Sponsored by George Fox University
Home Back Issues May 2013 Betting on biotech

Betting on biotech

| Print |  Email
Articles - May 2013
Monday, April 29, 2013

BY PETER BARNES

0513 FOB Conversation MedicalResearch
Jennifer Fox, executive director of OTRADI, in the soon-to-be-completed South Waterfront bioscience incubator.
// Adam Wickham

A South Carolina native, biologist Jennifer Fox, Ph.D., followed research opportunities to Tulane University, Northwestern and, eventually, the University of Oregon, where her work focused on drug resistance in breast cancer. In 2008 she moved to the Oregon Translational Research and Development Institute (OTRADI), a nonprofit that helps scientists fund and execute advanced bioscience research. Now, as OTRADI’s new executive director, 39-year-old Fox will oversee a 13,000-square-foot business incubator hosting startups like Aronora, a researcher of cardiovascular drugs, and AbSci, which is developing an antibody production technology. Oregon Business caught up with Fox as the organization prepared to move into its new space in Portland’s South Waterfront district. There OTRADI hopes to entice more venture capital in a sector known for its robust growth and high-paying jobs.

OB: Commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle recently ranked U.S. regions with the largest bioscience presence. Seattle came in 10th. No Oregon city made the list. What makes Portland a good place for investment in this field?

Major research universities and talent. We have a place like OHSU that’s one of the largest employers in Portland and has a great deal of grant funding for research products. If we don’t create the kind of ecosystem that fosters that and keeps that within the state, we see what’s happened in the past — a product gets to a certain stage and then gets pulled down to California or up to Seattle.

OB: Why is that?

It takes so long for them to get products through the FDA approval process — about 12 years from start to stop to get from an idea to a drug stage, and they say $30 million on average. A lot of times companies — Aronora is a good example — get a product to a certain position by writing their own grants. But you get to the stage they call the “valley of death,” where you need a great deal more money and deeper pockets to get the drug all the way through the approval process. That’s when you partner with, perhaps, a larger company. That’s something we can help them do as well.

OB: Other industries already benefit from business accelerators hosted by Oregon universities, nonprofits and even Nike. What other resources unique to bioscience companies will OTRADI offer?

Our incubator is going to have specialized equipment for bioscience, which is cost limiting to a small bioscience company. You’re not going to want to build out your own laboratory with a fume hood and a tissue-culture hood and giant robots and machinery that you might need to get the work done. We will have that available in the shared facility, and have people here with the expertise to teach people how to use these pieces of equipment.

OB: What supporting industries could also benefit from a growing bioscience cluster?

In Oregon people would say our main strength is medical-device technologies or diagnostics. And those aren’t pharmaceutical drugs; those are actual you-can-put-your-hands-on-them products. So you could have materials. You could have medicinal chemistry. You’ve got companies across the state that are working on the reagents and the ingredients that scientists use to promote their research, and they like to be near companies that are engaged in this.

OB: Do you ever miss working in the lab now that you’re surrounded by emerging companies and promising research?

I do miss my research. But the great thing about working at OTRADI is having a new line on different topics and different areas all the time. Someone might come in who’s interested in cancer, or hormone signaling, or endocrine disruption, or anything that I’ve done in my past, and it’s great. But someone might come in with something completely new. It’s a challenge and it’s been great. It’s never boring.

 

More Articles

South Waterfront's revenge

News
Thursday, July 24, 2014
MoodyAveBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Remember the naysayers?  Those who called the South Waterfront aerial tram a boondoggle?  Those who rejoiced at the massive sell off of luxury condos at the John Ross and Atwater Place?


Read more...

OB Video: Oregon MESA

News
Thursday, June 26, 2014

ThumbOregon Business hosts an informal roundtable discussion about the Oregon MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program.


Read more...

The role of higher education as K-12 underperforms

Contributed Blogs
Friday, May 30, 2014
ThumbChalkboardBY DEBRA RINGOLD | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Since 1970 the performance of our public education system has steadily deteriorated.


Read more...

Oversight? Or gaming the system?

News
Monday, July 14, 2014
AmazonBY VIVIAN MCINERNY | OB BLOGGER

Some people think Amazon’s winking eye logo is starting to look like a hoodwink.


Read more...

EPA Standards: A breath of fresh air for the region

News
Thursday, June 12, 2014
EPABY ANDREA DURBIN | OB GUEST BLOGGER

Last week, the Obama administration took an important and welcomed step in the effort to protect the health and well-being of all Oregonians by limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants.


Read more...

The business of running a food cart

News
Thursday, June 05, 2014
OBM1BY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER

What does it take to launch and run one of these mobile food businesses?  


Read more...

OB Video: Dress for Success

News
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
DFSOBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Dress for Success Oregon promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS