What Can Washington Do to Revitalize Biotech? Q&A With Gov. Inslee
(Page 2 of 3)
have some successes. Nanostring just won marketing approval of a new diagnostic test for breast cancer. We do have some success stories. We do have to improve our access to venture capital. That’s something we’re very interested in doing. We have networks to make sure that happens.
I’d like to point out that these startups do not usually have signs on top of them with red, flashy lights on them. The nature of startups is to be small and under the radar. We have had successful startups that have been acquired and then leave the area. It’s part of our focus that when we have successful technological development, we want its manufacturing and larger support stays in the state of Washington. It’s one of the things that I think you rightfully point out, we need to work on.
It’s not just about biotech, either. I’m heading out now to Philips in Bothell, WA, which is rolling out a new ultrasound product. We’ve got medical device firms doing well in our area. That cluster helps the whole healthcare delivery system, as well as global health. Our global health cluster, between the Gates Foundation and PATH and others, are doing well. It’s not strictly biotech. We look at this as a life science cluster.
And, when you talk about walking around Lake Union, it’s not just Lake Union. I’m in Bothell now and we have some good things going on.
X: I hear you, and it’s a fair point to raise about medical devices, and Philips does have a big investment in Washington. But I cover a lot of those startups that don’t have big signs on their building, and there aren’t as many of them anymore. I know there are numbers coming out of the UW that say they are creating companies. But very few of those have raised any money, or have enough of a plan to say they will be around in a few years and growing.
JI: Seattle Genetics has been here for many years, and if you look at some of the success they’re having, it’s very exciting. That’s someone you ought to have on your radar screen.
X: I know about Seattle Genetics and have written a lot about it. But are you looking at any other ideas to stimulate more entrepreneurship and get more economic development out of some of that big research base you mentioned at UW, at Fred Hutch. I’m thinking about things like making it easier for entrepreneurial faculty members to start companies, while keeping their day job, or being able to fall back on it.
JI: We are exploring those options. We have had some success. Like I said, we doubled the commercialization rate from the UW. We intend to continue at that accelerated pace. There are some things we are looking at to clear cobwebs away from some of those people so they can become entrepreneurs. So the answer is yes.
Now, I know none of them are the equivalent of an Amazon at the moment, in terms of those companies coming out of the university. But that doesn’t dissuade me one bit in thinking this is very important and will be successful. These are nascent new companies. I’m happy we’ve doubled it already.
X: But I think a lot of people look at this from a job creation perspective, and I’m sure you hear about it, too. I talk to a lot of graduate students, postdocs, really smart young people coming out of these universities who cannot find jobs. There just aren’t jobs. There aren’t the kind of growing companies in the Seattle area anymore where they can find work. What do you say to those people?
JI: I’d say you should be pleased we are focusing on this area to accelerate creation of these clusters. You should be pleased we are doing an R&D tax credit that will increase investment. You should be pleased that our commercialization effort is increasing commercialization. You should be pleased that we are decreasing some of the regulatory hurdles these new companies have. You should be pleased we are going to be the only state in the country that has a regulatory index to judge our regulatory climate for these companies, which will tell us how successful we are in permitting so that when new companies get started, they can get going. You should be like a lot of people in our youth with tremendous intellectual capability – be ambitious, and impatient to get going. That impatience is real and well-founded. I think we have a bright future here.
X: You mentioned an R&D tax credit. I thought there already was an R&D tax credit for companies in Washington.
JI: We think we have some ideas, which we’ll be talking about in the legislature next session, on focusing better on startup companies which are in more need. We think we can … Next Page »