John Lechleiter, our chairman and CEO, doesn't simply embrace innovation. He craves it. As a trained chemist, it's his passion. As the leader of our company, he knows it's our lifeblood. That's why he'll talk up the need for more innovation to anyone who will listen.
Today, the audience was in Washington, D.C., at a conference on Regional Innovation Clusters (sponsored by organizations with a keen interest in economic growth, including the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress). Dr. Lechleiter's take-home message? Medical innovation is good for patients and good for economic growth. And he called out Indiana, Lilly's home state, as a model the rest of the nation should follow.
Why Indiana? Because more than 1,600 life sciences companies (medical device, pharmaceutical, drug development, diagnostic, and ag-biotech) call Indiana their home. And the annual wage of the typical Indiana job in these sectors is $82,000 - more than double the state average.
Lilly -- even with our recent downsizing due to pending patent expirations -- is an important contributor to this equation, but innovation extends well beyond our own four corners. And much of the credit goes to BioCrossroads, a public/private initiative that develops life science organizations in Indiana. BioCrossroads is a matchmaker of sorts, finding connections among the state's life sciences research institutions, corporations, philanthropies, and state government to create new opportunties in Indiana.
By almost any defintion, the BioCrossroads model has worked. While more than 200,000 Indiana manufacturing jobs have evaporated over the last three decades, employment in the life sciences grew nearly 3 percent from 2001 to 2007 (while total Indiana employment was growing 0.2 percent annually). BioCrossroads also has directly raised more than $245 million in funding to pursue promising new life sciences opportunities (and facilitated more than 3,000 life sciences jobs being attracted to Indiana).
"The successful effort to build a thriving life sciences hub in Indiana -- in the face of some pretty strong headwinds in the state's economy -- is reason to believe that our country can overcome the economic challenges we confront today," Dr. Lechleiter told the conference's capacity crowd.
The important quest for more innovation can continue, and private companies like Lilly carry the weight of delivering the goods. But the right kind of public policies are inextricably linked to this complex formula. In his speech, Dr. Lechleiter identified three legislative must-haves:
- An atmosphere in which innovation can thrive -- including a society that understands and appreciates the importance of science -- plus free markets in which innovators can anticipate being rewarded for their risks.
- Protection of intellectual property (such as pharmaceutical patents) plus fair, rigorous, and transparent regulation -- along with a tax structure that breeds confidence among companies willing to invest in innovation.
- Stronger investment in human talent -- not only improved math and science instruction in grade schools and high schools, but common-sense immigration laws that allow and encourage top scientists from other countries to work in the U.S.
We hope the White House and Congress are listening. The stakes are incredibly high.