A 'wealth of health' in Oklahoma's bioscience industry

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from a story in Oklahoma Magazine. Read the full story, as well as other news about Oklahoma, online or in print.

By Tracy LeGrand
Oklahoma Magazine

“As long as you have your health” is a cliché most of us relate to; as long as a person feels well, achievements are possible. So as an individual has the choice to protect and enhance her own health, Oklahoma itself has a focus on biotechnology, which has a flourishing role in the state’s economy. This, leaders say, is due to a powerful and symbiotic relationship between entrepreneurs, private and public investors, academic investigators and clinical researchers.

The Beginning

In 1996 Oklahoma City funded Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park (PHF) – a campus of seven buildings totaling 700,000 square feet of space on a 27-acre site meant to provide biomedical firms with modest rent and Class-A facilities. The PHF states its mission as accelerating bioscience research discoveries to solutions that enhance human life. The much-improved PHF campus was one of many moves made then and continuing today by regional and state leaders to increase the state’s allure in the biomedical field.

Oklahoma City’s bioscience sector boasts annual revenues of more than $4.1 billion and employs more than 27,800 workers with total compensation of $1.5 billion.”

It appears to be working. CNN Money recently described Oklahoma City as a “haven for entrepreneurial risk-takers,” citing comparatively low costs of living and “a diverse local economy spread across medical research, energy, education and government. Oklahoma City also benefits from a high concentration of deep-pocketed local investors, many of them veterans of the oil and gas industry, who are willing to take a gamble on companies that might spend 10 years bringing a new product to fruition.”

It takes focused coordination to optimize the state’s biotechnology effort, and so, in 2008, the Oklahoma Bioscience Association was launched, says Eric Long, research economist for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. This established a strong, networked and collaborative bioscience community to promote industry growth and provide a strong voice.

Raising capital will continue to be an issue.

“The costs associated with the discovery of new knowledge and the development of new technologies is expensive,” says Long. “In addition to the research phase, large amounts of capital are needed for longer periods of time to fund business growth and economic development. There are costs involved in market analysis, pricing, developing prototypes, preparing marketing and sales plans and manufacturing. Once the product is developed, there are also costs for distribution, sales and marketing.”

The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, comprised of seven medical schools, has benefited from PHF’s efforts, with more than $65 million in grants for medical research. In turn, the more-than-35 institutions on its campus employ more than 15,000 people with combined general revenue of more than $3.5 billion per year, according to Chamber reports.

“With a world-class caliber of research facilities and wet lab space, abundant funding opportunities and collaborative efforts by legislators to enhance progress, you could say greater Oklahoma City has biotechnology down to a science,” says Long. “Oklahoma City’s bioscience sector boasts annual revenues of more than $4.1 billion and employs more than 27,800 workers with total compensation of $1.5 billion.”


Big Business

According to an Oklahoma City Chamber report, the average yearly wage in the Oklahoma City area is $37,773, compared to $45,439 for employees in the biotech sector, or $58,343 for those working in the drugs/pharmaceuticals sub-sector of biotechnology. The combined direct and indirect impact associated with the bioscience/biomedical sector contributes $6.7 billion in activity to the region. It is estimated that $227 million in state and local taxes are generated just as a result of direct and indirect bioscience-related employment.



Read the rest of this story at the Oklahoma Magazine's website.