Health IT

4 ways to boost Philadelphia’s status as a health IT and life sciences hot spot

It’s been a pretty good week for the Philadelphia regional life sciences ecosystem. A new health IT accelerator Tigerlabs Health has sprung up an hour away in Princeton, New Jersey. Philadelphia will soon be home to TransCelerate Biopharma R&D nonprofit to streamline drug development. But Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE:SFE) executive vice president and managing director James […]

It’s been a pretty good week for the Philadelphia regional life sciences ecosystem. A new health IT accelerator Tigerlabs Health has sprung up an hour away in Princeton, New Jersey. Philadelphia will soon be home to TransCelerate Biopharma R&D nonprofit to streamline drug development.

But Safeguard Scientifics (NYSE:SFE) executive vice president and managing director James Datin points out that if Philadelphia is to be a health IT and life sciences hot spot on par with a Silicon Valley of life sciences, it needs to do more.

In a blog post on the company’s website, he outlined things Pennsylvania and Philadelphia could do to attract more life sciences and healthcare entrepreneurs to the region.

Pennsylvania was one of the most innovative states when it came to how it used the tobacco lawsuit settlements. In addition to the healthcare programs it established, it provided funds for medical research and allocated seed money to three life sciences greenhouses in Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

Expand tax incentives: Datin points out that Pennsylvania could learn from other states that have been more aggressive at pursuing startup talent:

For example, Texas offers $2 for every $1 in funding to startups with an oncology product or focus. Maryland matches funding dollar for dollar. Minnesota offers a 25 percent tax credit for angel investors.

Provide more space for startups: The University City Science Center has spurred the growth of many life sciences companies from drug development to detecting food-borne pathogens and 40,000 jobs along with them. It also contributes more than $62 million in tax revenue. In suburban Philadelphia, a new life sciences incubator opened earlier this year called The Innovation Center at Eagleview. It’s an ideal spot since so many drug development companies call Chester County, where Eagleview is located, home. And yet it’s been underserved for incubator space for years. The Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center, which also offers lab space, opened about 10 years ago. Creating lab space for startups is an expensive undertaking, though.

Allocate state capital to startups: The state has reallocated funds from the Tobacco Settlement Fund to meet budgetary needs for things like covering the cost of long-term care. Datin points out that more should be allocated to the region’s life sciences companies that could put that money toward expansion that would create jobs.

Make more with what it’s already got: The Philadelphia region and Pennsylvania in general have a robust life sciences ecosystem, as the 2009 Milken Institute report noted. It’s home to Big Pharma companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Teva, and it’s in close proximity to New Jersey’s Big Pharma alley. Its location halfway between the investment community of New York and regulatory and legislative community in Washington, D.C. is also a significant factor.

 

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