Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Arizona bio biz groups merge

[Source: Michelli Murphy, Arizona Daily Star] - The regional groups aimed at advancing Arizona's biosciences industry have come together to form one statewide entity.

The Tucson-based BioIndustry Organization of Southern Arizona, known as Bio-SA, has merged with the Phoenix-based Arizona BioIndustry Association, called AZBio, and a new board of directors has been selected.

The AZBio board includes representatives from Northern, Central and Southern Arizona, and is headed by paid staff members — Bob Eaton, president and CEO, and Natascha Hebell-Fernando, chief operating officer.

The effort to integrate the groups began last summer, said Michael Cusanovich, Bio-SA president and AZBio a board member.

Past efforts have failed because they would have turned Southern Arizona into an outpost while focusing on growth in the Phoenix area, Cusanovich said.

The new structure is a partnership, giving all three groups equal say, he said. "We finally discovered a model that works."

AZBio now has three regional chapters, based in Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson. Each is responsible for promoting local biotech growth and will continue to host events for area companies.

AZBio has about 110 members, but that number will continue to rise as companies renew memberships, Eaton said.

It will rise much more after all the Bio-SA members are included, Cusanovich said.

Bio-SA has 75 to 80 members, which renew their yearly memberships based on the month they joined. Because AZBio processes renewals each January, not all the former BIO-SA members have been officially included.

"It's a transition period. By January, everything will be set," Cusanovich said.
The new structure will allow Arizona's biotech associations to "operate in a unified way to provide advocacy for the industry," Eaton said.

The initial board is made up of three representatives from Northern Arizona, six from the greater Phoenix area and six from Southern Arizona.

The board also can include up to six at-large members. Saundra Johnson, executive vice president of the Flinn Foundation, is the only one currently elected.

In 2002, the Flinn Foundation commissioned the Battelle research group to create Arizona's Bioscience Roadmap, a 10-year plan to accelerate biotech-industry growth.

The foundation's latest progress report highlights substantial gains for the state's biotech industry.

From 2002 to 2006, bioscience employment grew 18.5 percent. That translates to an additional 12,600 jobs, creating a total of 80,909 jobs.

In the same period, wages of bioscience workers increased 25 percent for an average annual salary of $48,674.

The number of bioscience establishments also grew, rising from 639 to 745, an increase of 16.6 percent.

Biotech growth should accelerate with the merger of the state's biotech groups, said Bob Hagen, Southern Arizona Tech Council chairman.

More can be accomplished when the state speaks with a unified voice, said Hagen, whose organization is an umbrella group for the local tech clusters.
Allowing Bio-SA to maintain its regional presence makes the merger a "win-win situation," Hagen said.

● Contact NASA Space Grant intern Michelli Murphy at 573-4197 or at

No comments: