President McRobbie

Biosciences Research Institute will grow Indiana economy and improve health

Note: This guest column was submitted by Michael A. McRobbie, president, Indiana University, and Steve Ferguson, chairman, the Cook Group. It appeared in the Bloomington Herald-Times on July 24, 2013.

When you have built a leading industry sector that creates good, high-paying jobs and drives significant economic activity across the state, it only makes sense to continue to build on that success.

Indiana has spent decades building its life sciences leadership position. The proof is in the numbers. Indiana is among the top five states in the country in terms of total life sciences jobs and companies. Life sciences products make up one-third of all Indiana exports and contribute more than $50 billion in annual value to Indiana's economy.

When life sciences industry, university and state leaders came together in late May to announce the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, the answer to the next chapter in our state's evolution as a life sciences industry leader was unveiled.

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute will be unique to Indiana—not just in name but in its ability to bring a diverse, yet complementary, industry sector together with our state's research universities—to discover and develop new life sciences innovations and provide an unprecedented impact to a statewide economy.

Right here in Bloomington, we have evidence of our growing and diverse life sciences ecosystem. Bloomington's employment in the life sciences industry is six times the national average. And while Bloomington ranks fifth in the nation in terms of medical equipment and supplies manufacturing, with companies such as Cook Medical, BioMedix and MectraLabs, the city also hosts companies such as Baxter and BioConvergence and enterprises that focus on health information technology and clinical research. Bloomington also is home to Indiana University, one of the leading research universities in the nation.

As an industry-led institute, the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute is designed to focus on research driven by market needs and to do so in scientific labs developed to advance 21st century life sciences discoveries. At the center of the institute could be interdisciplinary teams from multiple life sciences companies and universities working hand-in-hand toward common scientific understandings.

How does that apply to today's world in Indiana? Scientists from Eli Lilly and Company could partner with biotech scientists at other state-based life sciences companies, such as Dow AgroSciences or Cook Medical, and with bioengineers and other specialty scientists at research universities to share labs, knowledge and the fruits of research. The results could support new drug discoveries, unlock new opportunities to combine medical devices and pharmaceuticals to treat disease and develop biotech solutions to improve our food sources. The possibilities for discoveries are real and limitless, and the impacts could be transformative.

While the opportunities for discovery are more diverse than our industry base, the benefits to the state of Indiana are equally impressive. The research institute will impact nearly every Hoosier through its ability to grow the state's economy, increase the number of high-paying life sciences jobs and jobs in hundreds of industries that support the sector. The institute could strengthen Indiana's position as a leading hub for scientific discovery, attracting scientific talent from around the nation. At the same time, the institute would be supported by local life sciences companies, keeping millions of research dollars in Indiana and contributing to a growing economy.

The goal is to impact Hoosiers through the medical advancements that are the byproducts of work undertaken by the institute's teams of researchers. Hoosiers could be the early beneficiaries of the initial scientific focus of the research institute: interrelated metabolic disorders of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and nutrition. A major economic burden and a leading cause of death in the United States, these disorders are especially important to Hoosiers who suffer disproportionately from them.

The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute is a bold project to grow Indiana's economy, while delivering answers to some of the nation's—and state's—most pressing human health issues. The time is right, and Indiana has the assets and leadership to create something unlike anything in the nation.