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Legislature backs NM bioscience initiative

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Efforts to grow New Mexico’s biotechnology industry got a major boost in this year’s legislative session through a new Bioscience Development Act.

The legislation won bipartisan support and is now awaiting the governor’s signature, said Dr. Richard Larson, executive chancellor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, in an address to the Albuquerque Economic Forum Wednesday morning.c01_jd_18aug_research

If signed into law, the act would create a public-private Bioscience Authority to spearhead programs, initiatives and incentives to expand New Mexico’s life sciences industry.That’s something Larson is actively promoting through a new GrowBio initiative that launched last December to unite the state’s business leaders, government officials and economic development professionals.

“We need a shared vision and effort to get things done,” Larson said. “The key is an effective public-private partnership…This is a pretty big step forward.”

The bill marks the first time the Legislature has approved a joint public-private entity with oversight authority to promote economic development, Larson said.

If formed, the 13-member Bioscience Authority would include representatives from the state’s three research universities, plus appointees by the governor and both legislative chambers. The members would review and recommend steps to encourage more private investment in biotechnology, particularly efforts to pull new innovation out of research universities and labs and into the marketplace. That could include efforts to attract more investment capital for startup businesses, infrastructure development, streamlined permitting, regulatory reforms, tax incentives, workforce development, and more, Larson said.

States that have shown major success in building biotechnology clusters have all formed similar public-private partnerships, Larson told the Forum. “No place has been successful without it,” he said.

The legislation does not earmark any state funding for the authority, but it does authorize it to receive state and private money. Supporters deliberately stripped monetary requests from the bill given the state’s current budget challenges, said Greg Byrnes, executive director of the New Mexico Biotechnology Association, one of the principal drivers behind GrowBio.

“Originally, we were looking for a potentially dedicated source of funding, such as a tax on e-cigarettes, but we stripped that out to make the bill more palatable,” Byrnes told the Journal.

The key for now was to get local government, business associations and the state’s research institutions all on the same page in creating the Bioscience Authority, said Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque, who sponsored the legislation in the House.

“This unites everyone together in a joint, collaborative effort,” Larranaga said.

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