A new Washington Life Science & Global Health Advisory Council met for the first time yesterday kicking off a concerted effort by Gov. Jay Inslee to strengthen what he says is one of the state’s highest potential innovation sectors.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced the new Council last week at the Governor's Life Sciences Summit & Annual Meeting. The Council, co-chaired by Lisa Cohen, executive director of the Washington Global Health Alliance, Chris Rivera, president of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association, and Maura Little, Inslee’s sector lead advisor for life sciences and global health, convened for their first meeting yesterday in Olympia.
“We have some of the most exciting, leading-edge research and development happening right here in our state – research and development that can give our loved ones a better quality and longer span of life,” Inslee said. “But our state is competing for the people and resources needed to grow this important mission-driven sector. Washington has the potential to be a global leader in global health and life sciences and over the next two years, that’s my goal and that’s what this advisory council will help us do.”
The life sciences and global health sector is Washington’s fifth largest sector with an average salary of more than $80,000. The state Department of Commerce conducted an analysis and determined that Washington’s life sciences and global health sector is growing, though not as fast as competitor states. For example, research funding to Washington from the National Institutes of Health continues to lead most other states, topping $906 million last year.
However, challenges remain in critical areas such as developing and maintaining a robust local talent pool and support for commercialization of discoveries and early-stage companies.
The Advisory Council will identify and accelerate strategies to foster a stronger global health and life science ecosystem in Washington state. The two-year task force will convene quarterly with top thought leaders from the public, private and non-governmental organizations working together on near and long-term needs in research, technology transfer, capital development, business climate and workforce development.
In the council’s first meeting, the majority of the discussion was around how to attract, retain and inspire talent to enter into the sector. Companies here have difficulty finding the people they need and must recruit from outside the state. The council also spoke about promoting Washington as a hub for innovation in the life sciences and global health sector.
“This council gives us the opportunity play to our state’s many strengths. Our job is to come up with tangible proposals to leverage our global health and life science expertise,” said Cohen. “There isn’t a state in the country that is deliberately developing a strategy that combines this remarkable expertise. At the end of the day, this work is all designed to deliver better health outcomes. I can’t think of a better investment.”
“The WBBA is heartened to see the governor supporting the life science industry by creating the Washington Life Science & Global Health Advisory Council,” said Rivera. “This is a very positive step toward stronger state policy supporting our industry, and the recognition of the need for strong, competitive policies that will enhance Washington state’s life science industry competiveness. We look forward to working with the governor and the council in order to develop a comprehensive policy strategy that will help achieve the vision for Washington to become the global leader in life science innovation and healthy communities.”
Inslee has promoted a sector-driven approach to economic development and created an Office of Economic Development & Competitiveness to grow key industries such as aerospace, agriculture, maritime, military, clean technology and IT. Little, who serves as the governor’s sector lead for the life sciences, says having such heavy-hitters on the council demonstrates a real commitment and interest in making Washington more competitive.
“Washington can be the global leader in life science innovation and health delivery by 2025,” said Little. “This council will help create the roadmap we need as a state to accelerate the growth of the industry to create a healthier population globally.”