Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurism’

Memphis’ Sights are on Site Selection

April 13, 2010

I recently became aware that Site Selection, the magazine of corporate real estate strategy and economic development, is doing a feature in May about North American Life Science Centers. (This follows Site Selection listing Memphis as No. 9 for New or Expanded Corporate Facilities in March of this year.) Having recently been appointed to the Greater Memphis Chamber board, I have also become more sensitive to the importance of this kind of publication and the impact of such coverage and ranking for the growth of our economy.

With those two factors in mind, the team at Memphis Bioworks Foundation immediately began putting together a pitch to the magazine to try and convince them that a feature of that kind would not be complete unless it includes Memphis. This issue is going to cover life science hotspots for company development, locations with strong venture capital opportunity and locations with plans in place for “shovel ready” development in support of life science.

Memphis is certainly one of the centers of bioscience in the country, with outstanding programs and leadership positions. Here are a few things we know that, perhaps, Site Selection does not (yet):

Orthopedics and musculoskeletal leadership: Medtronic, Smith and Nephew, and Wright Medical have very large operations in the city. This is from an operational, headquarters, research and discovery perspective. In fact, their operations, along with a few other companies, make this the second largest center for medical devices in the country. In addition, Campbell Clinic is located here, one of the leading orthopedic organization in the country and the author of the definitive Campbell’s Operative Orthopaedics which was first published in 1939. In fact, we have several leading orthopedic practices. And, our annual Musculoskeletal New Ventures Conference is among the largest gathering in the country each year for orthopedic-related venture capital in the industry.

In addition to these leadership organizations, a large number of startups in this field are spinning out from researchers and establishing operations here.

Infectious disease research, discovery and business development: Led by St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and researchers at the UT Medical School, several research programs in Memphis are world leaders. For example, the research team at St. Jude led the international efforts for a Swine Flu vaccine. With technology transferred from UTHSC, there is Vaxent, a start-up whose lead product in development is a subunit vaccine against group A streptococcus which has been tested in early stage human clinical trials and has been recognized as a finalist by the World Vaccine Congress. There are many other examples of great bioscience work being done in the city and companies being developed.

Venture Capital: Memphis Bioworks Foundation’s Innova arm is one of the most recognized pre-seed, seed and early-stage investors focused on starting and funding high-growth companies in the Biosciences, Technology and AgBio fields across the state of Tennessee. MB Ventures is another local venture capital firm with recognized expertise in biotechnology, medical devices and solutions for musculoskeletal disease.

Shovel Ready Sites: Finally, Memphis Bioworks is leading the development of the UT-Baptist Research Park in Memphis. This park, adjacent to the Medical School is ready for research occupancy in its existing tower with additional build-to-suit availability. Included in facilities currently in the development stage is a Regional Biocontainment Laboratory offering a suite of biosafety level (BSL) 2 and 3 laboratory modules, space for training, security, substantial vivarium space, and build-to-suit laboratory/office space.

Sometimes it takes something like the Site Selection opportunity to cause you to step back and look at all we have going for us. We have made the pitch to the magazine, which is all we can do at this point.

Our sights are set on Site Selection for showcasing Memphis and its Life Sciences. If they cover us, great. If they don’t, we will all read the article knowing that something glaring is missing.

Leadership in Times of Crisis

February 8, 2010

I think everyone would agree that the outpouring of financial and other support from Americans to the people of Haiti is inspiring. Our citizens have proven time and time again that when people are in need, we are all ready to respond in whatever way we can. From school children collecting pennies and dimes, to major contributions and relief efforts by such organizations as The Salvation Army, the citizens of Memphis are making personal sacrifices for those who have lost everything. The story in the February 4 Commercial Appeal shows just what kind of people we are

In Memphis, we have an even greater obligation to those in need than in most communities across the country. You see, we herald ourselves as leaders in orthopedics, medical devices, musculoskeletal issues and the treatment of children with devastating injuries or diseases. With leadership comes obligation. You can’t just be a leader or talk about your leadership when it is convenient for you.

From my vantage point at Memphis Bioworks Foundation and on the Memphis Chamber board, I am extremely pleased to see our leadership in these areas carrying through during the crisis in Haiti. As you scan the headlines in the local papers and on the local television news programs, you find an impressive list of Memphis’ leading organizations answering the call. Smith & Nephew, Medtronic, Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center, FedEx, Campbell Clinic and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have each created programs that fit with their core competency, whether that is offering medical device supplies, sending doctors, providing distribution services of opening their own beds for treatment.

One of the most visible collaborative teams helping in Haiti is the team assembled by Le Bonheur. I would suggest that every Memphian track their progress in Haiti on the Blog they are updating when technology and time allow. It can be found at Scroll down to the bottom of the Blog to see the team and the training from the beginning, including participation by the Memphis Grizzlies, Panera Bread and the Memphis and Shelby County Health Department.

Most of the bioscience companies and organizations responding are established international leaders in their field. But, even our entrepreneurial community has become involved. ExtraOrtho is an early-stage orthopedic company in Memphis. The company’s first product is an external fixation trauma device that just received FDA clearance for sale last year. The first use of the product was only in December. And yet, this start-up supplied the Le Bonheur team with $160,000 worth of their XtraFix External Fixation System, and then trained the doctors on the medical mission how to use this device to support the healing of fractures to avert amputation. This is a company with limited resources, but a strong social conscious.

The Memphis bioscience community is earning its leadership position through its efforts in Haiti. All of us should be proud.

Collaboration around our Core Competencies

January 15, 2010

As the New Year began, Memphis Bioworks Foundation was awarded a $2.9 million Energy Training Partnership Grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Green Jobs Training Program. The two-year initiative will fund programs to train area workers at local colleges for jobs in energy-efficiency and renewable energy occupations. Memphis was one of only 25 award recipients across the U.S. and I am very pleased to see these funds delivered to our educational and business partners in the region. With the continued focus of Memphis Bioworks on job creation, education and partnership around the biosciences, we view this award as important to Memphis for the following reasons:

1) This grant is a perfect example of collaboration and shared goals. It benefits a 26-county area of West Tennessee and Arkansas, including Dyersburg State Community College, the Eastern Arkansas Workforce Investment Area, Jackson State Community College Mid-South Community College, the National Electrical Contractors Association, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Tennessee Local Workforce Investment Areas # 11, 12, and 13, the University of Memphis BEST Program and multiple employers throughout the region. Memphis, as the unofficial “capitol” of the Delta region, gains every time organizations in this area join together for a common goal. When it comes to green jobs training, the region is stronger together than we can ever be apart.

2) This grant trains workers and improves employment opportunities in one of the most critical fields for the 21st Century — Green Jobs. Two segments of green jobs that exist today are energy-efficient construction and solar energy. Improving the energy efficiency of old and new construction, from weatherization to LEED certification offers green jobs today. The Mid-South climate, compared to that of the year-round sunny Southwest, is not ideal for exporting solar energy. However, we do have an opportunity to utilize solar panels on buildings, thereby reducing the energy demand on traditional petroleum-based energy sources for heating and cooling. Someone must install, manage and maintain these solar panels. As energy costs rise, I believe companies going forward are going need to know that this workforce competence is in place before they consider locating a business in a community. The ARRA Program will focus primarily over the next two years on preparing our workforce for these near-term green jobs.

3) In Memphis, the foundation for the training from this ARRA Grant will leverage the expertise of our critical local partners – Mid-South Community College and Southwest Community College. Many of the anticipated green jobs that come to the region will require at least one or two years of post-secondary education. It is rewarding to see that these institutions serve as innovators in implementing such an important initiative across the region. Along with the involvement of employers in the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries, these colleges — along with others in the region such as Dyersburg State and Jackson State — will meet the vital workforce needs related to Green Jobs.

4) The Delta region has the greatest long-term opportunity for green jobs in the emerging field of biomass — where products made from plants displace products made from petroleum. Biomass refers to agricultural crops and forestry materials which can effectively harness solar energy and through photosynthesis, convert it into a range of useful products based around key plant components such as carbohydrates, fatty acids, proteins, sugars, and starches. These can serve as the chemical building blocks to replace petroleum products to create biofuels, green chemicals, novel polymers, and biomaterials. Memphis can secure a key leadership role in the emerging multi-billion dollar global bioeconomy by leveraging its climate, farmland, logistics and chemical manufacturing capacity. These green jobs sit at the intersection of established regional industries such as agriculture, biotechnology and chemistry, and create a new sector which is already valued at over $140 billion in global sales (Third Time Lucky; The Economist, June 4, 2009). The ARRA grant lays the groundwork to prepare the region for these longer-term opportunities in the green economy.

For Memphis and the region, this nearly $3 million grant is a strong vote of confidence in our ability to transform our economy, if we set our minds to it. That requires cooperation, imagination, and an understanding of the core competencies from which we can build. The ARRA Energy Training Partnership Grant will go a long way in establishing a foundation for making sure we have a workforce that is qualified for today’s green jobs, and the partnerships to continue developing that workforce for those that come in the future. With nearly one in 10 people in Shelby County looking for work, there couldn’t be a better time.

2009 – A Foundation for the Future

December 29, 2009

The end of the year is always a time of both reflecting on the year past and looking forward to the year ahead. At Memphis Bioworks, 2009 gave us plenty to look forward to in the New Year.

In this continuing tough economy, it is easy to look on the dark side of the equation. I prefer to look at the bright side of all that has happened in Memphis in the biosciences, and all the opportunity it has created. So many organizations and companies made great strides during the last 12 months – The Greater Memphis Chamber, Memphis Tomorrow, our many orthopedic device companies, a number of local start-ups, our hospitals and researchers, and our various entrepreneurial organizations.

At Memphis Bioworks Foundation, we are focused on three areas of emphasis – infrastructure, education and entrepreneurship – across the various bioscience niches. And, an important additional category that crosses each segment is Partnership. Here are just a few of the milestones reached that I believe will set a strong foundation for 2010.

o Memphis Bioworks Foundation secured New Markets Tax Credits for $30 million in partnership with the City of Memphis.
o 6,000 square feet of laboratory space for entrepreneurs opened in the 20 South Dudley Building on the UT-Baptist Research Park Campus.
o Progress continued at the UT-Baptist Research Park with a ribbon cutting on the Regional Biocontainment Lab. The final-phase of construction of the UTHSC School of Pharmacy continued with the facility scheduled to open in fall 2010.
o As part of the goal to improve the streetscape in the area, the Memphis Medical Center Board selected Poplar Ave. (Decatur to Dunlap) as the first project area.
o MASE graduated 100% of its senior class.
o Harold Wingood was named as Executive Director of MASE.
o Annual Memphis BioImaging Symposium (MemBIS) completed its sixth year. While the Musculoskeletal New Ventures Conference was held for the seventh year.
o Innova was awarded TNInvestco status enabling the creation of Innova II Fund through $20M in insurance tax credits issued by the State of Tennessee for early-stage capital investments.
o TECworks was launched as a value-added coaching and mentoring service with Jan Bouten as Executive Director.
o AgBioworks completed a groundbreaking study for the Delta region for job creation in the new bio-economy through biomass and bio-based production.
o Vaxent, one of Innova’s Memphis-based investments, was recognized by the World Vaccine Congress as a finalist for the Best Prophylactic Vaccine of the year award
o Eleven budding entrepreneurs graduated from the first FastTrac TechVenture program in Memphis.
o AgBioworks established the 25 Farmer Network to grow new crops, participate in value-added processing, and partner with companies producing biofuels and biobased products across 21 counties in West Tennessee.
o Memphis Bioworks Business Association (MBBA) completed its first year of operations.
o MBBA established the Memphis Orthopaedic Research Lecture series as a monthly program in partnership with InMotion Research Institute and UT Health Science Center.

Memphis is in an ideal position to establish itself as a leader in the 21st Century bioeconomy. Whether it is green initiatives through renewable agricultural resources; building upon our strong positions in orthopedics, medical devices and infectious diseases; investing in our educational organizations; expanding our entrepreneurial ventures through training, support and investment; building biologistics strengths on the foundation of our logistics and distribution; or simply using our financial resources wisely, 2010 will be a year of opportunity.

My wish for the New Year is that the community work in partnership, and with focus, to continue moving forward toward our potential as a leader in the global biosciences.