Washington’s fast-growing life sciences community enjoys a strong and collaborative environment that has propelled it to No. 5 among the state’s largest employers according to recent data from the Washington State Department of Employment Security.
That was the conclusion of the ZINO Life Sciences Investment Forum panel discussion that I participated in earlier this week. Panel members—including David Schubert, president of Accelerator; Martin Simonetti, CEO of VLST; Michelle Burris, chief operating officer of Trubion Pharmaceuticals; and facilitated by Alan Smith, a partner at Fenwick & West—debated the state of the life sciences sector and discussed the opportunities and challenges facing the industry.
The half-day event also featured presentations by 15 impressive early stage companies to accredited investors, ZINO Society members and guests. The presenting companies were vying for a $50,000 investment to support their development. The presentations were broken down into three categories: Seed Stage, Launch Stage and Expansion Stage. Three companies were selected as fund finalists. Panelists then had the opportunity to grill company executives to shed more light on their ideas, plans and operations during a segment called “Due Diligence Live!”.
Their presentations, coupled with positive yet realistic comments from panelists, helped solidify my belief that our state’s life science sector is in a good position to fulfill its promise of becoming a global leader on many technological, clinical and health care fronts, as well as a major driver of Washington’s economy. The three finalists were Kevin Connolly of SRS Medical, Carole Spangler of Seattle Sensor Systems and Paul Slowey (aka “Dr. Spit”) of Oasis Diagnostics.
With statewide employment of 22,349, the life sciences are closing in on computer and electronic product manufacturing for the No. 4 position among the state’s largest employers. Transportation equipment manufacturing, agriculture, and food and beverage manufacturing hold the first three spots.
Washington in unique in its willingness to collaborate at the highest level, which contributes to this job growth. Many of the presenting companies are also companies that have come through the WBBA’s commercialization program, or have been an applicant or presenter at WINGS, Washington’s newly formed medical technology angel network, facilitated by the WBBA.
It is exciting to see so many quality early stage companies, see all of the excitement evolving in many of our world’s leading research institutes and how our global health community continues to lead by example and how our industry leaders are partnering with many of these organizations to face some of the most challenging health care issues facing us and citizens around the world. I believe that life sciences in our state is in a very good position to fulfill many promises. Those include becoming a global leader on many technological, clinical and health care fronts. By doing those things, life sciences will become an increasingly important economic driver in our state.