Life sciences industry in Washington state: New trade group chief on sustaining growth and bolstering workforce

Life Science Washington CEO Marc Cummings (left) with GeekWire reporter Charlotte Schubert in an interview at Life Science Innovation Northwest 2022. (Crimson Field Photos Picture / Scott Eklund)

Marc Cummings thinks so much about how to make sure success for all times science firms within the Pacific Northwest. He took the helm of the commerce group Life Science Washington in December, taking up from earlier CEO Leslie Alexandre.  

Cummings steps into the position at a time of strong life sciences progress within the area, constructing on a current wider increase within the sector. Life science employment rose 23.5% from 2015 to 2019 in Washington state, in line with Life Science Washington, and funding within the discipline has accelerated within the final two years. 5 Washington life science firms went public final 12 months, elevating greater than $1.3 billion of their market debuts.

The biotech markets are cooling general however the prospects for the area are nonetheless sturdy for the longer term, stated Cummings in an on-stage interview with me Thursday at Life Science Innovation Northwest 2022, the commerce group’s annual assembly in Seattle.

Cummings talked about the necessity to bolster the workforce as firms mature within the area and about what the trade can do to guarantee that it continues to prosper within the coming years.

Cummings beforehand served as vice chairman of public coverage and exterior affairs at Life Science Washington. He’s now additionally the chair of the Life Science Washington Institute, an affiliated non-profit that helps life science entrepreneurs start-ups.

The Q&A beneath was edited for readability and brevity.

GeekWire: Biotech inventory market values have declined considerably since their peaks a few 12 months in the past. How is that this affecting Washington state firms and the way involved are you?

Marc Cummings: The biotech market is down significantly, 30-40%, which is staggering. I’m not tremendous frightened. We’re coming off of final 12 months … we’ve seen the strongest progress that you just’ve seen right here in a decade or two.

Popping out, this 12 months will not be going to be final 12 months. Final 12 months was kind of a excessive watermark, and there might be some contraction. On the similar time, quite a lot of the businesses listed below are fairly properly capitalized. I’m cautiously optimistic that we are going to preserve at a strong regular state, although not fairly in addition to final 12 months.

Life sciences progress has been sturdy within the state over the previous few years. Firms are staying and rising — Seagen introduced this week it’s constructing a brand new manufacturing facility for instance. What have you ever seen change?

It’s been actually attention-grabbing and enjoyable the final 4 or 5 years. About 5 six years in the past, we had simply given up the [Washington state] R&D tax credit score … Amgen had left the state.

“We was once recognized for very younger firms that grew up and moved to California, that type of factor. That development is completely reversed.”

Quick ahead to right this moment, we now have the strongest progress ever. Wanting on the room right here, coming again for our first in particular person occasion, there are over 600 folks and the room is packed. The group is tremendous vibrant. You see the strongest progress in years. We was once recognized for very younger firms that grew up and moved to California, that type of factor. That development is completely reversed.

Firms all over the place within the U.S. say they want employees skilled to work within the life sciences trade. What’s must be performed to bolster the workforce regionally?

We’ve seen a lot progress over the previous a number of years, and we simply can’t maintain that by motion [of workers] from one firm to the subsequent. The pie has now grown to the place the place we now have so as to add extra. Similar to in different industries, there’s been an enormous concentrate on recruitment. However we now have so as to add pipeline applications. Within the final couple of years, we began applications with people like Shoreline Neighborhood Faculty on manufacturing. We’ve a $70 million new constructing in UW Bothell [being completed] to hopefully end up some new STEM college students. That’s actually the main focus going ahead, to scale our training and coaching partnerships.

Life Science Washington has a number of efforts to assist get the phrase out concerning the area’s progress and alternatives within the discipline. Inform us slightly bit about what you’re doing.

The demand [for workers] has been so nice, we really employed a PR agency, constructed an enormous six-figure marketing campaign centered on what I known as “overcoming fears and myths of the area.” … What we discover is that everyone that strikes right here, from San Diego or the Bay Space or Austin, they type of aren’t positive what’s right here. And as soon as they get right here, they are saying this was far more vibrant than they knew, and so they all keep. Introducing these people actually modified that tide. Now that we’re a prime 10 nationwide life science cluster, we wish that data on the market so people in all these different hubs are conscious of the work that’s occurring.

What extra can folks working within the life sciences group do to help its progress?

If you’re out in the neighborhood, in the event you’re up in Everett, in the event you’re over in Redmond, in the event you’re on the Seattle Chamber, in the event you’re in Spokane, there’s at all times an aerospace and tech particular person on the panel. And so we’ve obtained to be extra seen out in that group.

We’re going to be taking the lead on that. I’m going to be going to each rubber rooster dinner occasion across the state telling the trade story. Nevertheless it’s a lot extra highly effective if I can inform that story and present the financial affect of the trade whether it is adopted by one or two executives that may inform that story of their remedy, as a result of that’s what makes it actual. When you have a scholar occasion, otherwise you’re a guardian, it’s also possible to transfer that narrative base: “Possibly as a substitute of being a physician, I may treatment extra folks by going into remedy improvement.”

What do you see for the life sciences within the subsequent 5 years within the state?

I hope we keep on this trajectory. We’ve grown kind of a really early- to mid-stage type of company tradition right here. Now that we’ve obtained firms rising and staying and increasing, the subsequent 5 years is about proudly owning our progress. It’s about firms that we drove from mid-cap to bigger firms to have the ability to have interaction in a few of these group and different actions in a manner that’s each extra seen and extra tangible. After we speak about coaching applications, moderately than simply kind of displaying up, let’s construct these collectively and make these issues are what we wish them to be.

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