BioAlabama: Entrepreneurship and innovation that creates jobs

AL.com

Charles J. Dean | cdean@al.com

logo-loginEven after 20 years in existence say the name BioAlabama and chances are few will recognize it let alone know what it does.

BioAlabama is a life science trade organization. It is Alabama’s affiliate of the Biotechnology Industry Organization or BIO. And all of that probably still tells you very little about what BioAlabama is.

Maybe what BioAlabama is was best explained by Gov. Robert J. Bentley who spoke to the organization at its annual meeting Wednesday at the Westin Hotel in downtown Birmingham.

“This biotech industry that you’re promoting, that I’ve tried to promote, we really now have the opportunity to showcase what we have been doing and grow this,” Bentley told the group.

And what is “this?”

“It’s entrepreneurship and innovation. …It helps create jobs from ideas. That’s what it really does in simple terms,” Bentley said explaining both what BioAlabama does and what he has tried to do with a program called Accelerate Alabama.” Bentley launched that effort several years ago to help recruit new high tech companies to the state and retain the ones already here. That effort has joined forces with BioAlabama to tap what Bentley told the group are the good ideas all across Alabama whether they come from universities, from businesses or from the work of everyday people.

“There are many people across this state who have great ideas whether those ideas came out of their head or out of research,” said Bentley. “Those ideas then become eventually products. And then the products eventually become companies and companies hire people and begin to grow. That’s why we’re here. That’s why you’re here.”

Biotechnology is a growing and increasingly important segment of the state’s economy, already accounting for hundreds of millions in earnings and more than 660 life science entities and their more than 13,000 employees in Alabama.

Jim Hudson - Photo by Julie Bennett.

Jim Hudson – Photo by Julie Bennett.

Wednesday’s annual meeting marked a first: the awarding of the inaugural “Element Award” to a member of the state’s biotechnology community who has made exceptional contributions to the biotech and life science industries in Alabama.

The inaugural winner of the award is Jim Hudson, co-chairman of the board of directors of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. The non-profit research institute, founded in Huntsville, uses biotechnology to improve human health, stimulate economic development and inspire Alabama’s youth to seek careers in science.

Under Hudson’s leadership, HudsonAlpha has become home to 26 start-up biotech companies.