Group supports local (Inland Northwest) advances in biosciences

The 21st century has been heralded as the age of biology
and biotechnology. Unlike during the digital revolution, the
Inland Northwest is poised to participate fully over the
coming years. Much is under way in the biosciences of
our region — more than most realize. With these
comments, we inaugurate an occasional column that will
touch on newsworthy events and trends.

Anthony Bonanzino and Patrick Jones
Special to The Spokesman-Review

Throughout we use the term biosciences instead of
biotechnology. Biosciences include a broader sweep of
players, a breadth that reflects the strengths of the Inland
Northwest. To start, consider an abbreviated list of
developments that have recently graced our region:
All five major hospitals in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene
were just named among the top 100 "wired" hospitals in
the country.
Pacific Northwest National Lab in Richland has put
together the nation’s largest and most powerful collection
of instruments to analyze life at the cellular level, and it is
spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually on bio
Hollister-Stier, the state’s oldest pharmaceutical
manufacturing company, has moved dramatically into
contract manufacturing since buying itself out from the
German multinational Bayer in 1999; this business has
increased 12-fold since the buyout.
The nation’s largest assembly of biologists specializing in
reproduction now resides in the Palouse, in a unique
multi-disciplinary collaboration between the universities of
Idaho and Washington State.
Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories of Spokane is
now the largest biomedical reference lab in the Pacific
Northwest, offering an array of diagnostic instruments
second to none.
The region’s incubators and technology parks — SIRTI,
APEL in Richland, at WSU-Pullman, and the soon-to-open
University of Idaho facility in Post Falls — are nearly full,
with many bio tenants.
Several regional bio companies are moving from the
research and development stage to production and sales.

All this is music to the Biotechnology Association of the
Spokane Region, or BASR. Founded more than two years
ago, the BASR is dedicated to the development of the
biosciences in the Inland Northwest. Its members span the
spectrum of a healthy bio sector: universities, labs,
hospitals, supporting professional services, economic
development groups and facilities, special educational
programs, and bioscience companies themselves. Like
most associations, the BASR facilitates networking, serves
to unite the players in the region around common issues,
and communicates to those within and beyond the Inland

Recently, two studies have buttressed the insights that led
to the BASR. The first arrived from Washington state’s
Office of Trade and Economic Development. A report
issued by OTED in December concluded that the Spokane
area enjoys the state’s premier cluster of health care
professionals. The second — an analysis of the region’s
core competencies in the life sciences — became public last
month. That analysis, conducted by Tripp-Umbach
Associates of Pittsburgh, pointed to nine areas where the
Inland Northwest scores very well. To no surprise, the list
included specialties such as cardiac care, rehabilitative
medicine, reproductive biology, diabetes and
pharmaceutical manufacturing. Other centers of
excellence, perhaps less known, were neurosciences,
oncology, diagnostics and informatics.

Certainly, this is a significant foundation for building a
flourishing life science sector. And certainly jobs in this
sector pay, on average, far above the typical local salary.

But if the Inland Northwest is to build further on this
foundation, current and future challenges loom large. Some

•Washington finds itself woefully behind efforts of other
states to foster bioscience activities; the policy vacuum
stretches from an underfunding of science and technology
at our universities to a near absence of incentives for
bioscience companies.

•Our location tilts against easy recognition: Compared with
national bioscience clusters, the Inland Northwest is quite

•Distance between the hubs of activity in the Inland
Northwest makes collaboration much more difficult than in
more geographically compact clusters.

•Washington medical providers face some of the lowest
Medicare reimbursement rates in the country; for a healthy
biomedical cluster, hospitals and doctors must stay
financially healthy.

•An active community of angel investors has yet to emerge
to support regional bio startups.

Happily, many of these challenges have now been pushed
to center-stage. And some members of the bioscience
community have enjoyed success despite the odds. For
example, the major investors in Hollister-Stier Laboratories
LLC hail from New York. Fifty percent of the revenue of
the company’s contract business now comes from firms
on the East Coast. Hollister-Stier has shown it is possible
to excel nationally from a location in the Inland Northwest.

In subsequent columns, the BASR will address both our
challenges and our ongoing successes. So stay tuned: the
promise of the 21st century is closer than you think.

Anthony Bonanzino, Ph.D., is CEO of Hollister-Stier
Laboratories LLC and chairman of the BASR board. D.
Patrick Jones, Ph.D., is executive director of the BASR.

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.