Connecticut seeks to shed ‘white picket fence, stone wall’ image as it promotes life sciences industry – Hartford Courant

NEW HAVEN — A decade after Connecticut made its first efforts to develop a life sciences sector, companies, university partners and the state are looking to develop new ways to market the $6 billion industry .

First, developers want to change the state’s image as a 1950s suburban enclave.

Quite the opposite is the case, speakers said recently at the Yale Innovation Summit in New Haven. Instead, Connecticut’s coastline is seen as a multi-ethnic center that offers researchers and entrepreneurs a rare opportunity to market the region as uniquely efficient in medical and pharmaceutical research and testing.

“I think we still have some work to do to change the perception of Connecticut as sort of white picket fences and stone walls,” said Peter Denious, chief executive of AdvanceCT, which seeks to recruit and retain businesses. in Connecticut. “Boston is incredibly competitive. Our market is not as saturated.

“I think we’re just getting started.”

Gov. Ned Lamont said business leaders tell him they want vibrant urban downtowns to attract a “20-year-old” workforce.

“We have a reputation for not being that diverse, and really nice little houses in the suburbs and you get a bit older and you have 1.8 kids and then you move to an acre of land,” he said. . “And it didn’t work these days.”

Proponents of Connecticut’s life sciences industry point to other benefits. Despite complaints about the cost of doing business and living in Connecticut, the state can sell for below the stratospheric costs of urban centers such as Boston and San Francisco.

And the further development of Tweed New Haven Airport will provide more connections to investors, researchers and entrepreneurs.

The diverse population of the region could also play a role in promoting the life sciences industry. David Rosenthal, assistant professor at the Yale School of Medicine and chief medical officer of Tesseract Health Inc., a Guilford health technology company, cited six-year-old data touting New Haven as demographically representative of the United States as a rare marketing opportunity.

By age, education, race and ethnicity, the New Haven-Milford area is the “closest to America” ​​among U.S. cities, said Jed Kolko, Commerce Undersecretary for Economic Affairs, in a 2016 analysis of census and other data and published by Cinq Trente Huit.

“There are many reasons to care deeply about places that are demographically different from America today,” Kolko wrote. “Some of these places may turn out to be harbingers of a future America that will be older, more educated, and more racially and ethnically diverse than today; and some of these places are especially deserving of public attention and investment because they are worse off than most other places.

Rosenthal said the New Haven-to-Milford area life sciences community can stand as home to a diverse population that provides medical specialists with ample opportunities for clinical testing and research.

“We have a wealth here that’s different from Boston, unlike New York, unlike San Francisco,” he told attendees at the Yale forum.

In an interview, Rosenthal said the state and other stakeholders in Connecticut’s life sciences industry have not made public the importance of the region’s diverse population to medical research. . For example, he said, some pulse oximeters that measure blood oxygen levels may not accurately measure low oxygen levels in black people. A study has shown that it can delay proper treatment.

And hospitals may calculate kidney functions differently because a system bias has been built into an algorithm, Rosenthal said.

“It’s important to have a diverse sample size in research,” he said. “You could (otherwise) make inequality worse.”

A report by AdvanceCT indicates that Connecticut’s life sciences establishments number 1,000, support 23,600 jobs, and generate $6 billion in economic output. Pharmaceutical and biotech venture capital funding in 2021 was $700 million, more than double the amount in 2019.

Paul Pescatello, executive director of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association’s Connecticut Bioscience Growth Council, said the state has done a good job promoting the growth of the bioscience industry. But legislation proposing to cap pharmaceutical prices would have undermined those efforts, he said.

Legislation, which critics say undermined innovation by preventing pharmaceutical companies from recouping their investments, did not make progress in the Legislative Assembly before it adjourned on May 4.

“If you’re trying to attract an industry, why would you push a policy that’s anathema to them?” said Pescatello. “You are working against yourself by commercializing the state.”

State Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford and co-chair of the Legislature Biosciences Caucus, said pharmaceutical companies have expressed “concerns,” but lawmakers are also hearing from consumers struggling with expensive drugs.

“It’s always a balance,” she says.

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Elected officials, entrepreneurs, and others have leveraged levers from government, private investment, and health care and research institutions to establish a life sciences industry in Connecticut.

Then-Governor. Dannel P. Malloy brought Jackson Laboratory, a Maine research center focused on the genome – the set of genes or genetic material in a cell or organ – to Farmington in 2012 to attract high-skilled, high-paying jobs in the state. The General Assembly established a $200 million bioscience innovation fund to foster innovation in small businesses, and tax credits for investors were enacted.

Additionally, Connecticut Innovations, the state’s venture capital fund, has invested approximately $129 million in more than 80 companies and projects with $1.7 billion raised in New County healthcare companies. Haven since 2012, said Lauren Carmody, vice president of marketing and communications.

And researchers and entrepreneurs in the riverside and New Haven communities have created many life science companies from their work at Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital.

The industry’s presence in Connecticut is “pretty new” but has grown rapidly, Cohen said, with more than two dozen bioscience companies operating in Branford alone.

“We saw an overcrowding of bubbles like Cambridge and people started looking for new places to settle,” she said.

Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected]

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