BizBIOSCIENCE continued from page 88 Compared to the rest of the nation, Arizona is not making sufficient gains in its share of NIH funding. To be among the top states in terms of NIH funding, Arizona needs to be 25 percent ahead of the average, Plosila explained. The state receives 0.7 percent of NIH funding, yet has 2.09 percent of the country’s population. Hospitals continue to be the largest source of Arizona’s bioscience jobs, but the state’s non-hospital subsectors grew 14 percent in 2011 alone. The largest non-hospital subsector remains research, testing and medical laboratories. This group employs about 8,900 workers across 466 firms, a growth of 60 percent since 2002. T.J. Johnson of HTG Molecular Diagnostics said when he moved to Arizona 10 years ago to join the team at Ventana Medical Systems, he didn’t know about the roadmap and that the industry at the time felt more like “white-water rafting.” Since then Johnson said he’s seen an “amazing amount of activity and discoveries related to personalized health care.” He spoke at the annual progress report luncheon in Tucson in February. “It’s almost inconceivable for even those of us who are in it to think of what’s possible,” said Johnson, co-chair for the Bioscience Leadership Council of Southern Arizona. “We need to participate in this because that’s going to drive our society for decades to come.” Johnson said he supports the effort to strengthen educational programs at all levels to form a stronger base for the future, but there remains the need to attract a quality work force immediately. “I need talent now and I’m not willing to take on a middle-school student to run a diagnostic lab,” he said. The dark spot in the progress remains the difficulty in raising capital for growth and expansion, especially at the local level, Johnson said. In raising the funds his company has needed, Johnson had to look outside Tucson – to Boston, San Francisco and even Copenhagen. But success in raising capital comes with the added bonus of making it easier to attract talented workers, he added. Experienced workers – those ready to step into crucial leadership roles in emerging companies – are savvy enough to notice the promise in companies that attract financing. Pointing to the reported 68 percent drop in venture capital from 2011 to 2012, Jeff Jacob of Tucson’s Cancer Prevention Pharmaceuticals echoed Johnson’s concerns from the industry perspective. Jacob said he faced down the “buzz saw of reality” in launching a company to market. “We’re too small to compare to Boston and San Francisco. We’re one and we have to act that way. You have to be creative, resourceful and not give up,” he said. “Sadly, over the last four to five years I’ve seen the venture capital community become just the capital community as risk adversity reigns. We have a great base of life-science industry and we need to leverage that more.”
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The Tucson region's business magazine.