BERLIN — Alabama business and community leaders are in Europe this week, seeking new market opportunities for the state’s growing bioscience industry in the countries of Germany and Denmark.
The 22-member delegation also is promoting the cutting-edge developments happening at research centers from Huntsville to Birmingham to Mobile and beyond, an effort to encourage new investment in the state as a gateway to the broader U.S. life sciences sector.
Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield is leading the trade mission, which kicked off today in Berlin with meetings at the U.S. Embassy and continues Tuesday with tours of biotech sites, including a research incubator.
Later in the week, more seminars are planned in Copenhagen, along with a tour of a bioscience park.
“Alabama is an emerging force in the bioscience industry, with more than 800 establishments, 14,000 jobs and a job growth rate that is increasing twice as fast as the overall private sector,” Secretary Canfield said.
“The state is also home to top institutions that routinely land lucrative federal research grants to conduct ground-breaking work in the areas of drug discovery, genomic medicine, medical devices and more.”
LIFE SCIENCES CENTERS
The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a major player in U.S. medical research, having secured more than $1 billion in National Institutes of Health funding over the past five years.
Other key hubs of the industry in the state are Huntsville’s HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, a leader in genomic medicine that fosters entrepreneurship and business growth, and Birmingham’s Southern Research, which has developed seven FDA-approved anti-cancer drugs, as well as key breakthroughs in the treatment of HIV/AIDS and the Zika virus.
There’s also the Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, which is focused on cancer prevention and biology, drug discovery and DNA damage and repair. And the Birmingham business incubator Innovation Depot, which offers key benefits for biotech startups.
All of these industry assets form the basis for a rich network of businesses with a wide range of specialties.
Envision Genomics, which aims to improve healthcare through the power of genomic medicine, said Jill Tapper, founder and chief operating officer of the company, which is located at HudsonAlpha.
“Our specific focus is on patients with rare or undiagnosed disease…all patients…not just those located in the U.S.,” she said. “Even though the U.S. healthcare system differs in many ways from that of other countries, the application and integration of genomics into patient care can positively impact quality, economics and outcomes and those things are universally meaningful.”
Tapper, who is part of the trade mission delegation, said her plan is to promote the company’s expertise in precision genomic medicine.
“We are hoping this trip will give Envision Genomics the opportunity to introduce our technological capabilities and clinical know-how to key stakeholders in Germany and Denmark with the goal of stimulating deeper conversations on how we can leverage one another’s strengths to the betterment of our healthcare markets,” she said.
TRADE MISSION GOALS
Both Germany and Denmark represent a large footprint in the life sciences sector, said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Division.
The trade mission’s goal is two-fold, she said.
“First is to link the participating companies with partnering opportunities with a number of leading life sciences and healthcare organizations and industry centers,” she said. “The companies will also meet one-on-one with companies in Germany and Denmark to develop collaboration in future projects.”
The second goal is to promote the life sciences sector in Alabama.
“Several seminars have been developed inviting German and Danish companies to hear about the business opportunities in Alabama’s growing biotech sector. Secretary Canfield and several of our companies will present on the life sciences ecosystem in our state and the cutting-edge precision medicine research that is being conducted. They will also talk about how the life sciences hub in Alabama can be used as a gateway to the rest of the U.S.,” she said.
The company representatives participating in the trip are excited about the potential for their business in Europe, Lockhart added.
“The Export Alabama Alliance has recruited a strong delegation that showcases some of the best our state has to offer in expertise, advanced products and solutions that are in high demand in the life science sector,” she said.
In addition to Envision Genomics, the delegation includes representatives from Birmingham’s Southern Research and Blondin Bioscience; Huntsville’s Conversant Biologics, GeneCapture and Serina Therapeutics; and SpectraCyte of Mobile.
They are joined by government leaders and business recruiters from Huntsville, Madison County, Opelika, Mobile and Tuscaloosa County, along with other representatives from HudsonAlpha, the University of Alabama and the University of South Alabama.
“Participating in Alabama’s European bio-focused trade mission provides Southern Research with an opportunity to showcase our organization’s extensive capabilities in life sciences while also sharing valuable information about the scope and vitality of the state’s biosciences sector,” said Art Tipton, president and CEO of Southern Research.
“As a group, the Alabama trade mission delegation can make connections and build relationships with counterparts in Germany and Denmark that can lead to productive research partnerships and strategic collaborations,” Tipton added.
Tim Sellati, an infectious disease researcher at Southern Research, is in the trade mission delegation.