Posts filed under ‘Commentary’

The Hard Facts about Soft Money

For years, the economic development community has debated whether the influx of federal funding for academic research into a state’s economy is a true economic development “win.”  This so-called soft money is said by some to be less desirable than the economic activity of private industry since it is not sustainable over time – federal funding is cyclical and often fickle.

A recent report on the economic benefit of academic research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) does not settle the issue, but does make a strong case that this funding itself has an enormous, immediate impact in a state’s and region’s economy.  Perhaps more importantly, the research outcomes this funding generates are directly linked to the growth and vitality of a region’s life sciences and health care industries.

According to the report, in 2010, NIH funding led to the creation of 484,939 jobs and produced nearly $70 billion in new economic activity across the country.  In addition, since NIH primarily funds basic research, these figures – while impressive – don’t tell the complete story.  The study reports that the NIH research portfolio expands the life sciences knowledge base, which in turn allows private industry to develop new drugs, new diagnostic tools, new medical technologies, and a myriad of other innovations that save lives and grow the economy.

In Georgia, our universities and academic medical centers have been increasingly successful in capturing NIH funds.  In 2010, Georgia was one of 15 states creating more than 10,000 jobs as a result of NIH support.  And from 2000 to 2010, Georgia increased its NIH research funding by nearly 85 percent – from $236 million in 2000 to $433 million in 2010.  This represents a higher percentage increase than any of the other states in the top 1/3.

In addition, the innovations the research generates have become the basis for the majority of new Georgia-based drug, vaccine, medical device and diagnostics startup companies.  Three examples:

  • Clearside Biomedical is based on technology developed from NIH-funded research at Georgia Tech and Emory.  The company is developing tissue specific, microneedle injected products for treating eye diseases.  Clearside recently completed its $4.7 million Series A financing with investments from Hatteras Venture Fund and the GRA Venture Fund.
  • NeurOp, housed in the Georgia State University bioscience company incubator, is a biopharmaceutical company developing new medicines to treat central nervous system disorders, including major depression, neuropathic pain and ischemia.  NIH funds supported the basic research that led to the development of the company’s key intellectual property.
  • Camellix, a company based on NIH-funded research in the laboratories of Georgia Health Sciences University, has developed a chewing gum that combines green tea’s potent anti-oxidant component with Jaborandi leaf to stimulate saliva production.  The gum holds great promise for the 50 million Americans who suffer from dry mouth.

These successes for Georgia have not been accidental.  Twenty years ago, the business, academic and political leadership of the state launched the Georgia Research Alliance in part to give Georgia’s universities a distinct advantage in competing for federal research dollars.  By recruiting top scientists and investing in the tools they need for breakthrough research, GRA has helped Georgia’s universities – often collaboratively – win the race among the 3,000 universities, medical schools and other research institutes that compete for NIH funding.

Competition among states for limited federal funding is likely to become even more intense.  To keep up, Georgia must continue to invest in organizations like the Georgia Research Alliance that help our research universities attract the soft money that leads to real, sustainable economic growth and opportunity for the state.

May 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

Georgia may be new capital of global health

Research!America, a member of the Global Health Technologies Coalition, recently conducted analyses across a select group of target states to measure the health and economic impact of global health research and development (R&D), highlighting its benefits for states across the nation and strengthening the evidence base for Congress’ support of federal investments in global health R&D. Danielle Doughman, program manager for global health R&D advocacy, shares the organization’s findings in Georgia.   Read the results here>

February 2, 2012 at 12:56 pm Leave a comment

GRA Role in Georgia’s Economic Development Strategy Expands

The Georgia Research Alliance, in concert with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, has taken on an expanded role in Georgia’s economic development strategy.

As part of Governor Nathan Deal’s vision for a business climate that encompasses and aligns the state’s most powerful assets for high-growth companies, Georgia’s Centers of Innovation and the Georgia Cancer Coalition will be integrated into GRA, enlarging its capacity for leveraging the state’s university resources to build a thriving, technology-driven economy.

“Integrating the Centers of Innovation and the Georgia Cancer Coalition with the Georgia Research Alliance creates a powerful set of programs to build on the innovation capacity of the state’s research universities and medical schools to grow companies and strategic industries, create jobs and build a vibrant economy,” said GRA President Mike Cassidy.  “At the same time, we can strengthen industry-university collaborations across Georgia, enhance the impact of GRA’s successful programs in communities statewide, and make Georgia a place for ready access to cutting-edge research results.”

Launched in 2003, Georgia’s Centers of Innovation help accelerate the growth of the state’s six strategic industries, which include aerospace, agribusiness, energy, life sciences, logistics and advanced manufacturing.  The centers are located across the state and connect high growth-potential companies with university research and industry expertise as well as other Georgia resources, resulting in long-term job growth and increased statewide investment. A common goal of the centers is to help commercialize new products, services and business models in these industries.

The Georgia Cancer Coalition is a not-for-profit organization that teams with other government agencies, academic institutions, civic groups, corporations and health care organizations in a concerted effort to strengthen cancer prevention, research and treatment in Georgia, with the ultimate goals of making Georgia one of the nation’s premier states for cancer care and reducing the number of cancer-related deaths in Georgia.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunity to better connect these outstanding, strategic programs with the business community. Both the Georgia Research Alliance and the Georgia Cancer Coalition have enormous resources for high-tech companies, who create high-paying jobs for skilled workers. Together we can streamline companies’ access to the deep resources of these institutions and accelerate their growth,” said Chris Cummiskey, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “This move will further enhance the successful public-private partnership GRA has embodied through the years.”

Founded in 1990 as a vision of Georgia’s business leadership, GRA is an independent, non-profit corporation that capitalizes on the innovation capacity of the state’s research universities to grow the economy and improve the health and well-being of Georgians.

July 14, 2011 at 2:57 pm Leave a comment

30 Years working to identify, prevent and treat HIV/AIDS

June 5 marks the 30th year that U.S. public health agencies have been engaged in the war against HIV/AIDS, and GRA university partner Emory University has been a world leader in the fight.  From inventing some of the most successful HIV/AIDS drugs, to developing and testing promising vaccines, conducting clinical trials, leading behavioral and prevention research and treating thousands of patients, Emory has played a key role.

GRA has invested significantly in winning the battle against this killer of more than 30 million worldwide through recruiting several of the most prominent AIDS researchers; by helping to develop the Emory Vaccine Center, the Emory Center for AIDS Research and the University of Georgia Center for Drug Discovery; by providing sophisticated research tools; and by fostering the growth of GeoVax, a Georgia company in Phase II clinical trials for a promising HIV/AIDS vaccine.

The war is far from over, but progress toward victory is being made, in no small part through the efforts of Georgia’s research universities.

Read more here and here.

June 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm Leave a comment

Fostering collaboration early in researchers’ careers

Earlier this week, the Georgia Research Alliance brought together young scientists from the labs of six GRA Eminent Scholars  and challenged them to develop a joint research proposal.  The idea for the session came from the Eminent Scholars, who see great potential in building collaborations early.  The group of 15 from the labs of GRA Eminent Scholars Barbara Boyan (Georgia Tech), Julia Hilliard (GSU). Guido Silvestri (Emory), Jeff Skolnick (Georgia Tech), Andrew Mellor (GHSU)  and Eberhard Voit (Georgia Tech) worked together for a day and half to produce the first stages of a proposal which will be refined over the next several months.  GRA will provide seed funding to carry out the research.

Feedback from the participants emphasized the value of broadening perspectives beyond their own research and the challenge of gaining consensus from a large group in a small amount of time.

May 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

Commentary: GRA Pioneers New Paradigm

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York, recently published a study of how higher education institutions are working to revitalize state economies.  Titled A New Paradigm for Economic Development, the report states:

“For much of the twentieth century, states’ economic development efforts centered on incentives, financial packages, cost comparisons, labor policy, permitting requirements, roads and water systems, and so on – things that state governments are comfortable working with, but that do not suffice to meet key challenges for the new economy.

The twenty-first century paradigm, in contrast, is shifting toward putting knowledge first.  For states, increasingly, that means connecting their higher education systems more closely to their economic development strategies.”

As the report goes on to describe (p. 14-17), Georgia, through the Georgia Research Alliance, is a pioneer of this “new paradigm.”  Throughout its 20 year history, GRA has brought together the state’s academic, business and government leaders to capture and leverage the enormous economic development impact of our research universities.  Its strategic investments in top scientific talent (GRA Eminent Scholars), research infrastructure, and research commercialization (GRA VentureLab), have helped to bring some 2.6 billion new dollars in private and public funding into Georgia’s economy, generated more than 175 new, high-value companies from university research and created nearly 5,500 knowledge-economy jobs.

With continued investment and aggressive new initiatives, GRA offers the promise of remaining, as the Rockefeller Institute concludes, “perhaps the most comprehensive research-to-implementation strategy in any state.”

September 16, 2010 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Attention Georgia Leaders: It’s Time for Gazelles


By April 29, Georgia’s elected leadership will have completed a budget that cuts hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s budget.  Hard choices have been made, and more decisions loom in these final days of the legislative session.

 Historically, Georgia has worked hard to create a positive business environment.  This has been a critical element of our success in luring top companies to the state.  But it is becoming increasingly apparent to futurists, economists and others that the needs of existing business must be balanced with strategies for nurturing promising new enterprises. 

According to the Kauffman Foundation, which specializes in promoting innovation in America, virtually all net new jobs in the U.S. since 1980 were created by firms that were five years old or less.  Even more importantly, the fastest growing one percent of these young companies generate approximately 10 percent of new jobs in any given year. These companies – sometimes called gazelles – contribute an average of 88 jobs per year, and most end up with between 20 and 249 employees. 

What can we do to establish a herd of gazelles in Georgia?  We must continue to invest in innovation.  It is the innovators who build new economies and improve the way we live, the way we do business, and the way our state is perceived.  In Georgia, these are companies like Suniva, Internet Security Systems, CardioMEMS, MedShape Solutions, Damballa and Senstrinsic.  Not all of these names are widely recognized yet, but they represent the future Microsofts and Genentechs.

 Many of these “gazelle” companies and their leaders emerge from research universities.  Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Google and many other companies that have reinvented American business emerged as a result of work by university researchers.  Understanding this potential, Georgia has invested enormous time, energy and capital over the past 20 years to establish a group of six nationally-recognized research universities, all of which are members of the GRA.  The results have been impressive: Investments in GRA have brought more than $2.6 billion in new federal and private funding to Georgia.  In 2009 alone, GRA Eminent Scholars – high profile researchers recruited to the state by the GRA – generated over $200 million in non-state funding to pursue their discoveries.  More than 5,500 jobs have been created through GRA and 175 new companies can trace their origins to university inventions fostered by GRA investments.  Research and our own experience show that creating an environment attractive to entrepreneurs and researchers is the fastest way to grow quality jobs in Georgia, but aggressive cuts in higher education and research threaten our progress and our national reputation.

Our legislators have tough decisions to make in the days ahead.  One critical decision is how to grow and nurture Georgia’s gazelles.

C. Michael Cassidy
President and CEO
Georgia Research Alliance

First published in Insider Advantage, April 22, 2010

April 27, 2010 at 10:47 am 1 comment