Flinn Foundation’s annual report on Arizona’s and Tucson’s bio sectors was about to be released last spring when companies and individuals mobilized to fight COVID-19, the biggest public-health crisis in a century.
“Arizona’s bioscience community has responded,” said the April 2020 report, “The Latest Progress of the Biosciences in Arizona.”
While the report spoke of the effort in general statewide terms, I can tell you that Tucson plays a large role. The University of Arizona graduated its Tucson and Phoenix medical students early so that they could immediately staff hospitals. Tucson-based Paradigm Laboratories, in partnership with Phoenix-based Prorenata Labs, developed a test for quickly detecting COVID- 19. ARCpoint Labs, also in Tucson, created a rapid test for antibodies.
Area hospitals became part of several clinical trials for the treatment of and vaccination against the virus.
The UA got national attention for its efforts to detect active cases on campus by testing wastewater from on-campus housing. It’s partnered with TGen and several other institutes to use big data to track the spread and evolution of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. It worked with a new nonprofit to develop a mobile device app that provides anonymous, instant information about exposure.
The university is part of a statewide testing program for antibodies, and it is one of the clinics testing the Moderna vaccine in the company’s Phase 3 trial.
Even Tucson companies that aren’t in bioscience stepped up. Universal Avionics provided space for the production of face masks and shields. World View pivoted from making stratospheric balloons to sewing medical isolation gowns.
Bioscience Stronger Than Ever
Arizona and Tucson have made great strides in strengthening their bioscience sectors, according to the Flinn report, which looked at 2019 conditions.
“Arizona’s bioscience sector is performing at its highest level since data tracking began nearly two decades ago,” according to the report, which provides updates on the foundation’s goal to guide the biosciences through 2025.
The Tucson bio sector similarly experienced growth, according to the foundation’s “2020 Performance Review.”
- Employment in the research, testing and medical labs subsector grew by 31% over the 2002-2018 period.
- Employment concentration for its hospital subsector is 36% higher than the national average.
- The medical devices and equipment subsector grew by 24% over the 2002-2018 period.
The report also cited recent highlights of Arizona’s bioscience success. It included these Tucson activities categorized by Flinn goals.
Prominent Long-term Investments. The state will fund tuition waivers for about 100 UA College of Medicine students if they agree to practice primary care in rural or underserved areas for at least two years.
Enhance Hospital Research and Clinical Care. Banner-University Medical Center Tucson opened a $446 million, 672,000-square-foot patient tower with improved patient rooms, operating rooms, intensive-care capacity and telemedicine options.
Promote Entrepreneurial Climate. Construction started for the Oro Valley Innovation Labs, a 4,000-square-foot business incubator for scientists in medicine. The UA spun out four bioscience startups from among the 32 new companies created from innovation at the UA and Arizona State University.
Building Critical Mass of Companies, Raise Risk Capital. UAVenture Capital fund announced investments in MediCarbone, which holds the patent for a flexible carbon-fiber fabric to set fractured bone, and iCrx, whose portable laser device determines a person’s eyewear prescription in 12 seconds.
Advance Research Base. Critical Path Institute, C-Path, appointed Joseph Scheeren as its new president and CEO. It released a global standard on how to structure data and outcome measurements in HIV clinical trials. The UA and Northern Arizona University were awarded $6.85 million from the National Cancer Institute to continue addressing cancer among Native Americans.
Expand Stem Education and Develop Talent. The UA got the go-ahead from the American Veterinary Medical Association to open in Oro Valley the state’s first public veterinary school.
The Tucson bio sector is strong, as are the services that support them, such as optics, manufacturing and distribution. Contact me at +1-520-299-3400 or firstname.lastname@example.org to see how your business can be part of bioscience in Southern Arizona.