

Two common themes emerged in a trio of reports aimed at growing the bioscience sectors in Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania: the need for a sustained financial commitment from the states and the importance of a shared vision and better communication between policymakers and industry leaders. In all three reports, the authors say the payoff is big for the states. The bioscience and life science industries support high-wage jobs and attract significant federal funds.

Indiana

The Indiana Health Industry Forum unveiled a five-year strategic plan designed to create a renewed interest in growing Indiana's health sciences sector. Developing an early stage funding mechanism focused exclusively on health sciences and complementing the funding with a statewide support infrastructure geared towards health sciences-specific entrepreneurial support are listed as the top two recommendations.

The report includes summaries from five committees charged with implementing the plan. The capital formation committee calls for creation of a new fund that would be managed by individuals with expertise in targeted sectors who can quickly develop teams to evaluate applicant technologies. The financing range ideally would be between $50,000 and $250,000 and include both a grant and returns-based model to accommodate a range of milestones and needs. The authors say the state should be a primary contributor to this fund as it was to the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, which was created in 1999 to support technology development and commercialization. The fund now is managed by Elevate Ventures under contract with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the state's lead economic development agency. The committee also stresses the need to explore supplemental funds from company-based investment groups, patient advocacy organizations and corporate investors.

In addition to financial support, early stage companies need access to technical services, the report finds. To this end, the committee plans to build a statewide support system with services geared toward the unique needs of health science companies such as matching grants for SBIR/STTR awards and grant writing assistance, business plan assistance, mentor networks and entrepreneur-in-residence assistance.

To help educate lawmakers, the plan calls for creation of a health science interest group within the legislature. Statewide Strategic Plan for Indiana's Health Science Sector is available at: http://www.ihif.org/File/Strategic%20Plan/Strategic%20Plan%20Final.pdf.

New York

A report from the Public Policy Institute of New York State finds that while the state has the potential to support a dynamic bioscience industry, it lacks some of the coordination it needs to reap the benefits and become more competitive nationally and globally. The report is based on interviews with 30 industry leaders and is centered on the experiences of startup, early stage and mid-size bioscience companies. A majority of those interviewed cited the need for the state and legislature to understand the industry in full, from lab to market, when drafting and implementing policy.

Three recommendations to jump start start a new phase of public-private partnerships to better leverage the state's existing resources and capitalize on the large number of bioscience discoveries generated at New York universities include:

  • Establishing a Governor's council to focus on the state's biopharma vision and increase communication and understanding between the state and industry;
  • Designating financial resources specifically for bioscience companies. In particular, establishing a matching grant program for bioscience companies awarded SBIR grants and enacting a bill to create a dedicated Biosciences Commercialization Assistance Fund; and,
  • Increasing the amount of affordable incubator and lab space for startups and early stage companies.

The report identifies the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative as a good example for their public-private partnership model, financial investments in public and private institutions, and ties between sectors of the Massachusetts life sciences community. Cultivating the Next Generation of Discoveries and Development in New York Bioscience is available at: http://www.ppinys.org/reports/2012/Cultivating-the-Next-Generation.pdf.

Pennsylvania

A plan put forth by the Life Science Leadership Advisory Council identifies five high-priority goals to advance Pennsylvania's life sciences sector over the next decade. Much like the previously mentioned reports, the Pennsylvania group wants to establish a long-term funding strategy to support the industry and promote the sector as a key driver for the state's competitiveness.

Under goal two of the plan, the group would create an engaged public-private life science team with executive-level leadership to focus on growing and expanding the industry. The team would be charged with developing and submitting to the legislature an annual life science economic impact report. Additionally, this group would help to better coordinate the efforts of various ongoing programs in the state that support life sciences to provide companies with a clear point of entry. While Pennsylvania has several state agencies and authorities currently operating life sciences programs, including the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the Department of Health, the report points to examples from other states that have a lead organization dedicated to economic development efforts for life sciences programs. Examples include the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Initiative.

Goal three of the plan focuses on supporting R&D of emerging life science technologies. To support this growth, the group recommends establishing a long-term strategy for the use of Tobacco Settlement funding and other sources of investment. This includes allowing funds to evergreen for all investment programs and encouraging proportionate funding for R&D and commercialization efforts.

The report also recommends forming a life science commercialization network to act as a catalyst to attract private investment. Under goal four of the program — seek investment capital to support early and mid-stage life science companies — the plan proposes four financing models to encourage the formation of new investment and venture capital funds. They are state gaming revenue, wage tax increment financing, pension funds, and corporate and stakeholder venture funds.

The fifth goal is to encourage the creation of a tax system and business climate that provides a supportive climate for life science and other tech-based industry job creation. Life Science Leadership for the Next Decade is available at: http://www.pabio.org/pdf/LSLAC_May_2012.pdf.

Indiana, New York, Pennsylvaniabio, strategic plan, policy recommendations