Nearly a decade ago, a handful of visionaries in Louisiana began an earnest pursuit of public policies and support for critical investments to bring about significant economic value from a growing bioscience community. Ultimately, the state committed resources to the development of three state facilities - in Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
After a number of setbacks, including Hurricane Katrina and a global financial meltdown, the fruits of that effort are coming to bear, particularly in the Crescent City.
Today, New Orleans shows the signs of a city reborn from the destruction brought on by Hurricane Katrina. The changes in the city’s infrastructure and building projects have certainly been among them. The city reached a milestone in its renaissance last June when the New Orleans BioInnovation Center (NOBIC) opened for business.
The center is a 65,000-square foot biotech business incubator created to foster entrepreneurship within the New Orleans bioscience community and help commercialize technologies developed at Tulane, Louisiana State University, University of New Orleans and Xavier University of Louisiana. The building already houses 13 tenants, including two venture capital firms. Eventually, the building could house up to 50 companies and employ 200 people.
In addition to featuring wet labs, offices and conference space, NOBIC offers its tenants commercialization services, such as support for researchers who are dealing with angel investors, IP attorneys and companies interested in licensing or buying their technologies.
NOBIC, and facilities like it, provide a valuable and intangible asset to taxpayers who ultimately fund the initiative. Firstly, the citizens of Louisiana reap the financial rewards of commercialized research that spins out of academia - through increased tax revenue and royalties collected by state institutions. Secondly, and of invaluable long-term benefit, research incubators are an effective means of stemming the tide of brain-drain. Not only will the innovators stay in Louisiana, but the resulting newly created jobs will remain as well.
For every job created in the biotech industry, up to five additional jobs are created to build research facilities; maintain laboratory and computer equipment; supply laboratory and office equipment, and provide basic services to even the most modest biotechnology facilities.
Nationwide, local leaders are building research facilities, academic collaborations and indigenous capital networks which in turn create high-wage, high-skill jobs, retain the best and brightest students, and ensure that technologies developed in-state aren’t licensed out to one of the “established epicenters” of the biotechnology industry.
According to Aaron Miscenich, president of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center and Chairman of LouisianaBio, access to capital is one of the three legs of a life science start-up; the second being technology and the third being experienced management. NOBIC has developed and is working to expand its angel community and has the ability to offer start-ups pre-seed funding.
Louisiana's state legislature has signaled its) support for innovative research by establishing an angel investor tax credit, an R&D tax credit and has eliminated certain capital gains taxes, along with developing other incentives for the establishment of biotech companies.
Furthermore, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center plans to build a multi-billion dollar hospital complex adjacent to the proposed U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. These two state-of-the-art medical campuses will anchor a bioscience hub with vastly expanded opportunities for life sciences research, clinical trials and technology transfer.
Xavier University is making use of federal education funding to expand their pharmacy program to accommodate our industry’s growing need for skilled professionals. Proximity to an educated workforce is a critical component of a successful and thriving bioscience community. This competitive advantage will not go unnoticed by an industry in constant need of specially trained doctors, scientists, researchers and technicians.
Signs of progress and rebirth are visible throughout the city. The Biotechnology Industry Organization looks forward to a continued partnership with all of the institutions and individuals who share our common goal of growing an industry that is creating high-value jobs and producing breakthrough technologies that are helping to feed, fuel and heal the world.
Listen to a podcast interview with Aaron Miscenich, president of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center and chairman of LouisianaBio discussing bioscience economic development initiatives and the recently completed facility that is helping to commercialize technologies developed at local universities.