the other.” This was the responsibility primarily of academic centers of excellence, he said, of which there are many in Chicago and Illinois. “Whether you measure excellence by the number of degrees we give in the life sciences and engineering, by the amount of intellectual property being filed, by the inventions that come from our academic centers, I think it is fair to say that we stand out—not only within the United States, but at a global level.” He praised also the clinical centers of excellence in Illinois’ “fantastic” medical schools. “We conduct hundreds of clinical trials annually, not just for Illinois-based companies but for global companies that seek clinical studies in our centers of excellence.”
Despite this excellence, he said, the extent to which Illinois and Chicago is a hub for large healthcare companies is largely unrecognized. “I believe we are the largest hub of healthcare/pharma in the country by now,” he said, “especially with the downsizing that has occurred on the East Coast and certainly in comparison to the West Coast, where the strength is primarily in biotech. With Abbott, Baxter, and others, we have a large number of companies headquartered here where they have been for decades. This local ecosystem is a critical element in driving innovation to commercialization.”
He also cited “unusually successful partnerships with the state and the city government.” He said that the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity had worked with the industry to locate the Annual International Convention of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, or iBIO, in Chicago in 2006 and 2010, and to repeat as host in 2013 and 2016. “I think this is an important element in creating visibility and transparency,” he said.
He described both local alliances, including partnership with i-BIO and “a community spirit that is very important in building this infrastructure.” This was reflected in the new facilities in Skokie, Illinois Institute of Technology, the Illinois Medical District, and the University of Illinois Technology Park, which “for the most part, are filling up to capacity. This clearly shows that we are building jobs, companies, and a technology-based industry. The industry has first-class IP law firms, and a relatively large number of start-ups and new companies. “Just five or six years ago we would have selected them by name because we only had a handful. Now we have many, and the growing numbers clearly show that we are building an infrastructure here and an economy here that is technology based.”
Technology transfer is improving steadily, he said, as university offices become more adept at interfacing with industry and creating transparency to the vast portfolios of intellectual property. INVO, the Innovation and New Venture Organization at Northwestern, is not only a tech transfer office but “really an organizational framework that recognizes and finds innovation and spins that innovation into new startups.” There is also more venture money in the region, he said, beginning to provide essential funding for young firms. Baxter was part of a new $200 million fund started the year before, which joins the funds of Abbott and several others totaling more than $500 million available for equity investments. “We support these funds not only because we have a strong interest