By RICK CALLAHAN, Associated Press
Updated 1:38 pm, Thursday, May 30, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Some of Indiana's top life sciences companies and research universities have banded together to form a new biosciences institute that Gov. Mike Pence predicted Thursday will spur scientific innovation and lure new jobs, investment and leading scientists to the state.
The nonprofit Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, incorporated only last week, is the nation's first industry-led biosciences institute, Pence said.
The governor said that arrangement will allow the group's collaborators to "respond to market signals" more effectively than similar institutes around the U.S. while tapping into "the deep reservoir of lab-based experimentation and innovation" at the state's universities.
Pence said Indiana's roughly 2,000 life sciences companies, which together contribute about $50 billion to the state's economy annually, will receive a boost in the years ahead as the institute ramps up its collaborations between industry and academia and attracts top scientists to the state.
"When we have a red hot sector of our economy that creates the kind of jobs we need more of we've got to pour gas on it, and that's exactly what we're doing with this institute — we're pouring gas on the bright flame of our life sciences sector," Pence said during a news conference at Eli Lilly & Co.'s Indianapolis headquarters announcing the initiative.
The institute is a collaboration involving Eli Lilly, Dow AgroSciences, Roche Diagnostics, Cook Group, Biomet Orthopedics, Indiana University Health and the life sciences industry group BioCrossroads.
Purdue University, Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame have also joined the institute, which will help turn scientific discoveries made at those schools into commercial products.
The institute has received $25 million in startup funding from the state Legislature and is seeking another $25 million from industry and philanthropic sources — money that will go to recruiting a nationally recognized CEO for the group and attract research fellows.
In the years ahead, the institute will be seeking an estimated $360 million in corporate and philanthropic funding to carry out its various research initiatives. A board of directors representing the life sciences industry, the state, academia and nonprofit donors has already been chosen to oversee the group, which aims to have the first commercialized technology developed from its collaborations in the marketplace within five years.
David Johnson, the president and chief executive officer of BioCrossroads, said Indiana is among the nation's top five life science states, along with North Carolina, New Jersey, California and Massachusetts.
But he said the state's wide-ranging life sciences industry cannot stand still if it hopes to beat out those and other states working to develop new innovations that can aid human health and attract high-paying jobs and new startup companies.
"You've got to be working all the time to try to figure out how you get more able people, smart people, skilled people and talented people in one place at one time working together to try to make something happen," Johnson said. "That is what the idea of the institute really is."
He said that issues involving patents and royalties from each new idea, treatment or medical device that arises from the institute's efforts will be worked out case by case by each parties' attorneys.
Jack Phillips, the president and CEO of Roche Diagnostics, said the institute's collaborating industry and university scientists will be focusing their work on metabolic disorders, including diabetes, which he said effects 714,000 Indiana residents. Another target will be obesity, which he said afflicts about a third of adult Hoosiers.
"This is an initiative we can absolutely get passionate about and do something about," he said.
Eli Lilly senior vice president Bart Peterson thanked state lawmakers for providing part of the startup funding for the institute, saying the group won't just boost the state's life sciences industry but also break down barriers between university researchers and their counterparts in companies to fully exploit the potential of new discoveries.
"There has to be a better working relationship between industry and academia. There are other places in this country that have figured that out — not a lot but those that have are really reaping the rewards."