Year in Review with Liisa Bozinovic, Executive Director, Oregon Bioscience Association
2021 was a year of change at the Oregon Bioscience Association for #ORBioMembers as well as the industry on a regional and global level. We’re counting success by the numbers and by outcomes that grew the industry and ensured our members’ successes.
What a year it was! The region’s first bio IPO exploded on the scene when member Absci went live on the Nasdaq in July. Late in the year, Oregon Bio established a Memo of Understanding with the innovation company incubator/accelerator Onward Eugene. The MOU will establish industry training and job creation throughout the Willamette Valley. And some of the best news yet arrived when Pitchbook
released its year-end data showing an all-time high level in 2021 of venture capital flowing to locally-based bio and health firms, reaching $324 million in 36 deals. This dwarfed 2020’s inflow of $173 million in 22 deals and 2019’s total of $87 million in 23 deals.
In 2021 we witnessed the exciting evolution of the Pacific Northwest bioscience and health tech ecosystem, with significant gains making Oregon now a viable local for companies to start, grow and expand here. When Bay-area companies such as Twist Bioscience announced it will build the ‘factory of the future’ just south of Portland, bringing 400+ jobs and Genentech expanded its facility footprint, the appeal and viability of the local region is clearly witnessed.
In short, in 2021 we upped our diversity efforts and outreach; engaged more members; increased industry productivity and positively impacted industry employment; supported myriad successful bio-industry acquisitions, openings and expansions; and garnered substantial national and international media attention all to showcase the Pacific Northwest as a strong and emerging bio hub.
2021 was also a year to deepen our focus on delivering outcomes and member services with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion via the Oregon Bio’s DEI committee. With widespread engagement, we honored Black History Month, supported Asians and Pacific Islanders, engaged in Pride Month with via LGBTQ+ conversations in our social avenues. The committee hosted focus groups to discover how to recruit more students of diversity into STEM-related higher education and careers. Oregon Bio Women re-launched with the creation of a diverse, expansive committee to strategize mentorship and networking opportunities for bio professionals – and even a book club.
Highlighting the voice of our industry, 2021 was a year of strategic programming and professional development offerings specifically designed to showcase local firms’ innovation strategies, engage startups and scaleups, and provide best practices as well as support bio-professionals in well-rounded ways. Oregon Bio’s targeted programming and events included launching the Makers and [bio] Markers series to bring our region’s maker members to share their business philosophies with programs and others to understand their business models, innovation pathways and success.
The year saw success in offering the popular BioPro training program in a virtual, webinar format. To enhance learned, we hosted bite-sized ‘Mini BioPro Lunch & Learn’ sessions to provide members industry specific regulatory, compliance and professional development including the FDA’s Accreditation Scheme for Conformity Assessment Program, as well as topics Demystifying Lean Six Sigma and Data Integrity. We brought the industry together with our signature Bio On Series to celebrate new Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact at the University of Oregon in Eugene and led a signature virtual event at Greater Portland Inc’s virtual Bioscience Industry Tour.
Oregon Bio delivered 3,652 hours of training in 2021!
Industry Partnering for Success
Staying in front of the innovation curve, Oregon Bio partnered with Oregon Health & Science University to promote the annual Invent-a-thon and host the investor panel at its Post Hack event. We also engaged with OHSU during Research Week 2021’s to secure the Innovation and Commercialization keynote of BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Health. Throughout the year, we engaged our Facilities Committee with life science facility managers, landlords, architects, brokers, and lab suppliers from our member community to identify land and space inventory for growth.
We also partnered with the international Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) to recruit startup professionals in the Spring’s nationwide I-Corps Bio-Entrepreneurship Workshop. And, we helped the Angel Capital Association host its annual Summit of Angel Investing meeting for the first time in Portland. Oregon Bio also pulled down BIO member benefits to the local level by upping the partnership with Bio Business Solutions’ partner, Brex, helped local firms in the hosted online event, ‘Working with angel funders in life sciences,’ and helped create awareness about the new cost-effective health plans now available to #ORBioMembers via Mercer. Oregon Bio members saved $4.6 million with an average 54 percent discount on BIO Business Solutions between July 2020 and June 2021.
Industry Outreach, Leadership and Collaborations
In 2021, Oregon Bio again led the local industry with workforce development efforts designed to help members recruit and retain top talent. Through Oregon Bio’s Spring and Fall Career Fairs and promotions of hundreds of available positions on the Career Catalyst online portal, the efforts continued to connect our Oregon member employers with the increasingly diverse field of candidates.
As the opportunities grow in the local bio-cluster, Oregon Bio launched a coordinated effort to develop an advanced biomanufacturing corridor to cultivate a regional industry cluster to highlight scientific research, product design and advanced biomanufacturing to attract companies and create high-wage jobs in the region.
To collaborate, we continued supporting and guiding Portland Community College’s Bioscience Technology Certificate Program. For high schools and undergrads, we continued supporting Saturday Academy Oregon State University’s InternSHIFT program, as well as helping local students to apply for high quality research immersion experiences through the San Diego-based Boz Institute. We also drew on member experience by participating in the 2021 Workforce Trends Study with the Coalition of State Bioscience Institutes, TEConomy and BIO to survey and identify the most pressing talent needs of the life science industry in our region.
Complementing our advocacy work, Oregon Bio joined a coalition to support our state’s existing “Enterprise Zone” program. The property tax abatement is temporary, but the long-term jobs are not. Oregon Bio also joined with a variety of stakeholders to commission a study by EcoNorthwest to explain the economic benefits of E-Zones, the limited tools available to recruit companies to Oregon, and the potential ramification of imposing public contracting requirements on private projects within these zones. The full presentation can be found here. Coalition partners presented the findings to the House Economic Recovery and Prosperity Committee.
Funding, Investments and Grants
Oregon Bio tracked impressive investments, capital infusions and other funding in 2021:
- The National Institutes of Health released its FY 2021 list with these member companies listed among the top 10 awardees: OHSU (539 awards – $284,252,932), University of Oregon (98 awards – $44,670,252), Oregon State University (59 awards, $21,484,829), PDX Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (2 awards, $2,276,391), Portland State University (14 awards – $7,868,971), and Aronora Inc. (2 awards, $1,980,299).
- Pitchbook reported venture capital investments in biotech and life science firms in Oregon and Southwest Washington reached a record total of deals – 37 – and funding levels in 2021 – $323,630,757.
Oregon Bio has high member engagement in our advocacy and policy leadership, as a way to speak for the industry in ways that both promote and protect the industry via live and virtual meetings with policymakers. In late 2021, we hosted the Biotech Summit, entitled “Biomarkers and the Promise of Precision Medicine,” offering a panel discussion and virtual behind-the-scenes tour of Genentech’s new $175 million investment in their new Hillsboro Individualized Therapies facility. The event sought to educate legislators and the public from Oregon and Washington on both the research and development happening in our region and benefits of biomarker testing on treating diseases.
In 2021, the annual legislative sessions in Oregon and Washington were active ones. In Oregon, we successfully advocated for continued Signature Research Center-funding for the Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute and defended economic development incentives that bring much needed capital into our state and the local biotech industry.
Oregon’s proactive agenda ranged from reforming the Medicaid coverage process to better reflect modern medicine, to supporting better patient benefits and expanding newborn screening panels. We worked closely with both House and Senate health leaders and many legislators, focusing on educating legislators on the problems with proposed bills that could harm the industry’s focus on protection of intellectual property, job creation and patients’ access to emerging therapies. One key, central issue of concern was the passage of Senate Bill 844, which created the Drug Price Oversight Board. Oregon Bio educated policymakers and stakeholders about the risks to access and innovation. Ultimately, while the bill still creates risks (and costs) for our industry, the final bill included several changes incorporating our industry’s concerns. In addition, we fought several bills aimed at medical devices and prior authorization.
While some of our efforts, including protecting trade secrets from the drug transparency reporting process, reforms for Medicaid coverage determinations and extension of Oregon’s biosimilars law came up short, we continue to focus on these elements in the 2022 session.
The Washington State 2021 Legislature comprised its session focusing on equity in medical training; creating health equity zones; and providing for health equity in continuing education for health care professionals.
Of particular interest to drug manufacturers was Senate Bill 5203 which addressed production, distribution and purchase of generic prescription drugs. With industry neutrality, the bill passed to allow the state’s Health Care Authority to enter into partnerships with other states, state agencies, or nonprofit entities to produce, distribute or purchase generic prescription drugs and purchase and distribute insulin. It also required state-purchasing health care programs to purchase generic drugs and insulin through the partnership and allows other entities to voluntarily purchase through the partnership.
House Bill 1161 passed, to amend the original 2018 drug take-back program legislation and gave the Washington Department of Health (DOH) authority to approve programs by additional program operators. Under the successful Senate Bill 5022, plastic producers of covered products being sold or distributed in Washington must register with the Department of Ecology. The industry maintained a ‘watch and wait’ stance to ensure exemptions to the bill specific plastics use for specific medical devices, medical products, nonprescription and prescription drugs and dietary supplements.
What a year it was – what will 2022 be?