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Community investment in biosciences leads to the ultimate “win-win”

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Guest Author
April 21, 2021

At i2E our mission is to invest in entrepreneurs to build successful high growth companies in Oklahoma. While the world of investing can be complicated, the ultimate goal, like our mission, is pretty straightforward. We are looking to create “win-win” scenarios in our community.

We invest in Oklahoma-based startups, more than 745 in our 22-year history, because we know that successful, innovative small businesses make a positive impact on our state’s economy.

However, a good investment is not simply about supplying capital. We work directly with entrepreneurs to help them launch and grow their businesses. Smart investment is also about nurturing your assets to help ensure success.

In Oklahoma, we have seen that what works for launching startups also translates to the community level. Oklahoma is proof that communities strategically investing in their local bioscience sectors create an undeniable “win-win” for themselves.

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OMRF Research Tower

For decades, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (now referred to as OU Health) have been producing bioscience success in their adjacent campuses situated in Oklahoma City. In the early 2000s, community leaders endeavored to intentionally leverage those assets into a full-fledged hub of bioscience activity.

A roadmap was created on how the community should invest in biosciences to help make the industry a key driver for the region’s economy—the payoff being high-wage jobs, quality health care and career opportunities for the region’s residents.

One of the key actions taken was the formation of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association (OKBio), which our organization, i2E, oversees. OKBio’s role is to promote the growth of the industry in Oklahoma through partnership building, networking and more.

Over the past decade, our sector has seen big wins like Novartis’ purchase of Selexys Pharmaceuticals for $665 million, Crescendo Bioscience being purchased by Myriad Supply and Genzyme’s purchase of Novazyme Pharmaceuticals.

The success of these local companies has produced a cycle that attracts more investment, creates even more opportunities for companies and more economic opportunities for our citizens, and the industry data reflects that growth. Today, in Oklahoma City alone, the bioscience sector supports 51,000 workers with a total payroll of $2.2 billion.

The growth of the industry has led to increased capital investment as well. The area where OMRF and OU Health are located has grown exponentially over the past decade and has become Oklahoma’s hub for biosciences and health care. A 2017 report from the Brookings Institution and Project for Public Spaces called “Positioning for Growth: Advancing the Oklahoma City Innovation District” is charting the path forward for both the industry and the area.

The overarching theme of the report was “with the right investments, the Oklahoma City innovation district has the potential to become a major center of gravity for innovation and the economic development in Oklahoma City.” 

The key phrase was “right investment” and the community responded quickly. In 2019, as part of a larger sales tax initiative known as MAPS 4, the citizens of Oklahoma City approved a $71 million investment in the burgeoning Innovation District. This investment includes funds to encourage further development for minority-owned and economically disadvantaged small businesses, better connectivity in and around the district and the construction of an “Innovation Hall” to serve as a central place where activities to grow our city’s innovation economy can be facilitated.

 

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OK Innovation District

 

In late 2020, this public investment led a group of local developers to announce plans to build a 2.7-acre development in the heart of the Innovation District. The 400,000-square-foot development will feature research labs, office space, a hotel and retail space all centered around the publicly funded MAPS 4 Innovation Hall.

In Oklahoma, we have shown that with strategic investment, communities can play a key role in bioscience development that creates the ultimate “win-win” of company success, economic impact and world-changing health care.

About the Author

Scott Meacham

Scott Meacham, President & CEO of i2E

As president and CEO, Scott Meacham leads i2E’s efforts to create knowledge-based jobs in Oklahoma through the development of and investment in high-growth companies. The statewide bioscience association, OKBIO, is run by i2E. Meacham previously served as the 17th State Treasurer of Oklahoma, an office he held from June 2005 until January 2011.

 

 

This piece was submitted as part of the Global Marketplace at BIO Digital 2021. The NEW Global Marketplace at BIO Digital is designed to be the destination to showcase any region’s biotech strength and elevate its leading companies via high-energy, fast-paced presentations, coupled with live face-to face networking. Learn more here.