Fabel: Biotechnology investments, key partnerships for the LI economy

Breakthroughs made by academic and industrial scientists over the past 20 years have advanced the field of biomedicine exponentially. Immunotherapies, regenerative medicine and pre-symptomatic diagnostics are now realities.

Long Island faces a moment of tremendous potential to advance biomedical discoveries that will improve human health and drive economic growth. Enabled by a concentration of world-class research institutions and an emerging bioscience industry cluster, the region is at a tipping point.

But success is not guaranteed. Without regional infrastructure to anchor biomedical discoveries and companies locally, their potential to impact our economy will be lost to more established biotech regions like Boston and San Francisco. A concerted effort to take our region’s capability to the next level will be key to Long Island’s future.

One of them is through continued and increased investment.

For years, New York has built its innovation infrastructure through the NYSTAR Network – more than 70 funded centers that help innovators develop technologies and build successful businesses across multiple sectors, including biotechnology.

The Stony Brook University Center for Biotechnology has been part of this NYSTAR-supported network since 1983. The foundation established by NYSTAR has enabled our center to generate more than $1.2 billion in economic impact and create 1 125 jobs over the past 15 years. It also helped us secure federal funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) which positions the region for additional investment.

We can draw a direct line between NYSTAR’s support of our center and the development of many local businesses, which in turn bring new biomedical technologies to market.

One such company is Codagenix. Challenging conventional approaches to vaccine development, Codagenix has developed technology to recode virus genes through synthetic biology and pioneered a new platform for cancer cell-killing vaccines and virotherapies.

Codagenix recently announced encouraging results from Phase 1 of its intranasal COVID-19 vaccine trial. This vaccine, which can be transported and stored using basic refrigeration, could help expand immunization efforts in regions around the world.

The second path is through region-wide collaboration, focused on capturing the economic benefits of biomedical discoveries made on Long Island.

It’s not a new concept. Accelerate Long Island brought together academic institutions in the region and created a seed fund that invested in many startups. Yet, there remains significant potential for increasing technological development and business creation.

The Long Island Biosciences Hub, a collaboration between the Center for Biotechnology, Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, is working toward these goals.

The Hub – supported by NIH, the Research Foundation for SUNY, NYSTAR and regional research partners – has a simple yet powerful mission: to accelerate scientific discovery into commercial products that improve human health.

We have demonstrated at a pilot scale that collaborative working across the region can have a significant impact on technology development and business creation. The NIH’s $3 million investment in the Hub has leveraged $64.5 million in additional funding over five years and spawned 11 new companies that have been awarded $25 million for development.

New York State and the federal government have invested in Long Island’s biotech sector. Now is the time to scale up and formalize the strategy to build a world-class industrial cluster.

After all, it’s up to us to ensure that Long Island — and the people of Long Island — benefit from our economic breakthroughs, as we contribute to the health and well-being of communities around the world.

Diane Fabel is Director of Operations at the Stony Brook Biotechnology Center.