Posts Tagged ‘Memphis Bioworks Foundation’

Now is the Time for Bioscience in Memphis

February 9, 2011

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.

A Bright Spot for Memphis Business Growth

January 12, 2011

In a year-end 2010 wrap-up story, the Memphis Daily News referred to the Year of Resilience in which the bright spot in the local economy was that “Memphis’ hospitals, health care companies and biotechnology sector remained strong throughout 2010.” As we look toward 2011, there is no reason to think that this segment won’t have another strong year.

Why? Because the bioscience segments of orthopedics, research, clinical care and bioagriculture are each areas of national leadership in their own right. And, it is leadership in these areas that will take us out of the recessionary times and into high growth times.

Memphis’ biosciences and the infrastructure surrounding them had a strong year last year, even with the struggling economy. Just looking at the programs that Memphis Bioworks Foundation was involved in is interesting. And keep in mind, what we were involved in is just a part of the overall bioscience industry. The hospitals, research centers, educational institutions, and the various segments of the treatment and corporate institutions would have their own impressive lists.

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 funds 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. Our ability to train workers for the green jobs of the 21st Century economy will be important for many years to come.

Speaking of “green,” at Memphis Bioworks, we are very proud of our activities surrounding biological raw materials called biomass – agricultural crops and forestry materials which can effectively harness solar energy – which can then serve as the building blocks to replace petroleum in fuels, green chemicals, novel polymers, and many other materials. We are leading a five state regional initiative and were the host of Biomass South, a defining conference on the topic in September.

Our infrastructure growth for the biosciences continues to move forward. As the RBL and School of Pharmacy were moving toward completion on the UT-Baptist Research Park campus during the year, our existing Dudley Street Tower and a few support buildings were filling with start-up companies. At year-end, there were nearly 25 companies that we were working with in our own facilities and elsewhere. Our Research Park was also the topic of a key collaborative effort with the city last year. Just east of the planned new developments is a 20-story abandoned hotel. The city and Bioworks joined to receive of a $2-million grant from The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a part of funding for that hotel redevelopment and refurbishment.

Support of growing businesses and helping to move ideas from bench to market will be one of the driving forces of job creation coming out of the recession. At Innova, we took several steps forward during the past year. Most visible was the team’s work as a TNInvestco company and the launch in June of the Mid-South Angel Network. These two initiatives work hand-in-hand to leverage dollars brought into Memphis and dollars originating in Memphis, in support of great new ideas and concepts.

Of course, new companies and researchers need the most up-to-date and highest speed communications resources. To meet that need, July saw the official launch of the Memphis Coalition for Advanced Networking’s (MCAN) ultra high speed fiber-optic communications network. This 10-gigabit-per-second data network is almost 3,000 times faster than our current broadband. If you are in research at one of MCAN’s founding members – the University of Memphis, University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or the Memphis Bioworks Foundation – you are now connected as if next door to the world’s fastest computer in Oak Ridge, the national Internet2 research network, a consortium of 200 universities, 70 leading corporations, 45 government agencies and 50 international partner organizations. MCAN will not only allow Memphis scientists to better participate in global research, it is also designed to generate economic benefit from advanced networking applications.

2010 was a busy year, and 2011 should prove to be even busier in the biosciences. Should a newspaper write a wrap-up of the Memphis economy at the end of this year, I have no doubt the biosciences will again be their “bright spot.”

Bioscience and Aerotropolis – Where Memphis’ Business Future Meet

December 10, 2010

In late November, I was privileged to be a part of a team from Memphis participating in a series of meetings in Paris.  Representatives from the Greater Memphis Chamber, FedEx, Memphis International Airport, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and me – representing Memphis Bioworks Foundation – met with various officials and representatives from Paris and the Charles de Gaulle Airport.

As a result of these meetings, it reinforced to me that the two recognized business development areas for our community – bioscience and distribution logistics – really come together in the Aerotropolis concept.  An Aerotropolis is a community with an airport as its economic hub, and with an annual economic impact of more than $28 billion, Memphis International certainly fits that description.  de Gaulle airport in Paris is striving to be the Europe equivalent to Memphis International for North America.  Business leaders in Paris and at de Gaulle understand, much like we understand in Memphis, that the future of bioscience development is closely tied to access to aviation and its related logistics.  And, much of the growth in air distribution and logistics will come from companies and discoveries in the biosciences.

Real growth in the biosciences is dependent on the ability to build a product from local, to regional, to national and ultimately global access.  Whether on a research level, from an import/export perspective, or even from a personalized/just-in-time medicine perspective, access to international distribution will be essential.

No one can dispute that Memphis is already well ahead of any competition in North America for the distinction of being a true Aerotropolis.  In fact, Memphis International is the World’s leading cargo airport for 18 consecutive years.  FedEx has the world’s most advanced hub system operating here every day.  As I observed in these meetings, Larry Cox, president and CEO of Memphis International, is an internationally recognized leader in the aviation world. And, of course, FedEx is respected worldwide for its vision and leadership.  Memphis also benefits from its historic leadership in other forms of transportation, creating a unique positioning not just in air cargo (runway), but in rail, river and road distribution as well.

So, the opportunity is ours.  For us, a strong relationship with Paris is key, because from a distribution perspective, Paris is the access point to everything in Europe and holds the position as the 5th busiest cargo airport in the world.  To Paris, Memphis is the entry point to everything in North America.  And, by working together, we become a critical component to what is happening in the Asia access airport – Guangzhou, China – a growing force in cargo distribution in the world’s fastest growing economy.  By working together across three continents, we can bring our local businesses greater access to world markets than can be accomplished in any other communities on our respective continents.

It is a leadership position that, once established, will be nearly impossible to surpass. It is a leadership position that leads to real and sustainable high-value job growth.  That is what makes it all so critical.  We are about to enter the second decade of this century.  By the time that decade is complete; leadership in this area will have been decided.  Done right, Memphis will be the community being chased.  Done wrong and we will forever be lagging.

The fact that this kind of strategic meeting is taking place is a signal that we all understand the importance and we are collectively investing in our future.  From now on, since attending these meetings, whenever I hear the phrase Aerotropolis I will think not just of an airport project, but of a collective initiative with the potential to touch everything I strive for in the biosciences as well.  I will think of the collective benefits to our community that growth in distribution, logistics, research, scientific discovery, orthopedics, medical training, AgBio, clean tech and many other areas will mean.  Together we can become a one-two punch like no other community – the Aerotropolis/Biotropolis.

Reflecting on Global Entrepreneurship Week

November 23, 2010

November 15-20 was observed in communities around the world as Global Entrepreneurship Week.  Memphis had its share of events and news on the topic, which the local print media covered very nicely, thank you.  This seems like an appropriate time to step back and look at the state of entrepreneurism in Memphis.

We are a community known for entrepreneurial innovation.  From the first chain hotel and supermarket, to overnight dependable delivery, to international charitable fundraising, to Rock and Roll, to the many companies in the biosciences, Memphis can stand proud.

In fact, it is these kinds of wealth creating businesses, grown from entrepreneurism, which can define a community.  As such, while niche ideas and small business entrepreneurial ideas are important; the real impact must come from game-changing concepts and discoveries with national or global implications.  That is how community wealth is achieved.

It is well accepted now that wealth-creating ideas and businesses can be stimulated in a community if there are strong second-tier support services, which themselves become part of the business fabric of a community.  And, for wealth creating businesses to reach full value creation potential, those businesses must systematically bring in minority and women participation in the business itself, in its leadership, in its investors and in its suppliers.  Community entrepreneurism at its peak of value is inclusive, meaning community growth is inclusive as well.

From my vantage point, the state of entrepreneurship in Memphis continues to be energized and active.  The media seems engaged and the pockets of development, support and funding are many.  I believe what is happening in offices of entrepreneurs today can be the foundation for our future.

Over the last ten years, Memphis has invested in services and capabilities that support entrepreneurs from concept through the initial growth phase.  For example, over 180,000 s.f. of incubators/accelerators exist across the community, at organizations such as EmergeMemphis, CEED, the Memphis Music Foundation, and Memphis Bioworks.  No two operations are exactly alike, which is good because the needs of entrepreneurs are as varied as the ideas they are pursuing.

And, more is in the pipeline. The University of Memphis is preparing to convert an off-campus facility into an incubator to encourage commercialization of faculty innovation, critical for the university to compete for grants. Suburbs such as Germantown and Bartlett are working with existing organizations to create incubators in their cities since certain new medical device companies are not interested in a downtown or medical center location. Olivet Baptist Church, New Horizon (and maybe others) offer space to new companies as part of their effort to fully utilize their facilities, upgrade their blighted community, and support their congregation.

While we seem to have a growing community of locations, ideas without financial support seldom see the light of day.  We should be collectively commended for what is happening in this area as well.  A few capital sources have emerged that support early stage companies such as Addison Capital, Innova, and MB Ventures.

Networking activities at the Bioworks Business Association, LaunchMemphis, and TECworks provide new entrepreneurs a chance to meet experienced entrepreneurs, to identify talent, and to meet new vendors; all critical elements for new companies.

Because of all of this, Memphis has built a base of support services that encourages new companies to form, grow, create jobs, and attract talent and capital.

While the foundation is strong, gaps exist that prevent optimization of our entrepreneurial ecosystem to grow into a world-class environment for business creation.  We have no complete suite of services across sectors.  From a communications perspective, no “front door” exists to connect a new entrepreneur to needed services. Consequently, while Memphis may have support services for entrepreneurs, the support community doesn’t make it easy for entrepreneurs to find those services.

And, while all of the incubator growth is good, the proliferation of incubators forces a competitive environment where there is more real estate dedicated to new companies than there are new companies to fill the space. To be successful, more early stage companies must be created, and the incubators must refine offerings and strengthen service niches.

Potential donors may see this duplication of effort and lack of coordination and do not understand how each service plays into the entrepreneurship ecosystem, and as a result they are cautious to support these uncoordinated, inefficient efforts. On a national level, Memphis’ entrepreneurial ecosystem appears disjointed and cannot compete for larger national grants from organizations such as the Kaufman Foundation, SBA, or NSF.

As we observe Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010, we also should be looking toward a year from now and beyond.  This time next year, will we have taken the next steps for Memphis entrepreneurship?  Will we have begun to address the gaps in availability and sustainability?

I hope at that time we are able to say definitively that Memphis has the coordinated and dedicated leadership.  That we are a city that, in every way, welcomes, cultivates, and launches high-growth companies – wealth creating businesses – in our natural areas of strength in logistics, biosciences and support industries.

Biomass South Highlights Our Opportunity

October 11, 2010

In just a few days, on October 14 and 15, some of the best minds in the field of biomass, bioenergy and our bio-economy will gather in Memphis for Biomass South.

This gathering comes approximately one year after the release of the eye opening study from the Battelle Technology Partnership Practice and sponsored by the Memphis Bioworks® Foundation.

The Battelle study, “Regional Strategy for Biobased Products in the Mississippi Delta,” examined the potential for agriculture and forestry revitalization through the development of new markets, and the related industrial biotechnology opportunities in our 5-state, 98-county region. It detailed the existing strengths, identified potential opportunities and shed light on the current and future role of Memphis and the region in bio-agriculture and its related biobased industries. The study area covered 36 million acres (56,000 square miles) and the Memphis metro area as the urban industrial, processing and logistics center for the region, giving us a remarkable snapshot of our assets and potential.

One of the first milestones we created after the study was the assembly of a conference of the kind that is coming to fruition in Biomass South.

While the study was the soil (pardon the agriculture metaphor) from which Memphis’ leadership can grow, Biomass South is powerful fertilizer.

The basis of the bio-economy is the utilization of renewable biological raw materials called biomass – agricultural crops and forestry materials which can effectively harness solar energy – which can then serve as the building blocks to replace petroleum in fuels, green chemicals, novel polymers, and many other materials. The assembly of experts we will have at the conference shows just how much others believe in our potential.

Keynoting on the first day will be Dallas Tonsager, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary for Rural Development. He was appointed Under Secretary by President Obama, and will be representing USDA’s strategy under Secretary Vilsack, who has been an outspoken proponent of biotechnology and advanced biofuels, focused on game changing ways to create opportunity for rural development.

Tonsager is just one highlight in a two-day program which includes participation from companies and organizations including: ArborGen, Buckeye Technologies, Ceres, Chromatin, Duke University, EcoSynthetix, Entira, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Monsanto Company, National Algae Association, National Farmers Union, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, PMC Biogenix, ShowMe Energy, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, University of Memphis, University of Tennessee, Verdant Partners and many more.

As impressive as the people involved is the collaboration and partnership that this conference represents. The entire southeastern United States, including the three states actively involved in our AgBioworks™ regional initiative (Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri), has come together to claim our position in this growing economic engine. This kind of collaboration must be extended and enhanced, because together we are so much more powerful than we are on our own.

The interest in, the research on, the entrepreneurship about and the business of Biomass and the Bioeconomy have never been more important to the economy of the South or to the world.

And, from Memphis’ perspective, we are in a unique position to both build on the past and literally plant seeds for the future. With the adaptive re-use of our idle industrial assets – repurposing, reutilizing and redeveloping infrastructure in a way that makes Memphis a key player in green industrial jobs – and with a focus on new energy crops across the region that make better use of agricultural resources for our farmers, we create an energy and economic development tool that will be rivaled by regions across the globe.

Joining Together To Get Our Share

September 10, 2010

There are very few concepts that are likely to draw virtually no opposition.  I’d like to offer two:
1.  Memphis has too many blighted and abandoned buildings that need a champion to either refurbish or repurpose, or take down.
2. Memphians need to make sure we get our share of federal and state dollars floating around that would stimulate job growth and new revenue for the City.

Every now and then, those two concepts come together, as is the case with the 20-story abandoned hotel at 969 Madison in the Medical Center.  Abandoned for more than 15 years, many Memphians have no memory of it ever being a productive piece of real estate.

At one time, it was a vibrant hotel with a 400-plus space parking garage below.  Today, it sits at the northeast edge of the UT-Baptist Research Park, being developed by Memphis Bioworks Foundation.  My office in the 20 South Dudley Building sits almost next door.

Imagine the impact that building could have on the Medical Center if it were to return to use as a hotel.  One of the tallest buildings in the area would look better, scores of new jobs would be created (construction jobs at first and permanent hospitality jobs upon completion), there would be a host hotel for all of the people visiting patients or doing business within the Medical Center, and UT Health Science Center would have a hotel next door to campus.  In short, it is just the kind of catalyst to keep the development of this area of our city moving forward.

Anyone in the hotel business will tell you that now is a tough time to talk about development.  Recessions are not kind to travel plans.  So, that is where concept number 2 comes into play – wise use of Federal dollars to accomplish an important goal.

The City of Memphis and Memphis Bioworks Foundation recently received of a $2-million grant from The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a part of funding for the hotel redevelopment and refurbishment.

The grant comes through the federal Brownfields Economic Development Initiative (BEDI), which targets abandoned or vacant buildings that have some kind of environmental contamination. The money is used for the cleanup as well as the revitalization of the structures.

According to HUD; these Brownfields which are often perceived as unproductive eyesores in their communities hold tremendous potential as sites for community revitalization.  Since 1998, HUD has made an investment of $171 million in BEDI grants and $761 million in companion Section 108-guaranteed-loans in 138 communities. These funds have leveraged another $1.2 billion in other public and private funds.

The total project cost for the hotel on Madison is $33.8 million.  The HUD grant is just one step in the process toward funding of the hotel development.  As a next step, the city of Memphis will seek an additional $4 million in Section 108 loan funds.  Of the total $33.8 million projected cost of developing the hotel, private equity will cover approximately $6 million of costs. New Market Tax Credits (another Federal program) will provide $8 million and traditional debt make will make up the balance.  While the hotel project still has some pieces that need to fall in place, it is a great example of public private partnership coming together for a common goal and of targeted application for dollars that we can bring into the community. The City will also benefit from the new jobs, sales tax, and other tax revenue that is projected to be over $800,000 per year.  From Memphis Bioworks perspective, we hope this is just one of many projects we can join city leaders in as we all seek to get our City’s fair share.

Our City as a Green Leader

August 11, 2010

How “green” is Memphis? In today’s world of energy issues, from spills to national security, the question of a community’s level of greenness has never been more important. To many people, the concept of green is defined by a few issues that have been highly marketed by various interest groups. Things like wind turbines, solar panels, alternative fuels and vehicles, and keeping air and water clean come to mind. To others, green is defined by farmers markets and bike lanes.

Over the last few months, the Memphis Bioworks Foundation has been involved with or done research into a number of green initiatives. What we have found might be a surprise to some people. Memphis is a leader in many aspects of Green – led mostly by some of our largest and most established organizations.

If you think of green in terms of the earth, the sun and the water – as an upcoming issue of Bioworks Magazine will be doing – the categorization of Memphis’ leadership position becomes quite clear. Note that we have left wind out of this equation because at the present efficiency and costs, this part of the country doesn’t have the consistent atmospheric criteria to be competitive for wind power.

Solar leadership begins with the Sharp Manufacturing plant in Memphis. It is the only solar cell manufacturing facility in the nation producing photovoltaic modules. The factory has produced more than two million panels since it got into the solar business in 2003.

That’s production. What about utilization? If all goes according to plan, Memphis Bioworks Foundation will be using initiatives such as New Market Tax Credits, Federal Solar Investment Tax Credits, and TVA credits under the Generation Partners Program, managed through Memphis Light, Gas and Water to create the largest urban solar implementation in the region beginning with installations on the roofs of our existing structures such as its Dudley Street building and the adjacent parking garage. The top of a parking garage in Memphis is an underused asset, often too hot to park the car and not accessible for other applications. We’re going to cover ours with solar panels to make it usable — recovering 110 parking spaces — and, at the same time, we will generate energy to mitigate 30 to 40 percent of our existing energy costs.

For earth, our AgBioworks initiatives in biomass stretch across five states, with Memphis at the heart of the burgeoning bioeconomy utilizing plant-based materials in a wide variety of biobased materials including chemicals, plastics and biofuels. And in water, many people may not be aware that Memphis-based Buckman is an international leader in water treatment and conservation. I would invite all Memphians to visit their website to learn all they are doing.

Sun, earth and water is just the tip of Memphis leadership as many other local companies from FedEx to Medtronic, from Accredo to Buckeye to Le Bonheur are making their mark in some aspect of Green. And of course, creating a green economy requires the right talent, and there are initiatives underway that make sure that happens (see my post in January of this year).

As we all battle the hot days of August in Memphis, it might be a refreshing to think about all we are doing to across the community to ensure our city – our region – claims its leadership role in many different aspects or our ever-greening world.

Research and Business Development at High Speed Collaboration

July 8, 2010

It looked like just an ordinary Tuesday during the summer on the campus of The University of Memphis a couple of weeks ago. A few students, faculty and people in business attire wandered among the groundskeepers, and a constant flow of cars went in and out of the parking garage on Innovation Drive. But, if you watched the doors of the FedEx Institute of Technology, you soon realized that an amazing collection of leaders from the Memphis education, technology, medical, bioscience, research, distribution, as well as local and state economic development and political worlds was filing in. Toss in a few reporters and photographers and you have a rather remarkable event.

What drew this amazing array of collaboration was the official launch of the Memphis Coalition for Advanced Networking’s (MCAN) ultra high speed fiber-optic communications network. In just a few minutes time, with the firing up of an ultra-high speed 10-gigabit-per-second data network, everything changed in terms of Memphis research and business development opportunity.

You see, this 10-gigabit-per-second data network connection makes anything any of us currently operate on seem slower than a bicycle at the Indy 500. In fact, the MCAN connection is 180,000 times quicker than the dial-up we were using just last decade or almost 3,000 times faster than our current broadband. Dr. Bill Evans, St. Jude director and CEO, told those attending the launch that Medical data that previously would have taken his team more than three hours to transfer may now be downloaded in a matter of minutes.

If you are in research at one of MCAN’s founding members – the University of Memphis, University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or the Memphis Bioworks® Foundation – you suddenly find yourself connected as if next door to the world’s fastest computer in Oak Ridge, the national Internet2 research network, a consortium of 200 universities, 70 leading corporations, 45 government agencies and 50 international partner organizations.

MCAN will not only allow Memphis scientists to better participate in global research, it is also designed to generate economic benefit from advanced networking applications. Russell Ingram, president and executive director of MCAN explained to the crowd, “The launch of this ultra high-speed research link creates intriguing potential for the Memphis business and entrepreneurial community. Connectivity at this speed will allow development of novel technologies and applications that would otherwise not be possible, leading to new businesses and jobs.”

MCAN is the result of several years of work by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Memphis community. In 2008, the State of Tennessee granted a contract to Oak Ridge to create a high-speed link between Oak Ridge and Memphis. In 2009, Oak Ridge requested the participation of the Memphis community in designing and implementing that link. In early 2010, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development funded the joint MCAN/Oak Ridge project with a grant of $3 million.

Yes, it was an ordinary day at the University of Memphis. An ordinary 10-gigabit-per-second, world of opportunity, complete community collaboration day that everyone in greater Memphis will benefit from in one way or another.

Angels in our Midst

June 10, 2010

No, I don’t mean Angels in the spiritual sense, although to a start-up business an Angel investor is so named because their investment is like a gift from above.  To the entrepreneur, an active and engaged Angel community can be among the most important aspects of setting up a business in a particular location. 

With this need in mind, in April Innova further expanded its leadership position in finding, funding and growing early-stage growth companies with the launch of the Mid-South Angel Network (MSAN). Just over a month later, Innova is finding a receptive audience and great opportunity.   

Founded in 2007 by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, Innova is a pre-seed, seed and early-stage investor focused on starting and funding high-growth companies in the Biosciences, Technology and AgBio fields across the state of Tennessee.  Innova is also, through its Innova Fund II LP, the first Tennessee Small Business Company Investment Credit Act (TNInvestco) organization in West Tennessee.

The Mid-South Angel Network is a unique model that will capitalize on Innova’s TNInvestco designation, while the potential investors capitalize on the ongoing due diligence and research taking place at Innova. The members of the Angel Network will have comfort that these are investments Innova has researched and vetted, and in most cases Innova will be investing along with them.  This allows them to take advantage of Innova’s established investment strategy and portfolio management capabilities, and take advantage of the deep research done by Inn ova staff.   Such a structure also means the Innova investment dollars through TNInvestco are stretched even further by joining them with local Angel dollars.

It is expected that members of the Angel Network each will be required to invest a minimum amount every two years to prevent the group from becoming “a social gathering.” Investors may be invited to sit on the boards of companies they invest in, as appropriate.

The establishment of this kind of an Angel network creates an identifiable benefit to companies who might be considering moving to Memphis or to Memphis-based discoveries and creations that are not sure where their most receptive home might be.  Having local high net worth individuals who directly invest into promising entrepreneurial businesses in return for stock or ownership in the businesses creates ties that go both directions. And, in such an influential business category – the Center for Venture Research estimates that more than 250,000 individual angel investors invested $17.6 billion in 57,225 entrepreneurial ventures in the U.S. in 2009 – creating ties and opportunities is vital. 

If you think this type of organization and initiative isn’t important to the State, consider the fact that the Angel Network was launched at a reception attended by both Commissioner Matt Kisber of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and Commissioner Reagan Farr of the Tennessee Department of Revenue. 

At the time of this writing, membership in MSAN continues to grow and, according to Innova leadership, the first potential investment for the Angel Network could come any day now.  If you are in a position to be an Angel Investor, Innova would like to hear from you ( and Memphis applauds you for your investment in our community’s business future.

Telling the Memphis Bio Story at the Definitive Bio Gathering

May 6, 2010

The world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry is taking place this week in Chicago. It is called the Bio International Convention, Bio for short, with the tag line “The Global Event for Biotechnology.” The event features nearly 2,000 exhibitors, more than 60 domestic and international pavilions, and attendance approaching 15,000. If you are anyone in the biosciences, you are there.

The Memphis Bioworks Foundation is proud to be a part of the Tennessee Pavilion at Bio. We have many different messages to communicate to those who come by to see all that is happening in our state. From the welcoming and active venture capital and investor environment for entrepreneurs; to the power and importance of a world class distribution and logistics community to bioscience businesses; to the leadership role we are taking in the field of biomass and the renewable bioeconomy; to the available shovel-ready bioscience infrastructure at locations like the UT Baptist Research Park. While all of those messages are viable and critical, perhaps the most important message we can deliver at a gathering the size of Bio is that today, and for the future, Memphis is The Orthopedic Center for the United States.

To be the Orthopedic Center requires a wide variety of integrated community attributes. Weakness in any one area threatens the ability of every other area to reach full potential. More than any other field in the biosciences, orthopedics requires a full array of services, sciences, capabilities and support. I believe Memphis is the only community that features the critical 11 attributes necessary to be The Orthopedic Center for the United States.

As I look around our community, this is what I see:

Industry Leadership – leadership in the production, introduction, discovery, marketing and services of orthopedic devices and related products.

Clinical Leadership – leadership in the clinical practice across the major disciplines of orthopedics.

Research Leadership – leadership in research and discovery that brings new ideas to market at both the academic and the entrepreneurial levels.

Infrastructure Leadership – leadership in investment, development and support of the critical physical infrastructure required to enable all aspects of the business.

Core Laboratories – shared laboratory resources that support the education, discovery and clinical needs across all aspects of testing, imaging and other biosciences.

Training and Education Leadership – leadership in all levels of training and education to create a deep talent pool that supports medical professional, sales and technical teams, and all levels of clinical, research, laboratory, treatment and industrial needs.

Venture Capital Leadership – leadership in making available local capital and the expertise to analyze and evaluate the potential of new ideas, companies and management teams.

Distribution and Logistics Leadership – leadership in distribution and logistics that supports and enables ongoing or immediate access to domestic and international markets.

Networking Leadership – leadership in providing the opportunities for professionals to network and share ideas as a catalyst for new business and career development, as well as funding.

Community Involvement – leadership at all levels of the community, including political and government, overall business and economic development, foundation and philanthropic, that sees the greater good beyond the immediately tangible.

Thought Leaders – recognized industry leaders who make themselves available to provide advice, counsel and guidance through their board and community leadership, and direct involvement.

Bio is a perfect place for Memphis and Tennessee to highlight our leadership positions in the bioscience industry. When the eight U.S. governors and more than 80 high-ranking international public officials, and attendees from 48 states and 60 countries leave Bio, it is important that they know Memphis and Tennessee are poised to grow and prosper in the recovering economy, and that enabling, encouraging and supporting the business and discovery of bioscience is critical to that growth.