How bioscience breakthroughs bolster an economy

by Ryan Streeter on June 7, 2013. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Governor Mike Pence wrote an op-ed in the Indianapolis Star today about the importance of the new Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, which was unveiled last week (see posts here and here).

Good jobs and good health are a good agenda for Indiana. That’s why we are focused on growing Indiana’s life sciences industry. Hoosiers should know that we have taken the first step by creating the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute — a unique, industry-driven partnership among private enterprise, academic institutions, and the State of Indiana.

As I traveled across the state applying for my current job as governor it became clear that, like many other states, Indiana faces challenges in getting the exciting breakthroughs happening in our university labs to the marketplace. Companies and universities are facing too many hurdles when they try to work together to commercialize new inventions. As a result, we simply haven’t been realizing the potential of our life sciences industry to bring high-wage, high-demand jobs to Indiana. Given the extraordinary reputation and power of our research institutions and our research and development-intensive companies, that potential is enormous.

Indiana’s life sciences industry already contributes more than $50 billion per year to the state’s economy and makes up more than one-third of our exports. We have nearly 2,000 life sciences companies in Indiana, ranging from small entrepreneurial ventures to large global industry leaders, which together employ more than 55,000 Hoosiers. Another 140,000 workers in our state are employed in jobs related to the life sciences. The average wage in Indiana’s bioscience companies is higher than the national average in the life sciences industry and nearly twice the overall state average for private sector firms. Over the past decade, as private employment growth faced strong headwinds, jobs in life sciences grew by 14 percent. While Indiana already claims a respectable share of this global market, there are clearly tens — if not hundreds — of billions of dollars more in unrealized market potential for Indiana’s life sciences sector alone, most of which depends on better collaboration between our commercial and research institutions.

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute is a unique partnership because this is truly driven by industry. Other life science research institutes across America are mostly driven by federal grants and academic research. As a result, the Institute is set up to respond to market signals more effectively than other prestigious research institutions around the country. It’s also unique because it will allow us to tap into the deep reservoir of lab-based experimentation and innovation, not just in one university, but in universities all across our state.

The innovation that the institute will bring to the marketplace will create more of the high-wage, high-demand jobs that Indiana desperately needs. Research shows clearly that a critical mass of professional jobs such as those in life sciences ultimately raises wages and job prospects in related industries and services. When we have a red hot sector of our economy that creates the kind of jobs that we need more of, we should pour gas on it. That’s what the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute is about.

The institute will help us strengthen our competitiveness as a state. It will promote entrepreneurial activity that will ultimately produce new firms in our state’s growth sectors. It will serve as a magnet to bring global talent in life sciences to Indiana, and it will help us keep the world-class talent in our great research universities here in Indiana.

By fostering greater collaboration among the giants of our life sciences industries and our globally-recognized research universities we are going to achieve breakthroughs in critical health issues that affect people all over the world. The institute will focus on diseases and health problems including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, which plague too many Hoosiers and are increasingly affecting people in both developed and developing countries.

My hope from the beginning of this initiative also has been that the institute will ultimately help foster greater commercialization in other industries. A key element of the Institute will be the new, streamlined manner that makes lab-based commercialization easier and faster. This new model of industry-driven collaboration with universities has implications for innovation in our agricultural, information technology, manufacturing and defense sectors.

Indiana’s investment in life sciences will create jobs, attract world-class talent, stem the brain drain, and save lives. This is big, and we will all reap the rewards.