Arizona bioscience job growth rate continues to outpace nation

March 29, 2016

By Matt Ellsworth

Arizona’s bioscience industry has sustained its momentum and continues its long-standing trend of impressive job growth and high wages, a new report shows.

In addition, risk capital reached its highest figure in four years, and all measures of bioscience tech transfer at Arizona universities are on the rise, with increases in startups, invention disclosures, patents, and licenses.

However, declining research dollars and expenditures raise concerns about the industry’s long-term capacity to keep adding jobs. National Institutes of Health grants and bioscience-related academic research-and-development expenditures both dropped in the latest year of data and are failing to keep pace with the nation.

The Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation commissioned the latest performance analysis as part of its coordination of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, a long-term strategy to guide the state through 2025. The data released in the March 29 report, the first new metrics in two years, was provided by TEConomy Partners, formerly Battelle Technology Partnership Practice.

“There is evidence of innovation throughout Arizona and many positive economic signs, as the number of high-paying bioscience jobs continues to increase at an impressive rate,” said Mitch Horowitz, principal and managing director of TEConomy Partners. “However, we are concerned about the declines in NIH grants and R&D bio expenditures. If creative steps are not taken to reverse these trends, the state’s bioscience industry will be hard-pressed to keep growing.”

Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap was commissioned by the Flinn Foundation, a philanthropic grantmaking organization, in 2002 with a goal of increasing access for Arizonans to health innovations while diversifying and strengthening the state’s economy. The long-term strategy was updated in 2014 to lead the state through 2025. The Roadmap’s vision is for Arizona to become globally competitive and a national leader in the biosciences in such fields as precision medicine, cancer, neurosciences, bioengineering, diagnostics, and agricultural biotechnology.

The most recent data show:

  • Arizona has added 36,700 bioscience jobs between 2002 and 2014, a 49 percent increase that brings today’s total to 110,410, including hospitals. Bioscience jobs have grown nationally at a 14 percent rate during this time.
  • The average salary of a bioscience worker is $61,823, compared to $46,514 for the state’s private sector. Bioscience salaries have increased 50 percent since 2002.
  • In 2015, Arizona saw its highest venture-capital investments for bioscience firms since 2011. The $82 million attracted is the third straight year of growth. It represents 0.56 percent of bioscience venture capital investments nationwide, the highest rate since 2011, but still well below the Roadmap’s goal.
  • NIH funding was $151 million in 2015, down from $158 million in 2014. Since the start of the Roadmap, Arizona’s NIH annual funding has grown 12 percent compared to 40 percent for the top-10 funded states, which Arizona generally had met or exceeded during previous years. NIH grants are the gold standard in the biosciences.
  • The value of bioscience R&D expenditures was $451 million in 2014, a slight drop from 2013. Arizona’s growth rate of 55 percent since 2002 falls short of the national growth rate of 78 percent.
  • All measures of bioscience tech transfer at Arizona universities are on the rise and are outperforming other university research disciplines in tech transfer activities. University bio-related startups increased 24 percent in 2014-15 compared to the previous two years. During this same time, there was a 72 percent increase in patents and a 54 percent increase in invention disclosures.

Setting aside hospitals, the largest bioscience subsector, Arizona has 24,040 bioscience jobs in 1,284 establishments, with an annual wage of $76,360.

“We are very encouraged by the continued growth of the bioscience industry and our best risk-capital performance in four years,” said Ron Shoopman, chair of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee. “But leaders must emerge in the state to make the necessary strategic research investments. If not, we risk falling behind in not only developing new treatments, but in the commercialization of this research, which is crucial for job growth and building a critical mass of companies.”

There were a number of major developments in 2015 through partnerships and collaborations involving private-sector companies, Arizona’s public universities, hospitals, and research labs. For instance, Arizona State University and Nantworks, led by billionaire physician and entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, announced they will build a research hub on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus. On the same campus, the University of Arizona Cancer Center at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center opened its new facility. Banner Health completed its acquisition of the University of Arizona Health Network and is investing in new hospital construction while becoming the academic partner of UA’s medical schools in Tucson and Phoenix.

“As the new data show, the investments made during the early years of the Roadmap are paying huge dividends for Arizona today,” said Jack B. Jewett, president & CEO of the Flinn Foundation. “The ongoing collaboration among our leading institutions has created an opportunity for innovation and for the bioscience industry to continue its momentum through the years.”

The next data report will be released in 2018.

The Flinn Foundation is a privately endowed, philanthropic grantmaking organization established in 1965 by Dr. Robert S. and Irene P. Flinn to improve the quality of life in Arizona to benefit future generations. In addition to advancing the biosciences, the foundation supports the Flinn Scholarship, a merit-based college scholarship program, arts and culture, and the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership.

For more information:

2015 Progress of the Biosciences in Arizona
Presentation: 2014-15 Data on Arizona’s Bioscience Sector