Mercer, Morehouse School of Medicine are promising additions to GRA

By Michael Cassidy

Georgia has strengthened its position as a center of bioscience activity – and that bodes well for the state’s economic future.

Last month, the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) formally welcomed Mercer University and Morehouse School of Medicine as new members. The two institutions join six other universities in the Alliance, including Emory and Georgia Regents University, which house the state’s two other medical schools.

With the additions, GRA expands its capacity for recruiting world-class scientists to Georgia, investing in their research and helping to seed and shape new companies launched out of university labs, all of which dovetails with a crucial aspect of the state’s economic development strategy.

With more than 400 life science companies – some large, many growing – and almost $800 million dollars of external funding invested in university bioscience research each year, Georgia already has great momentum in developing this sector of the economy. And there’s no sign of slowing down.

Next year will bring the opening of the Georgia Bioscience Training Center, thus ensuring that a skilled life science workforce stays current (while helping to recruit more bioscience companies to our state).

Many states covet a strong life sciences sector. Companies in this sector have a greater share of high-value jobs, which further deepens economic impact. And research shows that the sector tends to withstand tough economic times better than most other industries.

In Georgia, the collective economic impact of university research, CDC and life sciences companies is $20 billion annually, according to Georgia Bio. Nearly 100,000 Georgians are employed in the sector.

Both Mercer and the Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) already contribute to the state’s bioscience success. For the past six years, MSM has partnered with Emory and Georgia Tech in a research institute that is advancing bench-to-bedside medical treatments. The Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute (ACTSI) was established through a five-year $31 million grant in 2007 and renewed in 2012 for another $31 million.

Mercer University has forged its own successful partnerships – with Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Solvay and other name-brand pharmaceuticals companies – to advance testing of skin-based drug delivery systems. Mercer also has a Center for Drug Design, in which scientists use state-of-the-art technology to predict biologically active compounds before being tested in labs.

Those interested in learning more about the current state and future direction of the bioscience industry can register for a Nov. 6 industry briefing from Battelle and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Georgia Bio sponsors the event, which presents findings from a sixth biennial report from Battelle and BIO.

Michael Cassidy is president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance, which expands research and commercialization capacity in Georgia’s universities to launch new companies, create high-value jobs and transform lives.

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For more information on Georgia’s public-private business partnerships, contact the Georgia Department of Economic Development at 404.962.4000.

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