Thursday, June 11, 2009

Quoting A Colleague In The New York Times

Our good friend and colleague Joe Cortright was quoted today in the New York Times in its coverage of cities' racing to bet on biotech. First, it made us proud that Joe was quoted, and second, it made us proud that Memphis Bioworks Foundation took a different, more precise approach built on our city's authentic strengths.

It's interesting coverage, which can be read here.

Here's Joe's cautionary tale in the Times:

Skeptics cite two major problems with the race for biotech. First, the industry is highly concentrated in established epicenters like Boston, San Diego and San Francisco, which offer not just scientific talent but also executives who know how to steer drugs through the arduous approval process.

“Most of these states probably don’t stand much of a chance to develop a viable biotech industry,” said Gary P. Pisano, a Harvard Business School professor and the author of “Science Business: The Promise, the Reality and the Future of Biotech.”

“You can always get a few top people,” Mr. Pisano said, “but you need a lot of critical mass.”

Second, biotech is a relatively tiny industry with a lengthy product-development process, and even in its largest clusters offers only a fraction of the jobs of traditional manufacturing. In the United States, only 43 biotechnology companies employ more than 1,000 people, according to BioAbility, a consulting firm in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.

There is no guarantee that if a blockbuster drug materialized, it would be manufactured and marketed in the same place it was developed and tested.

Joseph Cortright, an economist who has studied biotechnology clusters, gave the example of a promising anti-leukemia compound developed at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, where Mr. Cortright is based. “The economic impact in the Portland area is zero because the rights to manufacture and market this drug were owned already by Novartis,” Mr. Cortright said.

But the race continues.


Steve Bares said...

Joe Cortright’s scholarly approach continues to caution cities from “Me-too” strategies that do not clearly provide a basis for competitive advantage. The article makes the case that it would be very difficult for cities to create a viable cluster if focused on the pharmaceutical sector. Memphis has some industry and academic research assets in this area such as St. Jude, Pharmacy School at UTHSC, and GTx, but in total, we would require significant investment to catch up to these more mature cities. Our primary opportunity to distinguish Memphis from these regions lies in strengths outside of traditional drug development such as orthopedics, neurological implants, pediatric oncology, ophthalmology, infectious disease, biologistics, bio-agriculture and industrial biotechnology. We have to focus on niches where we can be very good and where others are not focused. Going head-to-head with Boston, San Diego or Biopolis (in Singapore), where governments are investing billions would be a very risky strategy.

Even more important, we also have the opportunity to distinguish ourselves by our ability to translate technologies into products and into commercial ventures. Consequently, an organic growth strategy where we invest into the entrepreneurial ecosystem of bioscience incubators, mentors, grant support, angel networks, and early-stage investment programs such as Innova are VERY, VERY unique. No city is particularly great in the biosciences at commercialization and our low-cost environment gives us a further boost to attract, grow and build startups. I believe that a niche technology strategy and a focus on commercialization are the two areas where this region can win. Given this approach, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation continues to direct our efforts into building the needed infrastructure, growing and recruiting the workforce, and driving research and entrepreneurship in these areas of focus.

Zippy the giver said...

For sure, everyone knows we have and attract the "braintrust" for that..........zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz............Was someone talking?

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