Bioscience Hub

for Journal Communications

No longer known simply for barbecue, the blues and Graceland, Tennessee’s westernmost metropolis is quickly becoming a major center for the bioscience industry.

The concentration of bioscience industry in Memphis is more than 30 percent higher than the national average and is well above the concentration of industry activity found in better-known bioscience centers such as Houston, Birmingham and Atlanta. The realm of the industry of bioscience encompasses the fields of agricultural chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, medical devices and instruments, hospitals and laboratories, and research and testing.

The Memphis Biotech Foundation was formed in 2002 to establish and develop Memphis as a world-class bioscience city. To further the nonprofit’s efforts, Baptist Health Care Corp. donated its property in the Midtown Medical Center to the foundation. The property is the future site of the new UT/Baptist Research Park, the focal point of biomedical development in Memphis.

“The future of bioscience in the Memphis region is bright and [the city] is positioned to become a key player in the bioscience industry,” says Courtney Pohlman, associate director of the foundation. “Currently, the broad-based collection of bioscience industries in the Memphis region employs over 36,000 workers and Memphis is home to over 300 companies, representing over 6 percent of the private employment in the region. This number is expected to increase significantly over the next 10 years.”

Memphis’ growing base of bioscience research – which includes St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center and the University of Memphis – receives more than $135 million annually in research grants. Memphis is also home to many applied product development companies such as Schering-Plough, Pfizer, Smith & Nephew, Medtronic Sofamor Danek, GTx, Wright Medical, Gyrus ENT, Cell Genesys and Greystone Medical, to name a few.

Greystone Medical Group Inc. is a research and development company that has been investigating the role of a type of enzyme in the healing process since 1995.

The company, with operations in both the United States and Europe, develops and brings to the world market cutting-edge applications in wound management technology.

Greystone Medical plans to file a license for PHI-11, a drug based on Greystone’s research on tissue regeneration. After eight years of research and development, not to mention the investment of millions of dollars, the company’s chief says he is ready to see the results of the company’s hard work.

CEO Greg Pilant says having FedEx Corp.’s national hub in Memphis was just one of the cost-cutting advantages of operating out of the city.

“Memphis is an awfully good location for a number of reasons,” says Pilant. “A big advantage is distribution. For very expensive items that are small in size, FedEx will really cut your cost.”

GTx is a pioneer in the area of men’s health and HIV-related research. The company has entered into a cross-license agreement with pharmaceutical giant Wyeth to commercialize GTx’s vesicular stomatitis virus-based technologies, including a virus engineered to search for and destroy cells infected with HIV.

The privately held company currently has 37 employees – 10 of which hold medical degrees or doctorates – and maintains an extensive intellectual property portfolio.

Medtronic Sofamor Danek is committed to developing less invasive products and technologies for spinal and cranial surgery. Company officials have announced a major expansion in Memphis that could add as many as 600 jobs, with a capital investment of up to $50 million.

When Smith & Nephew PLC acquires Centerpulse AG of Switzerland for $2.35 billion, the company will become the third-largest orthopedics company in the world. To be called Smith & Nephew Group when combined, the company will be a provider of leading-edge joint replacement systems for knees, hips and shoulders, as well as trauma products to help repair broken bones and a range of other medical devices to help alleviate pain in joints and promote healing. The company also specializes in endoscopic, arthroscopic and wound-management technologies.

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