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Bioscience growth can boost city's economy

MY VIEW: Legislature needs to fund the industries that will create jobs


Oregon’s need for job growth is a conversation that extends well beyond the Capitol walls this legislative session.In our businesses and homes, we’re debating how to solve Oregon’s unemployment and underemployment issues.

While opinions abound in how to solve the problem, the consensus is clear. We need to support the businesses we do have, and we need to grow the industries that can sustain job growth.This argument was echoed in a recent presentation given by the Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute (OTRADI) to Oregon’s House Committee on Transportation and Economic Development.

OTRADI, like many nonprofits, is attempting to secure ongoing funding. When the country is tightening its financial belt, this is no easy feat. To appeal to decision-makers and the public at large, organizations seeking funding need to prove their worth in terms of profitability and ability to generate job growth. Created to support and grow startup bioscience companies and research in Oregon, OTRADI does just that. It finds funding for its partners, with the goal of attracting, growing and keeping bioscience companies and jobs in the state.

Since its 2007 inception, OTRADI has turned $10 million in state funding into more than $55 million in private, federal and foundation funding for Oregon. More specifically, OTRADI has provided scientific expertise, product expansion, grant and investor partnering, and recruitment services to more than 30 Oregon bioscience companies that otherwise wouldn’t have the means to access advanced scientific expertise or equipment.

And, as outlined in its business plan, OTRADI aims to be fully sustainable without state support by 2017.

According to the Battelle/BIO 2012 State Bioscience Industry Development Report, the bioscience industry is one of the top three economic growth sectors in the state, increasing employment in the biosciences by nearly 31 percent over the last decade, and outgrowing Oregon’s total private sector employment by 20 percent since 2001.

OTRADI recognizes the bioscience industry’s potential and sees opportunities to grow the sector even more. At its presentation, OTRADI announced plans to open an incubator this spring, creating the state’s first and only bioscience incubator and complementing the organization’s ongoing efforts to facilitate local job growth.

To be located in the heart of Oregon’s health and sciences cluster in Portland’s South Waterfront area, the incubator will be home to five to eight bioscience companies, providing opportunities for more than 50 quality jobs in a promising business sector. Also referred to as business accelerators, incubators provide space, entrepreneurial mentoring and shared equipment, and are proven catalysts for spin-off company development and job growth. Incubation space is more than providing labs and offices to fledging bioscience companies. It’s about providing key services these companies lack, so that they can focus time, energy and resources into growing their businesses.

Using industry best practices and modeled after successful incubators across the country, the OTRADI Bioscience Incubator will provide promising bioscience startups access to world-class expertise and resources, further increasing their chances of successful expansion, and reducing their barriers between innovative bioscience ideas and successful commercialization, all while energizing an already thriving business sector here in Oregon.

Come the end of the legislative session, OTRADI will receive notice of the committee’s ruling. Hopefully, the committee sees the potential to address our state’s unemployment and underemployment issues through bioscience expansion, and grants OTRADI’s request for ongoing funding.

Regardless, OTRADI has helped make bioscience’s case by supporting business development and by bolstering job growth in a promising industry.

Jennifer Fox is executive director of the Oregon Translational

Research and Development Institute in Portland.