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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

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in the Digital Age

A snapshot of efforts and success of the Phoenix bioscience marketplace play

A view of Phoenix City Hall, where staff and elected leaders hold office, but where they make decisions is about 1,000 feet in the other direction held in a circular building. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress)
Phoenix bioscience efforts pay dividends for economic development prospects
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press

In the fall of 2004 there was one medical school in Phoenix, but fast forward to today and there are now six accredited medical schools sprinkled within municipal boundaries — a feat economic development officials at City Hall, 200 W. Jefferson St., credit to forward thinking and most notably the emergence of the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

“We are in our fifth year of this initiative and are seeing tremendous results,” said Christine Mackay, Phoenix economic development director, during a public hearing earlier this month at the Phoenix economic development and housing subcommittee.

“When you look back at 2004, we had one medical school in Phoenix,” she said. “It was the University of Arizona’s medical school and now, 20 years later, we have six medical schools in Phoenix. So, in less than 20 years we are seeing the results of the strategic focus that went back to the City Council decision in 2004 to help create the Translational Genomics Research Institute that has put Phoenix on a national trajectory.”

In 2002, an assembly of more than 50 Arizona leaders gathered at the state capitol to discuss the possibility of establishing Arizona as a player in the new economy of the biotechnology industry.

The concept for TGEN originated with Dr. Jeffrey Trent, an internationally recognized scientist, who envisioned an institute where many of the world’s leading scientists would turn breakthroughs in genetic research into medical advances benefiting patients and their families.

Today, TGEN, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, serves the statewide bioscience initiative as the faculty contribute significantly to biomedical discoveries, the quality of healthcare for Arizona’s residents.

Read the subcommittee presentation for yourself HERE.

A view of the modern City Hall in Phoenix, which is found in the downtown sector of the community. (Photo Arianna Grainey/DigitalFreePress)
Phoenix bioscience efforts pay dividends for economic development prospects

For Ms. Mackay, all biomedical roads of Arizona lead to the success story behind TGEN, which is found along Fifth Street in downtown Phoenix.

“At that time, we would go to these trade shows in the larger cities — San Francisco, Atlanta, New York and Chicago — and they would kind of pat us on our heads and say that’s nice, but you are late to the party, so don’t even waste your time,” she pointed out of the early days of the 2000s when Phoenix was breaking into the biomedical sector.

“In true Phoenix fashion of go big or go home, we didn’t take that for an answer, and we kept going, and we kept pushing, and we kept driving with our City Councils … and today the Valley of the Sun is on a national level and a recognized leader.”

How did the city of Phoenix get here? The Phoenix biosciences economic development roadmap of course, Ms. Mackay explained.

“We are very fortunate to have a number of top ranked hospitals here in Phoenix, and those that provide clinical delivery of life-saving treatment, along with all of the clinical resources for conducting clinical trials. On our education side, we have a wonderful universities and community colleges that advanced the science, medical and research education at all levels from K-12 to the community college to university,” said Claudia Whitehead, economic development program manager at Phoenix.

“The success of Phoenix biomedical has turned us into a hot brand and to capitalize on that success we have launched Phoenix Bio, so you can actually go to and see the breath and wonderful assets that we have within the city of Phoenix.”

Ms. Whitehead says Phoenix is now a key player in the United States biomedical marketplace, research and services.

“If you looked back on 2004, nobody had Phoenix on their radar for biosciences and, looking at that industry, fast forward today, we are now nationally ranked. We are now in the top five in the U.S. of emerging life science markets, and we have also just been ranked No. 1 in job growth among the emerging biomedical life sciences.”

Ms. Whitehead points out the numbers tell the story of economic development success around an idea that began 20 years ago.

“We have experienced unprecedented growth and investment in biomedical and healthcare facilities since 2019,” she pointed out. “We have had more than $4 billion in capital investment and more than 6 million square feet of new primary facilities and we’re not referring to medical offices — these are primary care facilities that has created more than 10,000 new jobs.”

The presentation at the subcommittee level came with two formal funding requests, both of which have been recommended for approval by staff at City Hall. Those funding requests are:

  • To implement the FY 2023-24 Bioscience Healthcare Strategic Initiative, including authorization of an Arizona Bioindustry Association membership for Fiscal Year 2024-2025 and participation at the BIO International Convention in 2024.
  • Also, a request for the subcommittee to recommend approval for funding for the AZBio membership and convention efforts not to exceed $110,000.

The Phoenix City Council subcommittee approved the recommendation unanimously.

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