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Bioscience Is Booming in Tucson and Southern Arizona

Southern Arizona continues to climb in prominence for bioscience, diagnostics and medical device companies. Anchored by its strengths of an educated workforce, access to funding and a cutting-edge research university, Southern Arizona is poised to meet the needs of companies looking to relocate or expand in the region.

Industry Growth

  • Arizona added 9,696 bioscience industry jobs between 2016-2018, an 8.3% growth rate, faster than the state’s overall growth rate of 6.2%.
  • From 2017-2018, wages for bioscience workers in Arizona increased by 4.9%. The national average was 4.1%.
  • In 2018, bioscience annual wages were nearly $18,000 above Arizona’s private-sector average.
  • From 2016-2018, Bioscience R&D at Arizona’s universities grew by 25%, more than twice the national rate of 12%.

Funding

  • In 2018, The University of Arizona Health Sciences (UAHS) and Banner Health received the largest National Institute of Health (NIH) award in Arizona history— $60 million for the All of Us Research Program.
  • Venture Capital funding for Arizona bioscience firms hit a record high in 2019 at nearly $200 million, even as bioscience funding slipped nationally.
  • National Institute of Health (NIH) grants to universities, research institutes, and firms hit a new high in 2019, totaling $263 million.
  • Between 2016-2019, Arizona led the country in National Institute of Health (NIH) funding growth.

Educational Partners and Talent Pipeline

Tucson is the home of the University of Arizona, a world-class research university with a history of working on cutting edge technology and translating it into practical applications. Projects have ranged from the development of new cancer treatments to pioneering breakthroughs in heart transplantation. The University of Arizona produces more than $600 million in annual research and is ranked as one the top 25 public research universities in the nation.

  • Tucson is home to the University of Arizona College of Medicine, a national leader in advancing health and wellness through education, research, and patient care. In addition to the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University, offer numerous leading programs in areas of importance to bioscience, including biomedical research, engineering, pharmacy, nursing, optics, business, and entrepreneurship.
  • There are over 2,000 graduates of Life Science/Science majors at the University of Arizona & Arizona State University.
  • Arizona State University is ranked 8th amongst institutions without a medical school for R&D expenditures.
  • The University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute aims to harness the collaborative power of five core research areas—agriculture, engineering, medicine, science, and pharmacy—to find bold solutions to complex problems. In the last five years, BIO5 Institute-affiliated research has brought in $363+M as a result of $47M in Technology and Research Initiative Fund (TRIF) funding.
  • Pima Community College is constructing a new state-of-the-art Center of Excellence in Applied Technology that provides the training needed for advanced manufacturing across industries, including medical device manufacturing.

Arizona Research & Development Tax Credit

The Research and Development (R&D) incentive provides an Arizona income tax credit for increased research and development activities conducted in this state, including research conducted at a state university and funded by the company. The goal is to encourage Arizona businesses to continue investing in research and development activities.  Through 2030 the R&D tax credit is equal to 24% of the first $2.5 million in qualifying expenses plus 15% of the qualifying expenses in excess of $2.5 million.

Flinn Foundation

The Flinn Foundation is a privately endowed, philanthropic grantmaking organization established in 1965. The Foundation aims to advance Arizona’s bioscience sector, provide top-notch education to high-achieving students at an Arizona public university, boost the fiscal and creative capacity of the state’s arts and culture organizations, and develop future state-level civic leaders. The Foundation funded the Southern Arizona Bioscience Roadmap, a long-term strategic plan originally commissioned in 2002 and updated in 2014 with the goal of Arizona becoming globally competitive and a national leader in select areas of the biosciences by 2025.

To view a map and listing of 200+ Southern Arizona bioscience companies, organizations and groups click the link here.

Critical Path Institute

Critical Path Institute (C-Path) celebrates 15 years in Tucson as its global headquarters. C-Path is a nonprofit, public-private partnership with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created under the auspices of the FDA’s Critical Path Initiative program in 2005. C-Path’s aim is to accelerate the pace and reduce the costs of medical product development through the creation of new data standards, measurement standards, and methods standards that aid in the scientific evaluation of the efficacy and safety of new therapies.

To learn more about C-Path’s work and achievements click the link here.

Notable Companies Shaping Southern Arizona’s Bioscience Landscape

Tucson and Southern Arizona provide a rich environment for innovation in bioscience with access to a strong engineering and science talent pool, and a quality of life that attracts and keeps talent from across the country.

Accelerate Diagnostics, Inc.

Accelerate Diagnostics, Inc. employs nearly 200 people in Tucson and works to revolutionize the microbiology lab through building new technology and tests that accelerate lab results and drive better clinical outcomes for patients with serious infections. The company relocated from Denver to Tucson in 2012 to develop and commercialize its first diagnostic platform. Learn about recent innovations here.

  • PhenoTest® Improvements: Accelerate Diagnostics received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance for a new suite of product enhancements to the Accelerate Pheno® system, which will improve its performance and expand the system’s antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) menu for bloodstream infections.
  • FDA Emergency Use Authorization for COVID-19 Individual IgM and IgG Antibody Tests: Accelerate Diagnostics and BioCheck, Inc., a privately held San Francisco-based company focused on in vitro diagnostics, announced they will market, commercialize, and support the individual BioCheck SARS-CoV-2 IgM Test Kit and the BioCheck SARS-CoV-2 IgG Test Kit serology-based testing platform. The MS-Fast system and BioCheck SARS-CoV-2 chemiluminescence tests are capable of processing human serum samples in 30 minutes to detect antibodies that indicate recent or prior COVID-19 infection.

Roche Tissue Diagnostics

With more than 250 cancer tests and associated instruments, Roche is a leading global supplier of cancer diagnostic systems to the pathology market.  Roche employs 1,600 people at its campus in Oro Valley and revolutionizes cancer diagnostics worldwide through state-of-the-art testing automation.  Learn about recent innovations here.

Wonder How Tucson Companies & Organizations Have Pivoted Their Operations in The Age Of COVID-19?

Accelerate Diagnostics, Inc.

Accelerate Diagnostics and BioCheck, Inc., a privately held San Francisco-based company focused on in vitro diagnostics, will market, commercialize, and support the individual BioCheck SARS-CoV-2 IgM Test Kit and the BioCheck SARS-CoV-2 IgG Test Kit serology-based testing platform. The MS-Fast system and BioCheck SARS-CoV-2 chemiluminescence tests are capable of processing human serum samples in 30 minutes to detect antibodies that indicate recent or prior COVID-19 infection.

Jack Phillips, Accelerate Diagnostics’ Chief Executive Officer, commented, “Offering the individual BioCheck SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG tests alongside the BioCheck SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgG Combo Test will provide our customers with the flexibility to meet their specific testing needs. We’re tremendously excited to offer this accurate, high-quality antibody testing technology to our customers, as we believe the adoption of serology-based COVID-19 antibody testing will be an increasingly important tool in the fight against COVID-19.”

Learn more here.

Roche Tissue Diagnostics

Roche received FDA Emergency Use Authorization for the cobas SARS-CoV-2 & Influenza A/B Test for use on the cobas 6800/8800 Systems. This is the first commercial test for fully automated high throughput systems to detect and differentiate SARS-CoV-2, influenza A virus and/or influenza B virus with a single sample.

“With the approaching flu season, this new test is particularly important as SARS-CoV-2 and influenza infections can hardly be differentiated by symptoms alone. Now, with a single test, healthcare professionals can confidently provide the right diagnosis and most effective treatment plan for their patients,” said Thomas Schinecker, CEO of Roche Diagnostics. “As a leader in diagnostics testing solutions, this launch demonstrates our ongoing commitment to stop the spread of serious infectious diseases by increasing access to accurate, reliable and efficient testing options.”

Learn more here.

Alicat Scientific

Headquartered in the town of Marana in the northwest metro area, Alicat Scientific is the pioneer of laminar differential pressure flow technology, and manufactures and develops custom flow control, flow meter and pressure solutions for both gas and liquid applications as well as respiratory systems and ventilators.

When COVID hit, the company realized that its products could benefit ventilator suppliers looking for quality control systems. “Our customer base generally consisted of science labs, researchers and industrial equipment suppliers,” said Ben Ramirez, vice president of sales and marketing. “Our product was also used by respiratory and oxygen-related equipment suppliers but it was a small market for us prior to COVID. Product demand has taken off since March with our customers who manufacture ventilators and other respiratory equipment. It became a 24/7 operation for us to keep up with orders.  With this experience, we know we can now be ready for when the next pandemic hits. We’re a business born out of the University of Arizona and are proud to call Tucson home.”

The company currently has 150 employees and is expanding its presence with the addition of 12,000 square feet to accommodate the addition of 100 office and manufacturing jobs. With the addition of 100 jobs over the next five years, Alicat’s economic impact will be over $142 million added to the regional economy.  Learn more at alicat.com.

University of Arizona

Researchers at The University of Arizona and The University of Arizona’s Health Sciences are using their expertise to address the most pressing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic with infection and immunity research and antibody and diagnostic testing.

Recently researchers at the University of Arizona have found that pain relief caused by the SARS-CoV-2 infection may help explain why nearly half of all people who get COVID-19 experience few or no symptoms, even though they are able to spread the disease. “This research raises the possibility that pain, as an early symptom of COVID-19, may be reduced by the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein as it silences the body’s pain signaling pathways,” said UArizona Health Sciences Senior Vice President Michael D. Dake, MD. “University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers at the Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center are leveraging this unique finding to explore a novel class of therapeutics for pain as we continue to seek new ways to address the opioid epidemic.”

Learn more about this research here.

Quick Facts

  • University of Arizona startups generated more than $585 million in economic impact over a three-year span.
  • In 2018-2019, Arizona universities received 180 patents, up from 119 in the previous period.
  • Arizona inventors have been awarded 2,178 bioscience-related patents since 2016, among the second quintile of states in patent activity.
  • The new bio firms created from university intellectual property in 2018-2019 represented 52% of all university spinouts.

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