Colorado Governor appoints biosciences leader

Paul Ray charged with keeping state’s successful sector on the cutting edge

In one of the few hot spots left in Colorado’s high-tech sector, the state’s bioscience companies grew faster than those of the rest of the nation, and Gov. Bill Owens plans to add fuel to the fire.

By Jennifer Beauprez
Denver Post Business Writer

Owens on Sunday appointed biotech executive Paul Ray to be the state’s new director of biosciences. In his new role, Ray will organize university researchers, investors and entrepreneurs. He’ll aim to put Colorado on the map as a hub for everything from technology for personalized medicine and robotics to new drugs and surgical devices.

"We’re clearly going to make Colorado a national leader," said John Hansen, the governor’s new secretary of technology.

A new study commissioned by the state and a number of other organizations shows that between 1995 and 2002, the number of biosciences businesses here grew 35 percent, compared with 29 percent for the rest of the nation. Biosciences firms employed 17,681 statewide, and those jobs are among the highest paying.

Hansen shared both the study and Ray’s appointment at the annual winter retreat for Owens’ commission on science and technology. About 150 business executives and government and university officials hashed out a variety of tech sector issues – from competing internationally to build spacecraft and providing tech startups with investment money to turning university research into the next cure for cancer.

Betsy Hoffman, president of the University of Colorado, told executives that university research will play a vital role in the future tech economy – including biosciences.

Hoffman said national research grants to universities created 717,243 jobs nationwide. Funding to Colorado’s 11 academic institutions has grown by more than $100 million since 1996 and totaled more than $500 million last year. Biosciences accounted for half of the funding – $250 million.

"No one talked about biotechnology when I came here two years ago," said Hoffman. "Biotech is now a hot topic."

Hansen said his office has been working for months with Colorado’s universities, venture capital investors, entrepreneurs and scientists to take ideas and turn them into businesses – what’s known as technology transfer.

Hoffman has been credited with rejuvenating CU’s office of technology transfer. The University of Colorado received $300.4 million from the National Institutes of Health in 2000, ranking fourth among all public universities. But only 30 companies have been formed from university research since 1995. Yet 27 of those companies are still alive, despite the economic downturn.

"Technology transfer is something we’re investing a lot of time and energy in," Hoffman said.

Those discussions between entrepreneurs, investors and university officials to turn ideas into profits will be guided by Ray, who spent 32 years in the biomedical industry and most recently was CEO of Boulder medical firm Image Guided Technologies.

Ray also will be charged with pushing through tax incentives to support biotech firms and create a bioscience investment fund to help startups get up and running, according to the Batelle study. It lays out a strategic plan for advancing the state’s resources.

"This study will let us know where we’ve been, where we are and give us a road map for where we’re going," said Ray. "If we can take our emerging biosciences industry and turn it into a cornerstone of the economy, then we can really do something.",1413,36%257E33%257E1249265%257E,00.html

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