Peoria in talks to create biotech incubator with TGen

News Archive (2010)

Peoria in talks to create biotech incubator with TGen.

Peoria in talks to create biotech incubator with TGen
by Sonu Munshi - Jun. 21, 2010 09:22 AM
The Arizona Republic

Peoria may have found the catalyst to diversify its economy. City economic developers are in talks to create a biotech incubator with downtown Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute, referred to as TGen, and the Core Institute, which specializes in orthopedics.

Councilwoman Cathy Carlat described the news as "the thing we've been waiting for all along."
"This is like bombshell kind of good news for us," she said.

City officials were reaching out to "just about anybody that has a pulse" to find a strategic alliance for biotech and bioscience because these are "industries of the future," Economic Development Director Scott Whyte said.

On July 6, the City Council is expected to consider a letter of support for a proposed partnership with TGen to help get a federal grant. The federal money would "bring considerable resources to make this possibility a reality," Whyte told the City Council this week.

TGen aims to use "academic research toward life sciences for commercial application," Whyte said.

The Phoenix institute is partnering with Glendale-based Thunderbird School of Global Management and other organizations to create an International Bioscience Commercialization Consortium in the areas of genomics, bioscience and life sciences, Whyte said.

He said he hopes to see the incubator set up in Peoria, with or without the federal grant. City officials have been working with the Core Institute to bring a biotech startup program. Whyte sees this as a chance for both groups to use the same facility, saying it would give the city a "tremendous foundation from which to build on."

Incubators generally help fledgling businesses get research and office space as they work to transform new technologies and ideas into commercial ventures. No Peoria site has been identified for the facility, Whyte said. He said TGen is "very interested" in the city's efforts to recruit a university. The city hired a consultant to help land a residential campus university or college.

Steven Stralser, clinical professor of entrepreneurship at the Thunderbird school, said the consortium is in a "talking stage right now," so he was unable to give any details "until it's fleshed out."

He confirmed there is discussion about working with Peoria.

"TGen may be talking to Peoria to house this relationship," Stralser said.

A TGen spokesman said he didn't have anyone who could comment on the matter. The Core Institute did not respond to requests for comment.

Whyte later told the Republic the city would "partner" with TGen, although he said they haven't fully figured out the nature of that partnership.

Mayor Bob Barrett said if the letter of support is about whether the city is willing to begin talks, he anticipated no problems. Any other commitments would depend on what Peoria can legally and financially do, he said.

"There's no point in opening negotiations if whatever is generally proposed does not comply with the CityNorth case," Barrett said.

The reference is to Phoenix's controversial $97.4 million subsidy to the CityNorth project in north Phoenix, which the state Supreme Court in January ruled to be an unconstitutional subsidy. The court ruled that government funds or credit to companies must provide a direct benefit of equivalent value to taxpayers.

William Fredrick, president of Wadley-Donovan Growthtech LLC, who is working on a big-picture economic-development study for Peoria, described the potential partnership as a "fantastic" opportunity.

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