Utah plays growing role in biopharmaceutical innovation

According to Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), not only is the United States the global leader of biopharmaceutical innovation, but the state of Utah plays an increasingly important role within the industry’s growth.

“The economic impact of the biopharmaceutical industry and its closely-integrated supply chain translate into high-wage jobs, substantial tax revenue and growing economic output in our local communities,” PhRMA noted in the 2018 Industry Report, stressing the role of the industry in maintaining economies’ competitive advantage.

“Sustaining the robust biopharmaceutical R&D enterprise in the United States will be critical to ensuring continued global competitiveness and creating high-quality jobs and economic growth across the U.S. economy,” the report stated.

In Utah, the industry represents a growing part of the state’s economy.

The most recent data released by PhRMA in Nov. 2017 found that the biopharmaceutical industry supports 76,093 direct jobs and 11,681 indirect jobs, with direct jobs averaging 60 percent higher compensation than the average job in the state.

PhRMA noted that the economic impact of the industry within Utah has been growing due to a range of programs and initiatives to support and grow the biopharmaceutical industry, including the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR).

“Within the life sciences cluster, Utah is known primarily for its medical device and diagnostic companies,” said Barbara Araneo, Ph.D., USTAR senior director of scientific affairs and emerging technologies. “However, as diagnosis and treatment of diseases continues to evolve, biopharmaceutical technology will play an increasingly key role in Utah’s economic growth—which is why programs designed to promote the sector’s growth are vital to our long-term vitality.”

Within its profile of Utah, PhRMA noted that USTAR plays a critical role in fostering a comprehensive growth of the biopharmaceutical industry through several of its programs, including its technology entrepreneur services, which offers support to Utah entrepreneurs looking to accelerate their technology commercialization.

One of the companies that is part of USTAR’s portfolio is Navigen, an early-stage drug discovery and development company that is developing a new class of drugs for the treatment of diseases such as HIV and inflammatory diseases. Navigen recently received investment from Mountain Pacific Venture Fund, TY BIO Investment, Inc., and University Venture Fund II.

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“Our investment into Navigen is representative of the impact our fund seeks to make on society by advancing innovative science, improving outcomes and enhancing quality of life,” said June Chen, M.D., managing partner at the Mountain Pacific Venture Fund, in a press release about the investment round.  “We are proud to support those efforts.”

The deal was made possible, in part, by a trip to Bio Korea 2018 coordinated earlier this year by USTAR, Church & State (a non-profit business incubator in Salt Lake City that is managed by Chen and Ron Heffernan), and the World Trade Center Utah, with additional support from EDC Utah and the Center for Technology and Venture Commercialization at the University of Utah. The collaboration demonstrated how USTAR and other economic development partners are working to support and advance life science and biotech innovation during the critical early stages of research and development, which is essential for diversifying the Utah economy and attracting foreign direct investment.

To learn more about the biopharmaceutical industry in Utah, visit https://www.phrma.org/state-map/utah. To learn more about biopharmaceutical startup companies in USTAR’s portfolio, visit ustar.org.