They're always surprised when they get here. Or at least they used to be. “You've got some great science here!” they'd say. And, “I can't believe these research park facilities. I wish we had something like this in our city.”
Those are the kind of remarks I've heard from representatives of major pharmaceutical companies and out-of-state investors when they visited Oklahoma. But word's getting out: Oklahoma has a dynamic, fast-emerging bioscience industry with tremendous potential to impact both our economy and our quality of life.
From Ardmore to Oklahoma City to Stillwater and beyond, Oklahoma's diverse bioscience cluster encompasses drug development and plant science, medical devices and bioenergy. Oklahoma's bioscience employees earn more than $7,700 above the average wage, and the industry has a $6.7 billion impact on our economy. It's an industry led by world-class scientists who make life-changing discoveries, and high-energy entrepreneurs with the tenacity and drive to bring those discoveries to market. It's an industry that thrives in the right business environment and with support from accountants, attorneys, risk management firms and others with critical expertise to help bioscience companies grow.
In this column, we're going to profile the scientists, entrepreneurs, and companies that drive this industry; and learn about their unique challenges and successes. We'll also look at what it takes for a region to achieve and sustain a strong bioscience cluster.
A little background about me: I've worked for 30 years in technology-based economic development at the state and national levels, striving to create the kind of environment where a broad array of knowledge-based businesses could launch, grow and thrive. Now I'm privileged to focus my efforts on just one of these exciting industries as President and CEO of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association, or OKBio. OKBio is a private, nonprofit association dedicated to advancing the growth of Oklahoma's bioscience sector.
But just what is bioscience? A simple way to define the biosciences is as a diverse group of industries and activities with a common link: they apply knowledge of the way in which plants, animals, and humans function. The biosciences span different markets and include manufacturing, services, and research activities. At OKBio, our mission covers all of these enterprises, and I look forward to sharing their stories with you as you learn why Bio Matters.
Sheri Stickley is president of the Oklahoma Bioscience Association.