Atlanta, Ga., has become a crossroads for global health.
Image courtesy of Metro Atlanta Chamber.
A growing chorus of economic development executives have
been telling the world about the life sciences/medtech clusters in
their respective states and the potential for both professional development and personal fulfillment as they attempt to lure healthcare companies away from the traditional strongholds of
Minneapolis, Minn.; Boston, Mass.; and San Francisco, Calif.
While most all state officials like to share a similar tale—bragging
about their educated workforce, top rankings for lifestyle/quality
of life, and tax incentives for business relocation—many regional
recruiters are now beginning to publicize the qualities that truly
set them apart from their competitors.
Wake County, for instance, uses Research Triangle Park (RTP)
and a trio of research universities as bait when fishing for new life
sciences and medtech prospects. Born in 1959 of a desire to attract
research-oriented companies, RTP was formed by the geographic
nexus of the Raleigh region’s three renowned research universities
(hence its moniker): Duke University, North Carolina State University (NC State), and the University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill (UNC). The Research Triangle region is anchored by the cities
of Raleigh, Cary, Durham and Chapel Hill—one of the country’s
fastest-growing metropolitan areas with a population of 1.6 million
and nearly 3 million in the area within a 60-mile radius of the park.
More than 170 companies are located in the 7,000-acre park,
though nearly half ( 80) are biotechnology and life sciences firms. A
handful of medical device companies work out of the park as well,
though more than 200 can be found in the greater Research Triangle region, including Cardinal Health, Ethicon Inc., GE Healthcare,
NDI Medical Inc., Teleflex Medical and Smith & Nephew plc.
Economic development executives peddle the park as a“cen-ter of innovation,” claiming it has helped foster the development
of several notable inventions, such as the Universal Product Code
and 3-D ultrasound technology. Much of the park’s success, however, can be attributed to the strength of the programs at Duke,
NC State, and UNC that serve as a constant incubator for scientific discovery. NC State provides medical device companies with
various networking and educational resources that link medtech
components, experts and facilities. The resources include, but are
not limited to, the Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and
Pharmacokinetics, which is assessing the nature of interactions
between skin and manufactured nanoparticles; the Center for
Robotics and Intelligent Machines, where experts are working to
integrate mechanical systems, information technologies and
biotechnology innovations; and the NC State Nanofabrication
Facility, a self-described“melting pot”of leading researchers from
academia, government laboratories and research and development operations.
Annual research spending at NC State tops $325 million,
according to Wake County Economic Development. Many innova-tion-inducing partnerships occur on the Centennial Campus, a
1,120-acre complex of academic buildings, laboratories and corporate offices; the nearby Centennial Biomedical Campus, meanwhile,
is adding 1.6 million square feet to its layout to enhance its laboratory and animal care facilities. Last year, NC State launched a joint
M.B.A./master’s degree in biomanufacturing to better prepare students for post-graduate work in the biotechnology/biomanufactur-ing sector. The degree program is offered jointly through the Jenkins
M.B.A. program (part of the Poole College of Management), and
the Golden Leaf Biomanufacturing and Training Center.
NC State also operates a Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering with UNC that unites the expertise and resources of
UNC’s School of Medicine with those of NC State’s College of
Engineering. Located in both Raleigh and Chapel Hill, the
department offers master’s of science and Ph.D. degrees in
biomedical engineering, in addition to a graduate certificate in
medical devices and several undergraduate concentrations.
“There are opportunities for companies to really tap into
knowledge in many different industry clusters,”Bosser noted.“We
have such a diversity of industries here and there is such a mix of
different things going on that companies can easily find partners
in the particular space they are interested in. We have three Tier
One research universities within 30 minutes of each other—that
doesn’t exist anywhere else in the United States. That is one of the
greatest strengths of this area—companies can tap into resources
that don’t exist in concentration in other places.”