Synergy in the Biosciences

In a recent media interview, I was asked to comment about synergy in the biosciences in Memphis. It was an easy question to answer. Ever since the Battelle study on the biosciences in Memphis was released in 2003, our community has been very much in sync on these issues.

Initially, synergy meant building from our core competencies and areas of existing leadership in medical devices, hospital research and treatment, and logistics. From this foundation we have been building an interconnected framework of related businesses and programs.

A critical area of current focus is bringing together local research and intellectual property with early stage investment and business management expertise. In 2007, The Memphis Bioworks Foundation created Innova, an early stage investment fund to do just that. The initial $11.5 million for Innova came from MemhisED, itself a great example of community synergy. Innova was chartered to find intellectual property, build a management team around the IP and then commercialize it. In its first six months, Innova reviewed more than 40 different investment opportunities. Its first investment is in a local company taking three new products to market – all from research first developed in the local Academic laboratories.

Another example of synergy in action is InMotion Musculoskeletal Institute, launched in 2005 by the Bioworks Foundation, in collaboration with Campbell’s Clinic, local hospitals and philanthropic organizations in the community. This organization develops synergy in the market by fostering collaborative musculoskeletal research and development programs among scientists, clinicians, educators, and commercial entities across the metro area. For example, InMotion could generate the intellectual property in which Innova can invest.

An example of synergy that is still emerging brings together many assets in the Memphis area. The Bioworks Foundation is finalizing a license arrangement including a broad range of patents covering vaccine technology for streptococcus A from the UT Research Foundation. Using this technology as a basis, the Foundation and Innova plan to form a new company capitalizing on the infectious disease research in the Memphis region. That will in turn create more intellectual property to feed into local business.

The most basic example of synergy is education, where the focus has been on matching the educational offerings in the area with the business and research needs in the community. From launching the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, Tennessee’s first charter school, to feed the education needs going into college, to programs at the local colleges and universities, the goal is to ensure Memphis has the talent trained to work in the research labs, medical facilities and emerging biobusinesses in the community.

With this kind of synergy crossing so many levels and disciplines, I have no doubt attention on Memphis as a leader is only going to increase.

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