It’s been ten years since the Indiana University Kelley School of Business began our Life Sciences Collaboration Conferences.  And, we celebrated it at our November event, "The Indiana Life Sciences Ecosystem – The Last 10 Years and the Next 10."  Two themes capture the activities from the last decade and the ones to come– the importance of collaboration and the need/value of “telling the state’s life sciences story.” 

Indiana’s life sciences focus on collaboration and building a competitive advantage didn’t happen overnight. Melina Kennedy, former deputy mayor of Indianapolis and current general manager of rail at Cummins, said that after 9/11 and the subsequent loss of the United maintenance facility at the Indianapolis airport, local leaders began reaching out to firms with the idea to recognize and promote the area’s life sciences “critical mass.”  Up to this point, such firms had not worked together much and in typical Midwest fashion had not spent much time “tooting their own horns.”  She was instrumental in coordinating business leaders and companies in the formation of BioCrossroads.

Several other developments have advanced the life sciences sector. The evolution of Clarian into IU Health and the increasing importance of big data; the growth of local services and suppliers supporting start-ups; and the continuing efforts to raise funds for start-ups have all contributed to growth.

The current state of the ecosystem continues to be strong.  David Johnson, president and CEO at BioCrossroads, said that the state does not compete with the funding and start-up dynamism of the coasts, its unique position as a “Noah’s ark” – having at least one of many types of life sciences and healthcare organizations (branded pharma, disposable devices, hardware, orthopedics, pediatric nutrition, health information, major insurer, integrated delivery network) that collaborate –  gives us a competitive advantage as long as efforts are made to continue “telling the story.”

Looking ahead, the planned innovation district at 16 Tech will energize the life sciences sector and other advanced industries.  The value of having firms collaborating in close proximity as well as the potential for convergence in life sciences and IT is a game-changing opportunity for our local community and the state. The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute will be its first tenant and is already playing an important role in the life sciences ecosystem. The nearby IU School of Medicine’s Precision Health Initiative will also be creating new knowledge and therapies to drive improved patient outcomes.

We look forward to continuing these important conversations at future conferences and to playing a role in helping to spread the word about all of Indiana’s life sciences strengths and capabilities.  If the last ten years are any sign of the future, the next decade will be full of exciting collaborations, medical breakthroughs and continued efforts to innovate and  build more companies.

Note:   Several of the day’s presentations are available at: 

George Telthorst is Director of the Center for the Business of Life Sciences at Indiana University.

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