State officials hope new biosciences institute will create jobs

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Indiana officials are partnering with some of the state’s biggest companies to establish a new life sciences research program.

It’s part of a statewide public-private partnership called the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute—a program that officials hope will attract world-class scientists to Indiana to research health solutions and create new medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs worldwide.

The state has several partners in the venture: Indiana University, Purdue University, Notre Dame and major companies like Eli Lilly & Company, Dow AgroSciences and Roche.

“This will bring jobs to Indiana, and that’s why we’re here today,” said Gov. Mike Pence, who first pitched the plan on the campaign trail last year.

“The innovation that will come out of the doors of the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute into the marketplace will create Hoosier jobs, high-wage, high-demand jobs. In other words, the kind of jobs Indiana needs more of,” said Pence Thursday during a news conference at Eli Lilly corporate headquarters.

“There is not another enterprise like it, because there is not another state that has the richness of the life science industry, and the universities we have here,” said BioCrossroads president David Johnson, one of the founding board members. “For a small state, we’re incredibly blessed.”

The state of Indiana will kick in $25 million from this year’s state budget to get the program started. But officials still need to raise millions more in private donations to meet their goals.

Questions were also raised about the proprietary interests of the competing companies involved in the partnership, but officials said Thursday they were still working out those details.

“This is unique because it’s industry-led, first and foremost,” said Bart Peterson, Lilly vice president and former Indianapolis mayor. “That’s what’s going to lead to the jobs, that’s what will lead to growth of these companies, to the startup of new companies, and that’s what’s going to make the difference for our economy.”

The institute filed articles of incorporation this week, and has already named members of its board, including a representative from each of the companies and universities involved, and one board member from the Pence administration.

“I do believe the state’s investment will be returned ten-fold in the kind of investment that will be talked about today,” said Pence. “We really do believe this is going to mean jobs and opportunities for this generation and for generations to come in Indiana.”

Officials hope to bring in about 100 scientists over the next six years.

“This is big,” Pence said, using a phrase he echoed several times during Thursday’s news conference.

The announcement comes amidst a string of economic success stories for the Pence administration. Indiana added 4,000 jobs last month, with the state’s unemployment rate falling to 8.5 percent.

Still, for Hoosiers without a job, those statistics bring little comfort.

“There’s a lot of people out here because it’s hard,” said Keith Sutton, who stood in line Thursday at a job fair at the State Fairgrounds. “There’s a lot of people out here having problems finding jobs.”