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Lack of funding could slow growth of bioscience industry

Arizona continues to move toward becoming a national bioscience powerhouse, but a lack of funding could slow business growth, according to a report unveiled Tuesday.

The report by the Ohio-based Battelle Technology Partnership Practice reviewed results six years into the 10-year Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap and looked at what needs to be done to attain goals set in 2002.

The state’s bioscience growth has been strong, said Walter H. Plosila, senior advisor and consultant to Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice.

National Institutes of Health funding – which Plosila called the gold standard for biomedical research funding – increased 24 percent from 2002 to 2007, outpacing the national rate of 11 percent, Plosila said.

The state’s NIH funding grew from $137.4 million in 2002 to $170.9 million in 2007, the report said.

Bioscience jobs grew 23 percent – from 68,305 to 84,235 – during the period, outpacing the nation, he said.

The number of bio firms grew from 639 to 778, or 22 percent, primarily in medical devices and research, testing and medical labs, he said.

“It’s all about taking research and turing it into technologies, devices and jobs,” he said. “We’re going to hit 2009 with a bang in terms of start-ups.

“These are good, well-paying jobs,” Plosila said.

Arizona bioscience workers earned $11,000 more per year in 2007 than private sector workers, he said. The average bioscience worker earned $52,481 that year.

And a 10-year projection through 2016 says that Arizona bioscience occupations are expected to grow by 32 percent, more than double the projected 15 percent job growth for all occupations, he said.

A lack of funding could put the brakes on Arizona’s bioscience business growth, he said.

At the beginning of the decade about $200 million in Arizona venture capital was available, he said. That dropped to little or nothing by 2008.

“We really have to address this capital gap if we are going to build the next generation of bioscience companies,” he said.

Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation commissioned the Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap study to determine how to make the state a biotech power.

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