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June 27, 2023 9:28am

Greater Louisville is positioned to be the next global leader in Biotechnology

This op-ed originally appeared in Louisville Business First on June 23, 2023

For more than two decades, Greater Louisville Inc.’s Health Enterprises Network has convened top leaders in healthcare and life sciences to make Greater Louisville a national leader in the industry. That work has evolved, but in recent years has focused on telling the story of our strong healthcare ecosystem outside of the market and bringing more companies and investment to Louisville. In short, we are working to make Louisville the destination of choice for life sciences and Biotech companies at all stages of development.

In a 2019 report commissioned by GLI, TEConomy, a national consulting firm, concluded that the Greater Louisville region has opportunities for advancements in the healthcare innovation sector, including Biotechnology. The report noted a plethora of resources in education, research and development, and deep ties to manufacturing, logistics, and health and aging innovation.

A few weeks ago, the Health Enterprises Network led a group of 22 individuals and 15 organizations from Louisville and Lexington to the world’s largest convening of the Biotechnology industry – BIO 2023 in Boston, MA. Our unified brand, Trifecta Kentucky, was meant to not only play on our region’s ties to horseracing but highlight our three main assets – life sciences, logistics, and lifestyle. With help from &well and many partners, our coalition created a state-of-the-art booth to showcase what our region does best to the nearly 17,000 attendees and other 400 exhibitors.

We left the convention with many connections and prospects, but more importantly we left with takeaways on how we can continue to raise our national profile and be more competitive in this growing industry. BIO 2023 created tremendous momentum for growth in this sector, and now is the time to capitalize on it.

Talent is a deal breaker

Like in every industry, the competition for Biotech talent has never been fiercer. It is critical that the private sector and education leaders work together to create a robust talent pipeline to fill positions for existing businesses and help attract new ones here. Skilled talent is one of the determining factors that would put Boston or San Francisco over Louisville if a company was choosing between the two for a new or expanded location. As a community, it’s critical we prepare our homegrown workforce for these high-paying jobs and also bring more people here.

Supporting start-ups

Louisville is a fantastic home for start-ups. Our costs of doing business are significantly lower than on either coast, and we have a plethora of resources to help burgeoning ideas turn into billion dollar corporations. We must embrace this as a community and use it as a key selling point in national marketing efforts. Xlerate Health is the first healthcare start-up accelerator in our region and one of the longest operating accelerators in the nation. Their Louisville presence creates incredible opportunities to nurture and grow the U.S.’ next Biotech giant.

Leveraging higher education

One of a start-ups most critical resources is a research university. With the presence of the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, Biotech companies have an abundance of opportunities for new growth. Both institutions promote and support technology transfer, which allows university researchers to turn their research into licensed or commercial products in the market. DesiCorp was one of the businesses who joined us at BIO. They created a proprietary freeze-dried blood that can be used in combat through working with the University of Louisville, which is a perfect example of the importance of these partnerships.

Growth in Biotech means unprecedented growth for our region

BIO 2023 was an important springboard for our region. It was a chance to network with top companies, understand their needs, and better equip our region for future growth. Biotech jobs are not only in high-demand, but they are also high-paying. That means growing this cluster will have a tremendous long-term impact on our regional economy and our community.

Our biggest takeaway from the conference is that Louisville has momentum, and we cannot afford to leave it in Boston. Many of our booth’s visitors were astonished at all the assets our region has to offer. Now that the secret is out, we can be the destination of choice for these innovative companies. By cultivating talent, supporting startups, and leaning into higher education partnerships, Greater Louisville can be a global leader in BioTech.

Logan Gatti is the director of Greater Louisville Inc.’s Health Enterprises Network (HEN), which led a coalition of more than a dozen organizations to BIO 2023. Participating organizations included: The University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville, UPS Healthcare, Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, CDW, CommerceLexington, Louisville Metro Government, DesiCorp, Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation, &well, Healthyr, and Xlerate Health.