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iBio’s Inaugural Executive Director Talks About Building Life-Sci Cluster in Illinois

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The Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization, known as iBIO, is not waiting for the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s 2010 International Convention in Chicago to work at putting the state’s life-science effort on the map.
 
And if iBIO succeeds over the next two years, it will be in no small part because of its newest hire. iBIO last week announced the appointment of Barbara Goodman as its first-ever executive director, reporting to longtime president and CEO David Miller.
 
Goodman’s duties include overseeing iBIO’s entrepreneurial and international programs. They include Propel, a joint initiative of iBIO and the iBIO Institute aimed at increasing the number of life sciences startups in Illinois, as well as strengthening existing companies.
 
She will also oversee the new iBIO Entrepreneurship Center, which has begun providing technical assistance and seed-stage grants to startups, supported by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. And over time, Goodman is expected to supervise the development of iBIO’s international activities.
 
Goodman comes to iBIO from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, where she served as director of corporate business development, overseeing RIC’s business planning, consulting, and due-diligence services, as well as its diversification strategy and development of strategic alliances and partnerships with acute care hospitals beyond Illinois.
 
Earlier, Goodman worked for Cardinal Health’s medical products and services division, also called Allegiance Healthcare, in a business development role. She also held positions in the strategy and business development team of Chesapeake Corp., a pharmaceutical and specialty packaging company; and in strategic marketing with Bayer’s consumer care division in Leverkusen, Germany.
 
In addition, Goodman served as an advisor to the Chicago nonprofit group Bridge to Success, and the Costa Rican not-for-profit group Vida Marina Foundation. She earned an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, and a BA degree in international relations from the University of Minnesota.
 
BioRegion News last week spoke with Goodman about her new position, and the broader challenges of building a life-science cluster in Illinois.
 

 
What drew you to iBIO?
 
First of all, personally I was looking to take my corporate strategy and business development experience after 12 years and really put it into a new environment, a new sphere, and wanting to get away from the larger organizations and corporations, and really work specifically in a smaller nonprofit organization. In addition, and more critically, it was the opportunity to combine my healthcare background with my international experience. That was exciting to me. As far as what [iBIO] was offering, it was the opportunity to really take two programs that were just getting started and just getting off the ground, and really being able to take them and develop them and expand them into what we hope to be long-term opportunities, initiatives, and activities. iBIO is a small group of staff members, but the community support — from board of director participation as well as community members just as volunteers — is pretty strong.
 
Talk about iBIO’s membership.
 
It’s roughly 150 members. Because we’re biotech, our members are really in three categories: One is the for-profit industries that are producing products and services using biotechnology — small, medium and large medical biotechnology companies, agricultural biotechnology companies as well as industrial. The second area is the universities — Northwestern [University], University of Chicago, University of Illinois and its system, Rush University — and federal research organizations that are doing research within biotech: Argonne [National Laboratory], Fermi [National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill.]  Those types of organizations are members, as well as the professional firms that service biotechs: The law firms, consulting firms, accounting firms, etc.
 
You are iBIO’s first-ever executive director. What will you be able to do in that position that the organization hasn’t been able to do until now?
 
I was brought in to really be a seasoned executive for the particular initiatives we’re doing. I’m the first MBA on staff. It certainly gives the organization the strength, not only of the business experience, but the international experience of someone who has been working in, not biotech, but business development and those areas.
 
With my background in strategy and business development, I can really take things to the next level. It’s not that we weren’t able to do them before. It’s just that they were never a focus and never had the bench strength. The organization was working on different projects and initiatives. The opportunity came about because the projects in a number of areas were going well. For a number of different reasons, the organization was able to say, ‘Okay, now we’re ready. Let’s move forward.’
 
We do have a president and CEO [David Miller], and a staff. He is now able to spend more of his time from the iBIO role, working on policy making and the policy initiatives of the organization. So he’s still leading the organization, and he’s just able to dedicate more of his time outside the office and really working in Springfield on a number of policy-making areas.
 
What do you hope to accomplish at iBIO?
 
The successful strengthening and development of the two areas I have responsibility for. One is leading our entrepreneurial efforts, and the other is our international activities. The entrepreneurial programs [the Propel programs] really just started to be a focus of iBIO in June of last year. That’s a very early set of programs. We also have the iBIO Entrepreneurship Center, which is giving away grants and awards to startup companies — we have had a soft opening, but it has not had a grand opening yet.
 
What I hope to accomplish is to really take the entrepreneurial activities of iBIO and make them top-of-mind in life sciences in Illinois. So if anyone is doing a startup in any way, shape or form, whether it’s a pharmaceutical, whether it’s an industrial application, such as a bio-replacement plastic, if someone says, ‘I’m starting this company up’ or ‘I’m doing clinical trials,’ I want iBIO and the Propel set of programs to be top-of-mind.
 
On the international side, we are now going to be developing proactive programs, expanding what we’re currently doing but really developing new activities and opportunities from the international perspective. That’s really two-directional, both Illinois looking out, as well as the rest of the world looking into Illinois.
 
When you speak of international programs, what sections of the world are you thinking most about?
 
We certainly aren’t cutting off any countries, but we do have priority countries. They go into separate categories in terms of, Brazil may not be in medical biotech, but they’re certainly of interest from an agricultural biotechnology standpoint. Canada would be another priority country. Then we certainly are open to other opportunities of other countries, but we do have a priority list.
 
To accomplish these goals, what extra staff do you foresee adding, both short- and long-term?
 
In the short term, I would say none. We have, since I’ve joined, added two other staff members — one to iBIO, and one new staff member to the iBIO Institute. That has already happened, and they’re already on board. Long term, there may be opportunities in the international area of iBIO, and the iBIO Institute may long-term add staff. But in the short term, we don’t see any additional staff.
 
Near Illinois are Indiana, which has a strong biopharma sector; Wisconsin, which is known for its academic research; and Minnesota, which is known for its medical device cluster. What is Illinois’ identity in the life sciences?
 
I actually think it’s the fact that we have the breadth that we do. It’s not just the medical, whether it’s devices or pharmaceuticals or therapeutics. It’s not just the agricultural. It’s not just the industrial. But it’s the fact that we have strengths in every one of those categories. Truly, California’s the only other state that can even compete that has strength in every one of these categories.
 
Not only that, but from an employment perspective, we employ people in every single one of those categories more than any other state except California. And we have the research base, both public and private universities, as well as the national labs. In addition to Argonne and Fermi, we have a US Department of Agriculture lab in Peoria. We’re number-three as a state in overall university research and development funding dollars. And we’re the hub of the Midwest, from a transportation perspective and from a city perspective.
 
How can you and iBIO work to shape Illinois’ life sciences identity, given that Chicago is just two years away from hosting the BIO 2010 International Convention?
 
Part of that is just creating awareness externally. We know we have the ingredients. It’s really making sure that people externally realize the resources, and internally use the resources, in every single one of those categories.
 
You have a broader healthcare and nonprofit background, as opposed to a more focused biotech-pharma industry background. Will that help you, in terms of having an outsider’s view, or hurt you in terms of having limited industry contacts?
 
I’ve always looked at industry knowledge as easier to learn than the skill set I bring to the table. So clearly, I’ve gone from a diverse set of industries. What excites me is the breadth of my healthcare experience, from pharmaceutical packaging, as a supplier to healthcare, doing manufacturing and distribution at Cardinal, and then gaining the experience at the Rehab Institute of Chicago on the provider side of healthcare. I understand a lot of different areas within healthcare. It’s interesting because to me, biotech is one piece of that . . . It’s really ag-biotech and industrial biotech that, to me represent a learning opportunity, to learn that industry. I’m not saying it’s easy to learn, but it’s easier to learn than learning how to understand business plans and putting together a commercialization project, and understanding how to explore international markets, for example.
 
How do you think Propel has progressed since its inception last June?
 
We think it’s doing very, very well. We’ve had an unbelievable amount of community support. We’re getting new companies all the time. We just got a new company last week. We’ve served 17 companies, either currently or previously served. They’re from not just the Chicagoland area, but all over Illinois. We’re getting, and they’re hearing about Propel from all sorts of different organizations, from tech transfer offices at universities, from relations we’ve built through the community. We even recently got a company that heard about us, honestly, off the Internet, off of our web site doing research. We’re getting companies and getting interest. We’ve gotten companies by relationships we’ve been building with other entrepreneurial programs that are either regional in basis, or don’t have the life sciences, so entrepreneurs can certainly work with a regional entrepreneurial office or a small business development office, and then come to us on the life sciences expertise, on the intellectual property expertise, or how to do clinical trials, or work with the [US Food and Drug Administration]. And then, [entrepreneurs] can work with their regional office or other entrepreneurial agencies that can help them at a number of different areas.
 
I can tell you those agencies are more than happy to send life science-specific questions to us, since they don’t have the technical expertise.
 
Where are the spinouts coming from?
 
Not all of the companies we serve are spinouts. Some of them are spinouts from university technologies. Some of them are — I can give you a couple of examples: Doctors that have done research in particular areas and completely, separately, not as part of their program or their relationship with a hospital, have come up and developed these kinds of opportunities. That’s not just doctors, but other professionals who have come up with this. Sometimes, it’s that idea that kind of springs up, and you get together your associates and friends; we have a couple of companies like that. We’ve had a few that have definitely come up from universities, whether it’s [University of Illinois Chicago], or Northwestern, or University of Chicago. … Honestly, some of them are two people who have been working in the industry together for 15, 20, 30 years, and they’ve always wanted to do this, and here’s their idea, they have a patent, and they’re ready to go. So it varies; it really does vary.
 
What types of specialties? Are you looking at bio? Pharma? Medical devices?
 
We are open to all life sciences. So it could range from biofuels and things agricultural, feedstock technology. We have companies that are doing pharmaceuticals. We have devices. We have diagnostics. We have therapeutics. We have covered all areas. And we are open to all areas.
 
You spoke before of creating partnerships, presumably involving the state and local governments. What role should they be playing in helping iBIO?
 
I think it depends on the organization and it depends on the interest of direction. The department of commerce, we’ve worked with them for years, well before I got here, on a variety of areas, whether it’s Illinois promotion, whether it’s supporting entrepreneurs internally. The city of Chicago is a big supporter of iBIO Institute, because of its educational initiatives across the board and certainly in the state of Illinois; it has educational interests there. We have universities with which we’re working on collaborations, so sometimes those organizations are leading. Sometimes we’re leading. It absolutely depends. In other partnerships, another example would be the other entrepreneurial centers, where it’s really both organizations equally wanting to help the entrepreneurs: ‘You focus on the areas that you work on best, and we’re going to focus on life sciences.’ And that’s worked really, really well. It’s a case-by-case [decision of what role organizations should play]. I think.
 
On the state government front, what, if any, specific legislation is iBIO working to enact?
 
Actually, we’ve been working very closely on a couple of initiatives, two different bills that are live right now in this year’s Legislature, that we’re hoping we can get passed through our membership and really through efforts outside of our industry as well. Both are directly impacting startups and entrepreneurial areas.
 
One is in the state House [of Representatives], Bill 4881, which would establish full state matches for federal SBIR and STTR grants — right now, it’s a partial match — and that’s not just biotech; that would affect a number of different industries. [HB 4881 was introduced Feb. 11 by Rep. Maria Antonia Berrios (D-Chicago), and passed the full House on April 1 by 107-0; the following day it advanced to the Senate through sponsor Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), where it was referred to the Rules Committee — Ed.].
 
The other bill that we’re very heavily involved in is Senate Bill 2148, which would create an income tax deduction, up to $5 million for Illinois intellectual property that basically stays in Illinois to be commercialized. Again, it has biotech implications, but that certainly has interest from many, many, many industries. [SB 2148, introduced by Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville), passed the Senate Revenue Committee 8-0 on March 13, and has moved to the full Senate, where two co-sponsors have been added, Sens. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) and Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston) — Ed.].

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