Now is the Time for Bioscience in Memphis

If you are in the biosciences or for that matter any area of biotechnology innovation, commercialization or economic development in Memphis, January was a pretty good month in terms of support and endorsement. In fact, the support came at every level – local, state and federal.

Locally, it was rewarding to see the positive coverage from the Commercial Appeal on the 23rd and 25th. Covering Battelle Research commissioned by Memphis Bioworks Foundation; the paper highlighted the role that bioscience has played in local job growth – one in four new jobs in the region being bioscience related- “Bioscience Science Continues as Economic “Star’” The article was followed by a strong editorial supporting the role that bioscience is taking in overall economic development “Shaping City’s Future”.

On the state level, in the week before his inauguration in mid-January, Governor Bill Haslam came to Memphis to talk about his key initiatives of education and economic development. In a meeting of community science, education and economic development leaders hosted by Memphis Bioworks Foundation, the Governor made it clear that bioscience development from education and lab work to commercialization and job creation would be a focus of his administration.

It all culminated for me with President Obama’s State of the Union speech. I was privileged to be in the chamber balcony for that speech. The President’s remarks seemed particularly focused on the role that bioscience and technology will play in our nation’s future. In fact, in going back and rereading for content, as opposed to absorbing the moment of being part of an annual historic event, I found that about one third of his time was spent on this topic. Just looking at a few phrases, even out of context, shows evidence of his commitment to the biosciences:

“We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.”

“The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.”

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race.”

“We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.”

“We need to teach our kids that it’s not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline.”

Key words that laced his address included: Biomedical, Biofuels, Research, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Education, mirroring the mission of Memphis Bioworks and its partners in Memphis and the Mid-South region.

Whether Republican, Democrat or Independent; whether in education, research, established business or an entrepreneur; whether involved in the biosciences in the laboratory, on the factory floor or on the farm, we may never again find an environment in which every level of leadership is looking to bioscience and technology for leadership. Will success be easy? No, success is never easy. But it is good to know that a groundswell of support is there.

It is a good time to be in the biosciences and Memphis is a good place to be.

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