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VOL. 126 | NO. 37 | Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Luncheon to Address Union of Biosciences, Small Business

By Aisling Maki

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Members of the city’s growing bioscience community will come together Thursday for a luncheon hosted by the Memphis Bioworks Business Association, a group dedicated to promoting and advancing the bioscience business community in the Memphis region through programs, events and strategic communications.

“Growing Small Business in the Biosciences” will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave.

The event will feature five panelists: Dr. Gary Emmert, founder of Foundation Instruments; Dr. Lisa Jennings, president and CEO of CirQuest Labs LLC; Dr. Duane Miller, co-founder of RxBio Inc.; and Maury Radin, president and co-founder of BioDimensions Inc.

The dialogue will be moderated by Dr. Steven J. Bares, president and executive director of the nonprofit Memphis Bioworks Foundation, which brings together public, private, academic and government entities to improve and expand Memphis’ bioscience landscape.

“This is about an ecosystem that encourages, builds and grows and develops talent, and if you have all of that, then the jobs come,” Bares said. “We’re just starting to see the benefits of that ecosystem, and the panel discussion on Thursday is a good example.”

Bioscience is among the fastest-growing industries in the Memphis area, and Bares said the industry employs an estimated 51,000 people locally.

“That includes people who are working at Medtronic or Smith & Nephew or the startups that we’re talking about,” he said. “And it includes the clinical activities at Methodist or Baptist or a clinical center, and the laboratories and chemical facilities that are making bio-based products and things like that.”

Bares said communities across the country are interested in the business of bioscience because it’s an innovation-driven sector, a vibrant industry with solid potential for generating jobs and revenue.

“Obviously that breeds an entrepreneurial spirit, but I think it’s partially pervasive just in the industry itself,” he said. “Whether you’re talking about bioenergy and biofuels, chemical products, orthopedic devices, biologistics – these are all hot areas with a lot of room for innovation and new ideas.”

He said Memphis’ bioscience infrastructure nurtures its innovation and entrepreneurial drive.

“You have incubators here; you have mentoring programs, networking events, angel fund programs and help with grants,” he said. “If you don’t have that, you can be innovative but it’s hard to make those innovative things happen. What makes Memphis unique is the portfolio and breadth of services that we’ve added to the table.”

Bares said the Bioworks model is one that can be applied to other sectors in the community.

“How we’re encouraging and mentoring and how we’re connecting people to talent and ideas to people are all the mechanisms that you use to build new companies in this community whether it’s in the biosciences or not,” he said.

During the prolonged recession, Memphis Bioworks Foundation doubled the number of startup ventures that it’s assisting and added incubator space by expanding into two more floors and adding laboratory space.

And in the fall, six Memphis-area companies were awarded a total of $2.63 million in federal grants or tax credits under the Qualifying Therapeutic Discover Project, a program created by the Affordable Health Care Act that awards small companies that demonstrate strong potential for developing new and cost-saving therapies.

“There is a certain ecosystem that’s developed over time that we believe helps people become successful,” said Brandon Wellford, Bioworks chief financial officer.

And the city’s bioscience industry is expected to continue to flourish throughout 2011.

“More jobs, more revenue, more orders, more capital and more investment,” Bares said. “I’d also expect to see a breadth of new companies that are formed. A lot of interesting concepts and ideas are coming out of the woodwork, and each one of those looks promising.”

Tickets to Thursday’s luncheon, $21.25 for members and $25 for nonmembers, are available at www.bioworksbusiness.com.

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