Invest in Biotech, Or Watch the U.S. Health Innovation Edge Slip Away
Not everyone understands the way that new medical treatments, diagnostics, medicines, therapies and the like are created. It’s a long, expensive process, mostly the realm of scientists and engineers. But anyone who’s ever been concerned about a sick family member, or a loved one succumbing to disease, can appreciate what these scientists and their discoveries have done to improve health prospects for all of us.
Insofar as medical innovation is the future of health care, however, we are now seeing that health care plays a central role in the future of our economy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the health care industry has added nearly 700,000 jobs since the start of the recession. Many experts believe that medical innovation is an industry where our country will shine brightest.
But a recently released report by Battelle suggests that American leadership in this area is no longer a sure thing. There are some troubling data points. For the U.S. health innovation industry to remain the global leader, it needs a growing pool of talented scientists. Yet the average science, technology, engineering, and mathematics assessment scores for American eighth-graders is 520, trailing Russia, England and Japan’s rates of 530, 553 and 561 respectively. According to a 2006 Association of American Universities analysis, 15 percent of U.S. undergraduates pursue a degree in natural science or engineering, compared to 50 percent in China.
Battelle found that life sciences leaders around the country are concerned that the United States is losing its edge. Thus, the Council for American Medical Innovation, a national group that commissioned the Battelle study, has been calling for the federal government to do more to foster medical innovation-and fast. It recommends tasking a federal office with maintaining leadership in medical innovation. It also recommends advancing public-private collaboration, strengthening investments in R&D and manufacturing, enhancing regulatory science at the FDA, and providing federal support for the biosciences in K-12 education.
Washington state’s business leaders and policymakers recognize the substantial potential of medical innovation. The Governor and the legislature displayed foresight in 2005 when they created the Life Sciences Discovery Fund to provide grants for research. The goal of this groundbreaking program was to invest in the two major benefits of the biosciences sector: economic growth and improved health care. The fund has since provided more than $50 million to researchers throughout the state.
In 2007, the City of Bothell and the University of Washington brought key public and private sector partners together to obtain a Washington State Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) designation from Governor Gregoire. The Bothell Technology Corridor IPZ is a regional center of excellence for medical device manufacturing and ultra sound activities, and provides leadership and a focal point for this growing industry.
As a result of this most recent legislative session, the development, manufacture, and delivery of global health products should become an even more dynamic part of the state’s economy. Tax incentives for contributions to the new global health technology and product development fund established this year will provide a sustainable grant program to ensure Washington remains competitive.
Meanwhile, the South Lake Union … Next Page »
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