2006 Recap

Only five years ago, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation started out with three simple goals to help Memphis become an internationally recognized center for bioscience. Grow the workforce. Build the infrastructure. Promote entrepreneurship.

When I look back over 2006, I am struck with how many things we accomplished as a community in just the past year. Significant progress was made in developing programs to build a workforce that meets the unique demands of the bioscience industry. Now that a number of local companies have announced major expansions and others are locating operations here, this is an even more critical task. Development of the UT-Baptist Research Park advanced on schedule and the Memphis Medical Center framework was established. We also saw significant advancements among the new companies that have started in Memphis to take advantage of this growing industry.

Following is a recap of some of the major bioscience stories from the past year. While the Memphis Bioworks Foundation played a part in some of these accomplishments, they all have one thing in common – each is a shining example of Memphis’ success and illustrates the Bioworks initiative.


The Memphis City Council passed a special zoning overlay which will guide future development in the Memphis Medical Center. The overlay will protect investment in the area from undesirable types of developments and will ultimately help provide the area with the unified look and feel of a world-class medical center.

At the UT-Baptist Research Park, MBF removed all the debris from the implosion of the Baptist Memorial Hospital. It took 11 months to clear the site but it was managed on time and on budget.

We launched a Web site to help educate businesses and the community about the UT-Baptist Research Park (www.utbaptistresearchpark.com) and promote its development.

There were numerous expansions in 2006. Medtronic broke ground on a new six-story, 180,000-square-foot executive administrative facility and a parking garage. Wright Medical Group bought a 29-acre site in Arlington and plans to expand its manufacturing campus. Finally, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare received state approval to expand its Germantown Hospital and expand Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in downtown Memphis.

Promoting Entrepreneurship

InMotion Musculoskeletal Institute, a non-profit organization which will help establish Memphis as a leading research center on muscular and skeletal systems was launched. Baptist Memorial Health Care showed its support for the Institute by committing $300,000 for naming rights to one of the planned laboratories.

Renewable fuel plants became reality in Memphis. In December, Memphis Biofuels opened one of the nation’s largest biodiesel plants with a contract to sell more than 35 million gallons of biodiesel annually. Milagro Biofuels of Memphis will produce up to 5 million gallons a year in downtown Memphis.
Both companies will create clean-burning biodiesel from corn and soybeans. Mean Green BioFuels and Berggruen Tennessee Biofuels also have announced plans to build renewable fuel plants in Memphis.

Another company taking advantage of Memphis’ distribution superiority is San Diego-based NuVasive, which relocated its distribution facilities to Memphis in September. The company now ships a few hundred surgical kits per night to hospitals nationwide.

GTx was added to the NASDAQ Biotechnology Index(R) (Nasdaq: NBI). Addition to the index means a much more visible platform for the company. The company also attained its enrollment goal for its pivotal Phase III clinical trial of ACAPODENE(R) for the prevention of prostate cancer in men with high grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, or PIN.

Memphis-based Luminetx was named as one of Red Herring magazine’s “Top 100 in North America,” which consists of the editors’ pick of the edgiest, high-tech companies most likely to succeed.

The fourth annual Musculoskeletal New Ventures Conference helped elevate Memphis onto an international platform for biosciences. Attended by nearly 50 venture capitalists representing more than $10 billion of venture capital, this was the largest gathering in the world of entrepreneurs and venture capital investors who target the musculoskeletal industry.

MB Ventures Partners closed its second fund at $54 million and for the first time attracted investments from two large institutional investors outside Memphis – Texas-based Stanford Financial Group and the Arkansas Institutional Fund.

The third annual BioImaging Symposium brought together biomedical scientists and engineers as well as students, hospital administrators and others to discuss the latest techniques to look inside the human body. Attendants came from all over North America.

Growing the Workforce

Southwest Tennessee Community College announced plans to build a state-of-the-art nursing and science building on the college’s Union Avenue campus. Medtronic has pledged $1 million for the new facility.

The Memphis Bioworks Foundation joined with The Leadership Academy to pilot an internship program connecting students who possess good skills and an interest in biosciences to summer internships at bioscience companies.

Medtronic awarded its first $4,000 scholarship to a student from the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering. The scholarship will be given annually to a MASE student so he or she may attend college.

There were so many highlights in 2006 in the Memphis bioscience arena and I am eager to see what 2007 brings to our city. We look forward to continuing our work establishing Memphis as a major player in the bioscience industry.

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