Chris Rivera, CEO of WBBA Speaks Up for Research: Sites Economic Impact!

Record Year in Washington Life Science Investment Activity Sets the Stage for Life Science Innovation Northwest Conference in June
By Chris Rivera

Since the start of the global economic slide in 2008, the life science industry waited for a sign that the economy has made a turnaround. Last year’s financial activities show without a doubt the recovery is in full swing. In 2014, more than 50 Washington life science financial transactions – IPOs, mergers and acquisitions – amounted to more than $1.6 billion. This financial milestone is more than double the amount generated by 73 transactions in the state’s life science industry in 2013. Of particular note were Juno Therapeutics and Adaptive Biotechnologies, which together raised almost a third of last year’s total financial transaction activity.

In fact, the last two years may be the most active in the history of Washington’s life science industry, a testament to the state’s ability to attract talent and capital in a globally competitive marketplace.
All of this financial activity in Washington bodes well for the upcoming Life Science Innovation Northwest (LSINW) Conference June 30 and July 1 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. The 14th annual LSINW is the largest fully-integrated life science exposition in North America, attracting attention from large strategic partners, venture capitalists and private equity firms to our region’s great innovations in the life sciences.

Despite the early success of Seattle firms such as Juno Therapeutics and Adaptive Biotechnologies and others, it’s often hard for young biotech companies to secure enough venture capital funding and hire more of the nation’s top talent.

LSINW brings together 1,000 life science executives and industry supporters for two days of discussions and relationship-building that helps develop the Northwest into one of the largest globally recognized bio clusters in the world. Currently listed as #7 on the Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News list of major bio clusters in the world, Washington is considered a rising star by many large investment firms.
With more than 34,000 direct and 90,000 indirect jobs, the life sciences industry is one of Washington’s largest economic sectors, adding more than $7.3 billion to the state’s GDP. Washington is known for the birthplace of commercial jets, the $2 cup of coffee, and software than runs most of the world’s personal computers. Less celebrated are the many scientific breakthroughs that originated here: ultrasound imaging, cardiac defibrillators, and the first bone marrow transplant. The creativity and energy that launched these and many other life-changing products and procedures still exists today, and the future bodes to be even more amazing than the state’s storied past.

I encourage everyone to attend LSINW, June 30 and July 1. Engage in conversations in support of this very important industry for our state. Over the next decade, I truly believe Washington will establish itself as a global leader in life science innovation and health care delivery.

Chris Rivera is President and CEO of Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association (WBBA), the life science trade association for Washington State. WBBA has over 650 member organizations in the biotechnology, medical device, health IT, bio-fuel, bio-agriculture and veterinary medicine industries. Further information may be obtained at http://www.washbio.org.

Breaking Brain Science News

Good Morning

The Allen Institute for Brain Science has released the initial results of part of their effort to map the human brain.  This initial release includes a database of identified neuronal cells which is being made freely available to the public, researchers and clinicians around the world.  The identified cells are being classified by shape, size, activity and other measures.

The release of this data continues the significant philanthropic contributions from the Allen family.  Often their contributions have been financial however this online database will give life science researchers a tool that will one day be key to the understanding of how our brains work.

Have a great day.

Ken Gordon

Executive Director

Guest Post: Animal models in research are necessary and ethical

Originally posted on Speaking of Research:

The following post was originally published in The Daily of the University of Washington on April 26, 2015. It has been reproduced with permission from the newspaper and the original author. Benjamin Cordy is a neurobiology student at UW, he is also the Editor-in-Chief of Grey Matters Journal – an undergraduate neuroscience journal whose mission is to educate the public and develop effective science communicators.

Guest editorial: Animal models in research are necessary and ethical

On Saturday hundreds gathered in Red Square to voice their opposition to scientific research. At its core, this is the true message of the animal rights movement, which believes that research should never rely on animal models. The march on UW was about stopping science altogether. Is this really the best move for society?

Debates about animal models in research are emotional, contentious, and unfortunately, often fraught with demonstrably false “facts.” This is a serious…

View original 913 more words

Gregoire and Gorton Speak up for Research

Good morning all

There was a great article in Crosscut on April 17 from former Governor Christine Gregoire and former Senator Slade Gorton that highlights the need for the Sate of Washington to support research.  You can click through to the article here.

Gregoire and Gorton note that the lack of dedicated fund to support research means that:

a.  Washington State is losing its place as one of the nations most important medical research hubs, and more importantly,

b.  The chances for the development of life saving technologies, procedures and drugs is being lost.

At NWABR we are excited that these two leaders are Speaking Up For Research.  The NWABR Gala being held on June 19, 2015 has this theme and this will be an opportunity for you to add your voice to this very important message.

Have a great day.

Ken Gordon

Executive Director

Speak Up for Research (part 2)

Speak Up for Research: Part 2
In my introduction to the ‘Speak Up for Research’ blog series I posed the question: Is science facing a civics issue? Of course, after posing the question I have to share that my opinion is that it is, in fact, facing a civics issue. I said it, now let me explain.

No one reading this is surprised by my statement that we are politically and socially divided as a nation. It is also common knowledge that the life science research community faces its own challenges with division and misunderstanding. I pointed this out in my previous blog when I cited a Pew Research study titled Public and Scientists’ Views on Science and Society, which showed a wide gap between the opinions of science and those held by the general public. As evidence of the level of contention, recently, animal rights activists gathered for a week long protest directed against the University of Washington’s new animal facility, which is intended to improve the quality and effectiveness of animal research.

The misinformation and mischaracterization of the work of biomedical research also has impacts on the direction of public policy and the perceived value of the life science research community’s contributions to society, to the economy, and to the health of humans and animals. At the core however, are fundamental breakdowns in the way we approach public discourse and the way we engage in dialogue about our differences, which impacts the health of our democracy.

This situation reflects this current division. Animal rights activists shout, and the research community turns to their research—occasionally looking over their shoulders to disagree. This lack of engagement and productive dialogue is anecdotal, but it is confirmed by the stories I hear, and by the results of NWABR’s own programs. We perform outreach, but struggle to bring contending views to the table to engage in dialogue. The division remains and is highlighted by contending sides and views vying for the public’s attention, and all the while rarely engaging.

The biomedical research community plays its own role in its approach to sharing its story, and time and time again I hear, ‘we have to do better’. Meanwhile, the animal activist community has put forth massive efforts to paint research in an unflattering and misleading light, and others question the profit motives of research, which adds to the growing distrust. This current paradigm leaves us in a cycle of division, character defamation, and misunderstanding—a constant tug of war. The public, caught in the messiness of information, opinion, and emotion, is uncertain as to where to turn. The public does not know who is right, who is wrong, or what to believe.

My research on civics explored normative democratic theory, which is political theory speak for the way things ought to be in the polity. I contrasted these basic theories with our current political and social paradigm, which by all accounts is highly polarized. I don’t portend to have all the answers about the way things ought to be, however I do have insights that can shed light into why I see this as an issue for science.

So why is this a civics issue? Is not democracy the right to protest, the right to voice one’s concerns, freedom of speech? From my view, what I and others see at the very core of the issue is dignity, and a collective failure to uphold it as we engage in these complex phenomena.

In my next blog I will explore civic dignity, and ask readers to share this series with their friends, contribute to the discussion, and to join us to Speak Up for Research.

Hope from tragedy

Thomas Gray lived six days, but his life has lasting impact

Sarah Gray, above, looks over some of the research information about the donated retinas from her late son, Thomas, as her son Callum looks on during a recent visit to the University of Pennsylvania’s Anatomy Chemistry Building in Philadelphia. (David Maialetti/TNS)

There was a compelling story in April 5’s Seattle Times.  The story discusses Sarah Gray who gave birth to twins, knowing that one of those twins, Thomas, was not going to survive.  Thomas died at six days.

To try and pull some goodness out of this tragedy Sarah donated his eyes, his liver along with umbilical-cord blood for medical research purposes.

What made this story compelling is that Sarah followed up with the research institutions to find out what had occurred because of the donations.  She travelled to and met directly with researcher’s that had had access to Thomas’ tissue, was able to see the research reports and other findings directly attributable to that tissue, and was able to also see the growing list of citations for the next level of research projects that in essence were extensions to that original work with Thomas’ tissue.

James Zieske the senior scientist at an Eye Institute at Harvard Medical School told Sarah:

“Your visit helped to remind me that all the eyes we receive are an incredibly generous gift from someone who loved and cared about the person who provided the eyes. I thank you for reminding me of this.”

James also told Sarah that Thomas’ cornea was used in a study that might one day cure corneal blindness.

This article again reminded me of the breadth of work occurring in the biomedical research field, the breakthroughs that are happening every day – and the total reliance of science on both the generosity and support of the public for this work.

We are all beholding, to Thomas and his family for the gift that they made.  As we are also beholding to the millions of individuals who through these most intimate and sacred donations have contributed to the knowledge that we all now totally rely on.

Thank you

Ken Gordon

Executive Director

NWABR

Speak Up for Research-Blog Series (Part 1)

I am an advocate at my core. I am passionate about democracy and civics; culture and philosophy and I care deeply about systemic issues that impact social justice and equality, education, health, and the environment. This passion has always been part me.

I grew up in a family who valued service, giving to the community, and looking after others. My passion, though, became augmented during a research project I undertook during graduate school called the Citizen Divide, Time for a Change of Mind. The research focused on divisions in society that lend to distrust and, in turn, limit progress.

Today, I find myself working for the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research using my passion to promote the public’s trust in biomedical research and its ethical conduct. Out of this intersection between passion and work, civics and science I am coordinating the Annual Life Science Celebration with the aptly named theme Speak Up for Research. This blog series explores the civics issues facing science.

Over the past three years I have been dwelling on the question: Why are we divided? This question has transformed into research on how narratives influence human behavior, social norms and ultimately outcomes for society and public policy. My interest is in learning about the possibilities of influencing behavior to create societal norms that lead to collective understanding and amity in society. My findings center on the need for more collaboration between people with divergent views, cultural and social backgrounds as well as people from various socioeconomic circumstances. Ultimately, I envision a world where human dignity is upheld and where political conversation is not bemoaned. My hope is that civic discourse will entail a process of learning and developing collective understandings that limit discontent and disenfranchisement.

These ideas translate well to the mission of NWABR. When one considers the challenging questions facing the medical research industry, science, and society, one realizes that collectively we have many difficult questions to answer. These are more than questions about scientific data or knowledge; these are questions about our values. For example, what place does stem cell research have in medicine and society, and what conversations should we be having to facilitate its progress?

This question and others remain unanswered in the general public, and, like the safety of vaccines, the use of animals in research these issues persist without deliberative dialogue and often in a contentious manner. Science has witnessed several periods of revolution of thought and faced enormous obstacles, yet it has been the fundamental mechanism for formulating our collective understanding of our world. Is our society at an inflection point now? Is science at the forefront of that inflection? The polarization becomes evident when we analyze the state of public opinion in contrast with scientific understandings.

The Pew Research Center published a report, Public and Scientists’ Views on Science and Society, based on surveys from U.S. adults and a separate survey of scientists who belonged to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The report cites several examples where the body of scientific knowledge contrasts sharply with the views held by the general public. On issues from using animals in research, evolution, climate change, and more, public opinion is divergent from the general scientific consensus. What’s more is that we continually see this translating into our formulation of public policy.

Additionally, we continue to see growing mistrust of institutions of all types, and the messages of animal activists are becoming more succinct and powerful. This is a worrying trend, especially when it leads to barriers and obstacles to positive progress. It seems, then, that we are at a crossroad, and we need to evaluate our course of action and approach to public discourse. The Speak Up for Research Gala is an idea that offers, at the very least, an approach and space to envision a new path forward.

What would that path look like? Look for my next blog to find out more, and Join us for the Speak Up for Research Gala