Seattle Has Global Health Muscle, But Needs More Education, Industry Partnerships

10/16/08

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We have to recruit the best and brightest to join us in our efforts and retain those who are already working in the sector here. We must set the stage so that existing organizations and companies can continue to grow and expand, while attracting other large companies. Having a major for-profit pharmaceutical company make its home in Washington State would create an outlet to move forward the intellectual property created here — not only to development but also to manufacturing and, ultimately, to market with the subsequent mutual benefits for all.

How can we do this? Advocacy and support from our city, regional and state governmental, business and community leaders will be needed. This can lead to the vision for the development of a statewide global health research initiative and a plan which might envision clusters of the component activities. Legislative support for tax incentives, zoning and infrastructure development would be useful in attracting and retaining for-profit companies and supporting the growth of the sector. Developing such policy and government initiatives to promote global health growth would demonstrate that the commitment that our state has in becoming a major force.

We must strengthen our educational efforts to develop the next generation of global health citizens of the world, as well as the scientists who can continue our efforts. We need to collaboratively train international students, who will become our international partners when they return to their home countries and fight the diseases that are killing their relatives, friends and neighbors by the millions.

Improving global health is not a short-term project. Long term efforts are required to develop definitive solutions such as much-needed new vaccines, drugs and diagnostics. They are within our reach, but still years away. Hence it is vital to offer educational opportunities and partnerships that open the doors of global health to high school and college students and provide professional training.

Public-private partnerships are another critical element for success. We need to ensure that the business community has opportunities for collaboration and investment. We need to apply the same creativity and “outside the box” thinking that have been characteristic of so many signature Northwest accomplishments and will help us meet this goal.

The Leadership Conference, with people from a variety of sectors coming together to learn about global health, provides an excellent starting point for us to work in concert and provide answers to the question of what is needed to move to the next level. I believe that, working together, Washington State can enhance and expand our current position as a world-class center of excellence for global health research.

Ken Stuart is the founder of Seattle Biomedical Research Institute. His research is focused on unicellular parasites that are estimated to kill around a million people each year. Follow @

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  • http://BiotechStockResearch.com David Miller

    Most of the majors have determined they will buy their R&D instead of expand to new cities to create more. There are some exceptions, of course, but so few that the inter-city competition for them will be fierce.

    A much better approach, and one I’ve been advocating for years, is to duplicate the Irish model of focusing on drug manufacturing to build the core “base” of stable biotech/healthcare infrastructure in the area. The range of jobs in drug manufacturing covers a much broader educational background, making government investment in the area more palatable.

    As medicine becomes more personalized, there will be a boom in manufacturing to handle all the different kinds of medications. While the number of cells and pills produced may not increase much, the number of manufacturing lines and bioreactors necessary to produce an exponentially larger array of these drugs will. I believe the resulting smaller, more nimble, and more tech-heavy manufacturing lines are a perfect fit for our area’s geography and base of technical experts.

    It also happens to be a far more stable business than drug development, which will almost always see dislocations due to acquisition in the case of success, or layoffs in the case of failures.