SPOKANE, Wash. — A consortium of Spokane organizations today released an assessment of the region’s opportunities to grow the biomedical industry in eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

The study was commissioned by a group of four organizations: INTEC (The Inland Northwest Technology Education Center), INHS (Inland Northwest Health Services), the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Washington State University Spokane. Tripp Umbach & Associates of Pennsylvania conducted the assessment.

The study focused on identifying opportunities to grow the biomedical industry in the region through the attraction of increased funding for biomedical and life sciences research, the attraction and internal generation of commercial biomedical business enterprises, the attraction of increased volumes of patients from outside the region, and the attraction of increased state and federal investment in biomedical research.

“This assessment gives our region a roadmap to further develop the biomedical industry in the Inland Northwest—an industry of growing importance nationally and one that provides significant opportunities for family wage jobs,” said Lewis Rumpler, vice president and director for biomedical technology for INTEC. “The economic development potential for biomedical companies in our region is tremendous and, as a region, we should pursue this strategy aggressively.”

Key findings of the assessment include:
–The Inland Northwest possesses many of the strengths needed for a strong biomedical industry, including a high concentration of clinical health care activity as well as serving as a hub for higher education and certain research activities.
-A regional weakness is the lack of a critical concentration of biomedical commercial enterprises (such as biotechnology or medical device companies)
–The region is home to some significant clusters of biomedical research expertise that the study refers to as “established and emerging biomedical centers of excellence.” The nine areas represent areas of distinct regional expertise such as informatics, diagnostics and cardiac medicine.
–A concerted effort to grow the existing research university campus, WSU Spokane, will focus on developing the campus as a core applied/translational research-focused campus.
–A regional organization is needed to direct and coordinate the biomedical economic development effort.

“The development of a thriving biomedical industry and infrastructure is critical to ensuring that our region’s health care delivery system continues to grow and remain competitive as health care evolves and we move into the post-genomic era,” Tom Fritz, CEO of INHS said.

The assessment also makes a series of recommendations to support the successful growth of the biomedical industry in the Inland Northwest. These include:
–Develop a Health and Biomedical Sciences Campus as an extension of the existing WSU Spokane campus. WSU Spokane should conduct and facilitate high quality applied biomedical research, integrating the region’s basic research discoveries and projects into programs focused on bringing about specific applications in clinical care, diagnostics or commercial bioventures.
–Concentrate high-level resources on the biomedical development strategy, with efforts driven by the region’s most senior leadership: university presidents, hospital chief executives, government agency/lab chiefs and private company chief executives.
–Drive development in six key areas: basic science research, disease research, informatics, medical devices, biomedical production and clinical service exports. These areas were identified based on existing centers of excellence, biomedical assets already in place and those showing potential in the region.
–Regional leadership should actively encourage the attraction, growth and development of commercial life science and medical product companies. Commercial attraction and development should run parallel with concerted efforts to boost biomedical research in the region.

“This is a long-term strategy,” said Bill Gray, campus executive officer and dean of WSU Spokane, and chairman of the board of Empire Health Services. “One key building block that’s in place now is our new Health Sciences Building and its significant research lab space, which is already allowing us to recruit top scientists very competitively. The report identifies our strengths: the excellence of our health care system, tied to the presence of a research university campus and active biomedical entrepreneurship.”

The assessment was conducted by Tripp Umbach & Associates, a leading research and strategic planning firm specializing in health care, higher education and nonprofit sectors. The lead researcher was Simon Tripp, president and co-founder. Tripp Umbach provides economic development research and strategic planning for governments and communities at the national, state, regional and local levels. Their clients have ranged from Carnegie Mellon University and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Task Force on Centers of Medical Excellence to 3M and Bayer.

Copies of the executive summary of the study will be available online at www.news.spokane.wsu.edu and by calling INTEC at (509) 444-6832.