Ten years ago, Indiana's life sciences industry -- already relevant with, among others, the likes of Lilly, The Indiana University School of Medicine, and a cluster of medical device companies in Warsaw -- received a booster shot, of sorts, with the launch of BioCrossroads and a true life sciences initiative.
Fast forward to 2012: the life sciences sector contributed one-third of Indiana's $29 billion in manufactured exports last year. More than 800 Indiana life sciences companies directly employ roughly 50,000 Hoosiers in good, high-paying jobs (not to mention twice that number in jobs that support the industry). And more recently, Battelle and the Biotechnology Industry Organization released a 50-state survey reporting that Indiana is one of only five states ranked in the "First Tier" for absolute number of life sciences jobs and companies (the others being California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina).
So, good things are happening. But during his keynote address today at the Indiana Life Sciences Summit, John Lechleiter -- Lilly's chairman, president, and chief executive officer -- issued a challenge to the state's life sciences leaders and elected officials: establish a world-class research institute that will take Indiana to the next level of innovation and growth.
Using three pillars (attract and retain top talent, collaboration between private companies and academic institutions, and active engagement by state government) as the foundation, John said Indiana can establish a research institute on par with those in Cambridge, Mass., St. Louis, and San Diego.
"We've discussed the idea of a research institute here that will engage entrepreneurial faculty from leading research universities in Indiana, and across the United States, and enable them to work collaboratively with industry leaders to pursue outcome-driven research along the frontiers of biotechnology, human health, and nutrition," John said during his remarks. "Such an institute should offer a compelling environment for innovative activity, including liberalized intellectual property policies, readily accessible sponsored research arrangements, and other relevant professional opportunities."
Such an institute, John said, would help recruit "star" talent to Indiana, along with retain top talent at other companies and universities. One more benefit? "Such a bold effort would embody, and demonstrate to the world, the sustaining commitment of Indiana's public, private, academic, and philanthropic leadership to the state's life sciences economy," John said.
Pulling together cooperation from state government (including ways that make Indiana an inviting place for all potential innovators) is the key to success. Given the alternatives -- stagnating, or falling further behind -- the roadmap seems obvious.