Biotech event on clinical trials coming to Oklahoma City

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

by Scott Meacham

The Oklahoman

Here's something that I'd wager that most Oklahomans don't know.

Right now in Oklahoma, biopharmaceutical research companies are conducting more than 700 clinical trials of new medicines in collaboration with the state's clinical research centers and hospitals.

Of these trials, 487 target the nation's six most debilitating chronic diseases — Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes, mental illness, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular disease.

Bringing a drug to market requires decades of research and testing and millions (by some estimates, billions) of dollars in real and opportunity costs. Clinical trials like these, which are conducted to determine both safety and effectiveness, are a huge undertaking, as well as a vitally important part of drug development. They also account for 45 percent to 75 percent of the cost of developing new drugs.

On March 24, OKBIO, the Greater OKC Chamber and PhRMA (representing the country's leading biopharmaceutical research and discovery companies) are hosting a unique opportunity for Oklahomans, from doctors to patients, to learn more about the power and the working parts of clinical trials. (

I don't often write about events in this column. This occasion deserves a special mention as it features Emmy Award-winning writer Suleika Jaouad, New York Times columnist and acclaimed author of “Life, Interrupted.” This blog tells Jaouad's story of being diagnosed with cancer at age 22 and how a life-saving clinical trial and bone marrow transplant put her in remission.

The session also will feature an expert panel of Oklahoma biotechnology executives and physicians who are engaged in clinical trials.

These representatives will share best practices on planning, implementing, overseeing and completing a successful clinical trial. There will be a reception and the annual OKBIO Bio Awards dinner after.

In 2014, 38 percent of the Seed Capital Fund's investments were in life science; one-fourth of the companies in i2E's portfolio are in life science. Young Oklahoma firms, such as Moleculara, Selexys, Progentec and Biolytx are developing diagnostics, creating innovative medical devices and treatments, and working with prominent research institutions in Oklahoma to create new drugs that target the most debilitating diseases.

Thanks to clinical trials, lives are extended and saved. Additionally, companies in biopharmaceuticals and other life sciences have been a source of jobs, tax revenue, and research spending in Oklahoma. There's also an economic ripple effect — in construction, information technology and other local community businesses.

So when we think about ways to diversify our economy from our hyper-dependence on the energy sector, Oklahoma is well-served to keep growing our rapidly developing biomed sector.


Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state's technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.