A new industry cluster group, the Rhode Island BioScience Leaders, was recently formed, bringing together the leaders of 20 small- to medium-sized bioscience companies in Rhode Island. The idea for the group came from Denice Spero, co-director of iCubed, and Edward G. Bozzi, an assistant clinical professor in URI’s Biotechnology Manufacturing program. The goal is build a collaborative force to advocate on behalf of the cluster’s needs. Providence Business News asked Bozzi to talk about the group’s strategies moving forward.
PBN: What prompted you to organize a new group of 20 Rhode Island bioscience companies?
BOZZI: After meeting with the CEO of a biotechnology company this past summer who was searching for new space and was not aware that another firms had available space, it occurred to me that the biotechnology companies of modest size in the metro Providence area do not know much about each other.
I felt that they would benefit greatly if they were aware of each other’s facilities, technology and capabilities.
I discussed this situation with Denice Spero, co-director of the University of Rhode Island’s Institute for Immunology and Informatics (iCubed), who had similar ideas that these bioscience companies should somehow be connected.
So, together we initiated a exploratory meeting at iCubed in September of 2012 and found that the leaders of the 20 bioscience firms in the metro Providence were eager to collaborate.
From URI’s perspective it would be important that these bioscience firms grow to provide internships and jobs for our biotechnology students. In addition, the type of collaboration that is already occurring between iCubed and member company, ProThera Biologics, might be extended for the mutual benefit of all.
PBN: How is the new bioscience cluster different from other life science companies?
BOZZI: The Rhode Island BioScience Leaders (RI BSL) group differs from other life science organizations in terms of its focus on small- to medium-sized bioscience companies in Rhode Island and that fact that only company leaders participate in our meetings.
Many of our members are also involved with other organizations such as The Tech Collective and the newly organized Rhode Island Med Group. Being engaged in more than one organization keeps us abreast of developing issues.
PBN: What is the potential of these companies to attract new research dollars?
BOZZI: Companies belonging to RI BSL are already attracting a substantial amount of research dollars to Rhode Island. By benefiting through a closer collaboration, our goal would be to become even more successful and thereby attract additional research funding.
PBN: In the discussion of how to grow the Knowledge District, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee often talks about “meds and eds,” with a heavy emphasis on hospitals and the Brown medical school. How does the new bioscience cluster broaden and complement that view?
BOZZI: “Meds and eds” – as spoken by many people – focuses on academia and the hospitals for job growth. Most of our member companies are in the commercial sector. We are aiming to take technology that might have been discovered in the academic sector and commercialize it into new and useful products. In doing so, our member companies would grow employing additional people through this growth.
PBN: What kind of infrastructure support would you like to see developed to support this new cluster?
BOZZI: One clear need for growth is additional space. To this end, the RI BSL has drafted a letter to the Interstate 195 Commission describing the type of building space they would like to see in the 41-acre Route 195 development.
Colin Kane, chair of this commission, will be our guest at our upcoming Jan. 24 meeting. In addition we are hoping that R.I. Treasurer Gina Raimondo will join us at our February meeting in order to hear our concerns for additional governmental support.