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From Site Selection magazine, July 2020

Where Problems are Solved

Los Alamos National Laboratory Campus
Photos courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory

A compelling case for New Mexico as a location for the bioscience industry can be found in the following pages. It’s a relatively new industry sector compared with the state’s long history in nuclear sciences with research done at Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory. But it’s coming on strong. 

“Over the past five years, bioscience-related inventions have seen the largest number of awarded patents by industry in New Mexico,” notes Alicia Keyes, Cabinet Secretary, Economic Development. Tech transfer offices, bioscience grants and growing recognition from the venture capital world already are in place. But there are more subtle reasons the Land of Enchantment is poised for a bioscience boom in 2020, says Keyes. “We had a lot of bioscience before COVID-19,” says the Secretary, “but we have even more now. People in the industry want to get out of the big cities, and they’re seeing New Mexico as an option for them.”

Steve Wray, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions, Inc., agrees. “Particularly with the federal research labs, New Mexico should be a place that is looking for the solutions to pandemics,” says Wray, “things that build on some of the research they’ve done on the military side of this area.” Wray researched and wrote the strategic plan for the New Mexico Bioscience Authority. 

“These are the biggest problems to solve,” says Wray. “The opportunity for New Mexico with a diverse population will be getting people of color into this industry. New Mexico, with its state universities connected to this industry, has an opportunity to do that in ways that maybe some other states don’t. Bioscience companies will need that diverse workforce to look like the people that they’re working with.”

New Mexico
Sources: TECONOMY Partners LLC, Biotechnology Innovation Organization

Dr. Stuart Rose founded The BioScience Center in Albuquerque in 2012 to address what he calls “a massive amount of very early stage commercialization going on across the state in the biosciences.” The 19,500-sq.-ft. facility is home to more than a dozen bioscience startups taking advantage of the center’s offices, wet labs, IT infrastructure, meeting space and reception. The Center opened in January 2013 and was fully occupied by August of that year. It remains full today. Of the startups “graduating” from The BioScience Center, about 80% have been successful, says Rose, meaning they needed more space and people than the Center could accommodate.

“We have two national labs, an Air Force Research Laboratory, and three research universities,” he relates. “Together they spend about $6.5 billion on R&D. There are a few places bigger than us, but not many.” As the next several pages explain, New Mexico’s biosciences ecosystem is coming together to be of comparable heft on the commercial side of the equation. “We’re seeing more and more companies relocating from California and elsewhere, and more are setting up branches in New Mexico,” says Rose. “People are starting to realize all the technology that is here, and the access they have to people at the labs. Within five years,” Rose predicts, “we’ll have a meaningful biosciences cluster here.”

— Mark Arend

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