Thursday, May 6, 2010

Georgia Showcases Bioscience Advances at Industry's Top Global Conference

/PRNewswire/ -- Georgia will continue to accelerate the growth of its bioscience industry at the annual BIO International Convention in Chicago, the largest global event for the biotechnology industry. The event attracts the biggest names in biotech and offers key partnering opportunities as well as insights into major trends.

"This strategic industry for the state continues to experience significant growth in the wake of last year's convention in Georgia," said Governor Sonny Perdue. "The research coming out of our universities combined with Georgia's top-notch business environment has generated increased interest from the industry as a result of their heightened exposure over the last year."

Georgia's groundbreaking research, combined with top-ranked universities and a supportive business climate, have propelled the state's development as the crossroads of global health. More than 300 bioscience companies in fields like pharmaceuticals, biotech, diagnostics and bioenergy call Georgia home, making it the most industry-diverse state in the U.S. Southeast. Institutions like Emory University, Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the world's top public health agency, keep Georgia in the top 10 states for research and development.

Among the most significant developments following the BIO International Convention, which was held in Georgia for the first time in 2009, was the August announcement by Seattle-based Dendreon Corporation that it would locate a $70 million facility in Union City, Georgia. This plant will manufacture Provenge, an aggressive treatment for prostate cancer that won FDA approval last week. The company is in the process of creating several hundred jobs in Georgia.

Other biotechnology companies recently announcing locations, expansions or funding partnerships in Georgia are Sepmag Technology of Spain (in-vitro medical devices), Iverson Genetics of Washington (genetic testing), Qualtex Labs of Texas (blood testing), Cancer Treatment Centers of America (hospital) and a number of bioenergy-focused enterprises.

Numerous biotechnology companies in the state are developing, testing and implementing ground-breaking discoveries. For example, Georgia-based Geovax Labs, which has licensed and is testing one of the world's most promising therapeutic vaccines for HIV/AIDS, received FDA approval in March to begin Phase 1 clinical trials. The vaccine was created by the Emory Vaccine Center, renowned for its discovery of the breakthrough HIV drug Emtriva. Altea Therapeutics, which is developing a proprietary technology enabling drug delivery, including insulin, through transdermal patches, currently has five products in development and several clinical and preclinical studies underway with pharmaceutical companies.

Georgia universities like the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) are fueling this pipeline with new findings in cardiovascular, diabetes and obesity, immunologic and vision science and children's health. Research funding per basic scientist at MCG ranks second in the nation among similar-sized institutions, and MCG was named among The Scientist magazine's top 15 places in the U.S. to work in academia.

Incubators at MCG and the Georgia Institute of Technology have been recognized by national publications as among the nation's top facilities. Last month Forbes magazine named the Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech to its new list of "10 technology incubators that are changing the world." ATDC, one of around 20 state-funded incubators in Georgia, now has more than 300 companies in its program.

Georgia Tech is also a new member of the American Association of Universities (AAU) and joins Emory University as two of just 63 public and private universities inducted into this elite group based on academic and research credentials.

Joining the Georgia Tech-affiliated Technology Enterprise Park and other bioparks around the state in the future will be a public-private "Crossroads Institute for Global Health" at the former Fort McPherson. This 165-plus acre campus will be able to accommodate companies working in vaccines, infectious diseases, neurosciences and other targeted sciences.

Under Governor Perdue's leadership, Georgia has been a leader in improving life sciences education and workforce development. The Governor's Office of Workforce Development has launched a comprehensive program to create an articulated life sciences career pathway from high school to technical colleges to universities; create training for the existing life sciences industry workforce; eliminate the skills gap using Work Ready Certificates and Work Ready job profiling; and increase high school graduation rates through Certified Work Ready Communities.

Georgia's Innovation Crescent, which organized two years ago to focus on the bio-rich cluster identified by Governor Perdue's workforce study, has just announced its formalization as an economic development entity called the Innovation Crescent Regional Partnership. The Innovation Crescent is a 13-county region from Atlanta to Athens containing numerous bio-focused colleges and universities, as well as industry leaders like Merial, Ciba Vision and Kimberly-Clarke.

The Innovation Crescent is one of five Georgia Work Ready Regions established to bring together bioscience assets and leaders from multiple counties to create regional talent pools. Other regions include Augusta Bioscience, Bioscience Technology Circle of South Georgia, Renewable Energy Front, and the Southwest Georgia Agribusiness Consortium. To date, Georgia has invested in $2.1 million in developing these regions, their workforces and industry networks.

Professionals at Georgia Quick Start, the state's program for customized workforce training, has deep experience in FDA-regulated process and has helped many major pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers in Georgia find, assess and train team members. A recent example is the customized, 20,000-training hours program Quick Start developed for 400 workers at the new world laboratory headquarters of Quintiles, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies.

Georgia's Center of Innovation for Life Sciences (, part of a network of six Centers of Innovation aligned with the state's strategic industries, makes it easier for early-stage companies to thrive by connecting entrepreneurs and emerging companies around Georgia to industry experts and university research in order to accelerate innovation and commercialization. To complement its work, the public-private Georgia Bioscience Commercialization Center has launched a Web site,, that will likewise give entrepreneurs access to mentoring assistance from company CEOs and university faculty.

At last year's BIO conference, Georgia debuted a first-of-its kind searchable database called iResearchGeorgia, a partnership between the state and academia. Managed and funded by the Georgia Research Alliance, the online database connects innovative companies with Georgia's top bioscience experts, intellectual property assets and much more. (

iResearch is just one focus of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), whose existence is a testament to the unified commitment of industry, government and academia in Georgia to grow a technology-based economy. The GRA has recruited over 60 eminent, enterprising scientists to the state, developed 28 nationally recognized Centers of Excellence, and helped leverage $2.6 billion in federal and private investment.

Georgia's 2009 No. 1 ranking for entrepreneurial activity by the Kauffman Foundation attests the strong regional entrepreneurial culture. The state continues to develop a compelling environment for such companies to grow and succeed.

The Centers for Innovation program helped sponsor the Venture Atlanta conference last fall, which drew nearly 500 people and attracted more than 100 VCs from top firms around the country to hear investment opportunities from 21 Georgia companies. More than $410 million in venture capital was invested in Georgia in 2008, ranking the state 14th in the country.

Support for biotech entrepreneurs has also increased in the state with the 2009 implementation of a revised Research & Development tax credit that is tied to the federal calculation and can also be used against payroll withholding. Small, innovative companies now have a longer time period and greater opportunity to position themselves for success.

Other financial incentives for the industry are the Advanced Technology Development (ATDC) Seed Capital Fund, which has invested about $4.6 million since 2004 into life science companies in Georgia that have raised nearly $58 million in total capital, and the Georgia Research Alliance Venture Capital Fund, which provides $30 million of seed and early stage capital for companies growing research coming out of Georgia's universities. Bio companies can also benefit from the Quality Jobs Tax Credit, created in 2009, which rewards companies who create jobs paying higher-than-average wages for the community in which they locate, and has a component that can be monetized against employee withholding taxes.

The bioscience industry in Georgia created almost 18,000 jobs in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available. According to other statistics from the "Shaping Infinity" report released by Georgia BIO, the industry was responsible for the creation of more than 62,000 jobs in Georgia, created $16 billion in output and contributed $6.2 billion to the state GDP as well as $517 million in tax revenues for state and local governments. In addition, life sciences research at the state's colleges and universities generated $1.3 billion in output and nearly 15,000 jobs in fiscal year 2006.

"The high-wage jobs created by this industry generate economic growth in Georgia and help drive the innovation so necessary to success in the global marketplace," said Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. "Our participation in this conference is a key component to our long-term strategy to raise Georgia's profile in this sector and attract companies and venture capital to the state."

The state is hosting 12 Georgia universities, companies and agencies in its exhibit hall booth this year, including Aderans Research, Altea Therapeutics, Emory University, Georgia Bio, Georgia Innovation Crescent, Georgia Tech, Georgia Quick Start, Georgia Work Ready, GeoVax Labs, Medical College of Georgia, Morehouse School of Medicine and Shionogi & Co., Ltd.

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