Build It And They Will Come

Build It And They Will Come

 TGen celebrates 20 years of economic growth and advances in precision medicine

"After a tumultuous, yet incredibly impactful 2020, TGen accelerated its role as an important economic engine for the Phoenix region and the State of Arizona. TGen operations, commercialization of research and spin-off activity generated $657.7 million in economic impact. It has been a busy year for TGen. From a fully integrated COVID response, developing the first FDA-approved diagnostic COVID test in Arizona, nearly doubling the staffing at TGen North to deploy public health testing efforts, ramping up testing activities and completing two large commercial transactions, it is not surprising that the economic impact of TGen’s operations and spin-off activity has increased significantly."

— Tripp Umbach, October 2021

In June 2002, Arizona Governor Jane Hull sent Dr. Jeffrey Trent a letter where she urged him to consider a change of address for he and his family. Would he like to once again call Arizona home?

She went on to say that the State Legislature had approved and she had signed a measure that designated more than $30 million in taxpayer funds, in addition to more than $70 million in commitments from the broader Arizona community, to help build the infrastructure needed to secure Arizona’s place in bioscience and biomedicine and seed the founding of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, or TGen.

Dr. Trent, founding scientific director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland — the NIH Institute that led the public effort to sequence the first-ever human genome — had a vision for an institute that would use that completed human blueprint to translate research into medical advances for patients in need … and do so in far less time than ever before. Arizona was one of five states vying to call TGen home.

Following a meeting in the Capital Hill office of the late Sen. John S. McCain, Trent accepted Arizona’s offer.

At the time, the Governor and leaders across the State believed that having TGen based in Arizona would help drive economic development in the burgeoning knowledge-based economy of biomedical science and medicine. These investment dollars would also augment the historical 5 C’s of Arizona — copper, cattle, cotton, citrus and climate — and provide stability amid the ups and downs of a construction-dependent economy. And, over time, generate jobs, spin-out companies, and allow graduates in the biosciences from the state’s universities and colleges the choice of staying in Arizona.

Four Governors and twenty years later, all this and more has come to pass, but no one could have predicted the economic return TGen would provide year-over-year on those state supported dollars.

Full Measure

To understand fully the economic return of those dollars on the Arizona economy, TGen leadership turned to another science — economic impact analysis — to generate a baseline and track TGen’s steady fiscal growth over the past 20 years. The first report came in 2006, with subsequent reports in ‘09, ‘11, ‘15, ‘18 and the most recent in ‘21 entitled Promises Realized: The Economic and Social Impact of TGen on the State of Arizona.

TGen retained Tripp Umbach, a national consultant with expertise in economic impact studies, who based their findings on point-in-time economic snapshots of TGen’s impact on the Arizona economy, versus the traditional studies that included a multiplier effect.

Of this latest report in 2021, Tripp Umbach president Paul Umbach said, “TGen has seen extraordinary growth in recent years, leading to the betterment and diversity of the Arizona economy, which was one of the original goals TGen set out to achieve.”

He went on to state that, “Given TGen’s consistent and accelerating trajectory upward, we see no reason why TGen wouldn’t continue to improve going forward.”

It’s a vision shared by William J. Post, Chairman of the TGen Board of Directors, who sees a unique scientific research organization with a powerful spirit about to fly even higher, in great part because TGen became part of City of Hope in late 2016 and City of Hope’s recent acquisition of Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA).

Not only will TGen have access to clinical trial studies at City of Hope’s Duarte, California, hospital — which is a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center — but through City of Hope, TGen also will have access to patient studies at CTCA hospitals in Chicago, Atlanta and Phoenix.

“It’s very significant,” Post said. “As a part of City of Hope, TGen has a step up in opportunities for grants and contracts. It opens up a whole new horizon because it allows TGen to explore more areas of research into a broader array of diseases and medical conditions.”

And, TGen’s continued commercialization of its scientific discoveries, he said, are creating a more robust revenue stream to help fund more high-caliber scientists and expand TGen’s scope of scientific investigations.

“One of the keys to TGen’s continued success is keeping the culture of creativity, independence, professional freedom and personal satisfaction,” Post said. “Those are characteristics that TGen has had from the beginning.”


Promises Realized

Today, one of the most rewarding parts of TGen so far, adds Trent, has been the ability to witness the growth of the 30-acre biomedical campus in downtown Phoenix and the expansion throughout the State. What began with TGen in 2002 on the downtown campus has grown to include over a dozen biomedical-focused institutions and companies, including ASU, UA, NAU, Exact Sciences, and OncoMyx Therapeutics. Statewide more than 1,500 biomedical, biotech and life sciences entities now call Arizona home. 

And while TGen’s operational research activities today provide a total annual economic impact on Arizona of $426 million (A 300% increase from 2017) and its business spinoffs and commercialization of its research technologies brings that total to $658 million, for Dr. Trent, it remains about more than the dollars.

“TGen plays an important role in the local and state economy, for certain, but our progress is more importantly reflected in the precision-medicine-driven research that benefits patients, especially those in Arizona.” 

This success has helped Arizona become known as a desirable location for biomedical investment. 

“TGen has indeed held to its promise, providing Arizona not only with a tremendous return on investment and high-value employment opportunities, but also positioning the state with a healthcare asset that is the envy of others,” said Rep. Joanne Osborne, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee. “It’s no wonder that hospitals the world over partner with TGen.”

Tess Burleson, TGen Chief Operating Officer and President of TGen Accelerators, which is responsible for commercializing TGen’s technologies, believes TGen’s prospects look bright.

“TGen’s impact helps create jobs, support local and state-wide businesses, and drive growth across the research and medical space, most recently in the areas of epidemiology and precision medicine. Developing our discoveries into clinical workflows for the benefit of patients is a top-of-mind consideration for setting priorities.”

Additional findings from TGen’s most recent economic analysis include: 

Full-time, highly-compensated, knowledge-based jobs generated directly and indirectly by TGen totaled 2,179 in 2020, more than twice the 816 in 2017, and nearly 10 times the 220 in 2006.

Including business spin-offs and research commercialization, TGen is responsible for 4,073 full-time equivalent jobs, nearly 2½ times the 1,635 in 2017, and nearly 19 times the 220 in 2006.

Total annual tax revenue paid to the state’s general fund, including spin-off companies and research commercialization, was $33.1 million in 2020, more than tripling the $10 million in 2017, and more than 17 times the $1.9 million in 2006.

These are important metrics for the Arizona Legislature, numbers that reflect the promises delivered by TGen and Arizona’s growing biotech economy.

“Over the past two decades, TGen has become an economic powerhouse, generating high-tech medical innovations, while also providing Arizonan patient’s with the first opportunity to take advantage of those discoveries to advance better health and a higher quality of life,” said Sen. Nancy Barto, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “TGen is at the forefront of Arizona’s strong modern economy.”