Life science boosters hail Indiana’s designation as federal technology hub

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Indiana’s life sciences advocates say the state’s new designation as a federal technology hub will position it to compete for millions of dollars and boost the state’s image as a biotech innovator.

“It’s certainly a great step in the right direction to be designated as a tech hub,” said Melina Kennedy, CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, which oversee initiatives that focus on key sectors of Indiana’s economy and workforce, including life sciences and technology. “It shows that Indiana is competitive and can bring together a compelling vision for this designation.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce on Monday designated 31 federal technology hubs across the nation, making them eligible to compete for up to $70 million in federal funding to implement its program. Five to 10 of the 31 “Tech Hub Designees” will be awarded grants ranging from $40 million to $70 million. The winners will be announced by the end of the year.

The White House said the hubs are designed to help communities across the country become centers of innovation. The move is designed to ensure the U.S. is globally competitive in areas that are key to national security.

Indiana’s winning application was submitted by Heartland BioWorks—a consortium of Hoosier entities that includes colleges and universities, industry groups and some of the state’s largest employers.

The federal designation marks Indiana as a hub for biologics manufacturing. Biologics are medicines derived from biological sources and include vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, and immune modulators. The hub will be based in the Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson metropolitan statistical area.

Indiana leads the nation in pharmaceutical exports and has the second highest concentration of life sciences jobs in the U.S. It is the only state in the nation to manufacture all three COVID-19 vaccinations.

The hub designation shows that the state is a key player in biotechnology and life sciences manufacturing, Kennedy said.

“Indiana, in the heartland, is really a place the whole country can lean on to not only discover but make advances in medicine and biotechnology that can be beneficial for the whole country,” she said.

Heartland BioWorks will initially focus on three initiatives that address “biotechnology, medical technology, genomics and synthetic biology,” including a training institute at the 16 Tech Innovation District in Indianapolis that will provide training and industry work experience in the biomanufacturing sector.

The group also plans to provide biotech companies with the tools to access manufacturers and distributors, as well as access to a partner facility that can be used to test new technologies.

The lead applicant was Applied Research Institute (or ARI for short), a not-for-profit based in Bloomington that works with universities, industry, and the government on innovation issues.

“The Economic Development Administration, with this designation, confirms what we here in Indiana have known for a long time—that the Hoosier state is a global pioneer in biotech production,” ARI CEO Dave Roberts said in written remarks. “Heartland BioWorks is securing America’s biotech future, and this Hub will provide biotech startups with access to manufacturing facilities and expertise, implement the workforce training future biotech innovations require, and focus on engaging innovators in historically economically disadvantaged communities.”

Indiana will compete with 10 other newly designated advanced biotechnology hubs for funding, including Virginia (for active pharma ingredient manufacturing), Wisconsin (for personalized medicine) and Minnesota (for smart medical technologies).

“The designation of Heartland BioWorks as a regional technology and innovation hub is a crucial step that will continue the growing strength of Indiana’s biotech ecosystem,” Pam Whitten, president of Indiana University, said in written comments. “We look forward to our continued collaboration with ARI as we advance life-changing research, workforce development and entrepreneurship across Indiana’s life sciences sector.”

Indiana University, with huge campuses in Bloomington and Indianapolis, is known for a broad array of health sciences, including its medical school, dental school, and graduate research programs in life sciences.

Purdue University, based in West Lafayette, said its strengths in biotech manufacturing helped secure the tech hub designation.

“This is a pivotal win for our state and our university,” Mung Chiang, Purdue’s president, said in written remarks.

Purdue has also won two other federal hub designations in the past month, including the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen hub and the Silicon Crossroads Microelectronics Commons hub.

The $500 million for the formally named Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program came from a $10 billion authorization in last year’s CHIPS and Science Act to stimulate investments in new technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and biotech.

It’s an attempt to expand tech investment that is largely concentrated in a few U.S. cities—Austin, Texas; Boston; New York; San Francisco; and Seattle—to the rest of the country.

The initiative ties into President Joe Biden’s economic argument that people should be able to find good jobs where they live and that opportunity should be spread across the country, rather than be concentrated.

The White House has sought to elevate that message and highlight Biden’s related policies as the Democratic president undertakes his 2024 reelection bid.

“These Tech Hubs will catalyze investment in technologies critical to economic growth, national security, and job creation, and will help communities across the country become centers of innovation critical to American competitiveness,” the White House said Monday in an emailed statement.

The 31 tech hubs reach Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Montana, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Virginia, New Hampshire, Missouri, Kansas, Maryland, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Minnesota, Louisiana, Idaho, Wyoming, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New York, Nevada, Missouri, Oregon, Vermont, Ohio, Maine, Washington, and Puerto Rico.

Each hub is focused on a core technology area.  While Indiana’s tech hub will focus on biotechnology, other cities will focus on tech sectors ranging from robotics and artificial intelligence to quantum computing and alternative energy.

The designation could also lead to millions of dollars in federal investments and “open the floodgates for more private capital in biotech research and development across the state,” said Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., a co-author of the CHIPS, or Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors, Act.

“This tech hub will spur economic growth by creating good-paying, union jobs and empower our state to be a global leader in the industries of the future. Thanks to this investment, Indiana will be at the forefront of making and deploying new life-saving medicines,” Congressman Andre Carson (D-Indianapolis), said in written remarks.

The news was met with widespread praise by Hoosier leaders, including Gov. Eric Holcomb and Eli Lilly and Co. CEO Dave Ricks.

“This is just the news we hoped to receive,” Gov. Holcomb said in written remarks. “Indiana has a rich tradition of innovation and leadership in both manufacturing and life science sectors. We’ll continue to strongly support the Hub and look forward to moving forward in the competitive process.”

IBJ reporter Peter Blanchard and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

 

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