A rendering of the University of Arizona Cancer Center, set to break ground on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.
A decade after Arizona, and especially Phoenix, embarked on an effort to build a biosciences cluster, this is how things stand. According to a report from the Battelle Institute, "Arizona’s bioscience industry continues to grow at a rapid rate. Industry firms have increased employment by 30 percent overall since 2001 and have even added jobs since 2007, a period which includes the deep national recession."
That said, total Arizona bioscience employment in 2010 was 21,084 vs. 62,386 in North Carolina. The state is a pygmy in research dollars and has birthed no significant bio company. Phoenix is nowhere near being one of the nation's top biotech/biosciences centers. [Updated] A 2012 Jones Lang LaSalle report ranks Boston, San Diego, the Bay Area, Raleigh-Durham, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles and Seattle the top "established" clusters in the Americas. The "emerging" clusters are Westchester/New Haven, Conn., Chicago, Denver, Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Dallas, southern Wisconsin, Florida, Indianapolis, southern Michigan and Atlanta. The top players are not much changed, aside from relative ranking, from a much-discussed 2004 assessment by the Milken Institute, with one exception. Minneapolis has moved into the "established" ranks. Most of the up-and-comers are new. Arizona and Phoenix are not mentioned.
A glimpse of the competition can be found by the jaw-dropping build-out of the University of California-San Francisco's Mission Bay campus, which is dedicated to bio and went from nothing to a major contender over the same decade. And this was achieved despite California's state budget crisis. It represents one path the Phoenix Biomedical Campus could have taken but didn't. Another is Houston's amazing Texas Medical Center. This is where I center my recollections of the bio effort and what succeeded and failed.