Exciting things are happening in Oklahoma bioscience.
An Oklahoma City biotech company is one step closer to producing a new treatment for sickle cell disease.
A Norman company is saving lives of AIDS patients around the world who are threatened by a devastating fungal disease.
Ardmore's Noble Foundation scientists discovered a substance in certain plants that may be a new source of carbon fibers for manufacturing.
Unlike many industries, bioscience touches all our lives in very personal ways. Everyday, Oklahoma scientists and entrepreneurs are working on cures for our most challenging diseases, new methods to feed a hungry world, and new means to power our lives and clean our environment.
These challenges are reflected in the numbers. For example, by 2025, 53.1 million people in the United States will have diabetes, costing $515 billion. Feeding a world population of 9.1 billion in 2050 will require raising overall food production by 70 percent (nearly 100 percent in developing countries).
Although the bioscience sector has a $6.7 billion annual impact on our state's economy, most Oklahoma bioscience companies are small, entrepreneurial businesses. Like all technology entrepreneurs, it's critical they have access to a highly skilled workforce, local investment capital, and strong technical support.
But bioscience companies also face hurdles unique to their industry. For example, did you know it takes 10 to 15 years and up to $1 billion for an experimental drug to travel from the lab to U.S. patients? Entrepreneurs developing new drugs must possess a high tolerance for risk, given that only five in 5,000 compounds entering preclinical testing make it to human testing — and only one of these five is ultimately approved.
“In reality, there are easier and less risky ways to make a living than starting a biotech company,” admits Dr. Craig Shimasaki, president and CEO of Oklahoma-based Moleculara Labs and author of the book, “The Business of Bioscience: What Goes Into Making a Biotechnology Product.”
“But life science entrepreneurs earnestly believe their discovery will be of great importance to potentially millions of people,” he said. “It's this passion and drive that keeps us working against seemingly insurmountable odds to bring such products to the market.”
For the sake of our health, our agriculture industry, and our economy, we should be glad scientists and entrepreneurs are taking risks.