While agriculture and assembly lines will continue to fuel Washington’s job base, good ideas are increasingly vital to the new “innovation economy.” This economy leverages intellectual capital and research and development (R&D) to help achieve a more profitable economic future, and, in the area of life sciences, improve the health and quality of life of Washingtonians.
Washington is fortunate to have a robust life sciences R&D sector, as evidenced by its top-notch educational and non-profit research institutions, national laboratory and biomedical and biotechnology companies. This sector—contributing nearly $11 billion to GDP and $7 billion in personal income—directly employs over 34,000 Washingtonians and supports an additional 58,000 jobs. Notably, bone marrow transplantation, kidney dialysis and medical ultrasound were all pioneered by Washington’s R&D community and have saved countless lives here and beyond. Maintaining the strength of this sector is paramount if the state is to fully capture the power of its creativity for economic prosperity and good health.
While agriculture and assembly lines will continue to fuel Washington’s job base, good ideas are increasingly vital to the new “innovation economy.”
Finding the funding
Unfortunately, the U.S. recession has taken a toll on life sciences R&D, with fewer government and private monies available to turn ideas into reality. As a result, many of our R&D organizations’ promising new ideas are stuck in the “valley of death,” where discoveries cannot be converted into practical benefit.
The Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF), created by former Governor Gregoire and the Washington legislature, and funded by tobacco settlement dollars, is proving to be an important bridge across the valley of death. LSDF makes grants that support the R&D necessary to create jobs, move promising discoveries closer to commercial realization and public benefit and ensure that innovations touch the greatest number of lives.
To date, LSDF has committed $92 million for 72 research projects statewide to improve health and stimulate economic development. These projects involve more than 40 Washington companies, over half of them start-ups. Grantees have leveraged this funding to create a seven-fold return on investment to Washington, including over $425 million in new dollars and $67 million in healthcare cost savings.
LSDF grantees are using creative approaches to address practical problems and make our residents healthier and safer, while also producing economic and competitive benefits for Washington.
Life sciences saving lives
LSDF grantees are saving lives in Washington by making surgery safer and instructing police officers and emergency medicine professionals in state-of-the-art methods of cardiac resuscitation. They will save many more lives and improve quality of life for Washington families by:
• Tackling the problem of prescription drug abuse in rural communities;
• Developing better ways to treat conditions such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, and autoimmune disorders;
• Improving medical diagnosis in the emergency room and the doctor’s office to ensure prompt and appropriate treatment;
• Developing wheat strains that are expected to be safe for gluten-intolerant individuals;
• Creating “smart homes” to keep the elderly living independently and out of nursing homes.
In short, LSDF funding is positioning Washington for success in the innovation economy. LSDF grantees are using creative approaches to address practical problems and make our residents healthier and safer, while also producing economic and competitive benefits for Washington.
John P. DesRosier, Ph.D.