No. 3 Bioscience Mecca

Strong Sector on the Rise


By Rodney Campbell

When Fletcher McCusker, one of the region’s most respected business voices, says Tucson is on the cusp of being a bioscience hot spot, we listen.

Tucson’s location, entrepreneurial spirit, venture capital funding and world-class university are sending its star on the rise. The CEO of UAVenture Capital said he sees even bigger things coming this way. “Tucson is the next Austin, San Diego, Boston when it comes to biotech and biomedical industries,” he said.

The region has a solid bioscience foundation, thanks to the pioneering Dr. Thomas Grogan, the University of Arizona professor who founded Ventana Medical Systems in 1985. Now known as Roche Tissue Diagnostics, the company is the largest biotech company in the world. The diagnostics instruments and accompanying assays developed there impact more than 26 million patients annually. 

“Some of the most exciting work is taking place right here in Tucson,” Jill German, head of Roche Tissue Diagnostics, told BizTucson last year. 

Additionally, the region is home to UArizona’s esteemed BIO5 Institute, led by director Jennifer Barton. BIO5 researchers have worked across disciplines for 20 years to solve some of humanity’s greatest challenges. The institute is truly UArizona’s crown jewel of innovation and discovery in bioscience.

The number of bioscience players across Southern Arizona continues to increase. Here’s a look at the growing list:

Accelerate Diagnostics is an in-vitro diagnostics company that provides solutions for the challenge of antibiotics-resistant and hospital-acquired infections. Established in 1987, the company began research activity for microbiology solutions in 2004 and relaunched in 2012 as Accelerate Diagnostics to develop and commercialize its first diagnostic platform. Its headquarters are in Tucson and Spain.

Headquartered in Marana, Alicat Scientific is a pioneer of laminar differential pressure flow technology, and manufactures and develops custom flow control, flow meter and pressure solutions for gas and liquid applications as well as respiratory systems and ventilators. 

BD, a global medical technology company, announced last year that it will construct a $65 million facility in Tucson that will be a hub for the company’s supply chain, serving as a final-stage manufacturing and sterilization center. The 120,000-square-foot facility will be built at the corner of       Valencia and Kolb roads.

Critical Path Institute is a world-class institution founded right here by Dr. Ray Woosley. It brings together patient groups, academic institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and regulatory agencies from around the globe to improve public health. These stakeholders work to identify or create tools that can accelerate the medical product development and regulatory review process. C-Path manages collaborative teams and programs in which stakeholders combine intellectual and financial resources to generate solutions that facilitate the development of safe and effective medical products.

Edmund Optics is a leading supplier of optics, imaging and photonics technology that has served a variety of markets including life sciences, biomedical, industrial inspection, semiconductor, research and development and defense. Edmund designs and manufactures an array of optical components, multi-element lenses, imaging systems and optomechanical equipment. Last year, Edmund opened an assembly and advanced design facility in Tucson, where the company has been for 24 years.

Emagine Solutions Technology, a medical software device company in Tucson, was founded to expand access to diagnostic ultrasound technology. The company’s VistaScan platform transforms a doctor’s cell phone or tablet into an ultrasound machine. With VistaScan, doctors can diagnose patients in moments, saving time and lives at a fraction of the cost of a traditional cart ultrasound machine.

HTG Molecular Diagnostics is focused on sequencing-based molecular profiling. The company’s proprietary EdgeSeq technology automates complex, highly multiplexed molecular profiling from solid and liquid samples, even when limited in amount. HTG’s customers use its technology to identify biomarkers important for precision medicine, to understand the clinical relevance of these discoveries and identify treatments.

NuvOx Pharma is a clinical-stage pharmaceutical company developing a drug that improves the flow of oxygen from lungs to blood and from blood to tissue. Last year, NuvOx completed construction and initiated operation of its Tucson production facility for manufacturing its injectable pharmaceutical 

products. The building has an 1,800-square-foot hard-shell exterior space addition to the existing facility.

Recruited to Tucson during the pandemic, Sandvik Materials Technology is a developer and manufacturer of advanced stainless steel and special alloys. The company’s local facility manufactures fine medical wire and components. Sandvik agreed to establish an office here in 2020, working out details through video conferencing because of the pandemic.

Finally, UArizona continues to fuel the bioscience sector, producing more than $734 million in annual research. It’s ranked among the top 20 universities in the country in research and development expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. 

“At the University of Arizona, we have world-class faculty and researchers who are working on solutions to the world’s grand challenges every day, and translating their research into products on the market is one of the best ways we can have a positive impact as an institution,” said President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. “Through translation, we see technology innovations being developed to directly address needs, creating solutions as the need arises.”

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