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CEO Roundtable: Boulder Valley life sciences industry shines amid COVID crisis

BOULDER — The COVID-19 pandemic is providing an opportunity for the Boulder Valley’s life sciences industry — from pharmaceutical firms, to medical device makers, to University of Colorado research laboratories — to remind the world that this little region in the shadows of the Flatirons punches above its weight. “We have the infrastructure, support and clearly the people” to compete alongside more established strongholds on the coasts, Novartis Gene Therapies plant manager Sally Dyer said Thursday when biotech executives gathered virtually to discuss the state of the industry during BizWest’s Life Sciences CEO Roundtable.  It’s been a busy year for area life sciences firms, highlighted by an $11-million acquisition of Array BioPharma Inc. by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), mergers of high-profile firms such as MBio Diagnostics Inc. and Brava Diagnostics Inc., a changing of the guard at the University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute, the arrival of major new players Novartis and AGC Biologics, and a host of local firms stepping up to develop treatments, vaccines and tests for the coronavirus.  The Boulder region’s skilled and highly educated labor pool is a significant contributor to local success in the biosciences field. “The human capital is here, and it doesn’t leave,” Boulder Ventures Ltd. founder Kyle Lefkoff said.  CU BioFrontiers Institute executive director Roy Parker agreed, noting the importance of Boulder’s ability to draw talent from around the world. “Ideas are portable,” he said. “They’ll go where there are people.” Byron Hewett, president of LightDeck Diagnostics at MBio, said he’s had to bring on a recruiter to help keep up with the firm’s hiring needs. Mbio, which recently brought it several new team members from out of state, has grown from 25 employees to 65 in a short period of time, he said.  Fostering a diverse local workforce is something Boulder firms ought to prioritize a bit more, CU professor Kristi Anseth said. “How can we do a better job of recruiting people from all walks of life?” she asked rhetorically. Major league acquisitions such as the Pfizer purchase of Array shine a spotlight on the region and increases Boulder’s worldwide esteem. This kind of rising tide can help raise the profile for all local boats. “We’ve seen an uptick in interest in spending more time with Colorado companies from larger coastal investors,” said Tom Hertzberg, U.S. head of Silicon Valley Bank’s life sciences and health-care unit.   ARCA Biopharma Inc. CEO Michael Bristow credits Lefkoff with helping put Boulder’s biotech industry on the map. “In Colorado, there’s one serious venture capitalist,” he said in reference to Lefkoff. “Fortunately, Kyle is ubiquitous and knows every venture capitalist in the world,” so “people look at Colorado favorably.” Because firms are, for the most part, unable to meet with investors in person, “you have to have a much larger funnel and be having a lot of more conversations at once,” Prima-Temp Inc. CEO Steve Hane said. Many local firms, including a company spun off from a CU lab, have been active in developing […]
Source: BizWest

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