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Editorial: Biosciences institute puts state in forefront

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Some of Indiana’s top life sciences companies and research universities have banded together to form a new biosciences institute. The nonprofit Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, incorporated just a couple of weeks ago, is the nation’s first industry-led organization of this sort.

Gov. Mike Pence predicted the initiative will spur scientific innovation and lure new jobs, investment and leading scientists to the state. He said the arrangement will allow the group’s collaborators to “respond to market signals” more effectively than similar institutes around the U.S. while tapping into “the deep reservoir of lab-based experimentation and innovation” at the state’s universities.

Pence said Indiana’s about 2,000 life sciences companies, which together contribute about $50 billion to the state’s economy annually, will receive a boost in the years ahead as the institute ramps up its collaborations between industry and academia and attracts top scientists to the state.

“When we have a red hot sector of our economy that creates the kind of jobs we need more of we’ve got to pour gas on it, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with this institute — we’re pouring gas on the bright flame of our life sciences sector,” Pence said during a news conference announcing the initiative.

The institute is a collaboration involving Eli Lilly and Co., Dow AgroSciences, Roche Diagnostics, Cook Group, Biomet Orthopedics, Indiana University Health and the life sciences industry group BioCrossroads.

Purdue University, Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame also have joined the institute, which will help turn scientific discoveries made at those schools into commercial products.

The institute has received $25 million in start-up funding from the state legislature and is seeking another $25 million from industry and philanthropic sources — money that will go to recruiting a nationally recognized CEO for the group and attract research fellows.

In the years ahead, the institute will seek an estimated $360 million in corporate and philanthropic funding to carry out its various research initiatives. A board of directors representing the life sciences industry, the state, academia and nonprofit donors already has been chosen to oversee the group, which aims to have the first commercialized technology developed from its collaborations in the marketplace within five years.

This is an exciting venture that has tremendous potential for the state both in terms of expanding existing enterprises and in attracting new ones. It is a clear demonstration of the state’s place in the forefront of the field. The combined intellectual and technical power represented can be put to work solving medical and other bioscience problems.

We celebrate the creation of the institute and share the governor’s excitement at its creation. It’s a solid example of how government, education and private industry can work together effectively to bolster the economy and enhance one of its increasingly key sectors.

As Jack Phillips, president and CEO of Roche Diagnostics, put it: “This is an initiative we can absolutely get passionate about and do something about.”

Creation of the nonprofit Indiana Biosciences Research Institute clearly will position the state to be a leader in this emerging field.

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