Bio Column - Fostering Growth in New Orleans' Bioinnovation Landscape

01 Dec Bio Column – Fostering Growth

amritha appaswamiNOLABA’s Amritha Appaswami, Director of Business Development, Bio & Health Services Innovation, wrote her second column for Healthcare Journal of New Orleans in its November/December issue. In this column, she highlights the types of companies that fit into the New Orleans BIO landscape.

Healthcare Journal of New Orleans

Amritha Appaswami

In my first column, I described the role of the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) as focused on attracting and retaining businesses for Orleans Parish, particularly those engaged in bio and health services innovation. My job is to identify the assets and attributes that make New Orleans a great place to expand, relocate or build a business, then communicate those to prospects, and, with the right combination of strategic fit and demonstration of the bottom line advantages, convert them to new New Orleanians. As I mentioned previously, in this column I’ll talk about the kinds of companies that offer the best fit for the New Orleans Bio landscape and why.

Our Asset-Rich Landscape

During the first few months in this position, my primary objective was to learn more about the city’s advantages. I’m happy to say I found a particularly rich environment for clinical and commercial activity, one that offers potential for short-term, mid-term, and long-term growth.

The richness stems from several factors. First, as many in the local Bio community know, we have a legacy of specific contributions to medical and life sciences discovery, particularly in the areas of infectious and tropical diseases, chronic disease management, neuro-degenerative and musculoskeletal diseases, trauma and behavioral health, and a number of cancers. This legacy continues through the present day, and offers a sound foundation on which to build new commercial opportunities.

Second, although it may seem counterintuitive, is our chronic disease burden. Despite the heavy toll it takes on our population, it also represents an opportunity for innovative companies addressing such conditions to create large scale public health impact. In fact, the diversity of the New Orleans region is often cited as being among the factors attractive to those working on new therapies because it is a relatively underserved patient population mix. For example, a company looking at innovative diabetes or obesity treatments – particularly for those in identified ethnic groups or with specific complicating health conditions – could benefit from partnerships with New Orleans health systems.

The third factor is a combination of incentives and environment. Louisiana offers the most aggressive software development incentive in the nation. It provides a 25 percent tax credit and is open to companies developing digital interactive products or platforms in Louisiana. When combined with New Orleans’ growing tech business community, the city offers powerful attractions to companies looking to improve the bottom line in a resource-intensive industry and reduce the burn rate for cash strapped startups.

Short-Range Prospects

In the short-term, New Orleans is ripe for development of a robust digital health and health technology sector. In economic development, we look at companies that could make a relocation or expansion decision within a six-to-18 month timeframe as short-range prospects. These tend to be entrepreneurial companies looking for ways to stretch their capital and capture every competitive advantage possible.

The tax incentives, the city’s magnetism to tech talent and increasing native talent pool, and the accessibility of research institutions and health systems for co-pilots, co-development and co-investment make a compelling case for New Orleans. Our job at NOLABA is to make that case to relevant companies. I’ve just returned from the Health 2.0 conference in Silicon Valley, where I did just that. The reception was highly encouraging, and I was able to educate a number of entrepreneurs looking for the best ecosystems to grow their business in and large corporations looking for investment opportunities on the advantages the city offers. Naturally, I’ll be following up with each of them in the following weeks and months to continue those conversations. While I cannot disclose their names, I can say they fall squarely within the categorizations defined above.

Mid-Range to Long-Range Economic Development

Our sights are not set just on the short-term, however. We’re simultaneously looking for new ways to help businesses capitalize on the research and clinical assets that abound across Orleans Parish. In contrast to the relatively shorter ‘development-to-market’ timelines of digital health and health IT innovation, the conventional research and development path is a longer one.

That being said, the two are complementary. In fact a critical mass of innovators in one will attract investments in the other, and vice versa. Needless to say, our goal at NOLABA is to foster a robust ecosystem conducive to growing and attracting companies that fit into these short-term and longer-term categories. We continue to seek new ways to introduce local researchers to potentially interested parties among our prospects. One of the first ways to grow our long-range prospect list is to tell the story of the significant work being done at New Orleans institutions as I did at Health 2.0 and will do via other opportunities in coming weeks and months.

Coming Up

In my next column, I’ll talk more about the unique opportunity that inter-institutional collaboration affords us and how we can best use that to our advantage. In the next few months, we’ll also be updating the Nolabio.org website to better reflect our short-term and long-term focus and showcase the opportunity for digital health and health IT to economic development prospects. I’m looking forward to sharing our work more and more as we dig deeper into Bio for New Orleans.

Read the published column here on pages 48-49.