Why Biotech Innovators Are Beating a Path to Seattle


Xconomy Seattle — 

As the life sciences sector continues to navigate the changing seas of innovation in the new economy, we’ve trained our gaze toward a few beacons. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest have become a light shining on the horizon.

In March, the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association and Burrill & Company will together present Life Science Innovation Northwest, a conference that will bring together scientists, entrepreneurs, investors and partners, who, working together, have the ability to discover and promulgate technologies to improve the lives of people around the world.

We originally wanted to convene a meeting in Seattle because of the potential for tremendous growth in the biotech and life sciences industries in the region. But the Pacific Northwest offers so much more; renowned for being a leading and innovative region. Companies like Boeing, Costco, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks are just a few who call the Northwest home. Over the past several years, the Northwest has emerged as a leader in several emerging 21st century industries, becoming one of the nation’s environmental leaders, spurring startups and expansion in green technologies, as well as in the informatics, health care IT and personalized medicine. In addition, Seattle has become the nexus for global health. This fast growing sector is tackling some of the most challenging diseases known to man, many of which affect the citizens in the Northwest and around the world.

Working together, these innovation industries become natural partners spurring discovery and economic growth within their own sectors. All of this presents tremendous value in the region that cannot be overlooked. Value in life sciences is not a derivative of immediate sales and earnings. Value is derived from the hopes and passions of what a product, drug or device is going to do for patients. The business climate in which a startup or even an established company operates boosts confidence that in turn boosts value, which creates jobs, promise and hope. Seattle and the Pacific Northwest’s private sector, philanthropic foundations and elected leadership need to be solidly on board the life sciences train in order to create a temperate climate for entrepreneurship and investment. The atmosphere in the Pacific Northwest today is similar to one California took advantage of more than a decade ago, which helped to create two of the largest biotech clusters in the world in San Francisco and San Diego. This vision bodes well for the Pacific Northwest’s future.

Steve Burrill

Steve Burrill

This year’s conference is expected to attract significantly more than the 700 attendees from around the world that attended the 2009 conference. It is an opportunity not only to attract interest in the economic potential for the region, but also stands to recognize the good work and brilliant discoveries being made by WBBA member organizations every day.

All of these ingredients create the perfect medium for economic growth. We expect this conference will attract much interest on a national and international scale. Among the lineup are more than 50 innovative organizations, premier research institutions, and pioneers in immunology, oncology and other chronic diseases. They will present latest biotech innovations, medical device and diagnostic technologies, global health initiatives, and bio-fuel and bio-agriculture breakthroughs.

The conference will also add the value of business strategy and investment panels discussing initial public offerings, public-private partnerships and the future of venture capital, and how our current economic situation has affected our industry, and where the opportunities lie in the future.

This region’s strong biotech, medical device, research and global health environment is becoming the next big economic driver. The stage has been set, and it will take not only the city’s leaders, but its residents and business community to support this sector growth. Life Science Innovation Northwest will be the place for scientists, business and community leaders, industry and the global health community, as well as forward-thinking investors and strategic partners to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity and help shape our global health care future. Smart, early innovators have sights set on the Pacific Northwest. Soon, everyone will follow.

[Editor’s Note: This post was co-authored by Chris Rivera, president of the Washington Biotechnology and Biomedical Association and G. Steven Burrill, CEO, Burrill & Company.]