Benchmarks such as federal funding and job creation show that Arizona continues to develop as a center of bioscience, but the state lags in the venture-capital funding needed to nurture young companies, according to a report released Tuesday by The Flinn Foundation.
“Clearly, Arizona, in terms of an emerging bioscience center, is well recognized nationally in the biosciences community,” said Walter H. Plosila, a senior adviser to the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice, a research firm that works with the foundation.
Battelle, a Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit contract research firm, analyzes the progress of the Arizona Bioscience Roadmap. The Flinn Foundation, which awards grants to nonprofit organizations that help boost biomedical research in the state, commissioned the effort in 2002.
The Bioscience Roadmap is a collaboration of hundreds of officials from business, science and academia that tracks Arizona’s progress in bioscience compared to the rest of the nation.
Among the success stories is Flagstaff, which Plosila said has emerged as a national leader in medical devices and equipment. He said that’s due in large part to the presence of W.L. Gore, a company that gained renown for developing GORE-TEX but has emerged as a leading manufacturer of medical equipment.
The report found that the Flagstaff area has 10 times the national employment concentration of people making medical devices and equipment, with 1,673 employed in 2007, an increase of 72 percent from 2002.
Brad Halverson, assistant vice president of communications for The Flinn Foundation, noted that W.L. Gore has broken ground on a satellite branch in north Phoenix and intends to hire 800 people there.
The report found the Phoenix metropolitan area developing a niche in research, testing and medical laboratories, with 5,107 employed in 2007 and 18 percent growth since 2002. Tucson, with 1,117 employees in that sector, also experienced 18 percent growth since 2002.
With 970 people employed by firms making medical devices and equipment in 2007, Tucson experienced 34 percent growth in that sector since 2002, the report found.
Overall, Arizona is progressing in 17 of 19 actions recommended in the Bioscience Roadmap, with substantial progress on most of those, the report found.
One area of concern was venture capital. The report showed $86 million in venture-capital investments in 2007, short of the Roadmap’s goal of $100 million for the year. For 2008, venture capital fell to $65 million, mirroring a national decline.
However, venture-capital investment in the field of medical therapeutics, the sector that includes cancer research, increased from 2007 to 2008, Plosila said.
“Although the dollars are down for venture capital, they are up in more of the home-run fields,” Plosila said.