Arizona’s Bioscience Sector Hits Record Highs 20 Years into Strategic Plan

Arizona’s bioscience sector is performing at historically high levels two decades after the creation of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap placed the state on a long-term trajectory toward success.

The April 20 report, the latest performance analysis commissioned by the Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation and presented by TEConomy Partners, shows record highs in bioscience jobs, wages, venture capital, National Institutes of Health research funding, and university research and development.

And since the 2002 launch of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap—the state’s long-term strategy to guide the biosciences—the increases are striking: from 73,000 to 133,000 in bioscience jobs, including hospitals; $34 million to $240 million in venture capital; $133 million to $297 million in NIH funding; and $273 million to $623 in academic R&D.

“The evidence is strong—Arizona’s dedication to advancing the biosciences over the past 20 years has paid substantial dividends for our economy and health,” said Tammy McLeod, Ph.D., Flinn Foundation president and CEO. “We have made groundbreaking discoveries and clinical advancements at our universities, research institutes, and hospitals. We’ve launched companies, established innovation hubs, and boosted the state economy through tough periods. And there is more to come.”

The Flinn Foundation has commissioned the collection, analysis, and public release of the performance metrics since the launch of Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap.

“Arizona continues to report outstanding progress in the biosciences, with the state recording gains across every performance metric, including new peaks in venture capital and NIH research funding,” said Mitch Horowitz, co-founder and senior fellow of TEConomy Partners. “While there are certainly areas to work on, the data underscore the critical role of the biosciences in diversifying and growing Arizona’s economy and offering an important health dividend that raises the state’s quality of life, since the launch of the Roadmap in 2002 as well as the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago.”

The most recent data show:

  • There are 133,000 total biosciences jobs in Arizona, with 34,000 of them non-hospital bioscience jobs. The industry’s job base grew 5.4% in Arizona from 2018-2020, more than tripling the U.S. growth rate of 1.4%. Over the past 20 years, the share of bioscience jobs among Arizona’s private sector has increased from 3.9% to 5.5%.
  • The average wage in 2020 for a non-hospital bioscience worker in Arizona was $92,000 per year and $76,000 for all bioscience jobs, including hospitals. Since 2018, salaries have increased 8.3% for non-hospital bioscience jobs and 9.4% for all bioscience jobs, slightly less than the national wage growth rate of 10.9% and 9.8%, respectively. Overall, a bioscience salary is about 30% higher than the average private sector wage in Arizona.
  • Arizona hit a record-high $297 million in National Institutes of Health funding in 2021, a 5% increase over the previous year and more than double the $133 million from 2002. The state’s share of NIH funding—distributed to universities, hospitals, research institutes, and companies—stands at a record high of 0.85%.
  • The $240 million in venture capital investment in 2021 was the highest single-year amount since data reporting began and a 165% jump since 2018. Arizona’s average amount over the past three years was $155 million, compared to a total of $34 million in 2002. Arizona’s strengths were nearly divided equally between medical devices, bioscience IT and digital health, and health care services.
  • In 2020-21, Arizona universities received 234 bio-related patents—an increase from 180 in the previous two-year period—with 52 bioscience startups emerging from the state’s three state universities, a 63% increase. In addition, Arizona had 173 licenses and options executed, a 34% increase, 569 invention disclosures, a 7% increase, and 642 patent applications, a 3% increase.
  • Arizona had $623 million in bioscience academic research and development expenditures in the latest reporting period, a 3.6% increase over the previous reporting period. However, this growth rate is below the national average and a decline from Arizona’s 25.3% growth rate between 2016-2018.

The next data report is scheduled to be released in 2024.

The Flinn Foundation was established in 1965 by Dr. Robert S. and Irene P. Flinn to improve the quality of life in Arizona to benefit future generations. In addition to advancing the biosciences, the foundation supports the Flinn Scholarship, a merit-based college scholarship program; arts and culture; and the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and its flagship Flinn-Brown Fellowship.

The vision for Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap is for the state to become globally competitive and a national leader in the biosciences in such fields as precision medicine, cancer, neurosciences, and bioengineering by 2025. The Roadmap is guided by Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap Steering Committee, comprised of about 135 leaders from the public and private sectors in science, health care, business, academia, and policy.

The Flinn Foundation is a privately endowed, philanthropic grantmaking organization established in 1965 by Dr. Robert S. and Irene P. Flinn that awards grants and operates programs in four areas: the biosciences, the Flinn Scholars, arts and culture, and the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership. The foundation’s mission is to improve the quality of life in Arizona to benefit future generations. The foundation’s focus on bioscience and health care stems from the career of Robert Flinn, a cardiologist who headed the departments of cardiology and electrocardiography at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix.

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